In 1993 Dallas began teaching an intensive two-week residential course for Fuller Theological Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program. His task was to teach about spiritual life in a systematic way so that its full connection to the work of the minister was clear. These sessions from 2012 are from Dallas’s last year of teaching the course before he died. Though a bulk of the course was usually centered on the nature and practice of disciplines, the beginning of the course dealt with more theological themes like the nature of spiritual reality and the end of the course dealt with topics in spirituality like vocational issues. [Editor’s Note: We know that the class was taped on other occasions and would be glad to find these recordings.]
Keith: I guess, if we had two over arching questions, especially as we are talking about the topic of the Gospel that would be—I would say in some ways, we hope you will answer with great clarity by the end of this course-two questions would be this.
How are you going to initiate people in the faith? You might want to write these down. How are you going to initiate people in the faith? Into the faith; walking with Jesus—what is going to be your method, process; how are you going to communicate that?
Secondly, then, once that is a reality, how are you going to help them become like Jesus? I would say those two questions encompass so much of what this whole class is about. How do we help people into the faith of following Jesus as a disciple? And, then, how are you going to help them become like Jesus in character and action? [1:41]
Now, this past year, I was getting gas at a gas station and a big burly construction guy pulled up in front of me with his truck with all his gear on his truck and got out of the truck and came over to me and gave me a little dollar bill. It looked like this. He said, “Here’s an Obama buck for you.” OK; this is what he gave me. On the front part of this Obama buck was this gal—kind of Madonna-looking like cartoon—beautiful woman smiling at me alluringly on this dollar bill. Then, you turn it over and as soon as I turned it over, I’ve got my track here. Then, he started talking to me about Jesus. I said, “Hey, you know, I am a follower of Jesus. In fact, I am a Pastor.” You know what? He didn’t skip a beat. It didn’t matter. He had to keep going. It really didn’t affect him at all. In spite of the reality that much of our culture now is—like you were saying, Tom, about that kids are taught that they are good and all of that—this default Gospel on the right. Now again, we have folks in this room that that’s not your paradigm. Let me just ask you. How many of you came to faith in your life through the Gospel of the right? Raise your hand. Just curious. OK. How many of you did not come to faith in that way? The reality is more conservative evangelicalism is pretty much stuck in the Gospel of the right. If you are a mainline church, that’s not your Gospel. You don’t bring people in through that means. Personal decision is really the avenue of the Gospel of the right. We think that is THE WAY people come into faith through personal decision. If you are a mainliner—a mainline church—mainline church relies on socialization; basically, you are not going to see an altar call or the sinner’s prayer transacted in a mainline church; it’s just not going to be. Because why? The philosophy generally is “hang around us long enough and you will catch the virus of following Christ.” Isn’t that right? “You just be in amongst us and you will get the love of Christ; you will get what we are and you will soon be one of us.” That’s the methodology in a mainline church—I’ll talk more about this next week but Scott McKnight did a study on this in his book, Turning to Jesus; it’s on conversion and he talks about the three branches of Christianity, evangelicalism, mainline church, and then Roman Catholic Orthodox and they all have different ways that people are initiated into faith. Many of us in this room are from the evangelical side and this is perfect. In some form or another—extreme forms or softer forms; this is the default that most churches use; whether the transaction is through an altar call or the sinner’s prayer. There is something in that transaction that many people end up going to but look at this. This is an answer to Tom. The methodology is masterful because even though people may think they are good, listen, you are not going to think you are very good after this. It says—this is the million dollars here with this woman here kind of looking at me, trying to allure me in and it says, “The million dollar question is, ‘Will you go to Heaven when you die?’ That’s right up front. Of course, in this Gospel is most concerned with the after life, not the present life. Realize that that appeal most often times is not a present life issue; it’s about what happens when you die. So, that’s right up front. “Will you go to Heaven when you die? Here’s a quick test.” Here is the test. “Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything or used God’s name in vain?” You see, that’s a good appeal to start, isn’t it though, Tom? Hey, I’ve told a lie. Maybe I’m not that good. Maybe I’m not that good, right? “Have you ever told a lie, used God’s name in vain, stolen anything?” Jesus said—and then here he goes—‘whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery in his heart”—he set me up. He’s got me now. He put a beautiful woman on there. He is trying to lure me to lust. Right there he’s got me set. “Have you ever looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgment Day? If you have done those things, God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous adulterer at heart.” So much for, God loves you, right? You see, that’s the problem with this is that it’s so paradoxical; we say on the one hand that God loves you and wants you but what He really thinks is you are a sinner, an adultery, blasphemous and besides if you don’t accept me, you get to go to Hell. See, that paradoxical kind of stuff that goes with this? I mean, convoluted kind of thinking.
