For a Wednesday series Dallas Willard teaches through a variety of disciplines at Rolling Hills Covenant Church where he, as he later admitted, got his start as a Christian teacher.
Dallas: . . .and I can always count on the people in this group to talk back to me and to teach me as well as be very open to my teaching for them.
This is a series on The Disciple, The Disciplines, and the Triumphant Life and I want to begin this evening by just explaining briefly each on of those terms. Now, I will be handing out a study sheet to guide you for each of the meetings. I got caught in the last week of lectures this week and was unable to get it done up today so I won’t have it tonight but next Wednesday, I will provide a sheet that will give you the topic for each evening and sections of scripture to study. I say that because I am hoping you will approach this as a real study. [00:57]
Now, I love to preach and that being the case I probably am going to get loose on a few occasions and preach at you but my basic purpose is to teach and I think of teaching and preaching as a rather different sort of thing. In teaching, I try to “call people out” to get their minds to moving and to searching and inquiring and growing in a way, which is somewhat independent of what I am thinking and doing.
As I teach, I expect us to dwell together before the Lord and Him to enrich all of our minds and in that way, we feed one another and we nourish one another. I am hoping that as I teach, you will be learning together; that you will be opening the Word between you and talking with one another and with yourselves possibly sometimes too about the meanings of the things that you are finding in the Word; and so please approach it in that fashion.
Another thing about teaching is that sometimes we go a little more into the details of spelling out concepts and trying to make as clear as possible the meanings of our words. Thank you very much! Thank you very much! [2:27]
Now, I believe we have about an hour in each meeting and I will want to take most of that for teaching but I am always open to questions from the floor. I’d like to reserve a little time each meeting, perhaps not this time but after you’ve gotten going on the subject matter; next time, I would like to reserve time at the end of each meeting for some discussion and I will be here afterwards for anyone who wishes to stay and talk. We can move out; I understand they have plans for this room so we can move outside and talk and I would be happy to stay afterwards for that kind of fellowship with you.
Next time—before I go into the explanation of my main terms—next time, I would like for you to do some thinking about the subject of the body. My topic for next time is the presentation of the body through the consecration of its members—the presentation of the body through the consecration of its members. I would like for you especially to give thought if you have time, to Romans 12:1-2, Romans 6:11-16 and Romans 7:5-25. I’ll give those once again—Romans 12:1-2, 6:11-16 and 7:5-25. [4:09]
Have you ever asked yourselves—what is it to present our bodies a living sacrifice? How do you do it? Why is that important? What difference does it make? That’s the kind of question I am going to be addressing next time and if you would do some study on that and if you have time to just take your concordance and open up the scriptures and study the role of the body in the life before God. Study the role of the body in the life before God. I think you’ll find some surprising things and we are going to be explaining this next time in conjunction with some general remarks on what the disciplines are and how they work. OK; so much for the assignment.
Now, I want to come to an explanation of my terms that I have used to describe the course as a whole—the disciple, the disciplines, and the triumphant life.
What do we mean by a disciple? In the most straightforward of senses, a disciple is a “learner, a pupil.” When The Great Commission tells the church to “go unto all kinds of people and make disciples,” it’s saying, “Go make students. Go make learners. Enroll them in school.” To be a disciple is to be a learner and in the days when the New Testament was written, it was understood that a person discipled themselves to another individual because they wanted to be like that other individual. [6:05]
Now, that’s true in the most rudimentary of senses if you think for example of a little second grade child that goes into a class in arithmetic. Why are they there? They are there with the intent to be like the teacher in the rudimentary knowledge of arithmetic. Isn’t that true? See, that’s the nature of all teaching—is to be like the teacher in a certain respect.
Now, you may have a mathematics teacher which you wish to be like in terms of their knowledge of mathematics but you wouldn’t care to be like them in any other respect or you may have a Spanish teacher or a Greek teacher and you wouldn’t like to be like them generally but if you didn’t want to be like them in that respect, you wouldn’t be in the room. That’s the whole point of being a disciple. A disciple is a learner who wishes to be like the teacher. [7:06]
Jesus said that the disciple when perfect would be like his master. Just a plain observation—that’s the way it is. I give a course in Symbolic Logic and so I am teaching this course. Now, my students are perfect in that course when they know what I know about the subject matter—when they are like me, they are perfect. I should give them an “A,” right? Now, just in relation to the course, okay? [Laughter] Just in relation to the course!
