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Synergy

• Greg Boyd

Greg stated that an understanding of discipleship as “synergistic” (where God and humanity work together) steers away from polarizing extremes that typically characterize people’s understanding.

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Greg continued his sermon series on discipleship by illustrating the similarities between it and the word “synergy.” Synergy means “to work together, alongside of.” Greg stated that an understanding of discipleship as “synergistic” (where God and humanity work together) steers away from the polarizing extremes that typically characterize people’s understanding. That is to say, at one end of the discipleship continuum, God does everything and humanity has very little, if any, role or responsibility. On the other end, humanity does everything independently of God. Greg suggested an approach that falls between these extremes.

With Philippians 2:12-13 as his main text, Greg stated that discipleship is not an “either/or” conundrum as stated above, but instead is a “both/and” situation. God is the one that initiates and makes possible a person’s relationship with God, and humanity has a real part to play in manifesting God’s gracious gift of salvation.

Greg unpacked this further by detailing what God does and what humanity does. What God does is energize humanity to will God’s good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). It is crucial to understand that if God did not do this no one would want to or be able to seek God’s will. This fact demolishes all self-righteousness for it is only by God’s grace that a person is able to become a disciple. Secondly, God enables humanity to work for God’s good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Greg exhorted the audience to realize that because of this, the phrase “I can’t” should not be in a disciple’s vocabulary. The believer is never alone. Furthermore, Philippians 4:13 states that through Christ a believer can do all things.

What a person does is work out one’s salvation (Philippians 2:12). Greg shared that this use of “salvation” in verse 12 is not to be understood as being saved from hell, but instead as being saved for manifesting one’s identity in Christ. Humanity is saved by God’s grace, which fundamentally changes a person’s identity. The analogy that Greg used to illustrate this was that of Michelangelo’s creation of the famous David statue. Supposedly, when Michelangelo created David he stated that he did not see simply stone, but instead David within the stone. His chiseling was simply turning the stone into what he already saw in it. So also, when God saves a person God gives that person a new identity. However, this is not fully manifested as God desires. God gives to humanity the lifelong task of working with God to chisel out this new identity. This means the believer must be conscientious in taking steps that produce growth.

Greg closed by reminding the audience that this synergistic experience in discipleship is a principle and not a formula. Thus, sometimes God heals a person miraculously with little or no “chiseling” by the individual (e.g. a person instantly being freed from an addiction). At other times, persistent prayer and “chiseling” produce seemingly little or no progress. Greg encouraged a balanced perspective. Do not reduce God simply to miracles, yet also do not see God as only requiring the believer to chisel endlessly. Work diligently by the power God provides to grow and mature in relationship with God, and pray persistently for God’s miraculous touch. At all times, keep in mind the fundamental truth that regardless of the circumstances a believer’s identity is safely hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).

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Focus Scripture:

  • Philippians 2:12-13

    12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

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