Biblical and Theological Foundations for Spiritual Formation in Christ 2

Dallas Willard Part 2 of 22

Dallas agreed to teach two separate weeks for the Renovaré Institute in Atlanta, a cohort of 40 students, mostly in ministry positions. He rehearses many of the themes from his speaking ministry elsewhere, so there is little new to be heard, but with more time with the group he is able to be more comprehensive than usual.


Prayer from a Monk: ….not exactly the Upper Room but it is a new room where Christians are opening themselves to the deep relevance of the Holy Spirit in their lives and to evangelize in a non-evangelical way. Please send your Holy Spirit upon Dallas and this group that they may leave this Monastery on fire with the love of God and to share that in their own special ways. We ask this, Jesus in your holy name. Amen [Amen] Now, sit back and listen to this man. [:46]


So, now I am hoping that we’ve got a bunch of rabbits started and that we can—I always love that James Carey movie, “I’ve got the power!” It’s Bruce Almighty! [Laughter] I can’t think of the name of it.


Let me pull a few things together now with this little thing and we are going to be dealing with that. I tried to lay a foundation for that when talking about spiritual as it applies to human beings and to God so now, I hope that it helps you with statements like “Yes though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.” Now, how does that work? That is the spiritual unity of you as a spiritual being and God as a spiritual being. So now, Jesus’s way of putting that was in terms of “those who keep my Word will never see death” and you as students and teachers of Jesus will want to be able to explain that, won’t you? Right? Do you think that’s important in a world where everyone is expecting to die—of course, something happens, doesn’t it and you are left with a peace of matter that we treat with dignity and at least we have to get it out of the public view, don’t we some way or another and so, Jesus, as Hebrews tells us faced a death for every person, and He says in John 8, “Those who keep my word will never taste death.” What is that going to be like? Now, I think you can’t understand that unless you understand the stuff we talked about last hour. Now then, once you understand that, you realize that’s not just for death, that’s for life. The promises of Jesus about death, “He that believeth on me shall never die.” Those promises are not just about death; they are about who we are now. [3:59]


So, let me just sum up a bit of this. I don’t know if you are able to find this in your notebook. [Very last section] Get it? Did you find it? Very last section. Our identity and our power—I said to you last time every spirituality is about who I am and what are my resources. Right? That’s true. Satan worship—whatever your spirituality is. Who am I? And, so just think about this a little bit. I put at the top here, “You are a never ceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe” and I acknowledged as I briefly taught last time that if you say that to many people, they will immediately want to worry you about dualism and there are some worries about that but the main point of that worry is to shut you off from your spiritual reality and to integrate you into a secular system of understanding according to which you are basically your body and you have to decide what you are going to do about it.


Keith has some comments he’d like to make on this point to help us think about it. About what we are working on here is to start with the nature of the spiritual. OK? And if you can’t do that, then spiritual transformation doesn’t make any sense, right? [5:53]


Keith: We live in a world that is materially driven. Wouldn’t you agree? Physically driven—what we see and so this kind of topic on spirit, I think is sometimes hard to grasp for us because Dallas says, “the executive center of self is our spirit” and where is that? It’s not something we can locate in a sense—most of us think it’s in our brain but let’s just look at this for a moment here. Let’s pretend and this is a little game that I heard many years ago when Dallas came to my church in San Francisco. He started our conference out with this question. He said, “Let’s suppose there are two gurneys in a room and let’s suppose there can be a brain transplant. One of these days maybe that will occur. Who knows with technology and science, right? So, two people are on a gurney—let’s just say Dallas and I are on two gurneys. [Laughter] I’m over on this side and Dallas is on this gurney. We have already had a brain transplant. We are lying on those gurneys and my brain went in Dallas’ head [Poor guy but I got his] and Dallas’ brain went in my head. The anesthesia is now wearing off. I am starting to wake up and I wake up first. I wake up. I’ve just had a brain transplant. I have Dallas’ brain. Now, think this through. Who woke up? Who woke up? Did Keith wake up? Or did Dallas wake up? I have his brain; now just think about it. Don’t raise your hand yet. How many of you think that Dallas’ brain in my head and Dallas woke up? Ok, a few; be brave. OK. How many of you think Keith woke up, raise your hand? A lot more. [Good! Dallas says this is a good group.] Now, how many of you are just kind of confused by this question? [Laughter] That’s okay too but this example kind of shows how we are caught in this dilemma of the physical—the brain is where my spirit is so to speak and you know, we will be able to prove this maybe one day if that really happens but the whole idea is that, Keith would wake up, not Dallas because Keith is not his brain. You are not your brain. Who is to say that the spirit’s located in the brain? It is you, the core of who you are. It is eternal. We are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe. It’s a great saying, isn’t it? In fact, let’s say it together, “You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.” That’s a reality; when this flesh goes, what goes on?—our spirit, right? The executive center of who you are—what makes you “you,” is eternal. It’s not our brain so we have to kind of get that idea. It’s really hard. It is really hard for us because we live in a world and a culture that is driven by physicality. [9:28]


