Biblical Narrative

Biblical Narrative – Chapter 3: REDEMPTION

If you died tonight, do you know where you would go?

Maybe you’ve been asked this question by someone you know, or even by a complete stranger. Maybe you have asked this question to someone else. For a lot of Christians, this question sums up the central point of the Christian faith. Unfortunately, it’s missing something from the message we hear in the Bible. It’s actually missing quite a lot. Certainly, Christianity isn’t about less than our eternal destination. But it is about more than that.

We’ve reflected on the goodness, the shalom, of God’s original creation, and how everything was once exactly the way it was supposed to be. We then saw the way sin shattered that shalom. Every part of creation, every part of human life, became distorted. Adam was promised that if they ate the forbidden fruit, they would die. He and Eve may not have keeled over immediately after they sinned, but by stepping outside the boundaries God had instituted, they introduced death into the world, and everything suffered. God explained the curse that would now come upon them and the whole creation as a result of their sin. Much was lost.

But notice what they didn’t lose.

There are two important things that remain after the curse. First, God never says humans will not bear his image anymore. That image is warped and twisted by the nature of sin, but it’s still there. Second, God does not revoke the call he put on humans to rule over his creation, to cultivate it and make something of it. He could have destroyed this masterpiece that his creations broke and started over with a blank canvas, but he doesn’t. He lets the story continue, because the story isn’t over at the Fall. It’s just getting started.

God is sovereign. His plan at the beginning was for his image bearers to rule over his creation and bring glory to him, and he refuses to let anything get in the way of his plan’s fulfillment. But we, due to our sin nature, distort his image and exercise rule for our own sake. We worship idols and we practice injustice. We live for the kingdom of this world, in all of its brokenness, instead of God’s Kingdom. What’s more, the hold that sin has over us makes us want these things and nothing else. And we couldn’t change any of it, even if we wanted to.

We find ourselves fitting the apostle Paul’s description of sinful humans: “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). This is who we are in our sin, from the moment we are conceived. This is the identity we are born into. There’s nothing we could do to work our way back to God, to make everything right again.

But again, the story doesn’t stop there. Paul continues:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

There’s nothing we could do—so God got to work himself. He didn’t just reach down from his throne in heaven and toss a rope for us to climb up. He came to us himself, becoming one of us. This is who Jesus is: God-become-human, writing himself into our story after we wrote him out. As Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14).

He lived a sinless life, showing us the way to bear the image of God. He came into the broken creation and loved it and cared for it. He gave his life as a ransom, dying the death we deserved in our sin. And then he burst back into life, destroying death once and for all! He points the way to the fullness of life as God intended at creation, and invites us into this life.

Jesus rose from death to life. He reconciled what had been broken. He redeemed what was once lost. And he transforms our hearts, that we might see who he is, believe in his power, die to our sin, and become new people—resurrected people—who can once again fulfill our call to be God’s image bearers. This is Christianity. This is the Good News. Believe it, repent, and step into the life for which we have been created!

—Sam Levy is a CCO campus minister in partnership with Gateway Church at Slippery Rock University and Grove City College. He loves his family, baseball, cheese, and walking with college students as they pursue the God who is making all things new. Follow him on Twitter at @sdlevy13.

For more, see Léonce Crump’s Redemption talk at Jubilee 2017.

This is the third post in our Biblical Narrative series. The series will continue in the weeks leading up to Jubilee 2018. Stay tuned next week for Chapter 4: RESTORATION! You can also read Chapter 1: CREATION and Chapter 2: FALL.


Awnings, Discontinuity, & Institutions: Called to SRU

During my first year as a campus minister at Slippery Rock University, my friend Ondeck came to visit and I took him on a campus tour. We exchanged observations about the similarities and differences between SRU and Shippensburg University, our shared alma mater. As we passed by Old Main, Ondeck remarked that the building had “the awning of an old Italian restaurant.” He wasn’t wrong. Seriously, the entrance to nearby Rachel’s Roadhouse is pretty similar.


Someone from the administration must have overhead Ondeck’s comment, and a couple of years ago, they ripped out the shabby, old green thing and built a beautiful new entrance. Just look at it!

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 2.47.20 PM.png

But there is something I notice every time I walk past Old Main: there’s a stark difference between the brand new entrance and the weathered old building. It doesn’t look bad, but the discontinuity is hard to miss.

This is an apt metaphor, I think, to what it means to be part of institution like a university. SRU has been around since 1889. A lot has changed in 128 years—the name of the school, the size of campus, the things it is known for, and countless other parts of what makes SRU what it is. The new entrance to Old Main is only one of the more recent changes on a campus that is constantly evolving.

As a campus minister, my job is to help students learn what it means to follow Jesus in every part of their lives. While you are enrolled as a students here, this means you are called to be a part of this institution. You’re called to engage in campus life, to study hard, to get involved, to meet people. This will leave an impact on your life. In the years to come, well after your time here, your life will be different because of the years you spent at SRU.

At the same time, Christians aren’t simply called to a static part of our culture, simply walking through life allowing the forces and influences of our environment to shape us as they will. We are called to be shaped by God through his Word—the Bible, the written Word, and Jesus Christ, the living Word. And as we are formed more and more into people who love God and love what he loves, we make an impact on the world around us that we are part of. Through the great mystery of God’s plan, we are invited into the work he is doing in his world.

We wait until That Great Day when Jesus returns to establish his Kingdom in its fullness to see God’s plan brought to fruition. Still, even now, we get to see and be a part of the ways he is making all things new and healing the brokenness of sin, right within our midst. We get to be the hands and feet of our Lord as we love our neighbor, tear down idols, invite others to hear the Good News, and seek restoration through our studies, relationships and involvements. As Jeremiah wrote in his letter to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, we too have been given the charge to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you” (Jer. 29:7).

And just like there is a sharp distinction in the bricks between the new entrance to Old Main and the original building, we see clear lines between the parts of our campus that are broken, decaying, and ungodly, and the parts that are being redeemed, restored, and made new.

We are God’s people. We’re called to carry on God’s work right where we are. We’re a servant community, united with Christ, pursuing redemption in His world. Let’s get to it!

—Sam Levy is a CCO campus minister in partnership with Gateway Church at Slippery Rock University and Grove City College. He loves his family, baseball, cheese, and walking with college students as they pursue the God who is making all things new. Follow him on Twitter at @sdlevy13.