[Comment] Yeah, I mean; I don’t know. What was I wearing that day? I don’t know. I wonder. “If you’ve done those things, God see you that way and the Bible warns that you are guilty and you will end up in Hell. God, who the Bible says is rich in mercy, sent his son to suffer and die on the cross for guilty sinners.” Now, there we go. There is the Gospel. It’s a theory of the atonement becomes the Gospel. Penal Substitutionary Atonement becomes the Gospel that we have owned here. “Jesus paid our fine; that means He can legally dismiss our case.” Right? “He can commute our death sentence, “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotton son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Then He rose from the dead and defeated death. Please, repent.” Again, it’s a total misunderstanding of the word repent. Repent here just means “turn from your sin” in that context—not quite really what that means but that’s what we have. “Repent today and God will grant everlasting life to all who trust Jesus. Then, read your Bible and daily obey it.” OK? [10:46]
Now, what was missing in that at all? As in our discussion, what’s the major piece that is absolutely missing? [Talking] Right. Right. It really has nothing about being a disciple of Jesus in there at all. What you do after it’s really; let’s get the transaction done so my eternal destiny in Heaven gets changed. It has nothing to do with my present life. Nothing! Now, back to Josh because this is a perversion of that obviously so I thought your question was really good though, Josh because we are not saying that God can’t use any of these. In fact, many of us in this room are a product of number 1, right? But the testimony is not that that Gospel was so great and right: the testimony is that God can take even that misguided message of the Gospel and still, by the spirit of God, take us down the road in a beautiful way but does that mean that we continue to pervade that Gospel? Well, you know, at my school down the road, many of the denominations and traditions that I have that come to be trained to be pastors are totally number 1. I mean, that’s where they live and for them to have to make some shifts in some of this, they will say, “Well, what do I do; I still do an alter call.” I say, “Hey, I’m not saying to abandon your altar call.” You just have to, in some ways, give some further augmentation. I’ll say this is the one thing I would ask you to do if you want to use an altar call. That can be a helpful entrance in but here is where you are going to be “dead in the water.” When your altar call becomes a finish line and not a starting line. You know what I mean? When the transactional sinner’s prayer become a “done deal” and not a step into discipleship and those things. I guess what I am saying is that these are not—I am with you. There is truth in them but we have done some things with them, if we don’t use them rightly, we actually make it really hard to come back later and say, “Let’s become a disciple of Jesus.” [13:44]
We are, kind of, dabbling at the center of the bull’s eye for people’s faith here. This is very precious to many people. These methodologies—they are deep, deep and strong and you know, so I guess we have to really work through what are people responding to but the bottom line is none of these in their purest form makes a disciple. That’s what we are trying to get at. [14:13]
Dallas: Are you willing to make a statement that you could accept any one of those and still not be saved? You know of anyone who has accepted number 1 and isn’t saved? By saying that, I am putting intentional pressure on the word, “saved, “ okay. So, we have to come back to that but I am afraid there are a lot of people who have accepted number one that are going to be surprised where they wind up. See, that’s scary but you see, that gets into deeper issues. We have to talk about the difference between believing and professing to believe because what happens with number 1 is, many people are taught to profess to believe something they don’t actually believe. Here is one of the verses in the Bible I am sure glad I didn’t write. OK? Listen to this. “The one who says I have come to know Him and does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him.” That’s 1 John 2:4. Now, what are you going to do with that? Well, first if you are an Armenian, solid, you can live with it because you are kind of in and out anyway probably. And I’m not scorning that, by the way, please. But, see that’s the question you want to ask of each of these. You want to say, “I believe you can come to God from any one of those three.” I think you can but see, I don’t believe you have to be right in order to be saved. And that’s where—see our culture has this atmosphere of contempt that you are identifying. See, that comes out of a past that has identified being right with being saved. [16:18] And that’s why you can just feel the anger and the contempt between these is because they think you couldn’t possibly be right and so you couldn’t possibly be saved. [16:32]
