Beyond “the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” – Part 2

Dallas Willard Part 6 of 9

This is one of Dallas’s most famous series on the kingdom of God, at Hollywood Presbyterian Church. He works historically but eventually works through the Sermon on the Mount and eventually speaks on themes of ministry, discipleship and disciplines.

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Suggested Outline of the Sermon on the Mount


Dallas: Well, we are just touching on really illustrative points about the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven. A very helpful thing happened this week, I think, because in Christianity Today—I have a feeling that a lot of you are familiar with that—there was an article entitled, “Peculiar People” by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon. They are sort of in the same business I am—both on the gospel side and the academic side—it’s called a “book excerpt.”[1]

And it would be a great use of this article if you would study it to see how it differs from what I am trying to say to you. This is a very serious discussion of the Kingdom message and I am just thrilled that it came out. They do actually suggest that the message of the Sermon on the Mount is something for us. It is given to us to help us. There is one point of different which you might want to watch because their emphasis is upon the building of community—that the Sermon on the Mount is given to build community. There’s a slight, but I think, crucial nuance of difference. My presentation of the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven is that the community it concerns is already in existence. It’s doing very well, and it always has and it always will. [2:25[2]]

So in a word, my presentation of the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven—they would say with something of criticism in their mind—is much more individualistic than theirs is. I believe that the whole point of the Christian Gospel of the Kingdom is an invitation to step into the reality of the most glorious community conceivable with God at its head, and we are invited now to step into that. We are invited to know it. It takes a while to get our brains shifted around so we’ve got figured out who’s “blessed” and who’s “cursed,” and to get ourselves adjusted so that we are not running according to a system that unfortunately pretty well captivates the whole world. But once we begin to get that idea, then we can see the teaching of the inversion principle throughout all of the Scriptures. [3:25]

I am going to look at one in a moment to begin and another at the end today. One from the Old and one from the New Testament—great inversion passages—and that’s what they are about.

But, interestingly enough, until you have heard the Gospel of the Kingdom, as Jesus presented it, you cannot understand that these passages are inversion passages that teach us and show us the way to live in the abundant hand of God. Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and that you might have it running out your ears.” (John 10:10, Paraphrased[3]) Isn’t that what He said? Life. That’s what the message is about. It’s about life that is made available to you—where you are—no matter what your condition is. [4:16]

Now, I need to say one other thing because when you begin to speak about the Kingdom being present now, you run into all sorts of variance on that message. I am not going to try to address all of them, but you may also know that there is something called the dominion theology, I don’t want to go at length into it but just to say that once again, what I am speaking about is actually related somewhat to what Hauerwas and Willimon say though they would run in the other direction and they would scream at me for saying it. But you see, they are talking about creating a community and dominion theology is talking about taking the full political legal route to return the Kingdom of Heaven in legal, political form, which is an illusion.

Forgive me folks because some of my acquaintances believe this. This is an illusion that finds its source in 1 Samuel 7 and 8 where the people of Israel came to Samuel and said, “We want a king like other people have. Make us a king!” And Samuel was sad and brokenhearted. He went to God and God said, “Do what they say. They have not rejected you. They have rejected me.” (1 Samuel 8:7) [5:42]

Now, I want to say to you in simple language, just in reference to these two other positions. Please don’t take me as saying they should not be studied or that people who believe them are bad or lost or anything of that sort. I am just here trying to responsibly represent my own understanding. They may be right; I may be wrong. God and you can decide that.

Very simply, the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven does not depend on any community, legal or otherwise. That Gospel says, “God is now available to you”; that you are at least as important to God as Pharaohs are . . . at least. [6:28]

Now, we are going to be looking at, going to be working over—I gave you an outline last time on the back of this sheet on the Sermon on the Mount—I am going to be picking up parts of that today. We can’t exhaustively do it. It’s just too much material. But I don’t really think we need to because my task is to try to give you the idea and if you get the idea, the rest of it will come along.