Question: Can I make the argument since I voted for the wrong one maybe—but if it’s based on the relationships, then that new—the one who woke up has the recollection of Dallas and all of his identity and his relationships and experiences in a different body so I would say that that’s more connected with the person than the body that was represented…


You are pre-supposing that those recollections and memories are housed in the brain. [Yeah; okay. I am.] Your question others have asked and it’s so normal because that’s what we think. We think everything is right there and if that isn’t hooked up rightly, then that’s not me. [Someone asked what the question was.] The question is, “is that where memories reside; is there where consciousness is?” because you know, we end up been talking about some of this stuff and there are books out now on near-death experiences. You’ve all heard people share, probably a story or something or two about when they have died, right and you hear over and over again; now, the science of near death experiences is really coming into its full in a sense and they are seeing more and more people who have actually flat-lined on the gurney on the table that get brought back and in that half hour or hour that they were on the table can tell the doctors what they were doing during that time period and they can tell you what they saw so what does that tell us? That consciousness in spirit, you don’t have to have physical eyes, rights? You could hear things? That’s kind of weird, isn’t it? All of what goes on in spirit is fully contained in our spirit and we don’t have to have eyes and a pound of flesh here. Dallas will go on with some of that stuff but this is a really complex issue to grasp for many people because in our culture, we are so driven now by, “We are our brain.” That’s just …..[11:48]


Question: When you woke up, was your spirit connected with your body? It may not be connected to the brain but does it connect to the body?


I would say so! Wouldn’t you, Dallas? [That’s right. He woke up.]


But our brain is part of your body too? So, if you’re disconnecting part of your body and putting it someplace else, where does your spirit end up in being connected to?


Dallas: Just like it always has because if you asked that question of a person who hasn’t had a brain transplant, you have all the same difficulties and that’s why people want to jam it all into the brain to get rid of all that other stuff. No one knows the connection between your spirit and your brain and your body now without the brain…. Now, you know that it is connected, I hope and a normal functioning person understands that. And the problem with the brain side is to do justice to what we actually know about ourselves, and it doesn’t do it. It can’t do it. You cannot get ahold of your life through your brain though many other people who like to and the government would be very happy to do it and they are working on that.


That’s one reason you can get funding for brain research because there is a real interest in controlling people. That’s the problem for human government is how to control it and that’s why the ultimate power of the human government is to kill you and that’s why when people step into the Kingdom of God, they become very unruly people. [Laughter] They no longer; well, you know, what’s death, right? Now, that’s the testimony of the scripture all along so—I mean these guys that were about to get thrown in to the furnace said, “Well, you know we don’t need to have a committee meeting about this. You do what you are going to do and God will do what He is going to do.” See, this is what is so threatening about this, folks; the object of human endeavor is to control and when you introduce the spiritual, you are stepping beyond it. You are stepping beyond that and that’s one reason why freedom has no place in government policy. Right? You go downtown here and you go to some area where you’ve got people sitting around the 7-11 drinking red wine and getting by, no one will ever say, “Well you know that’s because of choices that were made;” rather they will look for causes because the human game is control and when you step into the spiritual realm, you step out of that. [15:14]


So, now, you know, people who worry about dualism, and so on, they have a hard problem with God because did you know that God doesn’t even have a brain? He doesn’t have a brain. He’s like the tin man in The Wizard of Oz …except he doesn’t miss it. Was it the scarecrow? Is that the one? The tin man didn’t have a heart. But see God doesn’t have a brain. Actually, he made brains. That’s why everything is a “no brainer” for him. [Laughter] Some things you just can’t resist. OK.


Now, I know this is all hard but I really go into it just so we will understand the battle we face because we face a battle where there is a constant temptation to make something into a God. The God of our world is the economy and it’s treated as if it were this big thing that you could sort of punch here and there and punch there and there and get it to perform and all of the goods will come rolling down. Just punch it here, punch it there and of course you can get very little out of it on that basis because the economy is based on human choice. For example, we are very largely in the mess we are in now in the economy because people would not do without the things that they should have done without so they created a lot of stuff and called it money and it wasn’t money—it was promises. [17:19]

Well, that’s a long story but it’s a part of the story about the temptation to pull you out of the spiritual realm and say, “Well, you know, you’re just a body. There is no spiritual realm.” So that’s why it’s important to say, “you are a never ceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe. You are spiritual in substance and you are never ceasing in duration” and now then we come to our topic for this hour. [17:50]


You are ruling—creating governance is your purpose in your destiny and so we now have to look at that because that then enables you to position yourself in God’s eternal purposes for humanity, which apparently have some significance beyond your death and beyond the time whenever if it comes to that, that the sun expands into a giant and eats up the earth.  Right? You and I know that in earth science it says there will be an end to the earth. Space travel doesn’t really have much promise except for those who are spirits and they can get there. OK? Are we ready to go on or did you have another comment or question that I missed? Yes Sir! [18:56]


Q: Just thought maybe perhaps it might be helpful if we think about what’s going on is in our brain—when we experience the new birth and the invasion of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that sense of recognition and guidance that really is not coming from the brain but that gives us a sense that we are not our brains in a way that perhaps its hard to –we talk about consciousness and recollection. There is this activity that goes on and I don’t know about the rest of you but when I became a Christian that was the first thing that I knew that was real. It was the spirit of God acting…..


