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The God of the Bible is the God of the genome

Some of you recognize the name Francis Collins. I want to start with a bit of his story. Collins is a highly intelligent guy who was an atheist, believed that no truth can be found outside of the sciences. But then he went to medical school and encountered life and death issues at the bedsides of his patients. One patient in particular was very open about sharing her faith when he made rounds. And after several visits, she turned the focus to him, asking, “Doctor, I’ve shared my faith with you, and you seem to be somebody who cares for me. What do you believe, doctor?” 

That set Francis Collins on a 2-year dig into the evidence for believing in God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ. And to his surprise, the evidence was compelling enough that he came to faith in Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

Today, Francis Collins is Anthony Fauci’s boss—Director of the National Institutes of Health. Before that, he led the Human Genome Project. Here’s the conclusion of a brilliant scientist who shares our faith: “The God of the Bible is the God of the genome.” God who designed the finely tuned universe and the amazing complexity of the human body, also superintended the writing of the Scriptures.

The Bible is uniquely God’s Word to us

That’s what I want to talk with you about today—the God of the Bible, specifically the overarching storyline God gives us in the Bible. This is the first in a 5-week series titled Unshakable. It’s all about the handful of things to be sure you anchor yourself to as a new year begins. The first unshakable, essential belief of Christians is that the Bible uniquely is God’s Word to humanity. It has the unique hand of God upon it. In fact, the Bible is the only book whose author is always present when you read it. He is present with us right now as we dive into it. Amazing!

The Bible’s unique narrative arc

Like every good story, the Bible has a gripping opening scene, a narrative arc that progresses, and a compelling conclusion. What I wish I had learned a long time ago is what I want to give you today—and that is, God’s Word in five words; the Bible’s storyline in 5 words—each with a gesture to help remember them. Think of the Bible as five great acts or movements in the screenplay of God’s story, His story.

Here they are, God’s Word in five words, five great acts or movements.

God’s Word in 5 words:

  • Creation (hands shape globe bottom to top)
  • Fall (hands plummet from top of globe)
  • Covenant (right hand reaching toward listener, left hand on heart)
  • Christ (sign of the cross)
  • Church (thrust both hands out left & right to show going on mission)

Let’s say them with the gestures together right now. We’ll repeat this several times today so that you remember them. The value in doing this is that the next time you open the Bible, you will instantly know where you are in the story when you come to any Bible passage. Let’s say them out loud right now, with the gestures. God’s Word in 5 words…

  • Creation (hands shape globe bottom to top)
  • Fall (hands plummet from top of globe)
  • Covenant (right hand reaching toward listener, left hand on heart)
  • Christ (sign of the cross)
  • Church (thrust both hands out left & right to show going on mission)

Let’s take a brisk walk through each word, showing how together they tell a unified story, the true story of God pursuing restoring us to right relationship with him and with one another. Act one, the first movement in the Bible’s storyline, is…

Creation 

The Bible opens visually. If this had been a movie, the opening scene pans across a brooding universe, as we hear…

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1)

And so rather than arguing about how the universe was created, hear what the Bible’s opening is meant to convey—that creation has a Creator! Creation testifies that we have a Creator.

“This is my Father’s world,” the old hymn sings, 

“And to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings

The music of the spheres.”

Genesis’ opening scene is not about the relationship between the Bible and science. It’s God’s first word, which is that we have a Creator. 

This is what the astronauts of Apollo 8 testified to on Christmas Eve 1968. On the most watched TV broadcast up till that time, they read the opening ten verses of Genesis chapter 1. Looking at the earth from more than 200,000 miles out in space, the awe of creation struck them. And so they read the opening word of the Bible’s storyline: creation. We are not on our own. We have a Creator. 

Several times in Genesis chapter one, God steps back and calls his creation good. After he creates man and woman uniquely in his image, he calls all of it very good. But then comes the big plot twist. If we boil God’s Word down to five words, the first is creation, but the second is the…

Fall 

Creation, then Fall.

The story quickly devolves from the innocence of Eden to the horror of the world’s first sin, first lie, first shame, first blame, first envy, first anger, first murder, first threats, and worse. God’s story goes from calling everything very good in chapter one, to what we hear in Genesis chapter 6:

“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” Genesis 6:5-6

Our universal fall into sin is the most easily proven doctrine of the Christian faith. It’s in every day’s headlines, sin’s effects are in the workplace, and we experience sin’s power in our personal and family histories. The world is not as it should be, and we all know it. And the sooner the better that we come to realize we need a power outside of ourselves to free us from sin’s power and to cover sin’s penalty.

No human remedy has ever been found to cure us of sin. Education can’t overcome it. A vaccine won’t stop it. No surgery can cut it out. No therapy can talk it out. Act two in God’s story is a true-to-reality expose that for our sin problem to be dealt with, the intervention will have to come from outside ourselves. That’s the second word in God’s Word. 