And so, that’s what I am working on. I’m trying to give you the idea—started last time talking about the first part of the “they of old times say, but I say unto you” (see Matthew 5:21–48)—the two sides of the inversion now because we are going to be looking at the inversion in terms of righteousness. As I said in the previous two sessions, I believe that in the Beatitudes, Jesus is not telling you to do anything. He is telling you the way it is. He didn’t say do anything. He is trying to help you see how things really are. [7:34]

Now, when He comes to Mathew 5:21 and following, He is telling us to do something, but He’s telling it to us in a way that invites us to be led in by the Spirit of God to the reality of it as we go. He’s not telling us with generalizations which say “always do this, always do that.” He’s teaching against prevailing assumptions. Now, hold that in your mind.

I want to start with an Old Testament passage. I am not going to try to exposit it or go over it in any detail, but just call your attention to it and ask you to recognize the principle of inversion that is at work in it. It begins in Isaiah 52:7. Here, you see, is the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven. If you study the passage you will see it is still caught up in its Old Testament clothing, so there are some problems with understanding it. But just look at this wonderful verse—Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains—how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good news, that publishes peace, that brings good tidings of good, that announces salvation.” Here is how they do it. This is what they did when they announced salvation. They said unto Zion what? [9:13]

Comment: Our God Reigns!

Dallas: Thanks! You see, that’s the government of God. That’s the rule of God. That’s the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s what the good news is. Your God reigns. Reigning is what God is into in relationship to this business, this world, that’s His business. He reigns! He reigns! [9:40]

And the Jewish experience was designed to teach in an indelible way that God reigns. It was designed to teach something about how He reigns; in particular, that He reigns without regard to earthly communities of any kind. His reigning is something that may fall under [earthly communities], and it doesn’t matter what they say about themselves or who they think they are. [10:09]

He calls Cyrus his shepherd. (Isaiah 44:28) Cyrus was a Persian king and the Jews were subservient. Their political institutions had been broken—and they were subservient to the Persians and the Lord calls Cyrus—“my shepherd.”

Many of these kings had to learn lessons. If you look in the Book of Daniel (5), you’ll see Nebuchadnezzar learning a little lesson abut who reigns. He’s walking through his great city and he says, “I’ve done all of this” and at that moment, His mind snaps. His mind snaps! And the reason your mind doesn’t snap at any time is the grace of God. You are in His hands. I’m in His hands. I can make pretense, but anytime He gets ready to teach me a lesson, He can teach me that lesson. [11:13]

If you read chapter 52 through to the end of Isaiah 54, you will see a great inversion principle. At the heart of this great inversion is Isaiah 52:13—

“Behold, my Servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and he shall be very high. As many were astonished at you: his visage was marred more than any man, his form more than the sons of men: so shall he sprinkle many nations and Kings shall shut their mouths at Him.” (Isaiah 52:13–15)

You see—the constant back and forth, high but low, low but high.

“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1)

Only to the person who understands the inversion principle between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God: to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? [12:16]

Remember what we said about Nicodemus. He comes and says, “Oh, well, you know the arm of the Lord is revealed to me. We know that you are a man come from God because if you were not come from God, you couldn’t do these things.” See, he was bragging about how the arm of the Lord was revealed to him. But Jesus told him, and demonstrated to him out of His own mouth, that he didn’t now what he was talking about. Then you have the wonderful Messianic passage, which applies equally to the nation of Israel as it does to Jesus. (Isaiah 53)

Jesus is the culmination of the nation of Israel and the tremendous contrast between this bloodied, beaten dead human being: Isaiah 53:10, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him”; Verse 11—“He shall see the travail of his soul, and be satisfied”; Verse 12—“Therefore.” Note what the “therefore” is there for? The “therefore” refers back to the work of God in the period of emptying—the Greek term in Philippians 2:7 is kenosis—the time of emptying. The time of emptying! Because in the time of human emptying, we know the power of the Kingdom. [13:40]

Paul went to the Lord and said, “I’ve got a little problem.” The Lord said, “Yes, I know you’ve got the problem.” And Paul said, “I would like for you to take it out of my life.” Then the Lord said, “No, I won’t take it out of your life.” Paul went back three times and got the same message. The Lord said to him, “my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9) You see the inversion?

