At the missions conference I recently attended in Hong Kong, I was deeply challenged by the concept of “orality”. Missiologists have begun to focus on the fact that 2/3rds of the world’s population are oral learners who are either illiterate or prefer non-written forms of communication. This poses a huge challenge for effectively conveying the gospel in ways different from traditional print centred Western evangelism. The path forward is speaking the stories of the Bible in ways that communicate in each culture. In reflecting upon “story” I sensed the Lord speak the following about what he is doing in post-Christian cultures like our own.
“Retell My Story”
As I was out praying the Spirit of God began to say, “Retell my story.” Australia, like most Western nations, has lost the story of God. As such, it has lost its own story for where a nation forgets God it becomes confused about its identity. The truth is that there are not two equal stories, not, “Our story with a part for God.” but, “God’s story with a part for us.”
Then the Lord began to say that he was going to “Speak once again the words of life”. The words he spoke in the beginning of creation, “Let there be….”, the word he spoke at Mt Sinai, at the parting of the Red Sea, the fall of Jericho, through the prophets, at the resurrection of Jesus, at Pentecost etc. are going to be spoken again. He was saying that he was going to speak once more “words of eternal life” (John 6:68). He was speaking about speaking again the words that make up the whole biblical story, whose essence is the story of Christ. What struck me, and here 1 Peter 4:11 came to mind, was that this speaking was going to happen through us, “whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God”.
God Speaks to Himself
I saw very clearly, perhaps with greater clarity than anything I have ever seen before, the God who once spoke the words of creation speaking again, but it was not “repetition” in the usual sense of the word. It was not something similar happening at a later point in time. It was as if I was taken inside of the self-communication of the Persons of the Godhead. I became aware of the 3-fold repetition of the being of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the 3 fold in the Trinitarian relationships of love: the Father eternally begetting the Son, the Son ever responding to the Father, the Spirit everlastingly proceeding from Father and Son. This enfolding of love upon love upon love is always new in the life of God, “new” not in a chronological sense, as God is not in time, but “new” in the sense of fresh, alive, wonderful. In God we always find the same essence of love, wisdom, goodness, etc. which is the foundation of all he has ever spoken.
The God who will speak in our time is not , different in his speaking than at the foundation of the world, at the giving of the Law, the resurrection of Jesus etc. This is how the apostolic-prophetic revelation of the scripture came to pass and how God speaks with us today. He does not communicate something he “remembers” about biblical history, he actually takes us into this history itself. As Geoffrey Bingham once said to a group of preachers, “Do you fellows believe that the Word you speak is actually the Word which created the world”? I lengthen this and apply it to us all, “Do you people believe that the Word you speak of Christ (Rom 10:17) is the Word which created the world, became flesh, was crucified dead and buried and rose again on the third day and is coming again to judge the living and the dead!”
The Speaking is Love
In my last teaching I quoted Ephesians 4:15, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ”. The church speaking to one another in love is a share in the eternal conversation of love inside the family of the Trinity. John brings these things together, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16). The mutual indwelling of the three Persons of the Trinity in each other is the secret of the nature of God. Father loves upon Son upon Spirit upon Father…, not as an act of an already existing Person on another, the mutual love is the being of God. This is what Jesus is conveying when he says, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me…. 26 I will continue to make it (your name) known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”” (John 17:23, 26). Through the grace which is in Jesus we are taken into that internal dynamic of absolute love which makes God to be God and in this we speak.
The story of the Bible, which God speaks through Word and by Spirit so freely and passionately, is how God communicates his very nature as love. The story is love. More specifically, we know that God is love (1 John 4:8) because of the coming of Jesus, and pre-eminently his death (1 John 3:16). The Biblical story, which finds its foundation and climax in Jesus, must be told because it defines the personhood of God as our Saviour. We only know who God is, and that he is love, through him telling us his story for our salvation and our telling this story to each other. Intimacy with Jesus does not come through an experience or idea, Jesus is known in the same way any other person is known, through hearing his story.
Entering the Story
The only possible way for the everlasting speaking of the truth of God’s love story to be fresh, alive and powerful in us is if we live as God lives. And God lives by mutual indwelling. We must allow the Father, Son and Spirit to live in a more intense union with our life story. We must live in God as God lives in God; this is the content of salvation.
