How to Tell the Whole Story of the Bible

Using the CROSS to get the big picture

When my great-uncle Hubert Mitchell shared the gospel with native people in the jungles of Sumatra, back in 1940, he got stuck at the most important part. They had no idea what a cross was, so he cut down two trees and tied them together. He stretched himself out on that cross and described how the soldiers pounded nails into Jesus’s hands.

Toean [Mister],” someone said. “What’s a nail?”

Hubert was stumped. He had brought no nails with him into the jungle. There were plenty of large thorns, but a thorn cannot pierce a man’s limb — let alone hold his weight so he can suffer the tortures of crucifixion.

The meeting broke for lunch, and Hubert prayed. He emptied a can of mandarin oranges into his tin cup ... and out dropped a nail! Everyone stared and the men who were with him started to weep. “God must want these people to know how much Jesus suffered for them,” they said.

Because of that nail, nearly the whole tribe came to receive Christ.

I think of that today, as I try to share the gospel. Too often, I’m met with blank stares by people who don’t know enough to grasp what Jesus did for them. But while it was the ignorance of a single detail that stumped my uncle, it’s the ignorance of the big picture that gets in my way. Many people don’t believe in sin or hell. They doubt God’s goodness or don’t think he cares. They think truth is relative. They see no greater purpose or plan for their lives. But the answer is in the story. The whole story, God’s story as it is told in the Bible.

Sometimes we have to step back and get the big picture. When we do that, one of the first things we see is that history is not random. The start is anchored in the beginning of time, while the end is fixed in eternity. God is in control. Everything is created good and with purpose. God’s arms reach from one end to the other, inviting us in through the center point, which is the Cross. And just as a simple nail made Jesus’s love come alive in 1940, the cross itself can illustrate the story today.

Here’s how to tell God’s story—the whole story of the Bible—by using the acronym C-R-O-S-S. The letters spell the stages of the journey:

Creation

In the beginning, God creates everything in beauty and order and peace. But the first humans rebel and their sin leads to suffering and death. God’s promised solution begins with his call to Abraham to follow him in obedient faith. God promises him countless descendants, a land, and a kingdom through which he will bless the world.

Redemption

Abraham’s descendants move to Egypt and fall into slavery. Through Moses, God sends plagues into Egypt and makes a path through the Red Sea, bringing God’s people through to safety while destroying the enemy.

One Nation

Now they must learn to trust the God who saved them. God forms a covenant with them, making them a nation—his nation. God comes down and lives among them, with his presence in the Tabernacle. Israel conquers the Promised Land, but they are not faithful to their covenant with God. A long cycle begins in which they sin and turn to other gods, God allows their enemies to defeat them, and then they repent. God raises judges to save them. Eventually, Israel asks for a king and God gives them Saul, then David. God promises David that his throne will last forever.

Separation

After David’s son Solomon dies, the kingdom splits into two. The people continue to spend their love on other gods and put their trust in other nations. God sends prophets to warn them and to call them back to him. They ignore the warnings. God gives the northern kingdom over to those they prefer over him - and Israel is conquered and scattered. Later, God allows Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and take the people of the southern kingdom into exile. Some return, but they continue under foreign rule.

Salvation

With the New Testament comes a new beginning. God again starts with a couple—but instead of a man and wife, it’s a mother and her son, Mary the new Eve and Jesus the Second Adam. Jesus dies on the cross, paying the penalty for the broken covenant. Then he rises from the grave, defeating death and the devil. God sends the Holy Spirit to help his people prepare for the new creation that is to come, when God’s victory will be complete and death will be no more.

In the end: God’s story is our story! Tell it so people can discover God’s faithful love. Show how God rescues us from trouble; guides us when we we’re lost; teaches us when we don’t have a clue. Encourage them to read the story to know God can be trusted when it looks like evil has the upper hand. The war has been won; the end is sure. The cross was the door to blessing.

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Sarah Christmyer
Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer is a Catholic author, Bible teacher, and speaker with a special love for lectio divina (prayerful reading of Scripture) and journaling as ways to draw close to Christ in Scripture. Since 2001, she has partnered with Jeff Cavins to develop The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program based on Jeff’s popular Bible Timeline learning system and published by Ascension Press. Sarah is the author or co-author of a number of Bible studies, including The Bible Timeline: the Story of Salvation; A Quick Journey through the Bible; and studies on Mathew’s Gospel, Acts, James, Psalms, The Prophets, and Genesis as well as the Bible Timeline Guided Journal. She has a BA in English literature from Gordon College in Wenham, MA, and is an adjunct faculty member at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. You can read more of her writing at comeintotheword.com.

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