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Risky Church

• Greg Boyd

In this final sermon of the Worth the Risk series, we look at how the cross offends our worldly values, and how we as followers, and the church as a whole, are called to respond to this confrontation.

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In our culture, personal preference becomes the all important factor for many of our decisions. We live in a consumer society which promotes a consumer mentality. We bring this mentality to purchases, relationships, and even marriage, in that we use a cost-benefit analysis to make choices and determine whether to stay with a given choice. This is a key characteristic of the contract society we live in.

We bring this kind of thinking into our faith too. We define truth according to whether we agree or not, or whether it “feels” true, (which usually just means whether it agrees with us) such as interpretations of the Bible, whether God would approve of certain actions or align with certain values, etc.

People naturally use this same consumer criteria when selecting a church. They weigh how far of a drive it is, how much fun the kids have, whether the speaker was likable, the music, etc. It’s a cost-benefit analysis. To some extent this is normal, but as a result many churches feel pressure to cater to this, where the goal becomes to attract and keep as many people as possible, based on worldly, superficial measures. This consumer economy has created the “McChurch.” They mold the whole experience and often even their message so that pleasing their congregants, not challenging them, is the highest priority. So the gospel that they teach gives people what they want, but not what they need, to hear.

The problem with this is that Reality itself does not conform to our preferences! We are reminded of this in a rude way every time something sudden or bad happens that we were not expecting, like an accident. Reality does not conform to us, we have to confirm to it. And of course we know this, but our world’s consumer mindset lulls us back into the false sense that we have all the control, and that everything should conform to our wishes.

But this is counter to the real message and purpose of the gospel. The message of the cross is the reality that we must conform to, and the truth is that it’s not always pleasant.

A good example of this is found in Galatians 5:10-12. This community was being influenced by Jewish Christians who taught circumcision (according to the Jewish law). But the gospel was teaching that the cross replaced the law, which would have made circumcision optional, at best. This was not what these people wanted to hear. So in his letter, Paul tells the Galatians that the “offense of the cross” must never be abolished. Yes, the cross *should* be offensive!

Another example, 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul says the cross should look foolish and weak to those who live in the world. The view of God as someone who would be willingly killed for the sake of others, was absurd and offensive to people. And this is the point! The “power” that God rules by is self-sacrificial love, which is not how the world operates. The ways of God are foolish and offensive to the ways of the world. It *should* look foolish and offensive to our worldly minds.

Our call as followers of Christ is to not just agree with this but to live this out. Ephesians 5:1-2 tells us to be imitators of God, who gave his life for us. We are called to love our enemies, not fight them. We are called to be willing to suffer and die for others, while the world itself teaches us to cultivate safety; to shoot first, ask questions second.

The message of the cross is going to offend people who live by the world, and chase after wealth, security and power. What we see on the cross is radically different than what we see in the culture, and it’s offensive because it means we must be willing to lose everything. It fundamentally confronts the consumer mindset. The message of the cross is not what we want– but it is exactly what we need.

In Phillipians 2:6 we read that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to cling to. He chose to empty himself of his significant advantage to serve us. And we are called to imitate this.

For us, this translates into a call for solidarity with others who do not share our advantage, like those who are discriminated against, or the homeless or friendless. We must leave our “bubbles–” our places of privilege, comfort and security– and let others affect us. We are called to live in service to the world and be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters.

The cross is going to confront you if you get your life from wealth, beauty, guns or being right. If you are clinging to worldly things for life, then the cross is going to offend you. And it should — it’s for our own good. We need to get our life from God and stop clinging to things of the world. So the gospel is always going to have an edge to it.

It may sound bad, it may offend us. But Jesus himself assured us that if you lose your life you will find it. What otherwise are we offering God? Live according to the world and offer Him a perpetually searching, empty, desperate, self-centered soul? Romans 12:1 tells us to offer our body as living sacrifice. This is what he meant. When we let that old, broken, world-obsessed self die, we become truly free!