Keith: But, what we want to get over to you is that at some point, the good news is the present availability of the Kingdom of God found through becoming a disciple of Jesus….not just in our context, either becoming a Christian, a member, all those kinds of things which we really haven’t clarified well, so. All right; very good. Back to you, Dallas. [17:02]
Dallas: OK. This is a wonderful discussion now and I do want everyone to understand that I do not want to say this is all wrong and I am not trying to be clever and find objections to things. The center of my hope is that we can come to understand a message that allows us to become disciples. Now, you have these other questions that always come up in these discussions—can you be saved and not a disciple? Right? So, that word, “saved” floats around and it really does touch on “what are we offering people?” Are we selling salvation? In what sense, salvation and so on. So, I do want to just emphasize that people come to God in all kinds of ways—all kinds of ways and that’s because it’s God who is operating the fishing line and He knows how to bring people in and He knows what’s in people’s hearts. [18:18] It’s very important to understand that and when you do then things like, “why did Jesus speak in parables?” You look at His explanation in Matthew 13 and you are apt to think, “What?” because He seems to be saying that He speaks in parables so that people can hear and not be converted. What kind of a deal is that? You say, “Well, He doesn’t want anyone to be converted who doesn’t want to be converted.” I mean, if the problem was conversion, He could snap His cosmic finger and everyone would be converted. Right? So, that’s where our understanding needs to grow a bit as to how this all works.
Now, the old church thought that they had the stuff that would save you and you accessed that stuff through participating in the sacraments and that has turned out to have many, many wonderful benefits. For example, in the rise of modern thought in Europe, one of the patterns was the church said, “Look, you can doubt anything as long as you come to Mass and as long as you receive the Sacraments. You can have any kind of doubt you want.” And that enabled it to negotiate a passage through a very difficult time. I’m not trying to say this was good or right but you have to recognize that that’s how they worked it. Now, then, when you come to the reformation and it’s out-workings; that’s no longer the official deal. The official deal there is you have to have the right beliefs. [20:02] The problem as it works out historically in northern Europe and in the Americas, North America is different and that’s a part of where we now have over 40,000 Christian denominations—over 40,000 and you know what, all of them are right.
Why should you become a Four Square Gospel? I’m trying to pick one I don’t think anyone is here. Well, because they are right. Isn’t that so? Why should you belong to that particular church? Well, they are right. Would you attend a church that wasn’t right, for goodness sakes? And, of course, that sets dreadful consequences. It’s like a man who says, “The reason I married my wife is because she is the most beautiful woman in the world.” Well, pity for her and him. The consequences of that sort of thing are deadly; just deadly but that’s what we are locked into now.
So, what I am hoping for—Keith and me are going to work through stuff here—is that you are going to find your way into a good news that you can communicate to people and we are going to talk about that. This stuff isn’t any good if you can’t preach it but how do you preach the fourth gospel? How do you do that? We have to work through that because it all comes out one on one with an individual and they are disciples and they are making disciples. The gentle art of disciple making is what we have to talk about now before we are out of here because that’s what we are about. We are in a situation where we can’t pre-suppose that people even understand what that means but they are there and we are there to serve them, to love them, to help them and one of the things we can do is to be with them and teach them in such a way that at some point, they either say, “You know, I want to become a disciple of Jesus” or maybe it slips up on them and they look back one day and they say, You know, I’ve actually become a disciple of Jesus.” There is nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to know when you were born to know that you were born. This is something and of course, if we do this it’s only going to be because we are walking gently with Christ and His spirit and His word. See, we don’t want that to dissipate now to where we don’t know what to do. We can lead people into discipleship and the only reason I have for discussing these and see, these are rich traditions within the Christian movement. [23:37] They are and again, all you have to do is just look at the facts and you will see it.
