Study Guide: The Center of the Ride

Sunday November 21, 2010 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

A central aspect of living as a Christian is lining up our life with the revealed Word of God. The battlefield of our living is actually waged in our soul, our mind. God wants us to understand exactly who we are in His eyes, so that our understanding will lead to right living according to the revealed Word of God.

Extended Summary:

People in this world are often living in a world of conflict, of what we want to do in the core of our being and what we actually end up doing. It is a conflict of intentions and behavior. God wants us to realize that our core being is filled with the Holy Spirit, and we can find peace by living at this core instead of on the periphery where circumstances reign. This peace will help us in living out Christ-like behavior.

This world is a spiritual battlefield, and there are four distinct dimensions to this battlefield—Spirit, Soul, Body, and World. God speaks to our spirits, which in turn speak to our souls, which leads to our body, and then we act to the world. Satan goes the reverse route—he speaks to the world, then the body, then the soul, and eventually affects our spirit. If we listen to what the world says about us, then Satan is defining our spirit. If we listen to what God tells us, then God is defining our spirit. This is how God and Satan can affect our intentions and actions. When we turn our lives over to God, our Spirit—our core —is restored under the lordship of Christ. Even if our core is restored, it can be difficult to live a life in this world.

Life is like a merry-go-round. Our world spins and turns, sometimes at a playful pace and other times at a quick, violent pace. If you’ve ever ridden on a merry-go-round, then you know that the center of the merry-go-round doesn’t spin as fast as the edge of the merry-go-round. Life can be viewed from two distinct vantage points, similar to the merry-go-round. In one, we feel like we’re flying at a million miles an hour, and the other we feel like we’re at peace.

Part of living a disciplined life in Christ is finding the peaceful center where God dwells and informs our spirit of who we are. This discipline is primarily a mental discipline. Romans 12 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind and to not be conformed to the pattern of this world. The problem is not one of simplifying our lives or being less busy (although we should do that as well), but is a problem of letting our circumstances dictate the peace of our spirit. When our lives get out of control, and we feel that we’re flying a million miles an hour at the edge of the merry-go-round, we are letting our spirit be manipulated by the world.

To stop this, we must realize what God is telling us, regardless of the circumstances of this world. The stress, pressure, and demands of life constantly want to throw us to the edge of our limits, but God wants us to know that we are not defined by our world. If the kids are acting up, God wants you to know that you’re not just a parent but a child of God. If your job isn’t going well, God wants you to know that you’re worth far more than your employer will ever know. If your marriage is spinning out of control, God wants you to know that you are loved by Him more than any relationship, whether it is failing or not. You are more than a worker, parent, and spouse. You are a child of God, fully loved, blameless, and destined for Heaven even while God works good into all things in this world.

The question then becomes, will you live in the center of the merry-go-round where you experience these things as true or not? It is all nice and good to speak of God’s love, but when we encounter the spin of this world, do we believe in God’s love and remain at peace? The world won’t stop spinning. Until Jesus comes back, we work, parent, and love our spouse. And the way to experience these things as true is through the mind. This is done by reminding ourselves, when the world spins faster, that we are united in spirit with the Holy Spirit. We have God’s own presence at the center of our lives, and we have God’s peace, love, joy, and power right now! These things do not come once you get your act together, or the world slows down a little, but it happens the moment you give lordship of your life to Christ.

Since you have this peace, joy, love, and power as your spirit right now, remind yourself when the world spins of this truth. Banish the thought that if your world would only change that you would find peace. Instead, know the truth and remember that you are loved beyond measure, valued beyond all the riches, and that God will never abandon you no matter how fast your world is spinning. This is God’s peace in the midst of the storm.

(The song used at the end of the sermon was written by Jon Paddon and is on the music CD from our Animate series.)

Reflection Questions:

  1. What stood out to you most from this message and the supporting texts?
  2. In what ways do you feel that you’re sitting on the edge of the merry-go-round? In what areas of your life is your spirit troubled?
  3. When you are in the midst of a storm, what is your usual habit of dealing with it?
  4. Go back and do the imagination exercise at the end of the sermon. What truths is God asking you to focus on?
  5. What are some practical ways that you can remind yourself of these truths whenever your spirit is troubled?