I wish I had time to work through Isaiah 54. It’s such a gorgeous chapter—so many wonderful things—the tremendous promises of God to those who will simply trust Him. I must read verse 10: “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; that my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed” (Isaiah 54:10, KJV) See? And finally the great culminating verse—“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17, KJV) [15:07]

I hope that this will bring this passage alive to you. I will hope that you will be able to take it now and meditate on it and look at it and understand the embodiment of the constant principle between God and man: inversion—inversion: the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Once again, don’t make this a strategy to say, “Whoopee, I’m gonna find out how to be last so I can be first.” No! This righteousness, this message, this word that I just read here from verse 17: “their righteousness is of me.” Give up! Just give up! Quit trying to be righteous. Accept the rule of God and learn how to live in it! [15:56]

Now, that takes us deeply into the whole issue of the reteaching of righteousness that we get in Matthew 5 and following. Now, on your outline for today, I’ve given you six points to sort of cover the main categories and on the outline from last time. I gave you lists of topics, and I’ve tried to say a little more about what is at issue under these differing points. They are illustrations. That’s all.

Jesus now takes simple illustrations of what it’s like to live from the righteousness of the Kingdom—simple illustrations, illustrations from the processes of daily life. That’s mainly what you find in the rest of Matthew 5 from verse 21 on: daily life, where we rub up against one another and are constantly threatened by getting in one another’s way, being impatient with one another. [17:10]

Then He turns to religious righteousness in Mathew 6. At the opening of chapter 7, He deals with a few matters that come down to real, interpersonal relationships in the Kingdom and tells us how to manage with other people in the Kingdom. We will try to touch on some of those as we go along.

One of the most revolutionary things that happened to me in trying to study this was the simple little line written by the great Princeton homiletics teacher, Andrew Blackwood. It was very simple. Like we have just said, this really is a sermon. Now, you know how I had approached it and I think many people approach it even without being taught that way, “Well, this is a collection of sayings.” Jesus was always dropping these real good one-liners, so people were following Him around, “Oh, let’s write that one down. That was a good ‘un.” They would write that down. Then they would put it all together, and you’d have a little book that says, “These are Jesus’ cute sayings. Figure them out if you can.” [18:24]

But Blackwood, bless his heart, wonderful man that he was, simply said that one thing and then when I looked at the sermon after that, it is absolutely one of the most beautifully outlined and structured sermons I’ve ever read. It even has three points. Now, you’ll find them on numbers one through three on the outline on the back of the page from last time. It’s a wonderful sermon. [18:51]

Why did that matter? It mattered because it helped me see that this Man was, in the most brilliantly and conceivable way, delivering a message. He was delivering a message! He’s telling us what it’s like to live from the Kingdom of God and have His righteousness. We talk about having His righteousness, don’t we? But, it’s always talked about in terms of having something that He poured out at the cross, and then you get credited to you. But that’s not the righteousness He’s talking about. Remember this—always remember this—that the single term for salvation in the New Testament, most often used, always in the background is life. What you get is life. [19:46]

Now, the reason why you have the righteousness—the same kind of righteousness that God has: “seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His kind of righteousness” (Matthew 6:33)—is you’ve got His life. His righteousness comes from His life. Just like apples comes from apple life. You understand what I mean? It’s because you’ve been given a life. That life is your contact with the Kingdom of God and what it has done to you. That’s the new birth. [20:22]

Birth refers to new life, doesn’t it? New birth doesn’t mean you start over again. You never start over again. You get a new life. You get a new life which is capable of redeeming any- and everything that has come to you in your past and in your present and in your future because it is a triumphant life that is shared with you from God.

Peter’s way of putting is to say that we have “become partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4, NASB)) John’s way of saying it is, “Behold now we are the children of God.” (1 John 3:2) We don’t have any idea what we are going to be like. All we know is when He appears, we are going to be like Him because we will see Him as He is. We haven’t yet seen Him as He is. John hasn’t yet seen Him as He is. As He is would be too much for us, but He has allowed His life to come into us. [21:24]

John said in John 3:34 that “the Father gives the Spirit to the Son without measure.” You know what that means? See, the Son being the fullness of the Godhead bodily can receive all of God. So God can just allow His fullness to dwell in the Son. But He doesn’t give that to you and me without measure. He has a sort of heavenly eye dropper, and he just drops a little bit on me, just a little bit to see how I hold up under it. It’s not a small thing to be receiving the Power of God. It’s not a small thing even to be right. One of the hardest things to stand is to be right. If you don’t believe it, just get around someone who’s right. You’ll soon find out how hard it is to endure being right. Jesus was right, and He didn’t hurt anybody with it. He didn’t condemn anybody with it. He was able to receive it. [22:42]

So the Kingdom comes into our lives and it offers itself—offers itself to the Bible, offer itself to the church, offers itself through other humble people that we may have known, perhaps in our family, if not there, perhaps out in the church—just someone who stands up and, as Paul says, “engages in the foolishness of preaching.” (1 Corinthians 1:21) The word comes; the Kingdom comes. The life comes and the life begins, Then our first act of faith is to begin to act in the righteousness of the Kingdom. It’s to begin to step out into that righteousness.