The disciple of Christ is a person for whom the most important thing in the world is to be like Christ. That’s the disciple of Christ. The disciple of Christ is a person for whom the most important thing in the world is to be like Christ in all of the dimensions of His personality—to be like Christ—to have His faith, to have His peace, to have His love, to have His power. That’s to be like Christ! And the story of the New Testament is the story of a people who had such a force in them bringing them into holiness and giving them power over evil—had such a force in them that the only way that they could be described is to say that Christ was in them. [8:50]
Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I,” (who lives) but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh (body) I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) The very faith, which was in Christ, was in Paul. Paul said, “The love of Christ constraineth us.” That was not love for Christ. He did not say our love for Christ constraineth us; and that is very commonly misunderstood. There are people who will say but “if you love Christ, you will do such and such.” But Paul understood that is was not a matter of us over here loving Christ over there but of having the very love, the very faith, the very hope that was in Christ in Himself as an actuating principle. He “ . . . that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead . . .” we are told, “ . . . shall also quicken your mortal bodies . . .” (Romans 8:11)
The disciple is a person for whom the most important thing in the world is to be like Christ. Now, that leaves everyone one of us facing the question, Are we disciples? That is a question of fact. Either it is the most important thing in the world for you to be like Christ or it is not. If it is the most important thing in the world for you to please your husband or your wife or your neighbor or to get rich or to look pretty or to do any of a million things we could mention; if any of those things are the most important thing in the world, you are not a disciple of Christ. [11:00]
See, Jesus had a way of putting this, which was so very telling. He put it in the form of a cross and by the way, you should observe that He spoke about taking up our cross long before He Himself was crucified and even when the people who were following Him could not believe that He would be crucified. In Mark the 8th chapter, he says—in the 34th verse of the 8th chapter of Mark, “ . . . Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whosever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:34-36) [11:59]
You see Jesus is putting before the people who were around Him, the choice. Save your life. Want your life. Want the world more than you want to be like me. If you do that, you lose your life. If on the other hand, you take your cross—now, the cross was one of the most common sights in that landscape. It was the common instrument by which people were executed by the Romans. It was common for the person who was condemned to have to carry their own cross to the place where they were strung up.
The picture that Jesus is giving us is of a person for whom everything in their life has been put in kind of brackets, has been made to stand to one side. If you had been given your cross to carry, there wasn’t anything else to take care of. You stopped worrying about where your lost goat was. You stopped worrying about whether or not your lawn was going to be mowed. You stopped worrying about the person who owed you money. Business was over. Only one thing lay before you and that was death. [13:51]
You see, the image of the cross is the image of that which cuts us off from our normal human existence. If we live on the plane of normal human existence, we cannot be Disciples of Christ. There will be something we want more than to be like Him.
You remember the story of the King who made a feast and invited people to come and you will remember how they found one after another an excuse –one said, “I have bought a piece of land and I have to go look at it.” One wonders why he didn’t look at it before he bought it. “I’ve bought some oxen. I have to go try them. I’ve bought a wife.” Ohhhhh! [Laughter] “I’ve bought this. I’ve bought that. I’ve bought the other.” See, here’s a picture of a person who is filled with all of these things that they have to manage and take care of. These are the most important things in the world. Can you imagine going to look at a piece of ground when you could be having dinner with the King? [15:11]
And yet, my dear friends, I must say that many and many a Christian—a well meaning Christian—a Christian of long standing—chooses to do very trivial things rather than have an audience with a King and we must ask ourselves then, each of us, are we truly disciples? You know, I have been in many places and I find that there are many folk who have never been faced with that issue. They have never been asked, are they disciples of Christ? Would they be disciples of Christ?
