Stories are extremely significant. Every one of us has a story. Where we were born, where we grew up, what life has been like for us, the things which have shaped us, the people who have become important to us and the things we are currently still trying to figure out. Many of our community groups are currently taking turns each week listening and learning one another's stories.
In a very real way, the whole Bible is one big story... and the most important one. The Bible is the story of God. It's a story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. This is the story of the gospel and what makes it personally significant for each one of our lives is when we are able to connect some dots and see how our story fits into the bigger story of who God is and what he has done and is doing in our lives.
As we have been learning from the book of Jonah there are really only two kinds of stories... stories of those of us who have been freely irreligious/immoral (like the sailors) or stories of those who have been very religious/moral (like Jonah). Both types of people end up in places where they are needing some good news, some hope, and some healing. Both need the gospel. The ancient Pastor Quintus Tertullian described these two sorts of individuals back in the 2nd century.
Pastor Tim Keller breaks down Tertullian's two individuals in terms of "religion" and "relativism." Here's an explanation... Religion/moralism says we must obey and be very good in order for God to love us and save us. Irreligion/relativism says God loves everyone and it doesn't matter what we believe or what we do. One is truth without grace and one is grace without truth. Instead of living lawlessly and being our own God, the gospel enables us to say "I am more sinful and flawed than I ever thought." Yet instead of legalistically trying to make up for it and earn favor the gospel enables us to at the same time say, "I am more accepted and loved than I ever dreamed possible."
Here's what's meant by moralism or religion and relativism or irreligion...
Moralism is the view that you make yourself acceptable (to God, the world, others, yourself) through your own achievements. This approach either makes you depressed with self-loathing because you repeatedly fail in trying to live up to such high standards. Or it leads you to delirium with self-deception because you think you actually have lived up to the standards. You end up feeling either inferior or superior.
Relativism is the view where everything goes. Religion doesn't really matter. Tolerance, preference, and freedom are the chief values. Everyone simply needs to determine their own right and wrong. If there is a God he's more of an impersonal force and his standards are not very high. God's love is wishy washy because it overlooks all wrong as insignificant and he basically just sweeps it under the rug and pretends it doesn't exist. It's a sin to see yourself or anyone else as a sinner. You end up feeling either blindly free or keenly lost.
The gospel comes in and shatters both views because the gospel both presents us with an extremely holy God whose standards and justice we could never live up to, and yet this God crushed and crucified his own Son so that whoever turns to and trusts him is forgiven and freely given what no sinful human could ever accomplish. The good news is we end up feeling neither inferior because we are accepted, superior because it's been given, blind because we are not ignoring reality, and lost because God has come after us.
It's good news because the truth is we're all bad guys and God has done something about it. The key is recognizing how this has been and is playing out in our lives...how the gospel is the central and chief thing happening. We're always either on a road to embracing the gift of grace and seeing the wider and deeper implications for our hearts and our lives or resisting this grace and falling back into old patterns of moralism and relativism.
Where are you at? Are you trusting too much in what you've done or what you know? Do you feel superior or inferior? Do you feel in charge and free? Do you feel lost and aimless? My Christian friends and my friends who are not yet Christians... Let the gospel come in and save you from yourself. Learn to see your life and your story through the lens of the gospel.
You can check out Tim Keller's whole article here: The Centrality Of The Gospel.