Dallas: Now, this is very important to understand that that is the normal human condition. It takes generations to convince people that they are their brains. Aristotle thought your brain was a cooling system. You look at it and it kind of looks like a radiator, doesn’t it? He thought it was a cooling system. That’s why we still refer to people has “hot headed,” right? The real dynamics of the person are in the heart and that if steam got too much, then it would go up to your head and if your brain cooling system couldn’t deal with it, then you would start punching people out and that sort of thing—hot headed, right? The natural condition is to recognize that your experiences are directly accessible to you. Now we know that there is a relationship between our experiences and our brains. No question about that but now you see, the push is to say they aren’t. [20:46]


Now this is a long philosophical discussion and it’s worthy of your attention in some measure but the fact of the matter is that you know what your experiences are by in large and not all of them—you know what they are and you identify them and you identify something that really happened in your experience at the new birth. See, now that’s why part of the reason why I talk about this is that you want to understand that God comes together with your experiences. Now that in the new birth you receive a life from above and we will have to talk about what life is later. You receive something different, where do you receive it?—in your experiences. Does it affect your body? It certainly does, right? But the effect on your body is something that will be worked out more and more through your disciplines, through prayer, through your fellowship with others, through God acting with you in various ways and you come to know it in that way.


I’m afraid I lose the point in long-winded responses. What I want you to understand is the idea that your brain is an almost newborn idea even in secular philosophy at the middle of the last century, no one would have thought of saying that though there were people saying that since basically the 1600’s. They were saying that but now it has come to be taught as a scientific dogma and that’s why we, as teachers and leaders for Christ, we need to understand something of this. Our experiences are fundamentally directly accessible to us though they have layers that we have to learn something from Freud about that not everything presents itself to consciousness and largely because we don’t want it to present itself to consciousness. Listen, we learn to not see what we see and do not see that we don’t see what we see and so on. That’s another story but a very important one. OK [23:05]


So, now transformation means that that person becomes Christ-like in every dimension of their personality. That’s what transformation is. We are going to have to spend several hours on that as we go along but now I am hoping that you will understand basically what this refers to and it refers to the transformation of your experiences and Jesus’ way of putting that was to say “you love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself.” That’s where Jesus lived. That’s where we are going and He comes into our life as our Savior, Teacher, Friend, King, Lord, and says, “Ok, I’ll show you how to do it.” Right? We learn how to do it and if we are blessed, we are in some fellowship that has a teaching that helps us do that and unfortunately today, many of our churches don’t go there because the Gospel they have heard doesn’t involve that. OK.


So, let’s go back and think about some of this. You have your notes there with some references. Creating goodness and the image of God—so let’s take a little time to pass over some scriptures to find out what they say about that. The earliest and most important one really is Genesis 1:26. So you see God engaged in His creative activity and he is producing many wonderful living things—a physical universe and then at a certain point there is a radical turn because He never, before this says, “Let’s make something in our likeness.” Now, that’s what He says. God said, “Let us make human beings in our image.” Now, that’s an unfortunate translation to use “image.” It’s really “like us” and we don’t know how or what kind of problem its image has caused and so we have a word called iconoclast. Iconoclast is a breaker of images which historically meant taking the club and going after the images but there is a problem with images and the commandment is that we would make no likeness of anything that is above or on or below the earth that we would worship something like that. So, this is very serious business.  But, of course, like all the commands, they tend to get turned legalistic. Legalistic means you can do what the rule says without having your heart where the rule is. So, that’s a problem. Let us make man in our likeness according to our likeness. That’s good. [26:58]


Now, what did that mean? Well, I suggest to you that the next part of the verse explains what that means. “And let them rule;” that is the image of God is in ruling. Now, you know, all these words get in trouble—“let them have dominion.” I think the best way to think about it is to let them be responsible and that God rules. He is responsible.


