Life is Not a Game – Workshop Transcript

note: Members may discuss this workshop in the Message Boards HERE

Obie-Host Hello and welcome to CIR’s latest Workshop:
“Life is Not a Game: Rules, rebellion, and freedom as a follower of Jesus” given by Rich Dixon.
Rich is a respected speaker and the author of “Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance”.
You are invited to visit Rich’s web site:
where you can learn more about Rich and his writings and you can also purchase his book.
You may download the booklet for free which this workshop is about here:

We will open with prayer, after which Rich will speak for several minutes. When he is through speaking
each of you will have the opportunity to ask questions of Rich and to further discuss the points and principles
brought up during the workshop.
Who would like to open us in prayer today?

bj. Lord..
we thank You so much for rich ………..
and the wisdom You have given him
so He may share with us ………..
guide our time Lord ……..
open our minds and hearts
so we may leave here touched by You
in Your name we ask

I now hand the meeting over to Rich

Rich-Speaker Good evening. It’s great to be here. I’m looking forward to a great discussion.
I’m going to take a few minutes to “talk” and share some thoughts. Then I hope we’ll have some good discussion. It might be a good idea to keep some paper handy to record thoughts, comments, or questions.
I’m a quadriplegic and I type pretty slowly, so I worked out most of this ahead of time so I could cut and paste. If I get going too fast, somebody “yell” at me to slow down.
So the title of our session tonight is “Life Is Not A Game” I want to give you some food for thought. You may completely disagree with me—that’s okay.
We use a lot of game metaphors in our life. “Life’s a marathon, not a sprint.” “Slam dunk.” “Home run.”
Paul uses many sports metaphors. Hebrews 12:1 “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us …”

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
There’s nothing wrong with these metaphors, but tonight I want to put the idea out there that there’s a lot of danger for Christians in thinking of life as a game.
A game is defined by its rules. Right?

The game can’t exist without rules. Rules create the game. Right and wrong are determined by the rules.
That’s important—IN A GAME, you can change right and wrong by changing the rules. See the danger there?
Some other characteristics of games: Morality equals not-cheating. Any decision that’s allowed by the rules is acceptable.
Games reward short-term results at the expense of eternal principles. Truth is meaningless beyond the rules.
I’m expected to take advantage of others’ mistakes and oversights. Players devise clever ways to use the rules to gain advantage. Games encourage and reward skillful deception, surreptitious motives, and secret strategies. If a behavior isn’t against a rule, it’s fair.

Can you see the problems with life-as-a-game?
Games are inherently competitive. No matter how friendly or low-key, winning is the goal—and there can be only one winner. I win—you lose. Competition fosters a scarcity mentality. It’s a zero-sum situation in which I gain only at others’ expense. Success is scarce.

I don’t accept scarcity as a viable world view. Certainly some physical resources are limited, but the essential elements of life are abundant, overflowing, boundless. Can you give examples of this?

dulcinea love..
but really our spiritual identity\ and gifts

Rich-Speaker exactly…others?
A false belief in scarcity leads to the tragic lie that we must compete for and earn forgiveness, respect, self-worth, and love at the expense of others.
God created a world of abundance. Grasping that reality frees me to embrace service and generosity. An abundance mentality liberates me from the false notion that I must strive for that which is given freely.

Make sense?

dulcinea yes wow

Obie-Host yes
julie yes

AlanH that’s an eye opener

Rich-Speaker Pretending that life works like a game deludes me into hiding behind the pretense that I’m just “following the rules.” It’s an illusion that allows me to justify and rationalize, using rules and rights to mask deceit, deception, and dishonesty.
Life is less about my rights and more about what’s right. Quality relationships require me to care for others at the expense of my rights.
Possessing the right to do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do.
So here’s my basic point for tonight:
I don’t think life is about rights and rules.
Rich-Speaker I think life is about relationship and freedom.
dulcinea yes

AlanH awesome

Jim-1 completly

Rich-Speaker To me, life seems like a very wide road with a lot of latitude for choice. Yes, there are boundaries, those white lines that define the edges of the road. But unless I want to rob banks or sell heroine to kids, those lines don’t limit my choices much. Agree?

dulcinea yes
AlanH yep

Obie-Host yes
Jim-1 yes

Rich-Speaker So “what’s legal” doesn’t really impact most of my decisions.
So think about this: Authentic liberty is a personal commitment that must involve making and accepting responsibility for my choices based on core values—independent of external guidelines and rules.
That’s a big statement–reactions?

dulcinea ummm.. wow.. and ouch to some of what u said
personal commitment.. that is what recovery is all about
and those lines you speak of, i can often see in extreme when they are not
but the extreeme i see them in can keep me in my defenses and not going forward/ done
yeah–I think we all have some personal “ouches” there. And the extremes don’t really keep us where we want to be, huh?

dulcinea yep
Rich-Speaker “Follow Me” invites me to emulate His behavior, so I like to ask, “WDJD—What DID Jesus Do?”
Believers and non-believers characterize Jesus as either rule-maker or rule-breaker. Which do you see?

