Study Guide: The Church

Sunday October 20, 2013 | Greg Boyd

Brief Summary:

In week five of our sermon series, we look at the role of the Church. A universal Church was born out of the ministry of Jesus, and this Church is empowered to look like the Cross. In this sermon, Greg shows us why it’s so important, as the Church, to keep our eyes fixed on the cross.

Extended Summary:

In the previous four weeks of our sermon series, The Forest In The Trees, we’ve seen the story of creation and how it all went awry when humanity chose to give up it’s authority. We then learned of how God was to work through the family of Abram to bring a people into the world that would be God’s chosen people. In week three, we found out how the people of Israel failed to live up to this high calling. Last week, we heard the story of Jesus and how Jesus would fulfill the high calling and become the way that God would reconcile his creation.

This week, we’re focusing on the continuing story of God’s redeeming work in creation. When Jesus was on this Earth, he began to train his disciples to carry his message throughout the world. These disciples would carry the message that Jesus gave them into the world, and they would be known as the Church.

In everything, the Church is called to reflect the cross. The cross embodies self-sacrificial love for everyone up to and including our enemies. It is a humble reminder of an all-mighty God who gave up everything and became a human. It reminds us of obedience in the face of adversity and comfort in the face of sadness. The cross shows us how we should die to this life in order to live the new life that Jesus has given us.

Many times throughout history, the Church has looked to other things to fulfill its role in this world. The New Testament church spread like wildfire when it embodied the cross. Frequently, its followers would be beaten and even killed for what they believe. Yet, it was never stamped out. A few centuries later, however, it became the state religion of Rome and was forever changed. Now, instead of being a cross-focused people, Christians began to follow the way of power in this world. Instead of dying for our enemies, we began to kill others who didn’t believe in Jesus.

Even today, some things draw our eyes away from the cross. In our western culture, it is easy to be caught up in the idea that America is a Christian nation and should be. But Jesus dispelled the notion of his Church being founded as a nation. And still others situations arise where people forget to treat others with cross-like love. One of the ways in which marriages succeed is when both people are treating each other with a cross-like love instead of a self-serving love. And there are many more instances of where cross-like love should be given instead of the world’s way of doing things.

In all things, a follower of Jesus must keep their eyes focused on the cross when living their life. This will mean a life of sacrifice, suffering and death to the way that we want to do things. But, in being born into a new family and way of life, we should greet this new life with gladness as we live out the life of the Church. As the present day people in God’s story of redeeming creation, we have a significant part to play, and it will require much from us. But, in this suffering and death, we begin to see how Jesus makes a difference in this world and in our lives.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. How have you seen the cross be compromised by the people of God throughout history?
  3. In what ways does imitating the cross give us victory in this world?
  4. God calls us to give up this life to imitate the cross. In what ways do you think God is calling us to imitate the cross?
  5. We are called to fix our eyes on Jesus. What in this world draws your eyes away from Jesus? What pulls you away from fully living a cross-like, loving life?