Study Guide: Above The Clouds

Sunday February 19, 2012 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Clouds can bring rain and refreshment to the Earth. But they also can block out the Sun, and they represent ominous things in our life. These “dark clouds” in our life block out the energy and glory of Christ in our lives. When we rise above the clouds in this life, we realize that we should always dwell in the serenity of Christ.

Extended Summary:

We exert a lot of energy in this life. Often it lies in the work we do or the family that we live with. It can often seem like there is no reprieve from the dark clouds that shadow us in this life. But when we choose to exert energy living out the facts of Christ, we can rise above the clouds of this life and bask in the glory of the Son.

Paul says twice in this passage that he exerts energy and agonizes with all the energy that Christ so powerfully works in him. For Paul, the manifestation of Christ’s glory in him wasn’t some nice theological concept. Instead, it was a transforming reality that he experienced moment by moment in his life and it energized him to do his work for Christ.

This energy is something that every Christian has in their life. It is the Holy Spirit at work in us, like a stick of dynamite—it energizes us. We should take seriously the energy that dwells within us. The God who spoke the universe into being dwells within us, and this fact should not be taken lightly. This energy should fill every nook and cranny of our life.

This energy is a river flowing out of our lives. In John 7, Jesus told anyone who is thirsty to come to him and drink and they shall never thirst again. Jesus compared the Holy Spirit with water. When we come to Jesus, we gain the eternal fount of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. This source of water is alive and is not merely a trickle, but it is a river that fills us up and flows into the world. However, we don’t always feel this energy.

If you’ve ever taken a plane ride in bad weather, you know how scary it can be to take off. There may be rain, winds, and dark ominous clouds that are all around blocking out the sunshine. Yet, when the plane breaks through the clouds, the sun comes out and the storm that you just flew through becomes white fluffy clouds. Life becomes serene above the clouds.

We have many storms and clouds that block out the Son in our lives. Whether it’s the cares of this world or fears, we don’t always feel the serenity that is brought by being above the clouds. Yet, this doesn’t mean that the sun has stopped shining, it merely means something is blocking it.

When Greg traveled to California, he saw the effects of smog. When his plane descended, there seemed to be a layer of pollution that clouded the city. Stepping off the plane, he noticed that the air seemed different. Yet, in a short amount of time, he became used to the smog and didn’t notice it. Our lives can become similar to this smog. When we live within the smog or storms in our lives, it can become normal to us, and we don’t always see the ways in which our lives are being affected. This is why it’s important to set your sights above the clouds and above the pollution.

In Colossians 3, we are shown how to rise above the clouds. We are to set our hearts on Christ seated at the right hand of God; like a ship that sets its course on a distant destination. We are to fix our minds on things above and not on earthly things below. We are to consider the members of our earthly body dead. The things that pull us away from the majesty of Christ are to be considered dead. Remove all things that say they’ll give you the things God has for you.

We have died with Christ. This would be a sad thing, except that Christ rose again, and we have risen with him. Our life is now hidden in Christ, and we are protected from the pollution of the world. But that doesn’t mean we don’t play a role. We exert energy, just as Paul did, to make use of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is a partnership. And one day, when we appear with Christ in glory, this manifestation of glory in our lives now will be brought to fruition. No longer will we have to die to ourselves or worry about our death. The process will be complete and all our energy will be spent on love.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. As Greg pointed out, it’s easy to see the smog and pollution from the outside looking in, and this is especially true when it comes to spiritual pollution. What pollution do you see in other countries? What pollution do you see in other parts of America? What spiritual pollution do you see affecting your community?
  3. What’s your pollution look like? What does the cloud in your sky resemble?
  4. To rise above the clouds and feel the serenity of the Sun, we have to expend energy and cooperate with the Spirit’s work in our lives. How do you set yourself up for success in your life? In what ways are you regularly keeping in touch with the Spirit and making a game plan for change in your life?
  5. Who in your life can help you remain accountable to this change? Who can you partner with to help you rise above the clouds?