Christianity Explored : The Ultimate Experience
Episode 1: Mark 1:1-8
The Big Picture

The other day when I came across an article in which Prince Charles said that, for all the advances of science, "there remains deep in the soul (if I dare use that word), a persistent and unconscious anxiety that something is missing, some ingredient that makes life worth living." Something is missing. Something is not right. May be you identify with Prince Charles. Or perhaps with Bernard Levin, probably the greatest columnist of this generation. Levin wrote recently that despite his great success as a writer, for over twenty years he feared that he might have "wasted reality in the chase of a dream." He wrote this,

"To put it bluntly, have I time to discover why I was born before I die? ...I have not managed to answer the question yet, and however many years I have before me they are certainly not as many as there are behind. There is an obvious danger of leaving it too late... Why do I have to know why I was born? Because, of course, I am unable to believe that it was an accident; and if it wasn't one, it must have a meaning."

All around us are people who have a vague feeling of unfulfilment, that things are not as they should be. May be you share that feeling. Like Prince Charles searching for the ingredient that will make life worth living. Or like Bernard Levin wanting to discover why they were born before they die.

Today we are beginning a journey of exploration in search of answers, in search of The Ultimate Experience. To find the meaning of life. The ultimate journey. And we start with the big picture. Let me show you a clip from one of the biggest pictures of all time - a film that sums up how this ultimate journey has caught the popular imagination. Star Wars. The actors may be fictional but the plot is not original. It is truer than most people realise. There are apparently 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy and our sun is 150 trillion miles from the centre of our galaxy. And our galaxy is just one of a cluster of 30 galaxies. Altogether it is estimated there are over 100 billion galaxies and each galaxy has over 100 billion stars. And God holds it in his hand just as you would hold a contact lens on your finger. Mind blowing isn't it. And across God's creation there is a war between good and evil. There is a war raging in the universe and it has been going on for a very long time.

A war that polluted our own world soon after its creation. There is a force of evil in our universe that corrupts all who are tempted by it, who are tempted by it or who seek to control it. The godless forces of that rebellion have dominated our world for most of human existence. Cut off from our Maker, we have lost our destiny, lost our purpose, forgotten the way home. Like a virus, evil has infected every human being. The Bible describes the spread of that virus from the first human beings. It controlled the world of the first Century just as it does today.

The godless Roman occupation forces oppressed God's beleaguered people. They taxed them, enslaved them and executed all who defied their authority or refused to bow down before their deified emperors. Those same forces are at work in our world today. Sometimes blatantly as in Bosnia or Rwanda. Sometimes in more subtle ways through drugs or pornography.

The Bible describes our plight in bleak terms. "We are more wicked than we ever realised." But amazingly, we are "more loved than we ever dreamed." In the next few weeks we are going to make the ultimate discovery. We are going to see how God defeated the forces of evil through Jesus Christ. "Christianity Explored" We are going to discover how Jesus Christ came to rescue people from the evil forces of darkness. To bring meaning, hope and purpose. Power to overcome evil with good, power to overcome even death and suffering.

Mark begins the story with these words "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Those words are as dramatic as the opening words of the film Star Wars.

The dark side of evil that grips our world would be defeated. The light was coming into the world. The rescue had begun. In the weeks to come we are going to see how the eternal God became a human being, became one of us, one with us in order to save us. We are going to explore:

1. The Big Picture
2. Jesus - who is He?
3. Jesus – why did He come?
4. Jesus – His crucifixion
5. Jesus – His gift of grace
6. Jesus – His resurrection

There is an outline in your news sheet which provides an over view of the series. There are some introductory questions and also some to help you prepare for next week. I recommend you purchase the book of the series Christianity Explored from the bookstall. In this brief overview I want us to dwell just for a few minutes on the first recorded words of Jesus. They are very, very significant, for they introduce us to Jesus own understanding of his mission. "The time has come, the kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news !" That is Great News.

The rule of God and the ruin of Satan is the good news. The rule of God was becoming a visible reality on earth by the very presence of the King himself. The King of the Universe has come, and He calls people to change sides, to follow him, to become citizens of God's kingdom. Two words describe how we experience this good news.

simply means to turn around. Its not the same thing as feeling sorry because we were found out, caught doing something wrong. The kind of sorrow Jesus is describing is the sorrow for the evil we have thought and done in and of itself. Jesus called people to recognise their guilt and turn away from sin because it is a precondition to experiencing forgiveness.

Believe simply means to take Jesus at his word, to believe that God is the kind of God Jesus has shown us, to believe that God so loves the world that he sent his Son to die in our place.

To believe we're more wicked than we ever realised but more loved that we ever dreamed.
To believe that which sounds too good to be true is really true. What is the ultimate discovery? You don't have to wait to the end of the series to find out.

It is this. More than anything, God wants you to be with him. The God who designed your world, the God who placed you on this planet, simply wants you home with him. And to bring you home, he sent his son to rescue you. To offer you a gift, the gift of eternal life. A gift you must receive and a gift we cannot but share. Lets pray.