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Escaping the Twilight Zone God

• Greg Boyd

In an episode of the Twilight Zone, a young boy gained omnipotent powers, and people were forced to accept his every decision as good—or else. In this sermon, Greg shows how many people view God this way, and he opens up another way to view God.

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Our picture of God is of utmost importance. From our picture, we draw our theology and how we live our life. God is love, and we are made in God’s image. And we exercise our faith in God based upon our picture of God. If we don’t think God is love, then our faith won’t reflect that, and our actions won’t reflect it either.

In the episode of the Twilight Zone, “It’s a Good Life”, a boy named Anthony gains omnipotent powers. Anthony uses these powers to decide what is good and what is bad. For instance, Anthony turns a man into a jack-in-the-box simply because the man disagreed with him. The people in the town where Anthony lived were forced to say that anything Anthony did was good. They lived in terror of him because of his powers.

Unfortunately, many people have a similar view of God. They see God as a deity who arbitrarily does good and evil, and we simply have to say it’s all good for fear of being the target of a proverbial lightning bolt from Heaven. And, when we have this view of God or even small parts of it, we have trouble clothing ourselves with love as Paul commands us.

If you seriously want to manifest love in your life, then you have to take time to gaze on the beauty of God. But, this presupposes that you have a beautiful, mental picture of God. And some of us don’t. The reason believers are able to be transformed into the likeness of Christ is because they see something in their mind, using their imagination, which is beautiful.
Faith is imaginatively seeing the reality of God as true, and this creates a conviction that motivates us to live differently. If we see the reality of God as beautiful, then we will be convicted to live in that beauty. If we see the reality of God as an ugly, fear-based controlling God, then we will be convicted to live a life as loveless and controlling. We become what we see and believe. And this has been proven as neurologically true as well as spiritually true.

Timothy Jennings wrote in his book, The God-Shaped Brain, that the kind of God you worship changes your brain. Jennings writes that love based images of God are healthy for the brain and fear based images literally cause brain damage. When we process something that we are afraid of, our brain releases a cocktail of drugs to motivate our body into a flight or fight response. This response, if prolonged over a period of time, can wreak havoc on our brain and body. It can cause decreased abilities to learn things, think clearly, be empathetic, control emotions, lowered sense of well-being, and intensified self-centeredness. In essence, we go into a self-survival mode.

If we are going to put on love, we need to de-stress. Modern society has, for many of us, created a constant environment of stress. We have a constant bombardment of things that stress us out. And, to learn how to live a life clothed in love, we must first simplify our lives.
But there is good news. The brain can heal itself. Even spending 15 minutes a day gazing on the beauty of God can heal the damage that has been caused. God’s love is defined in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross. Nowhere else is the picture of God given completely.

Take time to gaze upon this beauty. Manifest the reality of Jesus’ love as God’s reality, and then take that information and live a life convicted by it. This is discipleship and the process by which we escape all the images of God that are false.

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Topics: Faith, Imagination, Transformation


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Focus Scripture:

  • Colossians 3:14

    And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

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13 thoughts on “Escaping the Twilight Zone God

    JOHN MILBANK says: Wednesday May 8, 2013 at 1:33 am

    Wow! thanks for the amazing sermon “…Twilight Zone”.
    Truly liberating.
    We get trapped by God’s commands eg. “You shall….Love the Lord your God with all of your mind etc, having “no other gods”. To so many it indicates that a mindset of fear is necessary for survival and for protection by God in this broken world. But to view God as forever beautiful and nothing but the purest Love, who instead of dominating our thinking liberates us to live the “Abundant life” that Jesus promises to those who believe in Him, is a revelation to all who have been and are still caught up in the downward spiral of fear.
    In Love we do love Him who is all and in all. We cant help it. It becomes part of our DNA. With this mindset, and therefore ‘heartset’, other ‘gods’ are without lasting value anyway. Let the healing begin. Bless you. John

    Reply
    teresa says: Wednesday May 8, 2013 at 5:28 am

    Does the “Jesus looking God” include the Jesus who said these things:
    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ ~Matthew 7:21-23

    “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. ~Matthew 7:13-14

    If so, howso? If not, why not?

    Just wondering if we’re not dealing with a black and white fallacy here. We seem to want to say either God is all self- sacrificially loving as in “Jesus as God on the cross only” (not the Jesus we see in the rest of scripture which includes throwing tables & calling people white washed tombs etc.)…Otherwise, we want to say God is a monster/abusive parent.

    What about the middle? Maybe God is a loving, serious God who is a stern, healthy parent who speaks the hard truths…….in love? Truths like the above passages, for example?