Review with me. God’s story unfolds as:

  • Creation (hands shape globe bottom to top)
  • Fall (hands plummet from the top of globe)

Act three brings a promising plot twist. Because this word in God’s Word is…

Covenant 

Let’s say the first three together, with gestures. God’s Word in five words. First is…

  • Creation (hands shape globe bottom to top). Second is…
  • Fall (hands plummet from top of globe), our fall into sin. Third is…
  • Covenant (right hand reaching toward listener, left hand on heart)

In Genesis chapter 12, God intervenes. He initiates a promise to Abram as follows:

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:2-3

To a world full of people created in God’s image, but fallen under sin’s power, God does what we cannot he takes the initiative, beginning a plan that will both cover our sin and free us from its power. That’s what drives the covenants in Scripture, both Old Testament and New. 

God chooses a representative group, Abraham’s descendants, who become the nation of Israel. He promises, “I’m going to be your God,” and then he begins introducing them to new and better ways of approaching our Creator and one another. So both aspects of sin, our broken relationship with God and our broken relationships with one another, God takes the initiative, progressively rolling out a plan that will reconcile people to God and reconcile us to one another.

In the covenant portion of the Bible, covering all the way from Genesis chapter 12 through the end of the Old Testament, God takes a group of people who were surrounded by a barbaric broader culture, and he begins pulling them upward in right approach to God, and right dealings with one another.

Are some of the Old Testament laws hard for us to understand compared to laws in the 21st century? Of course. But here’s help: remember where in the story those laws were put in place. God gave better laws to begin improving the lives of women, who before then were treated like property. God gave ancient Israel laws to protect and nurture children, where the broader society outside Israel practiced infanticide. Amidst surrounding nations where slave owners could murder slaves without repercussion, God gave ancient Israel laws that began to bring dignity to the poor. At a time when there was no safety net for orphans or widows, God intervened with laws that were part of his covenant with Israel, that protected and provided for the poor. You have to read it in light of what was happening all around Israel, in the nations that surrounded them. The Old Testament, that is, Old Covenant laws brought blessing.

And with that, we transition to act four of God’s great true story, which is captured in the greatest name we know:

Christ

Say the first four with me, with the gestures. God’s Word in five words. First is…

  • Creation (hands shape globe bottom to top). Second is…
  • Fall (hands plummet from top of globe), our fall into sin. Third is…
  • Covenant (right hand reaching toward listener, left hand on heart). Fourth is…
  • Christ (sign of the cross)

Here’s how Jesus began his ministry, proclaiming…

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the good news!” 

Mark 1:15

The time is fulfilled, meaning everything in the Bible that precedes Jesus points toward Jesus.

All Scripture that precedes Jesus points toward Jesus

  • Act one: Jesus is Co-Creator along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Only now, our Creator has come to us as Emmanuel, God with us. Act one is restored in the coming of Jesus. We can walk with God again.
  • Act two: Jesus addresses our fall into sin. The New Testament likens Jesus to a new Adam, the new representative of all humanity. So where sin and death came to all through the first Adam, now forgiveness and eternal life come to us through the new Adam, Jesus. Where Adam fell under sin’s power, Jesus was tempted in every way we are, yet he walked faithfully with God and man, flawlessly loving God and neighbor. Act two is restored in the coming of Jesus.
  • Act three, the covenants: Jesus fulfills God’s covenant with Abraham. Jesus fulfills all the covenant requirements of Old Testament law: all of the ceremonial laws that portrayed cleansing, purification, dedication to God, and forgiveness of sin, all point ahead to what Jesus would accomplish on the cross. And so from where we stand in the story now, we can understand act three with new eyes. Now we read accounts like the Passover story, and in it we see an awesome foreshadowing of Jesus’ death for the forgiveness of sin.

The Old Testament makes sense in light of Jesus

The whole Old Testament storyline—act one of creation, act two of humanity’s fall into sin’s domination, and act three of the covenants God initiated with ancient Israel—they all make sense in light of Jesus. What they foreshadowed, Jesus fulfilled. 

16th-century pastor Martin Luther said it this way: “The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.” 

“The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.” – Martin Luther

The whole Old Testament story points to Jesus Christ. But that’s not the whole story, is it? God’s Word in five words has one more, and it’s the part of His story that we’re in, and that is Christ’s…

Church 

Say all five with me, with the gestures. The Bible, God’s Word, in five words. Act one is…

  • Creation (hands shape globe bottom to top). Second is…
  • Fall (hands plummet from top of globe), our fall into sin. Third is…
  • Covenant (right hand reaching toward listener, left hand on heart). Fourth is…
  • Christ (sign of the cross). And finally, the part of God’s story that we are part of is Christ’s…
  • Church (thrust both hands out left & right to show going on mission)

Luke chapter 24 tells a story some of you can relate to, given how strange and stressful the past year has been. Jesus has been crucified. A couple of unnamed disciples are walking down a road together, lamenting how things haven’t turned out the way they thought they would. Jesus joins them, without them recognizing who he is. They share their disappointment, and then Luke tells us what Jesus did for them, the same thing he wants to do for you this year through the Scriptures:

“Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself…[Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’” 

Luke 24:27, 45-48

All of Scripture points toward Jesus. He fulfills it all. 