We are going to go rather quickly over a number of issues in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, just to be illustrative I said. I did start you out last time with a passage right after the great statement that “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) Remember the Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of God. What this is saying is, if you don’t get beyond trying to do externally what is recognized as right, you will not make contact with the Kingdom of God and you won’t be able to do any more than that. You’ll be stuck with your own performance. [24:06]

You’ll be stuck with that, and then of course, you’ll go into all of the things we mentioned last time about the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. And by the way, all the scribes and Pharisees aren’t dead. Probably if you get around me sometimes, you’ll recognize a little something there. They are not all dead, but if you want to go into the Kingdom of Heaven, you want to enter it. I’m not talking about going to Heaven when you die. I’m talking about entering the Kingdom of Heaven, that is, coming under the rule of God. Coming under the rule of God. [24:45]

Then you have to go beyond the kind of righteousness that was defined by the scribes and the Pharisees, because only then will you make contact. See, it’s making contact—the stuff called electricity. It’s been around forever, hasn’t it? Only very recently have we known how to make contact with it and use it.

Now, if you were to take a person who had no knowledge of it—someone out of the middle of the seventeenth century—and bring them in and tell them to do things that you ordinarily assume, like going to flip switches. “Go flip a switch and a light will come on.” They would say, “No.” They wouldn’t know what to make of that. You have confidence in it and because you have confidence in it . . . you trust it and because you trust it, you flip the switch. And because you flip the switch, the light comes on. [25:34]

I hope you are not fool enough to stand there and say, “Wow, I merited this,” just because you did something. Merit isn’t the issue. The question is whether you trust—what are you trusting in? That is the most important question for every person in this room this morning. What do you trust in? And often it doesn’t have much to do with what you say you trust. Many times, we are trying to trust and we try to talk up trust and so on. But the most important about us all is: what do we trust? What do we trust? [26:15]

Now, as we trust the Kingdom of Heaven, we come to the place to where we are not longer trying to look righteousness and we don’t say things, like “Well, I must love people because I don’t kill them. I’m a just person because I’ve never killed anybody.” We don’t even count on our not saying anything bad about them. We know that whether we love people is something in our heart between us and God, right down there for real. And whether we love people and when we love people, we know that we are going to be pushed beyond our own strength to continue to love them and to act it out. And so we reach out for the Kingdom of God. We don’t try to love people in our own strength. You can’t love people in your own strength. You were never intended to anyway.[27:14]

You know they have—the engineers and people who invent things have things they call specifications—specifications, and if you buy a lawn mower and you try to turn it upside down and use it as a helicopter, don’t complain to the maker. We were not made to love people on our own.

This is where the business about community does come in. I can only love people if I am so comfortable in God that I’m not scared of them. If I’m scared of them, I’ll sure call them a fool, a twit, and a twerp. I’ll do all sorts of things. I’ll spend hours sitting around steaming in my heart about them because they looked at me cross-eyed. What did they mean by that? Or someone in traffic did that to me. Well, it will take me five days to get over that. How could they do that? You know what I mean. It’s because I’m vulnerable. When I am outside of the Kingdom of Heaven, I am vulnerable. Excommunication from the church used to mean that you are going to get thrown out of the protection of the Kingdom. It doesn’t mean anything now; being excommunicated now means you just go to another one. Things have changed on that part. The point is simply that if we are able to love. [28:46]

If I am in relationship to God, I’m not going to treat people sexually in a degrading way. I’m not even going to think about them in a degrading way. And I’m not going to say, “Well, I haven’t thought about someone in a degrading way for five days. I must be doing pretty well.” No! That’s not the point. I mean, this: it’s a matter of caring about people, of loving them, accepting them. We so badly need it, in our time, especially. Men and women are so angry at one another and frightened of one anther. It’s just terrible what is going on. We need men and women who can accept men and women for what they are and love them without any issue of sexuality coming out.

