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What’s in It for Me?

• Greg Boyd

Today’s message was on the offensiveness of the gospel, which becomes apparent when we start out by asking a typical human question: “What’s in it for me?” Consider Mary, the mother of Jesus, and John the Baptist – people who gave up much to obey God and suffered greatly as a result. Obeying God will have painful consequences so long as this world is under the reign of the enemy. The kingdom of God is not like this world, and when we bring this opposing Kingdom into the world we will find strong resistance, and it will cost us something.

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Today’s message was on the offensiveness of the gospel, which becomes apparent when we start out by asking a typically human question: “What’s in it for me?”

Greg began by offering Huyen Tranberg as an example of someone who has truly counted the cost and abandoned the question “What’s in it for me?” in the worldly sense. Greg’s sermon started out by reflecting on people of great faith from the perspective of the question “What’s in it for me?” Dr. Tranberg could have pursued the American Dream and gained all that a doctor’s salary provides for, but instead she cares for those who are among the most broken and abandoned in our world. She travels up and down rivers in Cambodia and cares for those who are not recognized by local governments and who have no viable means for maintaining the basics of life. There is no promise attached to this that Dr. Tranberg will one day get all that the world can offer as reward for her sacrifice. Even in terms of emotional rewards, many of those she has cared for have suffered and died anyway, yet she persists. This sermon intends to illuminate the much deeper and more compelling motivation that keeps Dr. Tranberg (and others who have chosen lives of costly obedience) going year after year.

Consider Mary, the mother of Jesus, and John the Baptist – people who gave up much to obey God and suffered greatly as a result. Mary, though she was surely blessed, also endured much pain and sorrow in witnessing the abuses of her son. At one point she was even rejected as special for having birthed this man when Jesus asked the crowd (Mary included) “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And then to watch what was to follow must have been at times quite unbearable. John, too, had given his whole life and being to this role of heralding the Messiah, only to fail to receive from Jesus what the Messiah had promised to do: set the captives free. In fact, Jesus, responding to John, quotes the very promise from

Is. 61 and omits that particular line. Instead he adds as a closing line, “Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me” (Matt. 11:1-5). This is not the only time that Jesus warns us against being offended at him. As far as John’s lot is concerned, not only was he not a captive set free, but he was beheaded on a whim.

Obeying God will have painful consequences so long as this world is under the reign of the enemy. The Kingdom of God is not like this world, and when we bring this opposing Kingdom into the world we will find strong resistance, and it will cost us something. Hebrews 11 catalogues the many lives that reflect this truth. It is of special interest for this sermon to note that these heroes (and heroines!) of the faith did NOT receive what was promised during this lifetime (Heb. 11:39). Few people consider their suffering a part of the life of faith.

Greg’s challenge to us was that we simply be honest with ourselves. When we call ourselves Christians and say we want to follow Jesus, is it only to a certain degree? Only within certain boundaries? Only until it hurts us in some way? What conditions do we place on our obedience? Is the call to come to Jesus conditionally or with complete abandon? If we place conditions of well-being, physical health, financial stability, and so forth on our obedience to God, then we will be offended at God precisely when those conditions are threatened. This is what it means to be offended. To prefer our condition to the master who calls us further. Are we willing to surrender all?

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Topics: Sacrifice


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Focus Scripture:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:1

    For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

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