    Reply
    Dave Pritchard says: Wednesday May 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I could really relate to this message on so many levels. I absolutely loved the original “Twilight Zone” series. The show brought out dozens of spiritually bizarre and scientifically profound story lines that were then coupled with moral and ethical dilemmas – many of which are being cannibalized today by Hollywood producers. And Rod Serling, – Talk about “Creepy External Observers” in the corner! Ha! It’s so true that an imbalance in brain chemistry can facilitate and exacerbate a whole host of pathological disorders such as Ganser, Muchausen syndromes, HPD – Histrionic Personality Disorder and other forms of Mythomania.

    In spite of Interneuron malfunction, I’ve seen hearts and minds healed and cleared of incredible filth and confusion through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit –

    Ephesians 1:18 – “Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

    However, the beneficial results of the controlled use of psychotropic drugs i.e. Ritalin, Prozac and MOA Inhibitors (in some cases…… for particular individuals) cannot be totally discounted. One of the ways that we sustain our consciousness, is brought about by the light (i.e. images) that must pass through our rods and cones in our eyes and then onto our interneurons which in turn send those messages to our Cerebrum and its various parts. But, if you’re constantly filling your head with “Crapola” – i.e. “Garbage in, Garbage out!”- then it will remain the case!

    Matthew 6:23 – “But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

    Reply
    Peter says: Thursday May 9, 2013 at 3:52 am

    One disturbing aspect with Greg’s message that was not covered directly, is that most of humanity are currently living in the Twilight Zone.

    In reality the twilight zone is the overlap period of light and darkness….not fully light and not fully dark. The creation, as Christians know it, currently has two kingdoms…one led by Satan and the other, the kingdom of God

    The impenitent are those who exist in the kingdom of darkness, while the sons of God live in the kingdom of light….and the rest of fallen humanity presently live in this overlapping grace period between the forces of darkness and light….the twilight zone.

    Existence in this zone for fallen man can be no less “weird” than the episodes of the series. He is born into a world that believes a lie but is always confronting the Truth….how dysfunctional can you get.

    Jeremiah has that interesting related verse “The way of a man is not in himself. It is not in a man to direct his own footsteps”. As a theologian has said in relation to this ….”man cannot be truly man within, by, or from himself. He is, by creation, a dependent creature, needing God. He unmans himself when he departs from God. Apart from God he cannot really perceive how things are. Of course, he thinks he can; but of himself, he simply cannot know the truth, cannot distinguish good from evil”. As described by Paul in Rom1:20-32…..”we see what becomes of man when he separates himself from God. His sexuality goes awry, his relationships become shattered. He rejects authority, and he does his own thing. He then becomes a disorientated, malfunctional, disjointed, ego-centred creature. We could say also that as an electric plug requires a power-socket in order to truly be a plug, so man requires God as Father in order to be a son, God as Creator to be a creature, and God as King to be a subject. In all these relationships man is truly man. Without them he is lost, having slipped his moorings. He is as we have said, unmanned, and so he lives in the lie.”

    It is interesting in the construct of the video that Greg showed that we have a person able to change things through his own thoughts. While this was for evil purposes, the first thing that the affected parties seek to do is to kill him. One sees in part a similar but opposite situation with Jesus being a beacon of Truth and affecting peoples’ lives such that the Pharisees (living the lie) seek and ultimately kill him.

    As teresa describes above trying to sort things out can produce some apparently contradictory situations, where in some cases you appear to almost be believing the opposite to what you think you should. But teresa, you sum it up perfectly in your own words from your “Get Real” post:-

    “This is the challenge of faith: to take what God says is true and to see it even when it conflicts with everything else in your experience.

    It’s like we have to superimpose on a physical world the truth of God.”

    Could I say, truer words were never spoken relating to this topic.

    To take it one step further, teresa, in Ephesians 4:15 Paul says “….speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ….”, “speaking the truth in love” can best be translated “truthing it in love”.

    As one theologian describes it “To ‘truth it’ is the whole of life: so then one lives truly, one witnesses truly, one shows the truth of God and man. When we have seen this principle we can see that one either lives in the truth and so ‘truths’ it or one lives the lie and so ‘lies’ it.

    In 1Jn 3:16-18 we again see the principle of ‘truthing it’. Christ laid down his life for the brethren; so ought we to lay down ours. If we see a brother in need and do not help him, then we are not loving , that is, we are not truthing it. John then adds ‘By this shall we know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him’. If we do not love, then we do not ‘truth it’……We see then that the truth and love are inseparably joined”.

    At the end of the day God doesn’t have favorites but loves us totally. So how does this measure up with the apparent inconsistencies, we can’t say in a lot of cases at face value, but accept that at the time they were written down, they were written under the direction of the Spirit of truth and love and through personal study of the scriptures the truth of those situations will be opened up to us (which I have experienced many times)……as you know you grow and as you grow you know!