I mean one of the worst—I’m not against sex—it’s just that, you know, it’s smeared over everything—for or against or one side or the other. For Heavens sakes, let’s recognize that we are more than our genitals. We are persons. I want to love you and hug you and kiss you and touch you. [29:54]

One of the great things, I think that grandparents often have with their grandkids is they are little babies. They can touch them and love them and just pour out themselves on them foolishly. We ought to. That’s the way we should be with one another. And if you want to know the kind of tenderness that will make you run out of the church house to set something right with someone if it’s possible, it’s in those terms. You don’t want that person over there hurting. It isn’t, ”Well, I’m gonna get right over here now and I’m gonna get righteous by saying, “I’m sooorrrry.” [30:31]

It isn’t a matter of getting righteous. That’s not the aim. The aim is you love these people. You don’t want to see them hurting. You don’t want to hurt because there is a division between you and them.

Now, please understand me. I’m not suggesting that all of these kinds of divisions can be handled in some little simple way, and Jesus isn’t either. He’s just saying that the divisions you have between you and others is more important than singing the song right. And you will know that if you are operating from the righteousness of the Kingdom. [31:05]

Well, we went down and we talked about some of these other things here—about sexuality. We do have to say a little bit about Matthew 5:31–32 because it’s such an important issue for us today. All the heartbreak around divorce and the grief is often added to by people who don’t take another line out of the Sermon on the Mount, but they will take this one and try to turn it into law.

Now, you want to recognize, first of all, what Jesus is saying. The men of that day had defined their righteousness with reference to divorce by saying if I give her a pink slip, which says she holds the title, then when she has sexual relationships with another man, they won’t be able to stone her because she will be able to prove she’s not married. So they had defined it in that way. And Jesus said, “That’s not right. That’s not right.” [32:13]

You want to remember in those days, a woman who was divorced had three alternatives. She could return to the house of her relatives where she would forever be in a position of probably worse than a servant. She might find some loving uncle or father or someone who would—but of course that would’t last forever. And usually, in a short while, she was really back to a very low level. She had that as an option. She might be able to find someone who would take her on as “used goods,” as it used to be said. She would forever be in a degraded position in that relationship. Or she could become a prostitute. That was it!

So now, you’ll want to remember that when you read this verse. You want to remember that it applies to an attitude of heart as well as to actions. It’s not just for men. It’s also for women. Is divorce sometimes a good thing? Yes, it is. Sometimes it is. It’s never the best thing. All we have to do is to ask people who have been involved in it and see how they have been hurt and wounded by it. You have to recognize that sometimes it’s going to be much more destructive if there is not a divorce. Sometimes divorce should be taken. [33:53]

Don’t misunderstand Jesus? If you are going to say, “No, He said never,” then I want you to take everything else in this Sermon the same way. “Swear not.” Don’t you swear! If you go into court and they ask you to swear, don’t you swear. Don’t swear. The fact of the matter is, Jesus never intended any of these as generalizations, but legalistically minded people will take them, and they especially will beat up on others. I’ve known many minsters who felt divorce was always inexcusable until their kids grew up and got one. It wasn’t that they were compromising. It was that they really came to understand that this isn’t such a simple matter.

Well, what about swearing? What’s swearing about? Well, first of all, He’s not talking about cussing? You know what cussing is? That’s not swearing. Swearing is one thing. Cussing is another. Look at this passage in Matthew 5:33: “You’ve heard it said in old times, you shall not perjure yourself”; that is to say, when you swear to the Lord, you do what you say. That’s the old sayings. Again, this is the level of explicit action. “For I say unto you don’t swear at all. Don’t swear by Heaven. By Heaven! For it is God’s thrown. Don’t swear by the earth for it is His footstool. Don’t swear by Jerusalem for it is the city of the great King. Don’t swear by your head.” (Matthew 5:34–36) Have you ever heard anyone say, “I bet the devil my head.” You haven’t heard that. Good! Let’s don’t start a trend. [35:43]

Why? It isn’t something that is in your power. Your head isn’t in your power. What’s He talking about here? He’s talking about using emphatic behavior and language to try to impress people into accepting something you are telling them. Why do you think that we have all the falderal that we have in advertising—on the television advertising TVs and automobiles and so on? Cal Worthington[4] used to say he would eat a bug or something of that sort—“I stand upon my head until my ears are turning red.” Why did He say that? You see, we are so used to trying to pull other things in to make people believe what we are saying.

