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Sledge-Hammer Faith

• Greg Boyd

Is doubt the opposite of faith? In this sermon, Greg points out how a strength-tester model of faith is idolatrous and counter productive to a life that follows Jesus.

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In modern Christian circles, there is a tendency to have an all or nothing understanding of the Bible. This tendency looks like a person who believes that their faith is only as strong as much as they don’t doubt the Bible and what it says. But this type of thinking creates problems when things seem to contradict what is in the Bible. Holding the Bible and Jesus in their rightful places is important to a correct understanding of faith.

This type of thinking is like the strength tester game at a carnival. The strength tester game is also called the strong man game, where a person hits a target with a sledgehammer and tries to make the puck fly to the top and ring the bell on the game. A certainty attitude towards faith creates levels of “strong-ness.” If you can hit the proverbial puck halfway up the faith meter, you can possibly get good parking spots or other small miracles. If you can hit it to the top, then you can cure the cancer that afflicts your loved one. But this model of faith isn’t what Jesus asks us for in the Bible.

The strength tester model of faith can be and tends to be idolatrous. There is a time and place for certainty, which we’ll talk about in future weeks, but this model is idolatrous when we depend on it for our core life.

Our core life and worth should depend on Jesus and not certainty in our interpretation of the Bible. It’s good to diligently study scripture and find truth from it. But if we pull our life and worth from this study, we miss getting our life and worth from Jesus. The problem is not what we believe but rather how we believe. When we believe in our scripture and certainty of interpretation to get life, we commit idolatry. We replace Jesus with our beliefs in Scripture.

And often, what happens is the way we believe makes what we believe an anti-Christ obstacle to coming to Christ. Whereas our beliefs should point us to Christ, they instead replace Christ at the center of our faith.

You can’t be getting life from God if you only focus on what you believe about God. Orthodoxy is a good thing, unless it prohibits you from getting life from Christ, the one source of life. The one way to tell if you’re getting your life from anything but Christ is to “poke” at it. Ask questions that conflict with your beliefs. If your beliefs bite back and make you feel uncertain about your life and value, you might have a problem.

The strengths tester model of faith is a psychological model of faith, whereas our faith in Christ is covenantal. The best analogy to explain this is a marriage. We don’t marry our beliefs in the other person; rather, we marry the other person. We hold beliefs about that person, but they don’t define the covenant relationship. We aim for “confident-enough” to commit to a relationship. We don’t aim for “confident beyond a shadow of a doubt”.

Taking the risk of trusting a person instead of the beliefs pays dividends throughout eternity when that person is Jesus.

If your beliefs are overwhelming Christ’s place in your heart, take time to rejuvenate your faith in Christ and not your beliefs. Beliefs have a place, and it’s not a bad thing to have them. But don’t let them replace the one person that reconciles you to God.

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Topics: Controversial Issues, Covenant, Faith

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Focus Scripture:

  • Mark 11:24

    Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

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9 thoughts on “Sledge-Hammer Faith

  1. Cortni says:

    This is going to be a wonderful blog series! I remember first taking a look at who God really is through the “Scandalous Love” series. When I watched the “Victorious Love” sermon on the blog, I practically fell out of my chair. So THIS is who I am worshipping?!?! I love it! Can’t wait to read the rest of these entries!

  2. edmund says:

    I have struggled for many years with my own calling and ministry—disillusioned by the church-structure and the portrayal of God in the environment I grew up in. I have followed your teachings about the Kingdom of God, Love and the Church. I have learned so much and been enlightened so deeply that I am glad I delayed my response to my calling—what would I have preached? This series is going to be one more layer of the sound foundations I’ve learned here so far!

  3. Dave says:

    I have encountered so many portraits of God through the years, that despite the seemingly accurate picture of God portrayed through the person of Jesus Christ, it just seems to good to be true.
    Of course we have all been “jaded” in our pilgrimage through this life, and if we learned anything at all, it was that anything sounding too good to be true, usually is.
    I will withhold critique until I read the rest of the installments.

  4. Reynolds Shook says:

    don’t have a website

  5. Amazing blessing! Pastor Greg is so right on about the love of Jesus and our relationship with Him –that He is the most ever important one in our life. Greg has taught that taking the risk to follow Jesus–and yes, we sometimes have doubts and questions, and we continue to learn, seek and grow–yet Jesus is our ever-solid intimate lover, our never-leaving or failing husband, and we are His bride that he loves more than we can even imagine. Greg talks about our struggles and questions as Christians and that this is ok–the heart of a kingdom is our marriage to Jesus Christ. It is so clear that Greg is so motivated by his own relationship with Jesus and his messages are so inspiring. Excellent!!

  6. Brian says:

    Another powerful message. Many thanks for your ability to articulate the central vision of Jesus’ message (life). The idea that people want certainty is supported by a large body of social psychological research showing that people are extremely invested in maintaining a sense of certainty, that this certainty consists of beliefs (nouns) and that certainty provides emotional comfort. Unfortunately, stubbornly maintaining certainty despite contradictory information means that one has to lie to oneself and others about life. This not only weakens the individual, but also goes against what seems to be the fundamental vision of Christianity (and other religions) – that we are made in God’s image and that the essence of God may be best described as verb-like (i.e., creative activity that involves embracing the world with a radical love for all of it, including the places of fear and uncertainty).

  7. Andy Bethke says:

    “And so, through all the thick mists of the dim doubts in my mind, divine intuitions now and then shoot, enkindling my fog with a heavenly ray. And for this I thank God; for all have doubts; many deny; but doubts or denials, few along with them, have intuitions. Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither a believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eye.”
    -Herman Melville

  8. markw says:

    I’ve been working with the idea of thanking God for (actually within) my anger. Thanking God for exposing my anger…

    This balances the temptation to lash out at God, which overdone tends to bring me out of the spirit. The thankfulness creates a boundary to contain the anger, to keep it from spiraling out of control. It also keeps pride at bay because I am thanking God within my faults. So I am recognizing my faults without being consumed by them.

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