“I love Thy Church, Oh Lord. The place of Thy abode”—you see, you just jump on that like a hawk on a bug and tear it to pieces. Yeah, but wait a moment, what has actually happened there? OK; you couldn’t recommend it. I couldn’t, actually but I what to be able to do justice to what it is and what it does and a really major point there is to believe that you don’t have to be right to be saved—whatever you mean by being saved. Now, if you are wrong enough, it will block you but the other side of that is if you can’t be right enough that it automatically happens and we are heirs of a tradition, reformation tradition basically, and has some subheadings under there, like revivalism and so on—we are heirs of a tradition that we have to come to grips with now because we are alive now. We don’t want to lose sight of the marvelous history of the church of the people of Christ and what It has been and what it has done and what it is doing now, see? We are part of that. That’s incredible power of God in human history. [25:06]
So, now, this thing that Keith has given us is wonderful and in your notebook on page 21, I have a little artifact that I have picked up in a Lifeway store. Do you know what that is? Actually, it looks like just one side; this is two sides of a little laminated card and I have written at the top the default gospel on the right. Now, this is illustrated beautifully by what Keith has given. So, I won’t need to spend a lot of time on that; just look at it and say, “How does this set up the issues? How does this set up the issues?” And, of course, as you expect, I mean, this first line, “If you were to die, would you go to Heaven?” Now, that’s a really heavy question and there are a lot of people that are concerned about that and they don’t know what to do about it and we need to be able to help them but we need to stay out of an answer to the question that will, as Keith so well put it, an answer that makes that the finish line and not the starting line. Of course, in the grace of God, it’s never the starting line anyway—it’s taken as the finish line by people, and it does finish something. There is a real transition; no question about it but our issue in ministry and spirituality is what’s the larger picture? What is it a part of? [27:02]
So, then, you have a set of sub-questions and you can look at how they are handled there. I don’t sense Keith has given us this other presentation. I don’t think we need to go over that but if you look over it and you want to discuss it later, then you can certainly come back to it and that’s true of anything we are talking about, by the way. Sometimes, we say stuff that you need to sit on for 3 or 4 days before you come back with a comment or a question and that’s always open, so please understand that. [27:51]
Right now, let’s go to the bottom of page 20 and finish up with that number 4. So, what’s the good news? The good news is that Jesus is available. Now, you don’t need to start there because how you start depends on the context and if you look at the sermons that show up in the book of Acts; at Lystra, at Athens and so on, you will see interestingly different starting points and when Paul is preaching in a synagogue, he doesn’t start in the same place where he starts if he is speaking in an Anagora in one of the Greek cities. So, you have to think about where you start but you need to lead around to Jesus. Now, I would encourage you not to start with Jesus, the sacrifice unless you’ve already got someone whose just seen The Passion and they want to talk about it. Well, then you talk about it and that’s good so you have to pay attention to individuals, but basically, you want to bring people around to Jesus and get them to looking at Him and thinking about Him. For example, I will often say to a person, “Do you know anything about Jesus?” And very often, they don’t know anything about anything that was really deeply involving the larger picture of the Kingdom of God and so on. I think that one of the first things that we might do is to help people know something about Jesus. Now, interestingly enough, that’s often very important for our church folks and I think that the primary feel for discipleship evangelism is in our churches. [30:02] We’ve got a lot of people who are discouraged and disheartened and they are hanging on and a lot of them have already bailed out, given up because they’ve listened for a long time and not heard anything that they could tie onto so we, I think, should make sure that our people in our churches know something about Jesus. The more they know, the better but in any case, that’s, I believe, the way that we primarily bare witness. Now, of course, that’s the larger picture so when you come to the end of the gospel of Luke and you are told to “stay in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” and Luke continues in Acts, chapter 1 and talks about you being “my witnesses.” “After the spirit has come upon you, you are going to be my witnesses—world wide.” Right? So, we witness to him and being a pastor or a teacher, you will be given an incredible amount of wisdom as to how to do that but you have to understand that’s what you are doing. As you do that, you are going to watch people then say, “What am I going to do about this and how can I know Him?” and then you help them understand what a disciple is and let them move with that. You encourage them to believe that they can be His disciples and that this is something that will move out into their whole life and occasionally, we want to ask them questions or lead them in such a way that they could actually make a decision to be a disciple. Now, I really l think that that isn’t the only way to become a disciple but probably it’s one of the better ways and we need to think about that when we look at what Jesus said when he said, “As you go, make disciples.” That’s something we do. What is it? [32:35]
Q: Do you encourage baptism as a public outward expression of beginning a spiritual life?