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Topics: Community, Covenant, Kingdom of God

Sermon Series: Worth the Risk

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Focus Scripture:

  • 1 Corinthians 1:18

    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

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2 thoughts on “Risky Church

  1. Peter says:

    As we have mentioned in previous posts, man was created in the Image of God (Gen 1:27), and (Gen 2:7) “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Of interest here is that man did not have a ‘childhood’ nor any earthly parents to raise him, so his intellect, morality and all other aspects of his being came from the (True) Father and hence he reflected the Image of God. In essence, Adam was a ‘vessel’ designed and filled by the Father…as was Eve. They both responded to His love and, in turn, loved and served God and each other.

    When confronted with Satan’s ‘theology’ in the Garden, the ‘cost benefit analysis’ as Greg describes and Satan effectively expounds is evident in Satan’s deception; you shall not die and be as God knowing good and evil’ which is accepted by them, with the consequential results of relational separation from God…or effectively death.

    So fallen Man emptied himself of those factors/characteristics (holiness, righteousness, truthfulness, goodness and love) that truly made him a son of God, as his true character could only be present when Man was fully in relationship with God. As a result of the Fall, Man reversed his image to self-holiness, self-righteousness, self-truthfulness, self-goodness and self-love. His ‘fullness’ to God had in fact become ‘emptiness’; devoid of True life or, as Paul describes fallen humanity in Romans 1:28-32,

    “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

    In other words, man chose to replace that which was lost with false gods or idolatry as Paul also described in Romans 1:21-23,

    “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

    It is interesting at the incarnation (when God became man), John describes Jesus as (Jn 1:14), “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” One surmises that, in part, Man was in-filled/reflected this when created although not glorified at that stage.

    Greg mentioned the situation with the Cross and the offense it represents to fallen humanity, especially the unbelieving Jew and folly to the Gentile. And, as indicated in the Focus Scripture, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” For it was through the Cross that we are renewed in the Image of God as Paul describes in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 6:11),

    “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”

    and then in his letter to the Ephesians (3:18-19) where the believer,

    “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”

    So that he/she has to (Eph 4:22-24),

    “Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

  2. Dave PRITCHARD says:

    Often families are determined by bloodlines and or the genetic ancestry that they share circuitously. But families are transient entities that morph through time and culture. Part of a person’s identity is shaped by ‘the family’ that bred and nurtured them or the ‘family of friends’ and or ‘associates’ that sustains their continence and wherewithal. Conversely, some ‘gangs’ although mostly nihilistic, can even become a type of surrogate family where a pack mentality reigns. In comparison to contemporary statistics and in spite of the litany of patriarchal melodrama found in Israel’s past, Jewish families on the whole were and are, very, very strong, have always been and will continue to be so. Jesus’s experience was no different; the Gospels suggest a tight nuclear bond woven through a passionate observance of tradition and custom – of course! However, it became apparent that as he ‘grew in stature and wisdom’ and his earthly ministry progressed, that he was going to extend his ‘phyletic’ love well beyond the anticipated prophetic boundaries – this was one of the things they often attacked and criticized him for.

    In a sense, he had to break and expand the nuclear bonds of one parochial family in order to give rise and birth to another more eternal all encompassing reality; an ever widening dynamic circle of ‘Agape’ inclusion. ‘The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said that we expend too much energy on “falling in love” and need to learn more how to “stand in love.” ‘Pragma’ (another Greek definition of love) is precisely about ‘standing in love’ – making an effort to give love, rather than to just receive it. And that’s the beauty of what he’s done and continues to do for us – ever making intercession at the right hand of the ‘Father’- Rom 8:34 & Heb 7:25 The direction of Christ’s ‘pragma’ is truly Cosmic is its scale and perpetude – He’s not willing that any should parish and not be part of the great ‘Circle Dance’ of Joy between The Father, Son and Spirit.

    What fraudulently passes itself off for this ‘spiritually reality’ is often more akin to a kind of ‘La Cosa Nostra’ where coercion and intimidation are stealthfully woven into theological platitudes; a juridical trap that sets into motion a kind of unattainable accountability and perfection to a ‘family’ that only has centralized power as its ultimate goal and purpose. Advertisers have picked up on this and often rely on jingoistic slogans such as “Welcome to [this] Family of Products” where you can become a ‘full-blooded member’ once you sign for the ‘extended warrantee’ – Ha!

    The metaphors of Bride, Building and Body used throughout the scriptures wonderfully point to whom we can truly be in our kinship with God. As Greg aptly pointed out – It’s anything but a “Mac-identity” – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!” 2 Cor 5:17

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