    Anyway this is far to much to have written about the first ten minutes of the message……Nietzsche (and “Twilight of the Idols”), Dostoevsky and Dr Jennings will have to wait….in fact there was probably enough material in the message to run a conference (perhaps excluding neuroscientists….only joking Greg).

    Reply
    Dave Pritchard says: Friday May 10, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Peter,

    Love your post! In reference to the “two kingdoms” comparison, it really does feel like the Christian Jedi vs. the Satanic Sith sometimes, especially when you watch the news these days. Also, in tandem with what you’ve mentioned, living in a spiritually “Grey” – i.e. Twilight Zone, is huge problem for a lot of non-participatory believers who often find themselves cut off from supportive brethren for one reason or another. The enemy loves this kind of inattentive complacency where we say nothing, do nothing and eventually become nothing!

    But, thank God for Woodland Hills and this Blog! Ha!± Jeremiah 10:23/Proverbs 16:9 are both awesome as well! As you suggested before, I liked “The TRUTH – The Golden Girdle” by GC Bingham. He slowly and meticulously builds up his case and then in his epilogue, he describes his dream and says –

    “Truthful living meant wholly loving living, and so the needy were helped, the weak were assisted, and no one sought to gain anything from this. Love was getting its true and full mileage.”

    You’re right, there is no replacement for “Veracem Vivos” in Christ! Living honestly is only possible when we fully acknowledge our need for Jesus to be at the absolute center of our being!

    John 15:5 – “I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.”

    And Dostoyevsky…..what an incredible psychological mountain of a man! He knew the human soul very well! The depth of that novel – “The Bothers Kaz..”, is insane! It’s tragically profound though, especially in his case, where his own personal misfortune so profusely affected his construction of the storyline. All of this brings to mind another irreparable fact: That when we bring the baggage of our own physical and mental life to the foot of the Cross, He can and will dissolve or destroy most of it, (Rom 8:1) but we will still often struggle to cut those cords that the “Accuser” keeps tying to reattach to our Psyche. However, embracing a “Maranatha-like Mantra” mentality helps when temptations are incessantly paraded before our eyes.
    I like what you’ve said – “as you know you grow and as you grow you know!” I’m definitely going to give that one to my students. Ha!

    Ciao

    Reply
    Jacob says: Saturday May 11, 2013 at 7:07 am

    God did not actually say don’t have other gods, He said don’t have them before Me. As in “seek first the Kingdom”…. and all these others… will be added unto you. Non of your passions of life are removed but they also do not become obsessions if your obsession is in Him.

    Reply
    Peter says: Saturday May 11, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Thanks Dave, there are a few more notes I need to add to the previous post for those who may be interested in taking this matter further.

    One of the main issues is that fallen man can live the lie essentially in a deceived or a delusional state.

    In 2Thessalonians 2:9-12 we have “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” However, it must be understood that these people had the opportunity to believe the truth but “refused to love the truth and so be saved” and also “had pleasure in unrighteousness” and therefore brought God’s judgment upon themselves. I am more of the view that issues such as this (which were relevant in Paul’s time) are not reserved until the end of the age but are happening throughout time until the end of the age comes and, that the judgments are on an increasing path, commensurate with Satan’s activities and the unrighteous deeds of fallen man.

    So effectively, the Spirit of truth and love is the power that can witness the truth to man and cause him to turn from the lie to truth

    While I note Dave that you mentioned “That when we bring the baggage of our own physical and mental life to the foot of the Cross, He can and will dissolve or destroy most of it, (Rom 8:1) but we will still often struggle to cut those cords that the “Accuser” keeps tying to reattach to our Psyche”.

    A couple of points here are that in relation to our sinful life, there was total victory at the Cross so for those who have been born again into the kingdom of God with Rom 8:1 being appropriate “There is therefore now no commendation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. This naturally provides a huge springboard into life with the lifting of guilt and being fully justified before God….we are changed from the first Adam to the second Adam before God. But the issue you raise is still there with the Accuser……however, as it has been said, the Accuser can only tempt where there is innocence…..where there is a loss of innocence he has already won. So believers are effectively back into a place of innocence and subject to those situations. The parallel is probably Jesus after his baptism and going into the wilderness and the temptations that he receives.

    The issue of course is to live the life consistent with our salvation which gets back to what was in my previous post to be a son, a creature and a subject of God living the truth.

    Being candid for a moment, I like you Dave read widely, and occasionally come across “favorite” authors…whether they agree (or disagree) with your viewpoint and/or, offer insights especially from life’s experiences that you are able to respect and take guidance.

    Very early on in my Christian walk I was directed to Rev Geoff Bingham as several that I new at the time recommended this course. While my Christian reading is in no way limited only to his writings, he has had a great influence, albeit through the Spirit.