Now, here in this verse, unless you are a fisherman, you won’t get much out of it to start with because it starts with fish but you are going to rule over fish, the birds, camels, over all the earth, over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—mosquitos and ants for example. Wow! You mean they were here before the fall? I don’t know. But the idea here is responsible for life on the earth. They are responsible for life on the earth. Fish have a good condition that we are to look at and if you hear that some killer whales are trapped in an ice flow in the North Pole, somebody probably is going to say, “Let’s go get them out.” Isn’t that interesting? People feel responsible for the animals. Now, you know, the killer whales don’t say, “There are a bunch of people drowning in a flood and let’s go get them out.” That’s not their job. They are not responsible for human beings and now they have a really important part in life and living things do and for most of our history as human beings, we do live on the back of animals. But, that’s a part of what we could use in the call of God to be responsible. The fundamental idea is being responsible—being responsible—that is what we are called to and as you go along, you see some improvement. [29:50]


By the time you get to Psalm 8, we now have domesticated animals and we are not any longer just worrying about fish. Now, Psalm 8 addresses explicitly this question: “What is man that though doest even think about?” That is verse 4. “What is man that you think about; the Son of man that you care for; you made him a little lower than God. You crown Him with glory and majesty. You make Him to rule over the works of your hands.” That is our call—is to rule over the works of his hand. Obviously, to rule for good—to do what is good and generally speaking, that is the nature of love. Love seeks what is good. It seeks to create what is good and give it to others.


Children, before they can do almost anything else, they want to make something, right? You want to show them how to make things and then they want to give it to you. So, if you are like most people, you have a collection of things that little children have given to you and they are precious to you, not because you can even recognize what they are but because you know that the spontaneous love of a child wants to create something that is good and they want to share it. That’s human nature.


That’s why everyone, except people who have really had a bad turn at life wants to leave the world a better place. How often have you heard that? See, that’s an expression of who you are and who God made you to be. Those geese out there—they don’t care anything about leaving the world a better place. That’s human. [32:11]


Creative goodness—now, that thing carries on in Hebrews 2, for example. You have this statement from Psalm 8 repeated. This is talking about the place of human beings in God’s activity and in particular, he is contrasting that place with a role of angels. Angels have a place but their place is not to rule. Verse 5 of Hebrews 2: “He did not subject to angels the world to come concerning which we are speaking but one has testified somewhere—then we get Psalm 8, “What is man if thou art mindful of him?” And it goes on to say, “You crowned him in glory; you appointed him over the works of your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his hands.” But then of course He observes that at present everything had not submitted. We are not there yet and what is substituted for that during this period? Well, that’s verse 9: We do see him who has been made a little while lower than the angels; namely Jesus, right? So, our subordination now under which we rule is through the rule of Jesus. [34:03]


Now Jesus was very big and if you go back to the first part of Hebrews and begin to read, then you get the picture of the New Testament and you come to grips with who was Jesus? Over and over it addresses that issue and identifies, “Who is He? Who was that masked man?” Well, it was Jesus but then who was that? And that struggle to come to grips with—see, that continues today. Where is Jesus in the present world? What is He doing? How do we relate to that? [34:50]


So, there is a future and you get that future caption in Revelation 22:5 and I am just touching the high points on this but I want to make sure you get the point and this is talking about later. Verse 4, “They shall see His face and His name shall be on their foreheads and there shall no longer be any night and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun because the Lord God shall illumine them and they shall reign forever and ever.” So, what are you going to be doing in the future? [Reigning.] Reigning! Ruling! Not just singing! Good work is what lies ahead. There is nothing better than good work: nothing, because it puts you in reality in its place before God. Creative goodness—see, that’s what—work creates value. Now, in a world that is messed up, there are some problems with that but basically, it is still true. We work to create that and that is the proper occupation of those who are created to rule, to reign, to have them in. [36:35]


Now, let’s broaden that just a little bit because the problem is it gets narrowed down too quickly into religious work so when we look at Paul writing from his grimy cell in the book of Philippians, chapter 4, you have a description of how to rule. Verse 6, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” That’s how you rule! What is clear where it is talking to God about what we are doing together. Some people, when they are trying to find out about prayer, they don’t know what to pray about. Well, what are you doing? Start there. What are you doing with God? And of course that comes out in the teachings about praying in the will of God, in the name of Jesus and so on. But, look how this goes on—peace of God surpasses all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Well, finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is a good report, that’s what we are concentrating on. Now, see that’s whole human life. That’s whole human life. That’s what we do as people under God. [38:23]


In Ephesians 5:8, Paul said, “You were formally darkness. Now you are a light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” Now, listen to this. “The fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” That’s the scope of rule. You rule in all those good things. That’s where God—it’s mainly what He is interested in. If you have a picture of Jesus or you have a picture of life with Him that leaves out beauty, truth and goodness, you haven’t got Him and see, man people have that picture of Him. Beauty, truth and goodness are where Jesus lives and we are invited to live there with Him. So, now everything in our lives, that’s what guides us—the attention, beauty, truth and goodness in companionship with Jesus. [39:42]


Spiritual transformation without beauty is a drag. It was never meant to be that way. Beauty is goodness made manifest to the senses and the beauty of God Himself—the beauty of holiness—see, that’s really what lies back of all art and all technique and knowledge is the beauty of God made manifest to our senses. OK! [40:27]