Well, baptism would be something that comes down the line a little way. I don’t think that the decision to be a disciple is the same as the decision to be baptized. I would think that Ideally it would express a decision and given an appropriate context would be quite meaningful. Now, I actually think that when we baptize someone, we should intend at least that they be baptized in the Holy Spirit but I don’t think you have to be baptized in order to become a disciple. Then the meaning of it will vary depending on the teaching you have about it. If you think that the water actually washes away your sins, well, you know, I would want to talk with the person about that at some length. I don’t think that that’s the function of the water in baptism so you are not going to find this a very satisfactory response, I’m afraid but I think you just have to look into what baptism means for the individual and you have to recognize that you can have baptism and nothing happens except somebody got wet but if you decide to become a disciple, I will suggest to you that you are deciding to learn from Jesus. You are His disciple—how to live in the Kingdom of God as He would live your life in the Kingdom of God if He were you. [34:08] That’s what you are learning. You are learning how to live in the Kingdom of God as a disciple. That’s a status. The process that then begins is spiritual formation as we call it now. Other ways of talking about say its growth in grace. Grace takes more and more of your life or the spirit occupies more and more of your life. So, becoming a disciple is to assume a status and you need to help people understand what that is. They don’t understand it. Especially in the current context where there is a lot of confusion about what is the difference between becoming a Christian and becoming a disciple.
Now, you are going to have to work on that because a lot of the folks that you are going to have to help to become disciples are already Christians. [35:00] When they begin to put that together, they are probably going to be confused about what is going on. If you were going to make a disciple, what would you be trying to do? Could someone tell whether or not they were a disciple of Jesus in His day? What was being a disciple in that day? Now, the thing is, being a disciple isn’t an advanced spiritual condition. You can be a disciple and be as “green as a gourd” spiritually. Now, try this on, okay and as I’ve said, you don’t have to believe anything I say to you, OK? Disciple is a status. Other translations will help you—student is a perfectly legitimate translation of the word we translate as student—that’s what a disciple was. These guys were students, and gals, were students of Jesus. Now, when you become a student of Algebra, you may not know “A square” from “B plus” but you are a student. How did you get to be a student? You signed up. [36:20] You signed up. Now, you walk up to someone on the street and say, “Hey, I am going to teach you Algebra.” What would be the response? “Well, I’m not your student,” right? Now, if you are going to a school and you come into a room and you’ve paid some money and signed some papers and I walk into the room and say, “Now I’m going to teach you Algebra”—different response! Now, something has to happen before you sign up with Jesus, right? But then you have to consider what are you signing up for? And to be a disciple of Jesus is to sign up as a student or I like the word, apprentice because of its applied sense and then you watch what Jesus actually did with the people who were His disciples and how He said things like, “You know, if you don’t abandon everything you’ve got, including your own life, you can’t be my disciple.” What’s He saying? So, you have to do the textual work around disciple in the New Testament and then you realize you are a very ignorant disciple and you can be asking all the dumb questions that they asked including right up to the last—“Lord, at this time, are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” Well, He had heard that so many times and He understood that that was just a dumb thing they had in their head and He couldn’t do anything about it beyond but to say, “Well, you know, it’s not for you to know—none of your business.” And then He got on to what was their business, right? [38:38]
As I said yesterday, power without position; they didn’t know what that was. See, that’s what they had to learn. And they did learn—slowly, but they got it and you know, we are still working on that, folks. The meaning of history is not something that you can just wave your hand at it. We are still working on it. So many of the issues, we are still working on those. Those are Kingdom issues. You know that person—we hear so much of this I hate to even say it—but these discrimination issues are neighbor issues. They are not discrimination issues; they are neighbor issues. If you owe something to a person, it’s not because they have a certain gender or a certain color, it’s because they are your neighbor and if you love your neighbor as yourself, that’s going to take care of all of the issues. Eventually, you will have to work it out because for example, in the south, 75 years ago, many people treated those of a different color, white or black, as their neighbor and loved them. In the