Session One: Mystery of the Unseen Reality

Embrace the Mystery

This message was kept secret for centuries past, but now it has been revealed to God's people.

Colossians 1:26, NLT


He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13-14, HCSB

Larger Story Synopsis

Two powerful domains—one material and visible, the other unseen but far more real. This greater reality is cloaked in mystery and yet it influences and drives the storyline of our material world.

We were physically born into the seen realm, yet we can be reborn into the unseen eternal realm. Although this rebirth takes place now, we can't experience the full effects until the fullness of time.

Great stories emanate from the Larger Story into which we were all born. In the unseen realm, unlike fictional stories, villains are not made up, actual battles are fought, real dangers lurk in the shadows, many are taken captive, and casualties are commonplace. Out of the unseen, a hero intent on rescue appears in the land.

Opening Scene

10-15 Minutes

The great adventure of faith is best lived as we journey together with other followers of Jesus.

  1. Introduce yourself by identifying either your favorite—
  2. What creates a spine-tingling mystery for you?

The Greater Reality

Group Experience

The action begins once the lights go down. From dinosaurs to tiny armies to cowboys to former presidents, there's nothing dull about this natural history museum.

  1. For security guard Larry, how were things different than they appeared to be?
  2. During the day, the museum was ordered and predictable; at night it turned to chaos. Which reality do you think is more real? Why?

What's Your Story?

5-10 minutes

Break into subgroups of two to four each to answers the following questions. It will be easier to recognize the Larger Story of Scripture as you discern the themes in each person's stories.

  1. Describe a person, place, or thing that held mystery for you as a child (a vacation spot, ruins, the northern lights, a creaky house, a scary relative you weren't around much, and so forth).
  2. As an adult, how do you now view this scary person, place, or thing? How do maturity and experience affect your view of the unknown?

Teddy Roosevelt: "I'm made of wax, Larry. What are you made of?"

- From Night at the Museum (2006).

Things are often different than they appear. Mysteries engage yet challenge us as we sort through conflicting information and experiences. Our paths are often filled with unexpected twists and turns; we don't know which way to go. Danger lurks in the shadows. The unknown is often frightening to us.

Colossians BACKGROUND:

Behind the Scenes

20-25 minutes

One of the key mysteries of life in the Larger Story is summed up in Colossians 1:15-17.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:15-17, NASB

  1. What two distinct realities or planes of existence does Colossians 1:15-17 identify? How does God (Father, Son, and Spirit) interact with it all?
  2. In what ways has Jesus connected the visible and the invisible in the past, present, and future? What implications do you see in the concept that "in Him all things hold together"?

In his work of fantasy titled The Great Divorce C. S. Lewis wrote of the separation of heaven and hell and the separation of the seen and the unseen. He characterizes the world from which people come as gray, rainy, dismal, empty, and lacking in substance. Conversely, "heaven is reality itself," where everything is more bright, solid, and alive.

  1. Why might Lewis portray what we call the "unseen" or "invisible" as more solid and vivid?

1Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand.2Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:1-3, NLT

"Ye can call it the Valley of the Shadow of Life. And yet to those who stay here it will have been Heaven from the first. And ye can call those sad streets in the town yonder the Valley of the Shadow of Death: but to those who remain there they will have been Hell even from the beginning."

One of the solid characters of the potent unseen world in The Great Divorce, explains about the "gray" world or "shadowlands" this way:

  1. Why does the resident of heaven refer to life on earth as being "gray" or "shadows"? (Read Colossians 3:1-3 in the side bar.) Why is it more important to understand and focus our hearts on the unseen—the spiritual realm, the heavenlies?