So, that’s what we are here to do and on your outlines, “Why am I here?” Well, creative goodness in the likeness of God. That’s what I am meant to be. Now, does that extend to what we would call religious work? I hope so. Sometimes you might wonder because we haven’t caught this vision but that’s what religious work should be. It should be and now because of a specific need for redemption in human life, that’s very important. Right? Redemption is on the same plane as creation. Redemption is re-creation. It is bringing back what was intended. It helps us understand things like if we had never sinned, we would still need grace because grace is God’s assistance in doing what He wants done. So, it’s not just for sin. Grace is for life, right? We find the Bible does not begin in Genesis 3. It begins in Genesis 1. So, now we come into the world and we are learning how to live for what is good under God and we rule for what is good and that extends to all the homely things that make up ordinary human life from building a better automobile engine to baking cookies. The meaning of that—all of that is in the relationships between human beings living together on earth to fulfill God’s purpose for human history. OK. [42:55]


Now, if you want to ask questions or make comments at any point, please just let me know. If I am in the middle of a sentence or a paragraph, I may postpone you a little bit but I want to begin to develop things conversationally as much as possible because real teaching is not just a matter of knowing where I am but a matter of knowing where you are and so, feel free if you wish to interject and ask a questions or make a comment to let me know. OK? [43:35]


Q: I have one question. [Yes Sir] You talked about redemption in terms of being creation or recreation and when I think about a new creation in Christ, to me it seems to be more than the original creation?


Dallas: I agree. Yes indeed. [Okay!] That’s why God in His wisdom didn’t have an angel standing there to slap Eve and say, “Don’t you do that.” That’s why there is freedom and in extension in the particular application that Paul makes of it in Galatians for freedom—“for Christ has set you free.” What’s the big deal about freedom? Creativity! That’s the big deal about freedom. [44:36]


Q: There is often a tension between being and doing. [Oh yes!] So, for instance your definition of prayer—


Dallas: I didn’t really give a definition. I give a lot of things that really aren’t definitions. They are descriptions but go ahead.


Comment: How would you because some of my people have struggled with that because they think of “being with God”—beholding Him as being higher than doing things and how would you characterize being and doing and creativity together?


Dallas: That’s an unfortunate result of a lot of misunderstanding about the image of God and man. That’s why I start you with that verse which is not on contemplation. It isn’t like, “Oh, we are going to create human beings so they can just look at us and wonder.” If you aren’t careful, you get a picture of God as a cosmic egomaniac. No! There is a place for that but our job is not that. Our job is to be creative with God, to work with God. We rule under Him and when we try to pull our rule out from under His rule, that’s when everything falls apart. Now, of course we need to be assured about Him and there is a place for lost in wonder, love and grace. But our task is to be active and that’s where for some people, you need to take them through that whole bunch of verses that I took you through about ruling and just ask them to think about it because you know, the Bible is not best to use just to sort of give people an answer but to get them thinking and it works into our hymns. “When we’ve been there 10,000, bright shining as the sun. We’ve no less days to sing his praise.” That sounds like an endless church service. So, we need to just help people to re-think that and to be of course tender and sensitive with them. That’s why we have to get people going and let it come to them from the inside. That’s where real change comes is when it comes to the person from their inside. Now, of course, God is on the inside and He is working but you know, if someone reaches a conclusion on their own, then they don’t have to approach it as if someone else were trying to impose it on them because they thought it up. [47:56]


Q: What you said earlier about Ephesians 3, who is the rulers in authority in the Heavenly places? You may have already said that.


Dallas: No, I didn’t say it. The assumption of the New Testament is that there are ranges upon ranges of spiritual beings in the universe. That’s why in the Old Testament; God is routinely described as Lord of Hosts. Who are the hosts? Well, the assumption I think in the Scripture is that when God created, He created all things visible and invisible and the invisible things—that’s a very large landscape and apparently the ones who occupy that never got it right about God and it may be that that’s what lies back of the story of how some of them bailed out. So, I mean, we don’t have any solid information about all of that. There is some pretty clear indication that some of them did bail out but the ones who didn’t bail out, it seems did not understand and that’s indicated I think in 1 Peter, Chapter 1 where it talks about how the angels want to look into this thing of salvation and they can’t figure out what was happening. Why would God be interested in these things creepy crawling on the earth? And so, I gather that that’s what that passage is talking about. OK; Alright! [49:47]


Next point—the will and its significance in life—okay! Why? I have already indicated to you what the will is and we will come back to this systematically later on but your will is your capacity to originate things so God not only creates, He creates Creators. They have the capacity to originate things and that is why freedom is so important for life, not just for people struggling for political freedom but watch a little child, right? They engage in things. They initiate things. That’s their joy and they share in all of that sort of thing and they say, “When I grow up I want to be such and such and usually that has some quality of creativity about it.