Until we face that question, so much of the New Testament is closed to us and so many of the promises we try to draw upon do not work because in fact, we are signing checks on someone else’s account. The promises of the scriptures are without much exception that I can think of given to disciples. We do not have the capacity to write checks on that account unless we are disciples and the result is that this creates a lot of confusion in Bible-believing minds because they believe the Bible; they believe it with fervency and yet in all honest truth, it does not make much experiential sense to them. This causes a great strain and great disturbance and sometimes real spiritual harm—even disaster—because while they try to believe, it doesn’t make sense. [17:06]
Let me turn you to a passage, which describes the progress of the disciple into a life where all of the promises of God make sense. Let’s look at 2 Peter the 1st chapter and I will read some other passages also but this is a very rich passage and it is a progression. One of the things we want to do is to ask ourselves; each one, and I’ll ask myself and you ask yourself, where do we stand in this progression? Hmmm? [17:45]
The chapter begins by describing a position. “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness . . . “ (2 Peter 1:1-3) Notice all things—that does not leave anything out—all things that pertain—“all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” Interesting combination. Now, that is what we are called to and I am going to return in a moment to what we are called to.
You will remember that in the 29th verse of the 8th chapter of Romans, it is said that we are “ . . . predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” And if there is anyone of whom it is true, that he was filled with glory and virtue, it is Jesus Christ and we are to be His brothers and sisters and we are to walk in that same power and in that same glory but in order to get there from here, there is a progression which we go through and Peter, very carefully lists a number of things. [19:11]
These “ . . . great and precious promises:” (in verse 4) “ . . . partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4) Okay, now, that is the condition. That’s Peter’s starting place. “ . . . having escaped the corruption that is in the world through . . .” desire gone mad. Now then, here the progression starts. “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue . . .” (2 Peter 1:5)
Virtue has two connotations—virtue refers both to holiness and to power. They are not by the way in the end separable. You will recall that when Jesus was touched in the crowd by the woman who was healed, the scripture says, “And he perceiving that virtue had gone out of him . . .” (Luke 8:46) Virtue had gone out of Him. Virtue sometimes refers to the essence of something. In old English language, one talks about the virtue of a medicine and that refers to the power that is characteristic of that medicine. [20:38]
Jesus spoke about the salt of the earth and He said there was a danger of the salt losing its savor. It would lose its virtue. So, virtue is something that is to be added to our faith “ . . . and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance (or self control—the capacity to direct oneself where one ought to go, when one ought to go there); and to temperance patience and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity . . .”—divine love—the kind of love that God has. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
Peter says, “For if these things be in you, and abound . . .” (2 Peter 1:8) Note the difference between “being in you” and “abounding.” It is possible to have a little bit of these things in you but for them not to abound. OK? Peter is talking about abounding in these things. Abounding in patience: think of that. Abounding in self-control; abounding in knowledge, or understanding. Abounding in brotherly kindness. Abounding in them; that is, having it oozing out and running down the aisles. Jesus said in John 7:38, “They that believeth, they that have faith, they that dwell in Him, from their innermost parts shall flow rivers of living water.” Abounding virtue—abounding knowledge—isn’t this the kind of thing that we want in our lives?—Abundance of all of these things? [22:43]
Now, Peter is impressed. He says, “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind . . .” (2 Peter 1:8-9) Now, this is a rather hard saying which I hope you will be able to look at and not shy away from. “He that lacketh these things is blind and cannot see afar off (very much in the distance), and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” (2 Peter 1:9)
As a kind of traveling preacher, I get to know a lot of people in a lot of churches and I do find so many churches with faithful Christians that have forgotten what it was like that have lost the kind of joy that they had at another time. Now, let me say first of all that that’s exactly the way it should be in a certain sense. If you have a baby and, if at the age of ten, it has not lost the joy of lying in its crib and sucking, you are worried, aren’t you? Right? You are worried. You think that baby ought to be finding other joys. We were never meant to stay in the joys of our early spiritual experience—never meant to and there are all kinds of provisions which are made for people at the beginning of the way of Christ that were never meant to be continued. [24:20]
When the nation of Israel crossed over the Jordan, the manna ceased. Well, that was a wonderful thing, that manna: after you get used to it. [Laughter] You just went out and picked it up and there is was like the morning newspaper or something, you know? You didn’t have to do anything but just pick it up. Why did the manna cease? Because the people of Israel entered in to another phase of their life in which they were to become partakers of the toil of production. They were to become co-workers with God in a way that they had not been before and now they ate of the fruits of the land which was produced by their own toil and as we come into the way of Christ, we must add to our faith these things or we will become stunted, unhappy, powerless, dissatisfied people and the mere fact that you do believe and the mere fact, I trust that you are going to heaven when you die will not move this point one bit.