Here’s what Jesus said, “Just say, ‘well, it’s this way’ or say, ‘it’s not that way.’ Just say, ‘Yes,’ or say, ‘No,’ because anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37) That is to say, if you are drawn into more than this and, especially, if you had gone in to swearing by God, you are attempting to manage other people. Don’t you experience this all the times? People who are just trying to get you to accept, trying to get you to do. Jesus said, “Don’t do this, because if you do this, you have stepped into the domain of evil. Don’t do it!” [37:32]

Well, what are you going to do about getting your way? That’s the real point, isn’t it? (Laughter) What are you going to do about getting your way? You’re not in the business of getting your way.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: . . .” See, that’s one version of righteousness. “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil.” (Matthew 5:38–39, KJV) Now, He is speaking of personal attacks. Jesus was the greatest all time resistor of evil. He’s talking about personal attacks. Don’t resist evil. “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39, KJV) So, the legalist reads this and says, “So, here’s my other one; hit it quick, so I can start on you.” (Laughter) I’ve heard people say, “Well, I’ll let them hit the other one but, boy, then they better watch out.” [38:35]

Well, first of all, it’s not saying that every time you should turn the other cheek. What it’s saying is, you should not automatically assume that if someone hurts you, you should hurt them back. That’s what it’s saying. That’s Kingdom righteousness.

“If a man sues you at law and takes away your coat. And he’s sitting out here in the cold and he needs some clothing, give him your cloak also.” (Matthew 5:40 Paraphrased) Don’t say to him, “Well, you took my coat away form me. I’m not gong to do anything with you. I’m not going to help you.” No! You help him. He needs help. Help him. It’s okay. See, you’ll experience the Kingdom of God when you do that. You say, How can I do it? You can’t! All you can do is undertake to do it. And when you under-take, you will need the Upper-Taker! And [because of the Upper-Taker, you will find, to your surprise, that you can do it. You will find to your surprise that it’s wonderful . . . wonderful! [39:38]

If you take the other route, you’re not going to find anything wonderful because there is no out of that. You hit. They hit. They hit. You hit. You hit. They hit. It never stops, and if it does stop, you go on hitting them in your mind for the next eight years. The only hope is to love them. Besides, if you get in their cloak, they may die of a heart attack anyway. I mean if you are into that sort of thing. They could just die there; their eyes will fall out and clatter down on the floor.

See, because you are stepping into—you are drawing them when you act that way—you are drawing them into a different realm. You’re showing them something that they’ve never dreamed of. [40:28]

“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile . . .” (Matthew 5:41, KJV) It was at that time a regulation that a Roman solider could compel a non-Roman to carry their load a mile. As you go along, you are walking this mile and you are carrying this load for this solider. And as you go along, you are loving him. You are not spitting or gritting your teeth or mumbling and groaning—you are loving him. You are praying that he might know the Kingdom. You get down to the end of the mile, and the guy says, ”Set her down.” And you look at him, and you say, “Couldn’t I help you a little further? I see you’ve got a long way to go, and I know your life is not easy. Could I help you a little more?” That’s Kingdom righteousness. That’s what that is. [41:20]

Can you see how that would transform everything around you? You are bringing the Kingdom into the situation when you do that. If you don’t do that, the Kingdom will just stand back and let you run it. You like your kingdom? You’ve got it! That’s why Jesus said, “If you seek to save your life, you’ll lose it.” It’s a losing project. Get one that isn’t.

“Give to him that asks of you.” (Matthew 5:42) Don’t say, “Why should I give this to you?” A person asks you; they need it. On many occasions, the person who is operating in the Kingdom will say, “Sure, here it is; I’ll give it to you.” Now, in none of these cases are you relieved of the responsibility of making judgments. [42:21]

The point is—you are not going to automatically say no because you don’t owe this person anything. That’s the attitude of the world. “I don’t owe this person anything.” They are probably irresponsible rascals anyway. They probably won’t even be thankful.