Rich-Speaker For some He’s associated with a laundry list of harsh, judgmental restrictions and merciless punishments. Jesus is the ultimate cosmic control freak, demanding strict compliance in the shadow of the ultimate, eternal threat.
Jesus the Ruler!

Others depict Him as the consummate rebel. His entire mission is portrayed as turning over tables, defying religious authorities, and exhorting His followers to emulate His rebellion.
I say …
Neither picture is accurate. Jesus lived in a perfect freedom that cannot exist on the Rebel/Ruler continuum.
Think about it–do you picture Jesus as rule-maker or rule-breaker? We’ll talk in a second.
Jesus steadfastly refused to provide a list of rules.
Jesus reserved his harshest words for those who turned worship into exhaustive, detailed lists of expectations and requirements. Luke 11 records His rejection of the spiritual rulers who focused on a pristine external appearance while neglecting internal wholeness.
Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”
Let that sink in for a moment.

Now picture this:
He knew that following rules out of fear precludes open, authentic relationship.
His response to the burdensome regulations of the religious leaders appears in Matthew 11:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
REALLY HEAR those words!
A rabbi’s “yoke” was his teaching, his interpretation of God’s word, the requirements for being a follower of that particular teacher.
In contrast to the overwhelming demands of the self-righteous religious leaders, Jesus promises that following Him brings rest and relief.
He rejects and offers freedom from the restrictive, fear-driven, human-created rules of organized religion.
So—was He a rebel? Not really.

Jesus also rebuffed attempts to cast Him as rebel. In Matthew 5 He makes a strong claim about His relationship to the law:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. … For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
See what that means about the law?

dulcinea yes
julie yes

Rich-Speaker Jesus didn’t reject the rules; He insisted that they be understood, interpreted, and followed from the heart with a spiritual perspective. He didn’t advocate disobedience; He insisted that our righteousness must surpass those who lived according to rules alone.
Don’t break the rulesz–exceed them!
To understand and follow Jesus, I believe I need to hear everything in light of this interaction from Matthew 22. (you all know this one)
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus’ first word in summarizing His teaching was “love.” Agape—unconditional, sacrificial, intentional love—is the foundation of following Jesus. He explicitly states that “all the law and the prophets” are based on agape.
See the difference between that and “following the rules”?
Life is not a game. Life is a relationship with Jesus.

AlanH amen!

Rich-Speaker Doing the right things, doing good things, however it’s expressed, is just another set of rules. None of those—no action, no attitude—can lead me to the abundant life for which God created me.
True abundance can be found only in relationship with Jesus. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. [John 10:10b]
Can you let that wash over you–true abundance?
I believe right theology is important and that some theology is simply wrong. But I also believe that most theology isn’t as central as it’s portrayed.
Following Jesus is not about a collection of neatly organized ideas. It’s not about a logically consistent system of premises and conclusions.
Following Jesus is not primarily conceptual.
At its core, following Jesus is relational.
Can you see what that means about rules and life-as-a-game?
Concepts, ideas, whatever we call them, are the rules that define our Christian circles. In this circle we do this and believe that—over there, it’s different.

In our culture there’s definitely a game called Christianity. The game has a number of variations, each with its own rules, rulers, and rebels.
Most of the culture, even some of the serious players, doesn’t understand that the game of Christianity has little to do with being a follower of Jesus.
Think about that–you might disagree.

It’s possible to know the Bible forward and backward, to quote appropriate scripture in any circumstance, to do everything that would identify one as a Christian without really following Jesus. Agree?

bj. yes

dulcinea yes

Rich-Speaker Life—for a follower of Jesus—is a relationship. It’s not a game, which means…
…there are no rules!
And that might sound shocking.
One more point–pthen we’ll discuss.
Am I claiming that followers of Jesus live in a world where “anything goes?” Does no rules mean there’s no right and not-right?

julie no

Rich-Speaker Of course not, because God designed life for relationship. And relationships are decidedly not “anything goes.”
Just try to write the definitive rules for a healthy marriage or great parenting. We all know human interactions can’t be learned from an instruction manual.
But there IS a structure. Solid relationships always rest on qualities like respect, trust, transparency, service, sacrifice, grace—they’re designed for agape. That’s how they work best, and nobody can write the step-by-step rules for agape.
That’s why Jesus is the Word. Words couldn’t capture agape, so God sent love in human form. We don’t follow lists of rules written in words; we follow the Word who lived the path of agape.
I believe Jesus came so I could have the life God intends—a life of perfect freedom. Life is not a game with artificial rules and restrictions and punishments. It’s exactly the opposite.

To wrap up: …
Read the following passage from The Message, [Matthew 11:28-30] out loud if possible, and hear His gentle voice inviting you to let go of the games and the rules and the rebellion.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Walk with me. Work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
That’s not a game–it’s a life of freedom.

Rich-Speaker Now–thoughts, questions …
Rich-Speaker ???

