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Invasion of Light

• Greg Boyd

In this third week of our Across the Universe series we are reminded that the counter-cultural beauty of the Christmas story is in the reality that the God who created the vast expanses of the universe became small and vulnerable. While it is often the case that we marvel at what is grand and big, the message at Christmas is that oftentimes the most profound experiences of God are in the seemingly mundane moments of life. Our call is to be a people who remember and remind others that the God of the universe does not only go half way for us, and so we should go all the way in love for others.

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In this third week of our Across the Universe series, Greg Boyd begins with explaining some of his earliest experiences in more Pentecostal churches where the presence of God was most clearly seen in the external “wow” experiences of God. These were often marked by ecstatic and powerful manifestations of the presence of God. While these types of experiences are certainly a way that God expresses His presence, they are not the particular way we see God showing up in the Christmas story. Matthew 1:18-24 provide a glimpse into the coming of Jesus into the world and it is the story of the God of the universe coming to the world as an innocent and vulnerable child. Matthew tells us that this baby coming into the world will be called, “Immanuel” which means “God with us”. If Jesus is our window into the heart of God and the coming of Jesus looks rather insignificant from the world’s perspective, then those ecstatic “wow” experiences are probably not where we will find God most often.

The story of Christmas contrasts greatly with the history of religion. The historical picture of God within religion consists of a God who is vast, separate, angry, vengeful and to be feared. Humanities confusion over the character of God can be seen clearly even in the stories of Adam and Even (Genesis 2-3) and Cain (Genesis 4) where there was an assumption that God was both distant and holding out on the characters in the story. Christmas is all about God blowing apart the prism of our captivity to a false picture of God. The God who is over us became intimately with us. The God who created the vastness of the universe showed up as a baby. This is the most profoundly accurate picture of God. God couldn’t have gone any further for us and this paints a picture of the unsurpassable love that reflects the true glory of God. God reveals his power most perfectly by becoming weak.

Greg finishes his sermon with three suggestions for how you can position yourself to better experience this truth about the beauty of God we see in the Christmas story. First, we must accept that “God With Us” applies to you. You personally have unsurpassable worth because God paid an unsurpassable price. The more you can live in that narrative, the more you will be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Second, look for “God With Us” in the small and unexpected. Be on the lookout for God showing up in the insignificant cracks of your life. Try to wake up to the little things that normally would be missed when you are speeding through life. God is not afraid of our messes, but willingly gives into our messiness to clean us up from the inside-out. Third, remember, you are made in the image of this God. You are made in the image of a “go all the way” God. You are made in the image of an extremist God who never stops half way up the mountain on the journey. Go all the way with what God has called you to be.

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Topics: Hope, Identity in Christ, Presence of God

Sermon Series: Across the Universe


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Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 1:18-24

    This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

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6 thoughts on “Invasion of Light

    Mike Beynon says: Monday December 12, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Greg was incredible in this message; the Spirit and the Son and the Father were alive in his preaching!

    Each and all can go all the way up the mountain thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Reply
    Peter says: Tuesday December 13, 2016 at 5:35 am

    While accepting Greg’s ‘treatise’ on ‘normal’ towards the end of the message, in it’s correct context normal has a lot to offer the believer. If our thoughts go back to the Garden when the first couple were created, they had all the gifts and graces from their Creator that made them a normal human being in His eyes, reflecting His image. They were rightly related to God, Creation and each other (the whole context was ‘very good’ and unified).

    However, they were tempted into believing that rather than be normal they could be as God. This choice destroyed their ‘normality’ and they became abnormal to the extent that their previously related unity had become disunity. Man could no longer correctly relate to God, Creation and each other and could therefore not be considered normal as created. As man continues to aspire to be God in this Creation the more his disunity (sin) is evidenced as he seeks to be someone or something he was never designed to be.

    It was not until the Incarnation that we see another normal human being born into this world.

    In recent times, we have had the likes of “Jesus Christ, Superstar” where His persona is elevated to “Superman” or “Super Human” status. Relative to fallen man this may be an appropriate comparison, but this is not the reality. Jesus lived the life of a normal human being…sure, His mission was unique, but He obeyed The Father as the first couple also should have.

    As Greg pointed out, it was the work of the Cross that changes things. When applied to the believer it brings him/her back to normality whereby they can now correctly relate to God, Creation and each other. Therefore we, as believers, cannot seek to be any better or worse than normal ie a son of God, otherwise, we find ourselves desiring to be something other than what God designed.