The call of Christ to His disciples is a call to maturity. It is a call to growing up. It is a call to becoming a co-laborer with God. Many times, people say, “Why pray? Doesn’t God already know what you want? Why pray?” Here as in so many things, we have to understand our relation to the Heavenly Father in the way that we understand our children’s relation to us. Again, when the little baby is in it’s crib, the doctor tells you when to feed it and sometimes we feed it whether it wants it or not, right? We say now, “It’s time to eat.”
Whether that’s wise or unwise, I shouldn’t dare to say but that is the way we do it and as our children grow up, we tell them that it is time to wash behind the ears and we tell them all sorts of things it’s time to do and we tell them to do it. But again, we expect them to come to the place where they say, “I want something to eat,” and then we expect them though we don’t always get them there, to come to the place where they say, “Would you like something to eat, Father? Would you like something to eat, Mother?” You see that progression is a growth in maturity. [27:06]
Now, the service of God means growing up in that way in the spiritual life. Many people misunderstand the work of God in the soul and especially God’s guidance in their lives because they think that God’s guidance is a matter of telling you what to do on all occasions. It is not that anymore than the guidance of your child as that child grows is standing over it and telling it what to do on all occasions on it’s 35th birthday. Right?
Guidance is a different kind of thing as you grow up and we have to understand; I say once again, that the call of Christ is to maturity. To become co-workers with Him—to stand and say as Moses did to God, “No, I will not allow you to kill these people for the Glory of your name, you must not do it even though you promised to make me a new nation.” Have you ever meditated on Moses before God saying, “No,” and God saying, of all things, “Ok, Moses.” Now you see, that’s a different model of the relationship of God to the soul. But that’s exactly what we are to grow up into. That’s what we are to become. Can you believe it? We are to come to the place where we can look at a course of events and say, “For the glory of God, this must not happen.” [28:38]
Let me give you a case. Let’s look for just a moment in the book of Acts and I believe we are looking at the 14th chapter. I am sorry—the 13th chapter. This is the first missionary journey of the apostle Paul and they have come to Cyprus and they are preaching the word of God. There is a man named there (the 8th verse of the 13th chapter) there named, Elymas, the sorcerer and he withstood them. “Then Saul (who also is called Paul) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him. And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness . . .”—he really read him the riot act, didn’t he?—“wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord . . .”
Now, you notice, please Paul’s boldness in this matter. He took it upon himself to speak for the Lord’s hand, didn’t he? He didn’t say, “I‘m gonna grab you by the scruff of the neck and throw you in the ocean.” He didn’t say, “Behold the hand of Paul is going to be upon you.” Hmmm? He said, “The hand of the Lord is upon thee and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately . . .” [Silence from 30:21 to 30:31]
. . . a non-spiritual activity. Think for a moment of learning to write your letters when you were in grade school or before. Can you cast your mind back and remember how hard it was to make those letters as a little child? It is touching to sit and watch a little child just take that pencil and gather every ounce of strength and look up at the way it’s supposed to be, right? That’s very hard, isn’t it for that little child? And yet, by engaging in that activity for a little while, that child comes to the point to where they can write, print, and make the letters without thinking about it. Shooting a basketball, you name almost any kind of an activity in which there is a difficulty involved and in that activity, you find it necessary to engage in the practice of the activity. [31:41]
One of my very favorite illustrations is the Greek orator, Demosthenes. Demosthenes is known now as a great orator but as a young man, Demosthenes had a speech impediment and to cure himself of that, he would go by the seashore and put pebbles in his mouth and attempt to speak clearly over the sound of the waves. Isn’t that silly? That’s one reason why most of us don’t discipline ourselves very much is because it’s so silly. I mean just consider. Isn’t that silly? [Laughter]
I have one of those bicycles that don’t go anywhere [Laughter] and I have the hardest time not thinking about a squirrel in a cage when I am on that thing, you know? Or a gerbil or you know, one of these little things that just goes around and around and around. And yet, do you know that without that kind of an activity, you never get anywhere? One of the most fatal flaws in our educational system today is this. Nearly everything really worth knowing how to do is difficult in the beginning and in order to bring people through that difficulty, there must be some source of authority or even downright force, which will hold people to it until what is difficult begins to become pleasant and here most of us are simply defeated. [33:40]
I am going to give you one of the strangest teachings of Jesus when he enunciated it. It’s the one about fasting. Fasting is one of the disciplines of the Christian way and we are going to talk about that. We will devote one evening to that in this series but let me tell you that beginning to fast is not pleasant. It is difficult. There are many things that one has to learn but what did Jesus say? Jesus said, “When you fast, don’t make a long face. Don’t look like it’s the end of the world—smile—anoint yourself he said. Have your hair done. Put on your best. Some people read that and they read it in this way—well, Jesus was saying that we are supposed to “really fake it,” hummm? No, what Jesus was doing—He was going in the manner of Him in His manner as the great teacher that He was—He was going to the heart of the matter and He was saying, “Fasting is something in which there is joy.” Pursue it until you learn how to rejoice in it.