Now, the capstone here is Jesus’ statement in verse 43: “Ye have heard that is hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may have the family resemblance because your Father which is in heaven makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, every day” (Matthew 5:43-45)—the child molester, the terrorist, the embezzler—every day, God sent His Son to shine on him. [43:40]

When you are coming from the human point of view, you almost feel like He’s betrayed us in doing that, don’t you? But it’s God’s nature, and if you want to have a family resemblance—that is, you want to be the children of your father; that means having a family resemblance—you love your enemies.

Now, I’ll tell you. It’s a lot easier if you do but you won’t know that until you’ve done it. Because, until you step out to do it, no help is on the way. But once you step out to do it, the help is already there. [44:24]

See, all of this is living in the Kingdom which is in Heaven. It’s perfect! And with our God, we can do it. You can do it. You will have to do it where you are. Sorry about that. And you will always be the person you are. You are never going to be somebody else. So, accept it where you are. And if you’ll do that, you’ll find that you can be like God where you are. You will find that there is no circumstance so bad, there is nothing that can happen to you so bad, that you cannot be like God, because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. (See Romans 8:38–39) Nothing—except our own unwillingness to receive it and act on it. [45:16]

Comment: Question (Indistinguishable)

Dallas: [answering a question] Certainly. Sure. You are foolish not to. Under some circumstances, Paul wrote, “The person who remains a heretic after the first or second admonition, go on about your business.” (Titus 3:10) Other people are not—you are not in charge of making things happen for them. You can pray for them and you do have to learn how to speak with them and deal with them but no, you don’t—you sometimes walk off. Jesus did. People are free. God does!

Comment: Continued Comments (Indistinguishable)

Dallas: Well, sometimes. At least we are not in charge of that and that’s a very painful moment. Sometimes, Jesus had those people in His own life. Sometimes, He wept because of them. He wept over Jerusalem because of that. [46:49]

In Matthew 6, we see Jesus incline his teaching about righteousness to the particularly religious kinds of righteousnesses. Actually, the word there—“Take heed that ye do not your alms. . .” (verse 1, KJV)—that’s the plural and it is the word dikaiosynē—it means your righteousnesses. Don’t do them to be seen of men.

Now, this is the whole teaching of this passage up to verse 19. Don’t do things for people to see and say, that you are a righteousness person—the righteous person. Don’t do that! That’s the whole teaching. Do them for Heaven. And if you do them for Heaven, you will have the reward of Heaven, which is God’s actual presence and action in your life. If you do them for men, you’ll have the reward of men. They will say, “Wow!” And you will have a whole string of “wows” and you will have impressed them. That’s what you have. [48:02]

Now, in the outline, you will see I’ve given you verses to follow that along. That’s Jesus’ teaching. Don’t get into legalism. Right? The old version says, “Go into your closet and pray.” So, I know one lady that went into her closet and prayed. That’s not a bad place probably. Some people have big closets. It just means, go into a room where alone and pray.

Jesus says, “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (Matthew 6:3) You ever try that? The point of His teaching is that this is something that we can’t do by conscious effort, because if you tell your left hand, “Now, don’t look,” what’s your left hand going to do? Look! The point is simply that you will be given a gift of coming to the place that you are not conscious of doing good deeds because they are no big deal and you should seek that. [49:06]

And you need to practice the discipline of secrecy. Don’t let your good deeds be known sometimes. Don’t lie about them. You don’t need to lie about them. No, just don’t advertise them. Don’t advertise them. Put your public relations in the hands of God. Remember what He said earlier, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14, NASB) Suppose you had the job of hiding in Baltimore or Los Angeles. That’s difficult, isn’t it? You will be known in the right places, and you will be rewarded. [49:48]

I wish I had time to go on with some more of these teachings. I think just quickly I will touch on reopening of chapter 7 because this is such an important passage. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:1, KJV) What’s He talking about?

