Study Guide: Taking Out the Trash

Sunday May 11, 2008 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

What does it mean to “get saved?” Many people (especially people in the United States) see salvation as a one time event and the result of “believing” certain things about God. While belief is important, salvation encompasses much more than that. The salvation that God offers is a continual personal transformation where the trash of our old lives is replaced by the beauty of God's Kingdom.

Extended Summary:

When asked the question, “What is salvation?” most people would explain it as something that happens to a person when they believe certain things about Jesus and then God declares that person righteous. In other words, salvation is a transaction where correct beliefs about God are exchanged for a declaration of forgiveness by God.

This view of salvation is based on the popular use of a courtroom analogy. In this analogy, every human is declared guilty, sinful and unable to do anything about it. Upon recognition of this guilt and the acknowledgment of Jesus as “savior,” the judge, who is God, declares a person righteous because he or she is seen through the righteousness of Jesus.

While this makes for a good analogy, there is a problem: it fails to reflect the biblical view of salvation. A better analogy comes from the passage in Luke 12 where Jesus speaks about fearing the one who has authority to throw a person into hell. The word hell here is “ghenna” which refers to a garbage dump. Since only trash is thrown into a garbage dump, Jesus is warning against living a life that is trashed. In modern terms, “Don’t become trash, for all trash is thrown out. Become a person who is fit for the Kingdom.” Salvation is about God delivering us from the trash in our lives.

In our popular view of salvation, the courtroom analogy explains how salvation deals with the consequences of sin so that we can stay out of ghenna, but it does not deal with the fact that our lives are still trash. God’s view of salvation is one that actually deals with the reality that the trash exists and he does something about it. While it is true that my initial salvation experience was truly “salvation,” it is definitely NOT all of my salvation. Salvation is also about continually getting rid of the trash in my life which is a continual process. This means that salvation can be described in three tenses: past, present and future.

Eph. 2:5 – “[God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

1Cor. 1:18 – “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Rom. 5:10 – “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

I have been saved, I am being saved and I will be saved. My trash was taken out, my trash is being taken out and my trash will be taken out. God does not expect us to “figure things out” just because we “got saved” at some point in the past. His salvation is ongoing in our lives… That kind of love is overwhelming.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How do these thoughts on salvation challenge previous perspectives you have been taught?
  2. What are the implications of the courtroom analogy for the way we live in real life?
  3. In your own words, describe how salvation is like taking out the trash.
  4. Think about your walk with Jesus. How have you been saved in the past? How are you being saved right now? How will you be saved in the future?
  5. What kind of trash do you need taken out of your life right now?
  6. Spend some time reflecting on the three passages related to salvation in the past, present and future. Listen to the Lord. Thank God for what He has done, is doing and will do in your life.