Study Guide: Integrated Faith

Sunday February 13, 2011 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Our fallen world is full of dis-integration. This week, Greg takes the past topics of faith and applies them to this fallen world. In doing so, we are giving a way of integrating our faith in any situation.

Extended Summary:

The world that we live in is full of dis-integration. Like a rope with its ends flayed, the story of this world seems unraveled and headed in every different direction. When we look at the world around us, it seems that chaos and disorder reign. It is difficult to imagine the world that Christ promises. It is difficult to have faith in this world.

It is easy to anticipate bad outcomes in this world. It seems like things never change—debt gets bigger, families keep falling apart, and disease is ever rampant. We’re told the forces of evil have been defeated, but the world looks like they’re still waging a war and could possibly win. To understand how to keep faith in this disintegrated world, we will look at healthy and non-healthy marriages.

A healthy marriage has two people whose individual futures become integrated into one story. They both run happy ever after movies in their heads that contain the other spouse. They dream of living out the rest of their lives with their spouse. They move together toward the future that they have dreamt. By means of their imagination, they integrate their stories with one another.

On the flip side, in an unhealthy marriage, two people dream of futures that are individualistic. Their stories are not integrated, and they are not heading toward the same future. One spouse may be dreaming of living a different life, or thinking that things will never change. By steering their imaginations in different directions, their stories become disintegrated.

Our relationship with Christ is similar to these marriages. If we dream of a future that is different than Jesus’, then our marriage to Jesus is disintegrated. We are no longer integrated to the story that Jesus has promised to fulfill. If this happens, we’ve lost faith in the story that Jesus is completing. However, if we dream of the future that Jesus has promised, and we live our lives according to what that promise looks like, then we have faith.

This faith begins with thinking about what we think about. If we are thinking of malicious, angry or wrong thoughts, then we have bad faith. However, if we are thinking about whatever is good, true, noble, pure, lovely and honorable, then we are imagining a faith in Jesus. We need to think about what we think about in our lives. Are we dwelling more on the negative or on the things of Jesus?

The good news is that there is coming a time where everything will be integrated under the headship of Jesus. All disintegration will cease. Death will be no more. Temptation will be gone. Violence, hatred, and discord will be done away with. Everything and everyone will be integrated into the loving lordship of Jesus. Imagine this thought whenever you find yourself being negative. This is the exercise of a faithful person.

If the whole creation will be integrated into the headship of Christ when the Kingdom comes in fullness, then our job is to manifest this truth as much as possible now. In James 1:18, we are called the “first fruits.” First fruits in the ancient times were the fruits that people took to display what the harvest would look like. They were representative, at the time, of what would come in the future harvest. As first fruits of the time that Jesus is bringing, we should represent the Kingdom which will one day come in its fullness.

One day, everything will be integrated into the story that Jesus has told us. This story is wrapped in God’s love for all creation, and it is our job to integrate that story into today’s world. Whenever we find disintegration in this world, we must imagine the story of our futures and pull that future into our current situation.

We know the end game of this world. We know that one day this world will be fully integrated into the story of Jesus Christ. We don’t pretend that this world is already integrated, and we won’t give up that this world will be fully integrated. In our everyday actions, we will exhibit the imaginative faith of the future that God has called us to present today. We pull the good, truthful, right, pure, lovely, and honorable things of the future into the world today, and we do it through imagining what the future story of Jesus looks like. In this way, we keep the integrated faith of Jesus Christ.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. Do you believe the world is disintegrated? In what ways?
  3. When you think about the future, what does integration with Jesus look like?
  4. Think about the disintegration in your life. In what ways could you integrate more into the story of our future with Jesus?
  5. How can you and those close to you help each other integrate your futures? In what ways can you become better “first fruits?”