meantime, like my Aunt Jessie, when she heard that you could actually transfer blood from a black person to a white person, she just dissolved but I had seen her deal with black persons. That doesn’t make it right. See, discipleship has a multi-generational meaning as well as within the individual so you can have someone singing, “Deutch land abralis” and they are warmhearted Christians by that understanding but they’ve got a lot to learn as a disciple, haven’t they? These are excellent things we have to come to grips with and we have to have an understanding of who a disciple is if we are going to make a disciple. Is that right? [41:04] I mean, it could happen—the Lord could make it happen and so on but we have the command—make disciples; that’s something for us to do. I am really hoping that as we go out of here if you don’t already know how to deal with that and you have a satisfactory way that you will have a satisfactory way of doing that and you can set out to make disciples—very consciously. That’s what I am hoping. [41:36]
Jesus comes along and there is no doubt that they knew Jesus before that. Those communities—everyone knew everyone and He says, “Now, fellas, follow me!” They knew what that meant—the structure of Rabbi and Disciple was a familiar structure and so, they go. He said, “I will make you fishers of men.” Fishing is probably one of the best metaphors for making disciples you can find because fish really are pretty smart and they have a way and so, it’s illustrative. They understood or later when a couple of them, John the Baptist says, “That’s the one.” And they say, “OK” and so they follow Him around a bit and He notices them and says, “What do you guys want to know?” They give one of those classic dumb answers, “Where do you live?” Gee, they had been sitting up the night before arguing about where He lived. No, I mean, well, Jesus says, “Come and see.” OK. And they do and they become disciples. It is helpful to look at what that meant in the original context and to realize it was an institutional reality; it was not like saying to someone today, “Follow me.” If you would say that to someone today; well, I don’t know what it would mean to them—probably not a lot. [43:26]
So, we want to work on that and our present project is to try to clear this up a bit. Right? And to say, now if you go at this in some ways, it just doesn’t follow that you are going to make disciples. You could! [43:47] It has happened. But see, one of the things you have to get used to in following Christ is the mere fact that “God blesses something” doesn’t mean it’s what He had in mind—the real substance here is that we are counting on the blessing. We count on God moving in their lives so we are now out of a position of having to manipulate them. Now, we pay attention to them and we respond to questions and comments and problems. We pray with them. We associate with them which is one of the things that was a large part of Jesus’ ministry and He got a lot of criticism was because He associated with people, and the Pharisees didn’t think He should be associating and so, the picture in the Gospel is, He’s here having a nice time with a bunch of republicans and sinners and the Pharisees are over here grumbling. Grumbling shows up a lot and it’s usually the Pharisee that is grumbling. Jesus wasn’t grumbling. Actually, it’s hard to find a place where He grumbled. Now, I don’t think you can reduce this to a formula but we ought to have in our minds, “What is a disciple?” and some idea of how we are working with God to help people become disciples and we can do that. I do think one of the most beautiful places is where we are helping children become disciples. It makes a lot of sense to them and they can easily move into it. [46:03]
Well, on page 26, I have a diagram that I try to use to help clarify the contrast between conservative sin management gospels and of course those gospels are less about sin itself than about guilt. Then, the gospels of the left tend to be about sin itself but not sin any particular person commits, it’s usually a corporate sort of thing and things that need to be changed. I have here conservative sin management gospel—Faith—halfway down on the left hand side—Faith believing the right things about Jesus. That is identified with faith and that secures Heaven after death. The way I present it here and it always needs qualification is, there is no real connection with discipleship—special religious efforts; they are nice but not necessary. We are glad to see someone do something special but it’s not expected. Then, down on the right hand side—Ordinary life—work, play, family, community—one is supposed to be Christ-like or at least to do right, but again, it’s not necessary and for many people, they think it is not possible. We have a whole segment now of the conservative church that thinks brokenness is the ultimate position in the spiritual life. We are going to talk about that later but in any case, there is no natural bridge from faith to obedience and abundance—no natural connection. Some people make it but very few actually and into that can step prosperity gospels but they don’t do a big deal usually about obedience; it’s about abundance and I think that we need to associate those and not really think about one without the other.