The human soul hungers for creativity and now, this is where some problems begin to come up because human creativity in its present condition is not always good and so then we need to think about what is the root of the problem. The root of the problem is desire and in your New Testament usually it’s translated lust—the word epethumia because the problem is not just desire but obsessive desire and obsessive desire turns you away from what is good. See? [51:46]


So, the New Testament constantly warns you about the destructiveness of lust and for example, what it says about covetousness is really scary because it says that if you are covetous, you are an idolater and guess who the idol is?  Bam! “Sei voi! I’m the idol, right?” And so, over and over, you have teachings about being content with what you have and Paul’s talking about that. There are really strong teachings about content. “I have learned in whatsoever state that I am in, there with to be content.” Now, a part of the method in my madness, I hope would allow you now to say, “Oh, I get it! I get it!” I am a spiritual being and God is with me. I’ve got everything I need. [52:54]


So, Hebrews 13:5—“Let your lives be without greed. Be content with such things that you have seeing as He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ Therefore, I can boldly say ‘God is my helper. I’ll not fear anything people can do.’” What kind of cuckoo land is that? I’ll not fear anything? Wow! Why?—Because of the sufficiency of God to you and to me. So, I can keep myself out of the place of discontent and self-idolatry because of the sufficiency but now, desire comes along and says, “You really need that.”


See, the nature of desire is obsession. It always focuses on something and says, “I’ve got to have it” whether it’s a doughnut or a Lamborghini. It doesn’t much matter what it is. It says, “That!” You see that in children again, don’t you? They go with you to the store and they see some glittering object and they say, “Whah, whah, I’ve got to have that, Mama!” Nothing else will do! Then mother or father say to them, “Now, you know if you get that, you can’t have that; it will take all your money to get that” but they don’t hear because they are “fixed” on that one thing. That is the nature of desire. [54:50]


Please try to follow me on this now because the will is different from desire. The will deliberates. That’s why we say de-liberate. That’s why the word liberate is in the word deliberate because deliberation gives you a place to stand to not do what you want to do. See, the problem with human life is we don’t have a place to stand to not do what we want to do and to do what we don’t want to do but everyone that thinks for two seconds about it realizes “that’s a recipe for disaster.” You know? I talk about this with my students in my courses and they immediately identify with it because they are constantly deciding on whether they are going to study tonight or do something else. [Amen] And they know that the ones who do well are the ones who can do what they don’t want to do and not do what they want to do. I mean, what is that? That’s basic human existence and every system of ethics tries to deal with that. It tries to give you a place to stand to not do what you want to do and to do what you don’t want to do.


Desire and will –see, you have to understand. If you are going to be created goodness in the image of God, you are going to have to be free of domination by your desires and for many people, that sounds like a death sentence and the person who is in the worst of bondage is the person who can’t distinguish their will from their desires and basically addiction always puts you in that place. An addict is someone who says, “I have got to have this.” No, you don’t have to have it but that desire is saying, “Yes, you must. You must have that doughnut.” No!  Sexuality—revenge. Revenge is a very interesting case of desire. It says, “I am going to hurt this person. I want to see this person suffer.” And so, why it can become dominant. That’s why forgiveness is so important. See, when you are standing with unforgiveness, you are standing with your desires. When you step into the domain of forgiveness, you have stepped into the domain of will and now you can choose what is good. [58:18]


Q: So, how would we begin to teach a child this who—you know, their very nature is dominated by desire? How could we stir that and grow them in that way?


Dallas: Take them in the situation where they are saying, “I want blah, blah, I’ve got to have it. I am going to die if I don’t get it” and so forth and you just stay with them. Don’t shut them down. Let them go through that. In some cases, you will want to let them have what they say they’ve got to have so that then you can teach them afterwards the affects of that and they will learn very rapidly the difference between choice and domination by desire. See, they don’t know that difference. They think that their desires are their choices and that’s the childish condition of most of our culture. They don’t know that the will is different from desire. Desire says, “I’ve got to have that.” The will says, “Well, let’s think about that. Maybe there is something else” and that’s how it de-liberates. It liberates you from domination by desire and it’s really an education in how your self works and how your mind works. So, you know you get out of the situation and then you have a pleasant time when you are just sitting with them and having an ice cream cone or something and you talk to them about it and say, “Well, you know, now what do you think about that incident at the store?” At the 7-11 or whatever and let them think about it. That is the only way that you can help people handle this is by letting them think it through and the child will learn very quickly what is the difference between wisdom and getting your way. Then of course, we can use stories and there are lots of good stories that we can use for that purpose also. In fact, we introduce them to their will. Well, you know, you can do this. This is a part of you and here is what it’s for. Right? [1:00:46]


Now, it would help if we had good teaching from our pulpits where it was constant and clear but for example, you hardly ever get any intelligent discussion on the text in the New Testament that talks about lust. “Beware of fleshly lusts that war against the soul.” What does that mean? It means lust will tear your soul apart and you will be running in all kinds of different directions.