    Similarly, each believer has a role to play in the family that is no better or worse than any other believer as we are all part of the same Body and have unique roles to play. As one theologian described a couple where he was a pastor and she was his wife. The pastor went out one night and preached and saved one hundred souls while his wife stayed home and did the dishes and her household duties. Who was doing the will of God? They both were within their respective capacities of being normal human beings in His kingdom.

    So, in the context that I have described, I would think all believers would be filled with joy to be described as normal human beings.

    Reply
    Mike Beynon says: Tuesday December 13, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Peter, I wonder about the context of the word normal in this 21st Century. To me it is a word that seems to suggest a construct which comes from the world of human science, statistics, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (#5)

    As one who finds significant knowledge valuable in such practical scientific normative ‘compasses’ I have to say for myself, the experience of the Lord in common events and relationships is what I humbly hope and pray to seek in the first and last steps of my life’s work. Plus, the healing given by God’s Holy Spirit is even more stunning and powerful, right alongside caring medical care.

    Of course my literally 100s of hours of work as a chaplain in state mental hospital settings have mandated some ‘small’ amounts of humility at least some of the time…! LOL

    By the way, my wife is a clergy person as am I. I do most of the cooking and washing of the dishes. Or to be honest, our dishwasher does more than I do! LOL

    I really appreciate your writing and thinking around the thought of normal; when God comes to us and shares our common lot in the Incarnation. Plus, God conquers sin and death through the power of the cross in the Atonement.

    It seems Jesus shatters the world of ‘normal’ in a very radical way. As Paul puts it: “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.” 1 Corinthians 1:23.

    Don’t you love the title of Greg’s message: ‘The Invasion of the Light’ !

    Reply
    Peter says: Wednesday December 14, 2016 at 3:42 am

    Thank you Mike, for your input .

    I note your comments in regard to defining ‘normal’ but my thoughts are probably a lot more basic. My thinking is along the lines of this definition, “Normal is used to describe individual behaviour that conforms to the most common behaviour in society”.

    In reality, because society is so influenced by fallen mankind, we are effectively trying to describe someone as ‘normal’ who is being compared to an abnormal society…at least in God’s eyes. Perhaps this was at heart, some of the exasperation that Greg was expressing on normality.

    The point I was making is that man as created was ‘normal’ in every respect being in the Image of God. Through the Fall that ‘normality’ (in God’s Kingdom) was lost but can be regained through the Christ.

    The ‘parable’ the theologian told was designed to show that fallen man would praise the pastor for his efforts and probably depreciate those of his wife. However, in the Kingdom of God, it is like the workers in the field parable, where various groups of men were hired to work at different times, but in the end they were all paid the same. So in the Kingdom, the work of the pastor’s wife is no less (or more) valued than that of her husband.

    The rest of my post is self-explanatory.

    Reply
    Vince says: Sunday December 18, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Hi Peter. I’m not sure but it seems that the comparison you made between the pastor and his wife isn’t correct. I think the better comparison would be the pastor seeing 100 saved at a meeting or the wife seeing 1 saved at the house.

    Reply
    Peter says: Monday December 19, 2016 at 8:06 am

    Vince, I should thank you for attributing ‘the pastor and his wife’ comparison to me, but that came from the theologian who I was listening to as I mentioned in my first post. But nonetheless, my first reaction to what he said was probably like you, but I came to see the reality of working in the Kingdom is as I have described.

    Your first reaction may be to probably focus on the different types of work both were doing…how can you balance ‘soul saving’ with ‘dishes’. But then you have come back, what if the wife saved one soul to try and make a comparison on that basis. If we did change the ‘parable’ the way you suggest then the whole point would be lost.

    The Mat 20:1-16 parable that I mentioned effectively says, ‘all workers’ were rewarded and not based on their length of service or their productivity…unlike a worldly contract where ‘the first will be first and the last will be last’ in terms of reward. But Jesus says, “the first will be last, and the last first”, He is effectively turning the matter on its head to say, there is no worldly ‘order’ in the Kingdom, where all Kingdom work is equally (well) rewarded. Another theologian commenting on this parable says, “We do not need to compare the value of our gifts and our contributions to others. We do not need to begrudge God’s invitation to another, or to feel that our efforts are not valuable because they are not as obvious, as dramatic, and as long-standing as those of others”.

    One can also see the obvious, that if our rewards were based on productivity or length of service, then this may only be a whisker away from becoming works based salvation, where those works are based on ambition rather than love.

    There are further aspects on the matter you raise and what I have provided is but a starting point and I suggest books that deal with the Bible’s parables may be the way to go.

    Reply

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