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Choosing To Say Yes

• Greg Boyd

Personal experience is an important element of faith, so if we lack this, the life-changing depth of our faith will suffer. Today we talk about how to enhance the way we experience our faith, so that it feels more real and can affect us more fully.


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It’s a common problem for many believers to experience doubt or a lack of passion, simply because they don’t feel God’s presence. Personal experience is an important element of faith, so if we lack this, the life-changing depth of our faith will suffer. When we don’t feel God’s presence, or don’t truly experience ourselves as loved by him, it can be hard to pray or worship with passion or regularity and we end up only doing it out of duty.

The key to this problem is not the content of our beliefs, but the way we experience them in our minds. Intellectual knowledge by itself is not sufficient to change or nourish us. We must feel the reality of that belief as though it was right in front of us.

Studies show that when we visualize situations, the same parts of our brains are active as when we actually experience them in the world. Every time we have a thought or recall a memory, or anticipate a future event, we are using our imaginations, and this triggers the mind as though it’s really happening. Imagination is the mind making “real” something that exists as abstract thought.

This is why in Hebrews 11:1, the author states that “Faith is the substantiating (hypostasis) of things hoped for (elpiz?), the conviction (elegchos) of things not seen.” The things we substantiate with our minds (hypostasis) creates conviction. And the things we are convicted about become true in the concrete world. But it all starts with our “hypostasis”. It’s why Jesus says according to your faith be it unto you.

This is taught as a tool for marriage counseling. If you are married, it is normal to think about your spouse multiple times throughout the day. In a happy marriage, these thoughts tend to be positive, and any negative thoughts or memories tend to be kept vague. But in a negative marriage it’s just the opposite. The negative is what is ruminated about. But this is not simple cause and effect, it’s a snowball effect. If we think positive or negatively all day, it becomes more probable that we will have a positive/negative interaction the next time we see them. Our expectations and the messages we repeat to ourselves — our faith — will influence what comes to pass.

All thoughts are like this: memories, expectations, fears and hopes.

This pattern is the same for our spiritual experience. We can’t wait for the transformative effects of faith to show up on their own, we must participate with our imaginations first. This means actively visualizing what we know with our minds to be true. We know that God is present, but he is unseen, so we have to use our imaginations to visualize his presence. When we do this, and imagine him with all five of our senses, it triggers our mind to become convicted of his reality.

This is also what Paul meant when he said to “take every thought captive to Christ.” Be intentional about your thoughts. The mind will be captivated by what it perceives as real. So the more vivid the image in our mind is, the more it impacts and moves us.

This does not come naturally to all of us. So an exercise to help with this is to carve out time every day to imagine Jesus being present with you. See his eyes, the color of his hair, the look on his face, hear the sound of his voice as he affirms how he cares for you. Experience him as you praise him.

When you first start practicing, it might feel like you are pretending. Our old habits will conflict with this new way of thinking and of course it will feel unnatural. But the critical difference is that we already know with our intellect that it is true. It’s not pretending, it’s aligning your mind with reality. It’s freeing your mind from the tomb of the world’s lies.

For further reading, Greg recommends two of his books: Seeing is Believing, and Escape the Matrix.

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Topics: Disciplines, Faith, Imagination, Presence of God, Transformation

Sermon Series: Formed

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Focus Scripture:

  • Hebrews 11:1, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

    . . . and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ

    Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

    Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

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2 thoughts on “Choosing To Say Yes

  1. Susan Jensen says:

    I am an artist and very visual. “Escaping the Matrix” has really helped me and this sermon is wonderful. So many churches don’t know how to explain this scripture.
    Thank you.

  2. Dave Pritchard says:

    For several weeks now, Greg has mentioned the fact that Michelangelo simply “released the sculpture from the marble” and that the potentiality of the ‘form’ was already there contained within the stone – or something to that effect. This is an indispensably gorgeous picture that is analogous to our ‘spiritual formation’ in so many ways and I am totally onboard with the message! However, there is some controversy as to whether Michelangelo actually said this –

    You Just Chip Away Everything That Doesn’t Look Like David quoteinvestigator.com/2014/06/22/chip-away/

    It’s interesting though because the traditional methodology that he followed when making a piece of sculpture first involved the conception of a ‘bozzetto’ – a sketch, usually in wax or clay that then served as a ‘maquette’ or scale model for the final work. Several of his unfinished pieces in marble reveal that hidden flaws were discovered in the block as he sculpted, prompting him to then either alter his dimensional intentions or even abandoned the piece altogether.

    I’m not suggesting God does this to us, but rather can change his sculptural plans for our spiritual formation, if the ‘flaws’ we incur in this life inadvertently make us less that what we could be or ever better yet, those flaws inherent within our character can be altered by his loving grace to serve as a witness to the world of his transforming power and sacrificial love.

    The ‘Galleria dei Prigioni’ in The Academia in Florence is an amazing place and the visual experience when one enters is simply stunning. Originally, the 6 sculpturally emergent works were components (as well as potentially being for other commissions) for the tomb of Pope Julius II della Rovere– the one who commissioned him for the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Along with the his earlier magnificent statue of the ‘David’, which was moved from the Palazzo Vecchio and strategically placed directly under the glass dome of the Academia’s “Tribune” completed in 1882, the sculptural group forms a breathtaking metamorphosis that is reflective of Genesis 2:7 –

    “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

    It’s as if they are pushing, gnarling and twisting their way out of the “Prima materia” of the antediluvian world. When you see the ‘David’ at the end of the corridor in it’s magnificence & scale, one is potentially reminded of ‘Adam’ in his ‘Pre-Fall’ state – Larger than life, spiritually powerful and enigmatic. Now, some balk at this and know that it’s a contrived placement; an afterthought – synonymous with Neo-Platonist philosophy & historical/political circumstances…..(true) But the ensemble seriously does inspire!

    Volumes have been written on the genius of Michelangelo and how he was really the first sculptor in modern history to successful recapture from classical antiquity, the ‘bisecting of space’ in human form. So in a way, initially forming the “bozzetto” out of clay as an ‘imaginative conception’ of what we can truly be in Christ, is how we collaborate with His Divine will in bringing about the eventual ‘Resurrected Form’ He envisions for us – 2 Cor 3:18

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