Another thing we will look at is how obedience does have a natural connection with abundance. They are not the same but the obedient Christian usually is well provided for and that’s what Jesus said. So, we don’t need to be anxious about provisions but we may not be driving a Peugeot or an Audi or something of that sort; well, do we really need that? If we really need to be driving a Peugeot or a Mercedes or whatever, then we have a spiritual problem that we need to deal with. On the other hand, if we don’t have a spiritual problem, it’s perfectly all right to drive a Peugeot as long as you don’t think that’s blessedness. If you think that’s blessedness, then you’ve got a problem. [49:44]
Now, then the bottom here I put, Jesus’ Gospel of Kingdom Lie from above, now—Faith here is confidence in Jesus and His present Kingdom. That’s otherwise known as “trust.” Trust! Then I see my whole life as the place of redemption. It is the place of interactive relationship with God and we are going to say a lot about that next week because I will want to be hammering on you about where is discipleship and the main place where discipleship is exercised is work—not at church. [50:23] I hope the people at church will exercise discipleship but I shall be saying to you that the church is for discipleship and discipleship is for the world because that is where God is and then discipleship—learning from Him how to lead my life as He would lead it if He were I. So, that’s a different picture then of the gospel, number 4 from gospel, number 1. And, what I am saying here is the gospels of the right and of the Left deal with personal sins, usually guilt but also sin; the older people understood that. The old hymn, Rock of Ages, “Be of sin the double cure.” What is the double cure? “Save from wrath and make me pure”—that’s the understanding that people who wrote old praise songs included.
So, obsession with these personal sins and structural evils does not lead to personal transformation. Now, that’s a statement and you can reject it. Do whatever you want to with it. I think it’s true. It is not a basis for apprenticeship to Jesus. What is the positive direction and intention that would also deal with them? Well, that’s where we have to have a different understanding of grace. Now I want to put this before you. Grace is God acting in our lives to accomplish what we are incapable of on our own. That’s what grace is. There is no necessary connection to sin. Grace is tied to life. Because it’s tied to life, it has to deal with sin. But grace is what we are meant to live on and I think this is what you would get if you did inductive Bible study of the term grace. Some of the last students in this group have done that and turned out documents where they list all the occurrences of grace in the Old Testament and New Testament. If we had never sinned, we would still need grace because grace is about life. If Adam and Eve were actually going to take charge of the fish and the creeping things, they would need a lot of help and they were meant to live by the grace of God pre-fall or pre-jump. Grace is what we are meant to live by. We have a system that won’t work without it–simply won’t work without it. The human mind is a system that will not work right unless it is inhabited and pervaded by the truth about God, which is revealed in scripture. This truth and the corresponding reality has to be held there by grace and by choice. They go together. They don’t exclude one another. Peace, joy and then love are the automatic progression of the individual soul.
So, I give you a couple of verses here that I have already cited—one of them at least—“The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17) That’s the Kingdom of God. And then, I love Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Those are natural conditions of the one who is living in harmony—their whole system—with the Kingdom of God and that is why the mind of the spirit is peace, life and peace because it’s looking to the Kingdom of God and God the King as what guides it and gives it strength and of course, the scripture and hopefully, the teaching of the people of Christ are in the middle of that. [55:03]
So, on your note page there 22, the difference between trusting Christ and trusting His death for your sins. This is something I know that you want to work on and you want to say “Is it really true that those are not the same thing and so forth?” and you need to do that. To trust Christ is to believe that He is right about everything, that He is completely reliable and in charge. So, when He says, “I’ve been given say over everything?” That’s His resources and when He says, “I am with you every moment until the deal is done.” Well, that’s where His resources come to bear. So, He is the only proper center for human life and history. So, when you go to witness to someone, you might say, “You know, aren’t you worried about missing out on the most important thing that is happening in your world?” Now, sometimes you might want to say, “If you die tonight, what’s going to happen to you?” But you can try, “If you don’t die tonight, what’s going to happen to you?” [56:19] Try that one. What’s going to happen to you? You are going to miss out on the most important thing that’s happening in your life. What’s that? That’s what Jesus Christ is doing in this world now and you are out there trying to make your little—strutting around—trying to make your little Kingdom the ultimate point of reference. You probably don’t want to put it just like that but maybe it will come to them. Try it out! I think it is very good at starting the conversation, “What’s going to happen to you if you don’t die tonight?” The good news is that He invites us to trust Him and to go into business totally with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, on a whole-life basis. Renewing and fulfilling the creation covenant of Genesis 1 through the birth ‘from above.’ This is the life of Grace.” What do you think? [57:13] Is that good news? I’ll tell you; I’ve never heard anything that comes close.