See, fasting is so often done by someone as if they were doing God a favor and one of the things I wanted to say to you tonight because I want to avoid this at all costs is the idea that in engaging in the spiritual disciplines, we are doing God a favor or we are earning some merit. No, that’s not the point. In fact, by engaging in the disciplines of the Christian life, we will enter into great grace but it will not be because we earn anything. It will be because we have met God in those activities. Think about fasting. [36:00]
You remember that when Satan came to tempt Jesus in His long fast after His baptism, he tempted Him to turn the stones into bread and the key to fasting is the understanding of Jesus’ reply. “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) When we come to the place where we understand that the word of God speaking in us is and can be a substitute for physical food, we are beginning to understand the reality of the Kingdom of God.
When the disciples returned to the well by Samaria and tried to get Jesus to eat in the 4th chapter of John, He said, “I have meat to eat that you know not of.” Now, I want you to believe. I want you to think that maybe He wasn’t speaking in pretty pictures. That just maybe, He is talking about something that is literally true. If the worlds came into being by the Word of God, do you not believe that your stomach could be put at rest? Do you not believe that the energy in your blood vessels could be enhanced by the Word of God? In fasting, we meet the reality of the living God. We learn what it is like to walk in the Spirit—no empty phrases—but in reality. We assure ourselves of the God who is an ever present help, not only in times of trouble but in all times. [37:47]
Now, the disciplines in general—the disciplines in general are to be understood as activities where we learn to live by the power and in the character of God. They are activities where we learn to live by the power and in the character of God as Christ did—as Christ did.
Just another word or two about this in conjunction with a passage of scripture or two–Galatians 6—an interesting statement about sowing to the spirit. Galatians 6—you will remember it I am sure. It’s a very familiar passage—verse 7—“Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”
Now, let me ask you. How do you sow to the Spirit? What do you do to sow to the Spirit? And my response to you is, and I will enlarge upon this as we go through the course; you sow to the Spirit by engaging in those activities which make real the power and reality of the spiritual life in you. [39:35]
Let me give you a case in point. When God told Moses to go down to Egypt and deliver his people, Moses gave the only sensible answer, “Who me?” I mean, suppose He had asked you? What would you have said? You would have said, “Who me? How can I do that?” So, I’ll go down there and Pharaoh will say, “Well, who is this God you are talking about?” Right?
Why didn’t God just tell him, “Ok, go fellow and you will have it when you get there.” He didn’t do that, did he? He said, “Throw down your staff.” Well, that’s about as silly as standing by the seashore with pebbles in your mouth, isn’t it? “Throw down your staff.” Moses had enough sense to do what he was told and as a result, something happened, didn’t it?