Jesus is predicted or foreshadowed in every Old Testament book.

  • From Genesis 3:15 – Jesus is the offspring of woman who would crush the serpent’s head, fulfilled on the cross 
  • From Exodus – He is the lamb of God without blemish (Exodus 12)
  • From Leviticus – He is our high priest (Leviticus 21:11-12)
  • From Numbers – He is the one who is lifted up in the wilderness of sin, where all who look to him are healed (Numbers 21:9)
  • From Deuteronomy – He is the prophet to come who would be like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18)
  • From Joshua, with whom he shares the same name – He is the one who leads his people into the land of rest (Joshua 1)
  • From Judges – He is God’s appointed deliverer
  • From Ruth – He is our kinsman redeemer (Ruth 4:1-12)
  • From 1 Samuel – He is God, rejected as the king (1 Samuel 8:7 )
  • From 2 Samuel – He is the ultimate heir of David’s throne (2 Sam 5:4)
  • From 1 Kings – He is the one who is greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:42)
  • From 2 Kings – He is the one like Elijah, not accepted in his own country  (Luke 4:24)
  • From 1 Chronicles – He is the “son of David” (Matthew 22:41-46)
  • From 2 Chronicles – He is the only perfect king 
  • From Ezra – He is the divine temple rebuilder (Ezra 3-5, John 2:19)
  • From Nehemiah – He is the one who guides the remnant of God’s people (Nehemiah 1:3; 2:5)
  • From Esther – He is our providential protector (Esther 4:14)
  • From Job – He is our advocate and redeemer (Job 9:33)
  • From the Psalms – He is the one who was crucified, but not left in Hades (Psalm 16:10)
  • From Proverbs – He is the wisdom of God (Proverbs 9:10)
  • From Ecclesiastes – He is the one who will bring everything into judgement (Ecclesiastes 12:14)
  • From Song of Solomon – He is the best example we have of true love 
  • From Isaiah – He is the virgin-born suffering servant (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 53)
  • From Jeremiah – He is the branch (Jeremiah 23:5)
  • From Lamentations – He is the man of sorrows who weeps over Jerusalem 
  • From Ezekiel – He is God’s servant and God’s prince (Ezekiel 34:23-24)
  • From Daniel – He is king over the kingdom that will never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44)
  • From Hosea – He is the forgiving and redeeming husband to the unfaithful wife (Hosea 1:2)
  • From Joel – He is the savior of those who call on God (Joel 2:32)
  • From Amos – He is the rescuer of Judah 
  • From Obadiah – He is the deliverer of Mount Zion (Obadiah 1:17)
  • From Jonah – His burial is typified in the 3 days Jonah spends in the fish (Matthew 12:40)
  • From Micah – He is the blessing of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  • From Nahum – He is the stronghold in the day of wrath (Nahum 1:7)
  • From Habakkuk – He is the justifier of those who live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4)
  • From Zephaniah – He is the channel through whom all nations can worship (Zephaniah 3)
  • From Haggai – He is the shaker of heaven and earth whose own kingdom can never be shaken (Haggai 2:6)
  • From Zechariah – He is the one who would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13)
  • And from Malachi – Jesus is the one whose forerunner is Elijah (Malachi 4:5-6)

Now we get to be part of God’s story

The whole story points to Jesus. And now we get to join the story, God’s story. As Christ’s Church, we have a part to play in the story—by daily following Christ’s leadership, and by passing the story on, inviting others into it. We are witnesses, storytellers, of what God has done in Jesus Christ. 

This is what people around us need from us more than anything else. “The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus,” Shane Claiborne says, “the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination.” You know he’s right. Everyone loves a good story. 

“The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination.”

Shane Claiborne

This is how Francis Collins came to faith—drawn by the testimony, the story, of a patient. It’s how I came to faith in Christ—attracted by the peace and purpose I saw in a couple of peers who shared their faith story.

And now we are now part of the story—of:

  • Creation (hands shape globe bottom to top)
  • Fall (hands plummet from top of globe)
  • Covenant (right hand reaching toward listener, left hand on heart)
  • Christ (sign of the cross)
  • Church (thrust both hands out left & right to show going on mission)

So this year, pray for opportunities to invite someone else in on God’s story, the true story of what he is doing through Jesus Christ. And when opportunities do come to share your faith, one way is to share God’s word in these five words. Say them with me, with the gestures. The Bible’s storyline can be captured in five words:

  • Creation (hands shape globe bottom to top)
  • Fall (hands plummet from top of globe)
  • Covenant (right hand reaching toward listener, left hand on heart)
  • Christ (sign of the cross)
  • Church (thrust both hands out left & right to show going on mission)

You and I are the closest thing to a Bible that a lot of people will “read” this year. So let’s commit ourselves to getting into God’s Word this year, so that when opportunities arise, we will have a timely word from God for that coworker, neighbor, extended family member, and beyond. 

From God’s Word, receive this biblical blessing that ancient Israel’s priests prayed over God’s people. Receive this good word from God’s Word:

“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

Amen, may it be so for you and your family this year. May you hear God’s Word and walk in his blessing!