Study Guide: A New Reality

Sunday October 28, 2007 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Our modern, Western way of thinking can easily blind us to the reality of the spiritual world. We are called to revolt against this cultural tendency by waking up both to God’s constant presence in our lives and to the spiritual war around us. We also learn that Jesus has given his church authority over demonic powers in this world, and that no matter what we experience in this life, our hope and joy is rooted in the love of God!

Extended Summary:

In this passage, Jesus’ disciples return from their mission and enthusiastically report to Jesus about their success in casting out demons. Jesus uses this opportunity to teach them further about the Kingdom of God.

In the latter part of the passage, Jesus teaches them that the “wise and learned” have not recognized the coming of the Kingdom, but that “little children” have understood God’s revelation. As Greg emphasized in his sermon, this does not mean that God arbitrarily revealed his Kingdom to certain people, while intentionally blinding the minds of others. Rather, the “wise and learned” in Jesus’ world were primarily the religious leaders. While some of these people came to believe in Jesus, most of them missed the messianic revelation due to their own self-imposed blindness. The Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ was “hidden” from them because they refused to allow their own religious worldview to be stretched or challenged. They were so certain of their “theological correctness” that they missed “seeing” the coming of the long-awaited Messiah!

In our world today, we experience certain “cultural blinders” that cause us to miss seeing and understanding the Kingdom of God. One of these cultural forces is “Naturalism.” “Naturalism” is the belief that only the physical world of our five senses is real. Naturalism denies the reality of the spiritual world. When naturalism is fully embraced, it leads to atheism. Now, in the Christian world, we reject naturalism because we believe in God. However, naturalism can still affect us. One of the ways in which it affects Christians in the modern Western world is by causing us to lose our awareness of the wider spiritual world, including the spiritual war that always rages around us. We must “revolt” against naturalism by constantly “practicing the presence of God” in our lives, and by opening our eyes to the spiritual realm that surrounds us.

In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples that, as they were doing the kingdom mission, he saw Satan “fall like lightening from heaven.” This refers to Satan’s fall from heaven which is mentioned in other biblical passages such as Isaiah 14:12 and Revelation 12:9. Although Satan’s complete and final defeat will take place at the return of Christ, Jesus and his disciples were already witnessing the beginnings of that defeat, just as we do today when we advance God’s Kingdom in this world. Jesus gave his first disciples “authority to trample on snakes and scorpions” (here, “snakes and scorpion” represent the demonic powers of darkness in this world). And he has given that same authority to us as his church today!

Finally, Jesus reminds his followers that their highest joy should be found in the fact that their names are forever “written in heaven.” This is a reference to the heavenly “book of life” (see Philippians 4:3; Revelation 21:27). Here, Jesus is reminding his followers that, no matter what happens to us in this fallen world, “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39)!

Reflection Questions:

  1. In what ways do you think the “naturalistic” worldview of our culture has dulled your awareness of the spiritual world?
  2. In what practical ways could we, as the community of Jesus, “revolt” against the forces of naturalism in our lives? For example, what could we do to help ourselves be more consciously aware of God’s presence with us at all times? What could we do to be more aware of the spiritual battle that surrounds us?
  3. Jesus promised us that we have been given “authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy.” This includes authority and power to break free of any addictions and patterns of thought or behavior that are not in line with his life-giving Kingdom. What patterns in your life is God currently calling you to “take authority over” and break free from? What would “freedom” look like in these areas? What “steps” toward freedom do you sense God is currently calling you to take?