Remember what happened? The staff turned into a serpent. Moses sowed to the spirit by throwing down his staff. God said, “Moses put your hand in your cloak.” Moses had enough sense to do that and he pulled it out and it was leprous and then he put it back in and he pulled it out again and it was clean. [41:03]
Now, you see, those are activities which illustrate precisely what I said about a discipline. It is an activity in which we learn to live by the power of God in the character of God. Moses did not know what power he had or I should rather put it, he knew exactly what power he had—none. Right? So, the problem then was to learn how to work with God. You see, what we want is to live as Christ did and as Paul did in such a way that when we act, God acts with us. See, that was the basis of Paul’s presumption so that he was so he could say, “the hand of the Lord will be on you, Elymus” and sure enough, it was. That’s what it means to work with God. [41:54]
One other passage—let’s look at 1 Timothy, I think it is—yes, 1 Timothy 4:7-8. Verse 7 is referring back to some issues which Paul was advising Timothy or they were unprofitable and he is saying, “ . . . refuse profane and old wives’ fables (as this Old English Bible used to say), and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” Exercise thyself unto godliness—have you ever asked yourself what does that mean? How do you exercise yourself unto godliness? It’s exactly what Moses was doing. He was under the direct leadership of God who was preparing him for something very special. He was exercising himself in such a way that he would enter into godliness of a new dimension. Hmmm?
How do you get to the place to where you live in the power of God? How do you do that? My answer is you get there by engaging in activities wherein you meet God and learn how to live by His power and in His character. [43:26]
The standard round of recommended Christian activities, I am afraid, will not do it. I am afraid if you merely attend church a couple of times a week and perhaps merely have a little devotional reading, maybe a little prayer time—it won’t work. The way is much more strenuous than we have commonly imagined.
“Should I be carried to the skies on flowering beds of ease?” Do you know that old hymn? And the response to that of many of us is “Oh, yes! Oh, yes!” But then the question comes, “while others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas. Sure, I must fight if I would gain. Increase my courage, Lord, I’ll bare the toil, endure the pain supported by Thy word.” (Am I a Soldier of the Cross? By Isaac Watts)
We have to understand that great resolve is called for. This is why the step of discipleship is so important. The person who is not committed along the depth and breadth of their lives with a clear vision as to what it means, that person will not sustain the difficult periods when doing the activities that lead into this power and character—they will not sustain those times: they will not endure them; they will walk off and say, “Well, I guess I didn’t really want to do that after all.” Hmmmm? [45:31]
The triumphant life—how shall I describe it? The simple direct description is to say it is the life that is like Christ’s life. Immediately, we begin to notice certain things. The triumphant life is not a life without pain. It is not a life without sorrow and misunderstanding. It is not a life without heartbreak and disappointment. This is important for us to say in our time especially—when there is such an emphasis on being comfortable and such an emphasis upon being successful and such an emphasis on having everything satisfactory in your home.
I’ve recently been reading the book by Bob Pierce’s daughter, Man of Vision, Woman of Prayer. In many ways, it’s one of the most heartbreaking books I’ve ever read. Bob Pierce was a man of great inspiration to many of you, I know and he certainly was to me even though I did not know him that well. As young people, my wife and I had the opportunity to sit under his ministry from time to time in the college where we were and yet there was great heartache and heartbreak in that family—a daughter who committed suicide and other things extremely difficult. [47:10]
Some of you have read and have followed Kathryn Kuhlman and you find there great heartache and great disappointment and many would say, failure and yet, in both of these lives, very different people. I am prepared to say that in them there was a substantial measure of the triumph of God.
We must understand that the triumph of God does not mean that we are going to be paragons of that “lived happily every after” sort of thing. That isn’t it. In fact, you can almost say, given the world that we are in, if we set out to be followers of Christ, it reads the other way around and they never lived happily ever afterwards but boy, did they live. Boy, did they live!
The triumphant life is seen again in the two dimensions of holiness and power. Let me just give you a few words form the selection which I take almost at random from the Bible and that is in Colossians 3 where we have a description, both negative and positive of what the life in Christ is like from the viewpoint of holiness. [48:34]
Colossians 3:8-9—“But now ye also put off all of these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man . . .” I want to use that verse as an occasion to emphasize that what I have talked about here as conformation to Christ in the way of the disciple is not something that is supposed to happen after you are dead, okay? He is speaking to the Colossians in the past tense. You have put off the old man. You have put him off. You at least have put him on the cross. [49:18]
Another passage—I believe it is in Galatians—it tells us that they that are Christ’s “ . . . have crucified the flesh with the passions thereof.” They are a lovely picture because you see, crucified is not dead, is it? And while you may have put off the old man, he may come howling around the windows sometimes. You have put him off and you may have to put him off some more. “But you have put off the old man with his deeds and put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.”
