Somehow the Bible is the best-selling book of all time and the most criticized and misunderstood. Who reads a book so controversial and confusing? And why?
I’ve been both offended and disappointed in what the Bible has to say. I’ve been just as profoundly comforted and inspired. I’ve loved the words I found, and I’ve had long seasons of not picking it up at all. Whether you’re certain God doesn’t exist, unsure, don’t care, or read it all the time, we could all use a highlight reel.
So, while I sit with a glass of wine, here is my informal retelling of the entire Bible. You’re welcome.
First, it’s all one story.
From the beginning to right now, God designed us for freedom and relationship.
Part One: The Beginning (Found in the Old Testament)
Before anything, there was the Father (God), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.
They experience perfect relationship.
God craved even more relationship and created a gorgeous world, full of life, beauty, and potential.
Free from pain, fear, and sadness.
Then He added some robots.
Just kidding. No robots.
He created the opposite: humans in His image.
Free beings who have the capacity for genuine love.
The type of love that wrecks and restores your entire soul.
Sounds obvious that you’d want that sort of being. But it required an incredibly massive risk.
To really love, you have to have a choice.
So He made man and woman.
We were made to depend on Him for everything.
But not in a controlling way.
In a “good Dad who perfectly provides” kind of way.
So we would never have to worry or be afraid.
He empowered us wildly. Giving us authority over all the earth and crazy freedom.
One of God’s angels was so jealous of this, he left God’s side and became the most cunning enemy ever.
And we became the battlefield.
This enemy’s ways are so subtle and seductive though, half the time we welcome it.
He knew we were to grow into the fullness of God, so he lied that he had a shortcut.
“This will give you what you want faster. You can be like God. Trust me. What could go wrong?” Everything.
The first time we had a choice: a faster way to get what we wanted and do it our way, we took it.
Instead of depending on God and trusting him, we chose independence and separation.
The relationship was tainted. Doubt, shame, and pride started spreading like wildfire.
God’s heart broke for the destruction he knew was coming. But He didn’t regret his choice to give us freedom.
He still didn’t want mindless obedience or obligatory relationship.
He vowed to win us back.
To show us His goodness. To restore our relationship and freedom.
That’s the first book of the Bible, Genesis. I’m spending disproportionate time there because how the story starts is really, really important.
The rest of the first half goes like this:
We chose everything from selfishness to murder.
But God loved in a fiercer way than the enemy ever imagined.
He was prepared to conquer the divide we created. No matter the cost.
He had a plan and began preparing us to recognize it so we could choose another way.
First, He found a guy named Abraham who was trustworthy. He blessed his family as a new start.
A family who would represent God’s design for families who could expand and adopt all who wanted to belong.
Meanwhile, we kept doing our own thing.
Not taking His words seriously. Doing what felt right at the moment. Missing the bigger picture.
We landed ourselves in literal slavery. God would rescue us, and then we’d actually go back to slavery.
So He gave us “the Law” to show us how to re-engage relationship. To see how we needed Him.
Rules that sound crazy now, but back then they protected us.
(Like don’t eat some meat, because the FDA doesn’t exist yet. You’ll die.)
He sent prophets (people who hear him and tell others what they hear.)
He gave kings because we said we preferred a human to rule us.
He wrote poetry with messages like, Don’t lean on your own understanding. Trust me. I’m for you.
He accommodated us again and again.
He spent generations training us in traditions that would remind us who we are. That would help us find Him.
Some listened. Many missed it. For many, many years.
Part Two (The New Testament)
So God initiated the rescue plan. The up-close, personal, perfect, only solution to the mess.
Jesus left the perfection of heaven to meet us personally.
He gave up all his comfort and entered all our pain. He lived a perfect life for 33 years.
Right in the mess of it with us, He modeled another way.
Spiritually, He was King, but he chose to live like a servant.
Our history of bad choices was racking up a huge debt.
We were cashing cosmic checks that we could never repay.
Offending a Creator & King in ways we could never reconcile on our own.
While it seems complex, it’s really simple.
Choosing God brings life. Believing the enemy leads to death.
God hates death. So to end it, Jesus offered himself.
He took death on, so there could be a bridge back to the original design.
And (spoiler alert) Jesus literally beat the grave.
He came back to life, telling death, “Anyone with me does not have to be afraid of you. With me, they can be free.”
Then He left us the Spirit. Jesus said it was even better than having him.
The Spirit could unleash all His power, moving through his people on earth.
It would conquer oppression, pain, division, and evil.
The Spirit helps us live out the image of God that was imprinted on us from the beginning.
Freedom and relationship could flow again.
The rest (starting in Acts) shows what happened after Jesus left all the way to what will happen in the end.
The people who choose to believe Jesus—like, really believe—become the Church.
This can be confusing, because a lot of people say they believe, but they don’t live differently.
They probably believe a little, but struggle to really receive grace and power.
But just because many miss it doesn’t mean it’s not true.
The Spirit came to live in us giving power as often as we choose to receive him.
He’s here to keep the relationship going: deeply, intimately, constantly a part of who we are.
Those who noticed their need and cared to see got set free.
Like really free: demons fled, sickness disappeared. Miracles everywhere.
The Church profoundly changed the world.
They grew into a new family overflowing with generosity, hospitality, justice, and love.
They multiplied into people of all colors, languages, and stories across the world.
They took care of the poor, made disciple-making disciples, and showed God’s relentless love.
They are meant to be representatives of Jesus until he comes back one last time.
But the enemy is still active. Still lying. Still separating us from God. So we often get stuck.
We fall back into the original mistake of believing the enemy and depending on ourselves.
Forgetting we’re not meant to strive for ourselves or have any fear. (We forget a lot.)
Most of the rest is a series of letters from a leader named Paul. He kept messaging the spreading Church trying to help us remember:
Guys, don’t forget—it’s about relationship and freedom.
Just like the beginning, we’re meant to depend on Him and receive. More love, grace, and freedom.
Then we can follow Jesus from that place—rooted in the new identity we get from him.
It’s not about what we do. It’s about who we are.
Nothing we’ve done is too bad. He beat death.
When we let God make us who we are, we become someone pretty magnificent.
Someone loved who loves. Someone healed who heals. Someone free who sets others free.
We change the world first by choosing to be changed.
If we choose it, that is. (He won’t make us, because—freedom.)
The last book is called Revelation. It says:
Someday, Jesus will be back.
We’ll experience the original beauty and perfection of the world.
All our doubt, pain, shame, and fear will be gone.
It’ll be clear when it happens. No one will miss it. Everything will make sense.
It’s a beautiful story.
Hard to read, but worth the effort.
Whenever we try, He promises to be found.
You should definitely check it out.
Still too long?
(Seriously? I just summarized like a million pages for you, but OK.)
God made us to be free because he wants relationship with us.
We struggle to trust and choose our own way instead.
That creates incredible pain, and God’s heart breaks to restore it.
So Jesus came to set things right.
He died for us so that we could be free.
He left his Spirit who has even more freedom.
So take it. Take the freedom.
You have to trade in your “wisdom” for faith instead.
But give it a try. Let God provide. Make Jesus King.
Then don’t be a robot. Have a relationship.
Let it free you.
Pass the freedom along.
Want to read more? Search topics you’re curious about on BibleGateway.com, or try The Jesus Storybook Bible. Yes, I know you’re a grown-up. Pretend you’re buying it for a kid you know. I won’t tell anyone. Trust me. You’ll love it.