See, one of our main means of managing people and showing that we are righteous is judging. When I judge, I let everyone know that I’m in the right place and I condemn others. Maybe I feel called upon to condemn others. They feel called upon to condemn others because it has entered so deeply into their sense of righteousness. They are called upon to judge others. He says, “Don’t judge if you don’t want to be judged; because if you judge, you will get in a little game. Take care of yourself. Take the crosstie out of your eye and then you’ll be able to see how to remove the little cinder speck and you will, among other things see that you don’t do it by saying, ‘You are an awful person for having a cinder speck in you eye!’ ” That’s not the way you remove cinder specks. You understand? [51:21]

Matthew 7:6 (KJV) says—“Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and [bite] you.” What’s it talking about? It’s another way we have of managing people—especially those close around us—is to find the best stuff we can find and lay it on them heavy. My dog is hungry and I go out on the back porch and say, “Here Husky, here’s a Bible—wonderful stuff—eat it.” I’ll have a hungry dog. It doesn’t matter how good it is. If I take pearls, if I take one thousand dollar bills and cut them up and put them in his plate—what’s wrong? [52:17]

What about pigs? Jesus is not calling anyone a dog and He’s not calling anyone a pig. If you take a bucket of pearls down to the hog pen and pour it into the trough, what will the pigs do? Say, “Here piggy, piggy, these are wonderful pearls.” The pig will be very hungry and one day you will step in and he will see a leg, you see? Pigs are smart. He’ll say, “Ah, something edible,” and he will bite you and many people are suffering from bites that they got by trying to give people stuff that they couldn’t digest. See? Jesus gave people stuff they could digest.

I wish I had time to talk more about this but series being what they are, they do move on. Let me just conclude by reading a passage about the inversion again—I promise I’ll take only a minute. Then we will have some questions, if you want to stay. [53:27]

This is in Philippians 3. This is a great inversion—one of the greatest. Our brother Paul, in Philippians 3, is charting out his credentials—the first says, verse 3, “We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3, KJV)

Now, here’s what the flesh says.

“Though I might have confidence in the flesh. If any other men think they got it, boy have I got it and more. I was circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, and Hebrew of the Hebrews; and touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church touching righteousness which is in the law, blameless . . . ” (Philippians 3:4–6)

And he didn’t even go into his academic credentials. He made all “A’s.” [54:18]

Now watch what he says. That was first in religious man’s ways. He says, “the things which were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” (Philippians 3:7) Listen, he’s talking about heavy credentials. He was not among the spiritually deprived, folks. “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss but for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Philippians 3:8, KJV) [54:54]

Now, dung isn’t an adequate word. Dung—that looks like something you might decorate your coffee table with or something. You have to use that other word. If you will cross it out and write the other word in there—the one that begins with “s”—you will get the right impression. You know, you walk along in the lawn and you feel something soft on your shoe. That’s the way Paul felt when he looked at all of his credentials. That’s the way he felt. When we come to the place where we feel that way about it, we are about ready to get serious with the Kingdom.

Listen to the other side of it. “And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith;” (Philippians 3:9, KJV) You throw yourself on the Kingdom. You see Jesus standing at the door and you make a run for it. “Let me in! Let me in! Be my friend! Be my friend! Walk with me all the time. Here I give myself to thee, time and friends and earthly store, Thine forevermore to be. Wholy Thine, forevermore!”

“Thou my everlasting Portion,
More than life and friends to me,
All along my pilgrim journey,
Savior, let me walk with thee.”[5]

Who needs righteousness that you’ve cooked up? “What I want to know is Him and the fellowship of His suffering and the power of His resurrection having been made conformable unto His death,” (Philippians 3:10) Then all that’s felt in the Sermon on the Mount just becomes, “Hey, we can do that! I don’t have to hate my enemies!”

“Lord, teach us in our hearts by your grace. Amen!”

[1] Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, “Peculiar People” Christianity Today, March 5, 1990, 16. (accessed December 2, 2019)

[2] Numbers in brackets indicate the time index of the recorded lecture.

[3] Note: Many of Dallas Willard’s Scripture quotations were made from memory, so a majority of them were paraphrased (although some varied only slightly from the King James Version of the Bible). Except for this first one, these are not marked. Those from specific Bible versions are noted.

[4] Cal Worthington was car dealer whose off-the-wall commercials and outlandish claims (see above), first broadcast in the 1950s, bombarded California television viewers for more than half a century and made him a pop culture legend. (accessed December 2, 2019)

[5] Fanny Crosby, “Close to Thee” (1874).

Listen to all parts in this A Series on What Jesus Believed and Taught—And Lived series