You see, there is that conformation to God again—renewed in knowledge. “Put on therefore as the called (elect) of God, holy and beloved, inner parts . . . “ (bowels the old version says) inner parts—your insides—these are your insides now as the new person. “ . . . bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, loooonnnggsuffering, forbearing one another and forgiving one another if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Colossians 3:12-13)
That is complete forgiveness; no grudges carried. This is a marvelous life that is being presented here. If you take this and set it down in the midst of the world, you would transform it completely. If people lived like this, traffic wouldn’t run in Los Angeles if that’s what their inner parts were. The world is geared to having inner parts of the other sort—the old man—“ . . . Above all these things, put on charity (agape), which is the bond of perfectness (perfection). (Colossians 3:14)
You take all these things and you wrap it up and tie a ribbon of divine love on it. “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:15-16) And then this marvelous culminating 17th verse—“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:17) That’s the triumph of life. [51:55]
Out of that life there as naturally flows the victory of God in this world as water runs downhill. Out of that life, there is a flow of power which is safe because the people who exercise it have got their insides all straightened out. That’s the triumph of life we are talking about. It is a life on the pattern of Christ. It can be ours if we are willing to follow Him.
Now, I want to close by leaving with you these questions? These are personal questions and I wish you would take them with you into the privacy of your own devotions and ask yourself—Do I really want to be like Christ? Please don’t say “yes” quickly or “no” quickly but think about it. Would you really like to be like Christ? If you were like that, what would happen to your life? We are called to follow in His steps but do we really want it? So, please ask yourself that question. I don’t say it to threaten you or intimidate or scold but as a way of saying, “Look at yourself very honestly.” [53:22]
You know, in the 139th Psalm, there is that beautiful passage, which we all know and it’s in a nice song, Search me, Oh God and Know My Heart. You know, we have to get to where we use that verse like we would go to the dentist and open our mouth and say, “Search me oh, dentist and find all the cavities and if there be any cavity in me, fill it with pure gold.” The Psalmist had come to the place in his relationships to God that that’s the way he did it. He just sort of flopped down before Him and said, “Search me, Oh God and find if there be any unclean way in me and lead me in the life in the way everlasting,” you see?
That’s the spirit in which I bring that question before you because it has a yes or no answer. Your really DO want to be like Him or you really DON’T. And if you really don’t, you really won’t be like Him. That’s just the way it is. He’s not going to slip up on you one day and wave a spiritual wand cross-shaped over you and you’ll just turn into the Apostle Paul. It won’t work that way. The Apostle Paul didn’t’ get there that way. Peter didn’t get there that way. Jesus Himself didn’t get there that way. So my question is, do you really want it? [54:48]
My second question is—Have you decided to be a disciple of Christ? Once again, that question has a “yes” or “no” answer. Have you decided to be a disciple of Christ? Have you made it the most important thing in your life to be like Him? Hmmm? If you have, you are prepared to enter into the kind of progression I have talked about and I know that many of you have gone some distance in that progression but I must say a lot of damage is done by confusion about this and one of the things I really want to do as we go through these weeks of study is to try to make it as clear as possible to you about what it means to walk in the path of Christ—to follow Him. [55:52]
It isn’t like it used to be—to follow Him in the days of His flesh meant that you went with Him but you can’t do that now. What you can do is decide to be like Him where you are and then instead of you having to go with Him, He will go with you. That’s what He said—“Lo, I am with you always.” But, it requires a decision on your part and I want to say this to you as bluntly as I can; you must not mislead yourself. You must decide one way or the other. You must decide, and I call you to face that question as we close this evening. [56:36]
“Dear Lord, search us, know our hearts. Help us to understand the tender quality of the light of your love and not be afraid but to be willing to be searched and when we find a resistance to be wiling to have that resistance dissolved. Help us to have burned into our minds the message which John said, he heard of our Saviour that “God is light and in Him is no darkness whatsoever” and in that confidence, each one lay our lives out to be searched and brought to the place to where we can honestly say, “I am His disciple.” The most important thing in this world is for me to be like Him—to confess it in wonderment—not in resolve—but in wonderment that it really is so with us. There isn’t anything more important. Bring us to that place. We ask it on behalf of Jesus and for His sake. Amen.”
Thank you very much! I look forward to seeing you as we go through the weeks. God Bless You!