The union of God’s life with human life has been perfected in Christ, and it is imparted progressively to us as we abide in Jesus (John 15:1-11). Such abiding requires the classical spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation on scripture, stillness, entering the rest of God and so on. The presence of the story of love is given to us by the Spirit of the Father’s Son in the same way it came to him both in eternity and time– by indwelling. Through this mutual indwelling of God and us the story is experienced as God in Christ experiences it.
God always is working to draw us into the endless circle of Trinitarian love. As we respond to his overtures we know we have entered the Family of love. This is the story of the Bible. Hear once more the passionate language of the Song of Songs, or the marriage supper of the Lamb. “He brought me to his banqueting table, and his banner over me was love.” (S. of S. 2:4 cf. Rev 19:6-10).
From such intimate indwelling the Word of God proceeds in prayer, mission, worship, gifts etc. It proceeds not as mere human words but as the Creator-Redeemer God himself speaking, “when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess 2:13). This is what the Lord is reactivating in our midst at this time and he has a precise purpose in mind.
Prepare for a Mighty Global Mission Move
Whilst I was praying (that same morning in Hong Kong) I could sense these words being drawn out of my innermost being, “Come Holy Spirit renew the whole creation”, “Come Holy Spirit renew all things” (Matt 19:28), “send forth your Spirit….renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30).
God is accelerating his end-time purpose of transforming “all things” (Acts 3:12) in the Son of his love (Luke 3:22; Eph 1:3-6), and it is directed to everything being filled with Christ (Eph 4:10) through his body the church (Eph 1:22-23). All this will happen in the sole way it could ever happen, in the Father’s love for the Son in the Spirit into which we are being immersed.
This is why I sense so strongly the call for 24/7 prayer in an atmosphere of abiding in God’s presence with a view to global mission in every place. The “plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10) is the horizon to which we are moving.
The Goal of the Story
Any story without an ending is not a story at all; since the Western church has forgotten the End it has lost the power of the presence of the kingdom of God. I do not mean that no-one speaks of the Second Coming any more; I mean something much more profound. At this point I must speak as frankly as I believe God has spoken to me.
In their looking to the End, “holy prophets” see only God, they see “God will be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). As such, because their perspective of the present is seen through the lens of the End, they see all things in God and God in all things now! This is because they participate in an unusually intense way in the End One, Christ, who is ““the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”” (Rev 22:13). They see the End of all things, even things now, with the eyes of Christ. This seeing includes what it means to be the Bride of Christ and how her, the church’s story, is one with the story of Jesus. The voice of the prophets in our day therefore must be heard, and it is calling for the entwining of love, intimacy, prayer and mission which compromise the story of God.
We have lost the story line in Western cultures. Biblical ignorance is on the rise inside and outside of the church; hence Jesus is reduced to a historical figure, a mystical influence or a church-mediated cure-all of ills. This can and will change in the way that God has always brought change, he is drawing us by his Spirit into his own heart, and in his great heart we will find our story is his story, for the story is Christ. The revival of this love story will change our world.
 Superficially the United States is an exception, but surveys show the story line of scripture is rarely grasped.
 Compare, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him.” (Acts 17:26-27).
 Put technically, ‘What role does God play in our lives? It is an inevitable but wrong question. We shall be freed from it only by captivation to the right question: what role do we play in God’s life? The story is not our story with a role for Christ. The story is Christ’s story with roles for us. To state the most audacious of Barth’s [the theologian Karl Barth] propositions straightaway: the God-man Jesus Christ, as an historical event, is the ontological foundation in God [i.e. the foundation in God’s being] of all reality other than God’ (R. Jenson).
 See Luke 24:27; John 5:39 etc., “all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:16).
 According to the “eyes of my heart” (Eph 1:18).
 Something which is true of all Christians,“you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3).
 This newness is of the essence of the eternal, hence the “new song” we will sing forever (Rev 5:9; 14:3).
 “you may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). This is something way beyond being born again and forgiven.
 This is the difference between the Christian faith and all others. God is not like some infinite monolith that exists in isolation, God exists as God in a circle of absolute, and hence indestructible, mutual love.
 See John 14:23; Eph 3:17; 5:18
 Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; Eph 3:5; 2 Pet 3:2.
 This explains the concentration on the prophetic gift in Revelation (10:7; 11:10, 18; 16:6; 18:20, 24, 22:6,9).
 Cf. “For the Lord has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes (the prophets)” (Isa 29:10).
 John 1:18 may be legitimately translated, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”.