AlanH One thing that you said hit me over the head…..
real good….
and that was about abundance…..
there is more than enough…..
God is a God of abundance….
not just abundance but ABUNDANCE !
and maybe I need to claim that more…..
and stop thinking in terms of things being so limited….
cause when I perceive things as limited…
then I want to compete for the limited resources…
whatever they might be….

dulcinea yes

AlanH the reality is there is more than enough to go around….
love, grace, service, tranperency and so forth….
I need to claim that stuff and spread it around more….
that is an awesome concept.

Rich-Speaker That’s a powerful insight!

dulcinea i was just thinking how rules, even one s i may think i can meet
still create some fear in me
cuz i have to meet those rules
and how it says in the Word you read the Word so you may learn of me, but you dont know me
not sure where tht is
and also in 1john or 2john the Word became flesh, which is Christ
and in ecclesiastes at the end
ecclesiates used to aggravate me
but it says the whole duty of man is to fear God
and it talks a bout living full life or somthing like that
never comes from rules.

Who else has some thoughts, questions or comments?
Speak up if you are confused about anything Rich has said tonight.
We are all here to learn from one another.
You may download the booklet for free which this workshop is about here:

julie one thing i was thinking was we can get so enamoured by learning ideas about Christianity that we forget about
being in right relationship maybe with God
and I tihnk from reaing your thoguhts here
Ive taken some wrong turns
in thsi way of conceptualizing too mcuh
and nto having a close relationship with Jesus Christ

Rich-Speaker We all do that!

julie knowing more about him and him more

andy I am sorry I did NOT get to read the booklet
I have always said it is NOT about”religion”But a relationship with Jesus that guide us with out”RULES”
You made many good points.Iam looking using this transcript,your booklet,and the Bible
as at points I felt confused but finding some clarity
like the Game of life we take different Christian paths yet wind up at the same ending
Home with Jesus life having learned more & more about AGAPE

Rich-Speaker Here’s my summary: Religion = Rules = consequences = fear
Perfect love drives out fear!
Anyone else?

julie what if you get hung up so much on who much I do wrong ? that its less about experiencing God and
assuming it more about doing right and wrong
i have been troubled in being in thsi place too mcuh done

Rich-Speaker julie–that’s the problem with rules–we focus on right/wrong and lose sight of Jesus’ love.

julie yes

Rich-Speaker and it’s hard to let go

seed I understand what julie is asking….
Rich just told me Garyexists and its hard to swallow
throughout the meeting….
i’m gunna date myself… Kieth Green’s to obey is better than sacrifice song was running through my brain
to obey is doing what you are asked because you honestly love the person who asked you
sacrifice is giving up what you want with less in return
and compromise is giving up what you want…to get what you want more…

Rich-Speaker okAY–here’s a question:…
obey…what? What did Jesus tell us to do?
And that’s not easy–it’s sacrificial, how He loved us.
Not obey human rules–obey what He asked…make sense?

andy yes

AlanH yes makes sense to me

julie yes
Rich-Speaker One more thing–no gray …
Jesus is pure white–perfect…
and we all fall short …
but through grace He paid the price. So there’s no gray at all …agree?

andy I believe (we use the”grey”term here at CIR)things are not all Black or white but mostly gray.In our thinking
NO doubt
just termanology

Rich-Speaker okay–makes sense…
just need to be clear that true is true and right is right …
“no rules” doesn’t mean anything goes.

Obie-Host Anyone else care to share tonight?
Rich, we cannot thank you enough for your time and generosity…..
we all enjoy reading your blogs and attending your workshops….
You have so much to give….

dulcinea yes ty rich

Rich-Speaker It’s my pleasure …Before you leave, I’d like to invite you to my blog at

We will be posting the transcript of this workshop online….
you may also further discuss this workshop in the Message Boards where we will set up a forum to do so….

Remember Rich is the author of “Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance”. You are invited to visit Rich’s web site: where you can learn more about Rich and his writings and you can also purchase his book.
You may download the booklet for free which this workshop is about here:
Let us close in prayer…..
Heavenly Father….
We thank You for this wonderful opportunity….
to gather together, to share and to learn…..
We ask Your blessings upon Rich and his family….
surround them with love…..
protect them and bless them…..
Lay Your mighty hands upon each person here tonight….
you know what weighs so heavily on each heart…..
lift the burdens…..
touch the weary hearts….
and encourage each person …..
bless the ministry of CIR…..
be its provision in all things…
in the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

AlanH Amen

julie amen

dulcinea amen

Ann Amen

andy Amen..AMEN

Rich-Speaker amen! And if there’s anything I can do for you, or if you have any feedback, or if you’d just like to say HI, send me an email at

Obie-Host Thank you everyone for attending tonight…..

julie ty rich

Obie-Host God bless you all until next time…

Ann ty Rich

bj. ty rich

AlanH Thanks Rich! You really opened my eyes tonight.

julie left.

Rich-Speaker you’re all welcome–God bless and good night