Now, then, you escape this idea that there is such a thing as “part-time Christian service” and I refer you here to William Law. I hope you have had a chance to read him and of course, The Imitation of Christ and Brother Lawrence. What do they have in common? They all insist—like Law starts out, “Give me a reason why you should be pious when you pray?”
Right? “And I’ll give you a reason why you should be pious to everything you do.” The idea of suddenly when you go to pray, you shift into gear now and you are going to be pious is stupid and Law is a wonderful writer who help us begin to see all of this and of course, Thomas A Kempis, the same way, you know? That first section in Kempis and later on, he talks about—he starts that book out, it hit me like a blow in the forehead. I picked that book up in a used bookshop in Chattanooga and read the first line, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Wow! And then old Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God, and he didn’t originate that. Actually, it came out of one of the other books that I think that is on your list by Francis Desalles, Introduction to the Devout Life. He is the one that picked it up and Jeremy Taylor got it after he did and then Brother Lawrence but actually, it’s the history of the church. [59:03]
Now, that’s where we need to go back to the gospel and the world of the spirit. ‘He that abideth in the secret place of the Most High shall dwell in the shadow of the Almighty.” Where is the secret place of the most high? It’s wherever you are. That’s wherever you are because the connection you have and that you stand in is secret. No one can see it. They can see the outcome. Jesus picks that same theme up of course in Matthew 6. “When you pray, enter into your closet.” Now, I’ve known people who actually used a closet that way but it doesn’t exactly mean that but if that do then probably. The point is you know, He goes on to say, “God who is in secret.” I love that passage because God who is in secret. What does that mean? Is in secret? It means you don’t see Him but He is there. If you want Him to be there, He will be there for you. You don’t want Him, okay; He will let you have your way but if you want to, you can deal with God who is in secret and the results will be something so obvious that everyone has to see it. God who is in secret will reward thee openly. I guarantee you, that’s what will happen.
Acts 10: 40&41 is a fascinating passage no how Jesus dealt with His people after His resurrection. Now, again, you’ve got to deal with the question, “Why was that?” Acts 10:40: “God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people.” Why not to all the people? If I had been in His place, I would have loitered around Pilate’s house and said, “Let’s have that talk about truth again.” Or the Chief Priest, He didn’t do that. That’s the sort of thing that we need to think about in order to penetrate into His strategy of dealing with people and with human history. “Not to all people but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.” You now, some of those guys and gals must have said to Him at some point, “Listen, why don’t you show up?” Well, actually, He wasn’t showing up to them all the time; it was relatively rarely that He showed up to them in visible form. He was communicating with them through the Holy Spirit as Acts 1 says and that’s a part of the transition that He is making. He wants a people with whom He can communicate with without being visible. “Blessed are they who believe and have not seen.” Have you preached on, “What is that blessing?” Don’t you think that would be a good text? What is the blessing of believing without seeing?—well, not particularly the passage there with Thomas doesn’t say that they are more blessed than the people who have seen. It just says, “You are blessed if you can believe without seeing.” It doesn’t rule anything else out but you see, I mean you have to imagine what your life would be like if you were seeing Jesus all the time. Think about that and probably there wouldn’t be much left for you—but you are the one that is on the spot. Jesus isn’t on the spot. So, it was important for Him to arrange for that.
OK; we are out of time and we will just have to pick up there and go on the best we can, so keep your comments and your questions and really, the hard issues are the ones that are best so please don’t pull any punches and don’t feel sorry for me.