Desire is conflictual. Where do wars and fighting come, James asks in chapter 4? Your desires. Desire is essentially conflictual, not only between people but within people, so basically just talk with them, be with them, watch him. Say, “Well you know, Mommy wanted such and such and I thought about it and it didn’t seem good” so you teach them the difference between what is good and what is desired and especially when people get to be teens in our culture, they are “whipsawed” by their desires and they don’t know the difference between what is good and what you want. [1:02:07]


Now, I will hit this note on several occasions. That’s why YOU have to be the teachers of the nations. YOU! That’s what Jesus sent us out to be—teachers of the nations and there isn’t anything else going to do it. Now you may have a few times when the culture is moving through a phase where what the scripture teaches and what the church knows to be good has simply been eccentric. That was basically true in our culture pretty well up to the second World War and maybe the first World War dented it and then people who weren’t even Christians assumed that the Christians of the church knew what a decent life was. Now then, you go through that period and now, who is the teacher of our nations today? Who are the teachers? Let’s have a little discussion about that. Who teaches? [Television and entertainment] Entertainment; bless you. Now who runs entertainment? [Athletes, media?] No; that’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Does the church run entertainment? [No but sometimes they try to entertain] Who said corporations? The people with the money, right. In some wager, otherwise, cool is big? Who’s the teacher? It’s who is cool. Who is cool? Is the preacher cool? [Some of them!} That’s a dangerous question, isn’t it? We have to know where all of this is coming from. [1:04:19]

Q: Maybe you are going to get to this but I can deliberate and will myself to do something even though I really don’t want to do it, so, there still has to be a transformation so that I want to do what I ought to do in order for it to be authentic, right?

Dallas: Absolutely, so I can look at the doughnut and say, “Who needs it?” Instead of hmmm, hmmm, hmmmmm… OK? So that’s the transformation of the person and that’s of course what goes into the heart of the transformation so the things that Jan and Glandion and Keith will be doing. They will be feeding more into that and we are going to be talking about it more later, but it will be very schematic I’m afraid but that’s absolutely right. See, you don’t want to live with unsatisfied desires and then when we have some preacher who jumps over the fence and does something naughty, we think that’s terrible. No, what was terrible is that he’s been living all those years wanting to do that. [Exactly] That’s what is terrible. [1:05:57]

Q: At my church, I run the Celebrate Recovery program. We have about 100 people who come out every Monday night and their desire is to drink, to drug and have all kinds of sexual vices and everything else and in worse case scenario, I don’t want to get distracted by a conversation on homosexuality but I’ve had people of same sex desire when I use this verse, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to the cross and crucified them there” and they have told me, “while I am not acting out, my same sex attraction, I still desire. I fantasize. I dream about it” and it seems like…….

Dallas: So, what’s the next thing you say to them?

Comment: Then, I am stuck.

Dallas: Well, I suggest you try this on them. You say, “Would you like to be rid of those desires?” See, now, in our culture, they think that their desires are holy. [1:07:15]

Comment: These people don’t. They know it’s wrong but they still desire it.

Dallas: Well, you see, what they desire they know is wrong but they don’t think their desires can be changed.

Comment: How do you say you change them by the will?

Dallas: No, not just by the will but if you don’t want to desire what you now desire, you won’t change. See, our culture makes desire a holy thing. You go to a third grade class on the school ground, and say, “Should everyone get to do what they want? What will their answer be? [Yes] Absolutely and anyone who doesn’t, that’s a tragedy and whoever keeps them from it is a bad person, right? See, that’s the problem. The problem is not just with homosexuals. The problem is with people generally who think that—I mean, see, that’s a wonderful liberating verse. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh,” the natural tendencies of the human being, “with the affections and lusts thereof.” That’s a very analytic verse because you start with crucifixion and in crucifixion you still got a lot of pain but if you don’t get to crucifixion, you don’t go anywhere. Crucifixion is the way. Just think of it this way. You have to desire to not desire what you now desire. That doesn’t mean you don’t do what you desire. It means you change your desire and the only way you can do that is through a process of re-seeing what you are doing. You have to go through—the same way for pornography—you can’t get rid of pornography by wanting not to engage in it. You have to get rid of the desires. How do you do that? Well, you do that by understanding what you are doing in that, how it involves other people and you think thoughts like you know, so, what are you actually doing in a pornographic context, real or in pictures? What are you actually doing? And when you come to the place that it turns your stomach, not because of consequences or because of the action but because of what you see it does to the people involved—you could say, “How could anyone want to do that?” That’s a part of the process. [1:10:12]


In general, allowing the will to pursue what is good instead of pursuing what you desire is a matter of enlarging the context. You pay attention to what you don’t pay attention to if you just desire. [Say that again please.] You enlarge the context and you pay attention to what you don’t pay attention to when you are just caught up in desire. But now, that’s requires a lot of re-working because for example some people often, they don’t know what their life would be like if they were not engaged in the kind of desiring in question—it may be anger, unforgiveness or sexual lusts or whatever—feeling sorry for themselves so this is a process that we need to go through and understand and experience the liberation that comes from it and then help others but you see you can’t help people if they don’t desire not to desire what they now desire. You can’t help them. So, now, in teaching you know, you go back to the woman at the well and you think about “never thirst again?” What was that? What woman that will never thirst again? How would you preach that?


