Churches tend to be good at certain dimensions of the faith. Some are incarnational, modelling the servant heart of God in society; some are cross-centred, serious about human sin and the remedy God applied; others are Easter people, strong in the power of the resurrection; while still others are Pentecostal, embodying the power of the Holy Spirit in mission. It is a challenge for the church to embody all four dimensions but this is its calling. And there is a fifth theme still: hoping for the coming kingdom of God which is the goal of all four.
Christians are frequently challenged to be more reflective and serious about tackling their own sinfulness. To be fruitful this discipline must be rooted in the cross, empowered by the resurrection and infused with the hope of the second coming. Self-examination becomes introspective if it lacks a focus on the cross and morbid if loses its grounding in the resurrection. It is depressing to see many churches lose their momentum in worship after Good Friday each year because the resurrection is viewed as little more than a bolt-on to ensure a happy ending, like a sloppy scriptwriter wanting to please a test audience. The resurrection is not a feel-good device by which God manipulates our mood; it is proof there is a day coming when the whole creation will be renewed in the power of God. Jesus alive and kicking after his death is both evidence of and the means by which God will accomplish this. This belief transforms the way we look at the world.
The big picture is one that encompasses creation, fall, redemption and revelation. Losing sight of the goal of the cross and resurrection – the new creation for which we hope – is like cutting the head off a person in a portrait photograph. When our photos are returned from the lab, this is the shot we immediately discard because it is unsightly and meaningless. And yet faith is routinely lived within these parameters when we deny its eschatological goal. This failure is compounded by the instinctive individualism of much faith – that the resurrection is all about me being allowed into heaven, and not God putting right what has gone wrong with the cosmos, of which we are one part. Thank God that his big picture encompasses the whole creation.