Many pictures have been taken of the Grand Canyon. But none of them can really do it justice. The Grand Canyon is just one of those things best experienced in person. You can see it on people’s faces as they walk up to the rim and look out over the Canyon for the first time. They can’t help but be immediately struck by its immensity and unique beauty. It is a truly awe-inspiring sight.
Yet even there, standing at the rim, looking out over the Canyon, you won’t get a full experience of the place. It’s when you actually go down into the Canyon that you begin to see that it is bigger and deeper, more glorious in fact, than you initially saw. The view of the Grand Canyon at the rim is just the beginning of the even grander view that you will experience once you travel into the Canyon.
So it is with the gospel. As we first step up to the gospel, we see a most beautiful and awe-inspiring sight—the salvation of sinners. More specifically, that God through Jesus Christ has graciously acted to save a sinful people unto himself. These people are redeemed from sin and made a new creation and are adopted forever into the family of God.
It’s an amazing, beautiful, incredible message. And, at the same time, it is just the beginning of God’s saving, redeeming, and renewing work. As we head deeper into the gospel, a fuller and even more glorious picture emerges. We see that God’s saving of sinners was always intended to open up into a deeper, wider, all-encompassing saving of the whole creation.
The saving of sinners is at the heart of the gospel. It is the fountainhead. And from this fountainhead flows a mighty river, one full of redemptive, healing power for every square inch of the cosmos.
How is this possible? Through “his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:20). Creation was in bondage due to the fall of man, locked behind the gates of hell. But then God moves toward us and, using the cross of Jesus Christ, smashes down those gates! Through God’s gracious efforts, a people and indeed a whole creation are freed. They are now in the kingdom of the Son, a place of complete redemption and total renewal.
All of this does two things for us.
1. It gives us hope about the future. All around us we see evidence of the fall in things like unjust social systems and moral cultural decline and terrible suffering and death. The gospel message in its fullest form tells us not to despair but to have a sure and certain hope that one day all such things will be wiped away and replaced with peace and harmony, with the “healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2).
This hope, however, is mixed with a warning. For the fallen creation includes many who are still opposed to God, who continue to reject his rule and the One he sent to rule, Jesus. The redeeming work of the gospel means that all things, including those who oppose the Lord, will eventually be brought to heel. The question every person faces now is whether that redeeming work will be experienced with joyful awe or with the painful gnashing of teeth.
2. It gives us motivation in the present. The creation has not been abandoned by God. Instead, through Jesus, it has been reclaimed by him and will eventually be made brand new. It will be a creation characterized by harmony and peace, rightly related to God and humanity. The church today is an early outpost of this new creation and a primary means toward bringing about this new creation.
This means then that the church is not a passive bystander to the world. Nor is it an imperiled passenger in the world, only biding its time until it is rescued off of the sinking creation. Instead, the church is a divinely commissioned community of people whose faithful efforts in the world even now matter, insofar as they proclaim and embody the redeeming and renewing power of the gospel.