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Risky Life

• Greg Boyd

Greg opens our new Worth The Risk series with a discussion of commitment, the constant desire to find something better, and argues that you can only know the Truth about anything by passionately committing to it.

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In our society, we more than ever are surrounded by choices. We have so many options that we have a perception that there is always a better option out there. So if things do not meet our expectations in one job, marriage, city, etc, we tend to flit from thing to thing as though we’re channel surfing, looking for something better. But this tendency hinders our growth in life, and our walk with God. Instead, Greg argues that we can only reach our highest potential by fully committing to things and ultimately to God.

He makes this point by drawing from the writings of one of his favorite Christian philosophers Søren Kierkegaard. He writes: “Truth is subjectivity.” By this, Kierkegaard means that you can only discover the deeper truth in a thing by committing to it fully so that it becomes part of your subjective reality.

The problem is that we can’t know ahead of time that a commitment will for sure “work out for us.” We can research and learn about it ahead of time but these facts don’t guarantee the outcome. Because of this, any commitment requires risk. It’s a leap of faith. Kierkegaard addresses this risk: “To dare or to risk is to lose one’s footing for a moment. Not to dare is to lose ones self.” To not risk is to not commit, which is to not fully live.

Ultimately our fear of things “not working out” and our constant desire to find something better is fueled by our fear of death. We feel an intense pressure like the clock is ticking and we need to “live our best life now.” Kierkegaard wrote “Nothing is as heady as the wine of possibility.” This is an indication that we are getting our meaning and fullness from the world around us instead of from Christ. If you are getting your fullness and life from Christ, you have the inner comfort and security to take risks, and achieving perfection in your worldly life loses its significance. We are more likely to stick with jobs or marriages that may be imperfect, and say no to temptations to “trade up” because we know that it is not the source of our life. It reduces the pressure of getting happiness from that thing, because we are already full inside.

The whole Idea of self actualization is a lie. It creates a hunger in life. This principle is what is illustrated in Genesis 3. This story is the quintessential example of “possibility chasers” living in the center of their own universe. The serpent says to Eve “you can do better!” You should self-actualize, and reach your full potential, instead of trusting God for your fullness.

This does not mean that we have to stay permanently in every job, friendship, etc, it just means that the hunger for something better should not be the driving force. It should just be because God has called us to a change. But the desire to “trade up” is a damaging lie. God is the only one that can fill that vacuum inside of us. And we can only be filled by him when we fully commit to things, and to him. As Kierkegaard wrote: “Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.”

Greg suggests beginning the process of giving up our desire for worldly sources of life with a prayer like the following:

“Father forgive me for not trusting you for my fullness, for chasing after ‘stuff’ and seeking approval in the world. I hereby commit to make Christ the center my universe. I will pursue Christ as my source of significance and meaning and security. I crucify my old self that is always striving for more, and commit to become my truest, best and fullest Self in you, Lord, and only you.”

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Topics: Community, Covenant, Identity in Christ, Relationships

Sermon Series: Worth the Risk

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Focus Scripture:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:14

    For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.

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3 thoughts on “Risky Life

  1. Peter says:

    The message that came across from the situation that Greg was describing, in terms of the choices man has to ‘better’ himself, is one of self-centred living…”trade up” to a new wife, new job, new home etc. This situation is at odds with the Triune God where each person comprising the Trinity is other person centred….for if they were self-centred and only considered themselves the Trinity would cease to exist.

    In this latter regard, it is interesting that when created, man was made in the Image of God and there could plausibly be elements of a triune nature within himself at that time…although this would be speculative. However, it is noted that in Gen 2:18,

    “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

    In other words, man was not designed to be self-centred but relational. Of further interest was that Eve was created out of Adam…so in one sense she was ‘part’ of Adam as originally created. This has echoes of the Son being in the Father as described in John Chapters 15 to 17. Gen 2:24 is also interesting,

    “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

    Man and woman cannot be more relational than contained in that description. Additionally, Eve’s vocation was to be a ‘helper’ for Adam or, other person centred. So in a sense, there was a triune relationship between Adam, Eve and God where they were carrying out/serving the mandate of God for the Creation and serving each other in similar fashion to the members of the Godhead.

    Serving one another as described demonstrates the action of love that is summed up in 1John 4:8,

    “He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.”

    So man/mankind is effectively created to be other person centred in their love to serve God and each other as Jesus mentions (Mat 22:36 – 40),

    “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

    I couldn’t help but think when Greg was describing fallen mankind as living in deception and not the Truth, knowing that he is less than what he was designed to be and seeking to “trade up” to a “better” albeit meaningless life. Then, by complete contrast Jesus, the Son of God, has (for want of a better turn of phrase) everything in Heaven…forsook this to serve God and mankind in terms of Heb 2:9,

    “But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one.”

    And nonetheless amazing is that, as a consequence, believers participate in the Godhead (Col 3:3), “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”.

  2. Roger Bannister says:

    Can’t help but wonder if we would still be in the stone age without a desire to trade up?

  3. Micah Haddock says:

    It’s not that we shouldn’t try to become better or make the world a better place; the “trade up” mentality that we are talking about here means always seeking the best for ourselves and that is un-Christian.

    Would we be in the stone-age if it wasn’t for the selfish desire to “trade up”? The great inventions and advancements in civilization really only come from people who are willing to truly commit their lives to a cause or a field of study, often at their own expense, for the good of society.

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