Q: I find in ministry, there are people who are stuck on the willful side trying to do it by themselves or either they are out of touch with—I guess there is some desire that’s obsessive desire that people don’t feel it. I feel like underneath every distorted desire, there is a good desire that is being corrupted and if people can be transformed, our true desire is for God and being with Him but people are looking for it in all the wrong places.


Dallas: Desire is not inherently bad. We couldn’t live without it. A child would never survive infanthood if they didn’t have desires. You grow old and you don’t like food anymore. That’s tough. You think about having to eat because it’s good for you instead of eating because you like it. Desire is not inherently bad but you have to understand its nature, which is obsessive. Desire always focuses you narrowly on something and says, “I must have that.” And that’s why Paul speaks of the “deceitful desires” in Ephesians 4. What is it that makes desire deceitful? It is that they promise you that if you just do this, you will be happy. They never are. Desire does not satisfy and it cannot be limited by other desires. It has to be limited by a vision of what is good and that’s where the will comes in. Desire subordinated to what is good is “that’s the way it’s supposed to go.” Right?

Q: Is an obsessive desire for God a good obsessive thing? [1:14:08]

Dallas: I don’t think any obsessive desire is something you want to rest with. Frankly, I am not sure what the desire for God of that sort would be like and I get a little worried myself about that because, for example I have seen obsessive desire for God (so-called) lead to harmful relationships to people and so you have to be careful with that. It’s okay and good to desire God but you have to keep the broader view and again, it’s partly because that can be very deceptive and if you find yourself putting aside the good of those that are dependent upon you and are close to you in the name of desire for God, I would be worried about that. If you keep that principle, the will broadens the view. The will says, “What are alternatives?” It de-liberates and you always need to have the broader view. Now, that’s one of the things that we are helped by when we stay close to the teaching of the scripture because it gives us the broader view. You know, you have it all these wonderful things in places like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and sometimes I think people kind of worry about them because Ecclesiastes gets pretty raunchy but well, but I’ll tell you, everything in its place but you know, the old guy says, “You know, there is nothing better than to enjoy your work and have a good meal, a little company…….” Anyone who is beyond that, is on dangerous ground, I think. They are not respecting their finitude and their points so it’s really important to think all that out and to understand the place of the will now in creative goodness. We are here for creative goodness. We are finite. We have a place and a time and it’s one of the wonderful things about time and space, right?  Time makes it possible to use this same place over and over and space makes it possible to use this the same time over and over. Don’t you think that’s clever on God’s part to put us in space and time but with that, comes limitations and being in a body (limitations) that’s good, that’s not bad and so we accept that and it keeps the scene open and it helps things. [1:17:21]

Q: I’m recalling the John 4 excerpt that we saw, I think in The Renovation of the Heart where he is talking about his own transformation process—very moving scene there where he says something to the effect that I’ve got to want this more than I want anything else.  And I’m just wondering as we were singing last night, “I am desperate for you.” I am asking, “What is the relationship between that frustration and that desperateness and this vision of the good?”

Dallas: Well, I think the desperation comes from realizing that we are not in a good situation and we want out, right? And that’s not all bad but you know, I have a little trouble with the song. I worry about, “Can I really say that?” See? “Holiness, Holiness, is all I long for?” Really? What would life look like if that were true? So, you see, I think that I understand what is being said there and I think there is a time and a place for it. It is a time and a place where I realize that I ‘ve got to get out of this mess. All I really want is out but it isn’t true that it’s all you really want. It never is. The nature of wants is you say you want only want something; that’s always false; always false. The truth is you want lots of things. You always do. That’s the nature of desire and that’s one reason why we need that larger vision of things. [1:19:21]

So, you know, I feel kind of bad about that but I worry about those songs so as I say, there is a place for it because we are in a desperate situation but it’s just that you aren’t live there and again that’s why proverbs and Ecclesiastes come in so helpful. They are more wisdom. You say, “well, it’s a larger scene” and so in Ecclesiastes you read “be not righteous over much.” That’s self-destructive. You can kill yourself. Don’t be righteous over much and that’s one of the ways religion really goes bad on us and that’s where we get cults is because we get some leader that is able to impress something that is so important that they can get the people to do anything. Drink that Kool-Aid and you say, “How do people get in that position? Well, they’ve accepted a religion of desperation.

This man, I think is telling me that I just used my time. [Laughing]

Gary: This is a good segway to fasting lunch….no I’m just kidding. Thank you, Dallas. [Clapping]

We are not staying on schedule but we will come to an end anyway.

Listen to all parts in this Renovaré Institute: Atlanta Cohort series