    But it is up to the individual whether this suits him or not and I don’t have no problem with that. Just like Greg recommending Dr Jennings “The God-Shaped Brain” book may not be on everyone’s reading list

    Geoff and Greg, are two of the few teachers where I can re-listen or watch past messages and still get something new out of it that I previously missed or have a different viewpoint.

    In relation to the matter at hand, for those looking to better understand God’s love may be interested in reading Geoff’s book “Where I Love I Live” available as a free pdf download at:-

    http://www.newcreation.org.au/books/pdf/157_WhereILive.pdf

    This is not a heavy theological text, but is written in the construct of a conference on this topic, and has characters that reflect people like ourselves or those we know and addresses their issues and questions through the book. If you read the first couple of chapters you will get the idea.

    For those interested in the battle between good and evil may wish to read “Clash of the Kingdoms”, free pdf here:-

    http://www.newcreation.org.au/books/pdf/229_ClashKingdoms.pdf

    As Dave indicates above Geoff is fairly “meticulous” in his approach to these matters. This is probably due to his Bible college principal background and using “scripture to explain scripture” approach and tracks themes throughout the Bible.

    There are also a number of his messages on Sermon Audio including this one on “The Kingdom of Truth & Deceit” :-

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=11713225544

    The creational description in this message is especially thought provoking.

    As a last point in relation to what you mention Jacob, becoming a Christian is like a marriage where the bride and groom are asked to forsake all others and and hold true to each other. As Jesus also says in Matt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. So “seek first the Kingdom” is to forsake or exclude all other “gods” that have a hold on some part of your life.

    The issue is where the need for other gods arose. Since fallen man failed to acknowledge God and go his own way, he created other or substitute gods to worship. And while we think of primitive temples and idols as gods, so can be the vehicle in the drive, the latest mobile phone or large screen TV. While of themselves they offer no power, it is the time and effort we invest in them as a substitute to our relationship to God that gives them worth or worship that is wrong. I hope that helps.

    Reply
    Scott says: Wednesday May 15, 2013 at 5:46 am

    Okay Greg. Really good sermon, but… how do you reconcile this message with the core message of Job 28:28; Psalms 1:7; Psalms 19:9; Psalms 34:10; Psalms 110:11; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 2:5; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 10:27; Proverbs 14:27; Proverbs 15:16; Proverbs 19:23; Proverbs 22:4; Proverbs 23:17; Isaiah 11:3; Isaiah 33:6; Acts 9:31?

    These twenty references are variants on one theme. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom”.

    How do we reconcile a God who believes that fearing him is foundational for wisdom, who nonetheless also states that we should be anxious for nothing, and girding one’s self in love is the highest good? Isn’t “the fear of the Lord” the first step toward God as Anthony? Do we discount these twenty references to fear? Do we reinterpret “fear” as “respect”, which is one explanation I’ve heard for these passages?

    Reply
    danny says: Saturday May 25, 2013 at 8:28 am

    I think that’s the point, Scott – if we see even the Old Testament through the eyes of Jesus (as Greg points out frequently), I believe “fear” does in fact stand for “respect” and we should NOT be afraid of him.
    Remember 1 John chapter 4? “GOD IS LOVE” and “There is NO FEAR IN LOVE, but perfect love casts out fear”
    The “fear of the Lord” can therefore only mean deepest respect and humility, I would say – otherwise it would be a clear contradiction.

    Reply
    dave d says: Wednesday May 29, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Holy cow, what a fabulous message! Thank you so much for putting this up.

    Reply
    andrew sapia says: Thursday December 26, 2013 at 12:34 am

    Apology (The Prayer of an Abused Child)

    I’m sorry god that I exist
    I didn’t mean to be like this
    Forgive me god for being born
    For daring to assume this form
    Grant me pardon just for being
    For thinking, feeling, hearing seeing
    I’m sorry god that I am
    I hope that you will understand
    forgive me god for being me
    Please accept my apology

    Andrew Sapia

    Reply
    Caleb says: Thursday September 25, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I see the first comment (^^^) is by a “John Milbank”. Is that THE John Milbank? Radical Orthodoxy John Milbank?!

    Reply
    Kylea sim says: Sunday December 13, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Reading Dr TimJennings books especially The God Shaped Brain and listening to his bible studies for three years now has reopened my heart towards Gods character …now my own character has rapidly improved as “be holding we become changed” what we worship we become like, what we focus on grows! God is beautifully kind, tender hearted beyond our comprehension s.
    Now I’m so blessed to have dr Greg and Braxy and others illuminating my mind, my heart and activating my spirits grace growth! Oh and the creativity of delivery! Thankyou for all your efforts Greg!
    THANKYOU,! So very much.
    Would love you and your family to come to Australia for a series one day and some funtime. Could you? Otherwise I’m taking a crew to your church one summer! Brrr.
    Yours in his great love!
    See u here, there or in the air!
    Podrishioner Kylea!
    Kingdom activist!

    Reply

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