How to Become a Disciple

Dallas Willard Part 8 of 9

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

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Dallas: This morning I wanted to introduce my wife because I think you have a right to know who sort of holds me up. Jane, would you stand up, please. This is Jane Lace Willard. She and I have been warmly engaged in a discussion this morning about one sentence that is on that sheet that was handed out. We almost had a wreck once or twice. And I’ll leave it to delivery about which one it might be. But we have a wonderful time in the Lord together and she’s just a wonderful lady and I’m so thankful to the Lord for her and to her: for her, because when you get this old, you’re pretty well responsible for a lot of it yourself and she’s done a real good job. [2:05[1]]

This morning we have to begin by finishing up what we didn’t finish up last time. And if you will remember the topic of the last lesson was The Power of the Word of the Kingdom—The Power of the Word of the Kingdom We were talking about prayer and saying under Kingdom authority. We are going to have to spend some time on that this morning. It’s such an important topic. [2:37]

And I want to read some verses to you that are sort of like little Gospel grenades, the kind of verses that you lob out into the congregation. Everyone runs for cover and jumps under the seats and says, “Ah, what are we going to do about that one?”

Let’s begin at Matthew 17. I am just going to read a few of these passages and comment on them briefly. [3:01]

Matthew 17 contains the story of the disciples trying to deal with a young man who had been brought by his father because he was unbalanced or suffered from attacks of some kind. His disciples had been engaged in what we might today call a deliverance ministry. It wasn’t as if this was the first time they had been hit with such a thing. No doubt, they thought they knew what they were doing.

But this one was one that they could not deal with. This touching verse, Matthew 17:16, must have gripped the heart of every person who was a member of Jesus’ group. “I brought him to your disciples, and they could not cure him. And Jesus answered and said, . . .” Could Jesus say such a thing as this? “O faithless and perverse generations, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?” (Matthew 17:16–17, KJV) That sounds mean, doesn’t it? Little Jesus, meek and mild, sort of cut out at that point.. [4:40]

“Bring him to me. And Jesus rebuked, he spoke to the devil and the devil departed out of him and the child was cured from that very hour and then came the disciples to Jesus, and they took Him aside.” (Matthew 17:17–19, Paraphrased[2])

They didn’t want to discuss this in public because He had just really skinned skinned them—He had really come down on them. [5:11]

Now, you have to understand the structure of Jesus’ group. Jesus was running an important mission. He had His staff, and they were organized. You mustn’t think that Jesus was sort of like someone living under a bridge, kind of drifting around. If you think that, you get the wrong impression all together of what He was doing. It may mislead you in what you ought to be doing, because I know many people who think that if they were really religious, they would be living under a bridge somewhere.

So, Jesus had a mission to do. He had chosen His staff. He was going about it in an orderly fashion. They raised funds. How do you know they raised funds? Because they had funds. Funds don’t grow on trees. They didn’t pick the funds; they raised them. They had supporters.

They had a guy in charge of the money who was an embezzler. And they still had enough. And you know embezzlers don’t fool around if there is nothing in the kitty. Embezzlers hang around where there’s plenty to embezzle, right? There was so much to embezzle that he could get by with embezzling. You have to think about that. Jesus is not a sort of homeless drifter that lives out of the garbage can. And He wouldn’t have been any better if He had of been. [5:50]

Jesus was running a project, and He cooked these guys real good because, plainly, they were supposed to be able to do this. So they said, “Why couldn’t we?” (Matthew 17:19) Now, look at the answer—because they obviously were mystified. They had been doing it, and now here’s one and they just couldn’t do it.

“And Jesus said, ye could not do this because of your unbelief: because you had no faith.” You lacked belief.”

There was something about this situation, which defeated their faith.

“For verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall be removed; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Nonetheless, for this kind, you have to use prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:20–21) [7:54]

Did Jesus pray and fast at this point? Did you see Him praying and fasting? Why do you suppose He didn’t need to?

Comment: He was up on it!

Dallas: He was up on it, right? He was up on it. He didn’t need to “get up to speed.” You know, if you are a big old Mack truck, you don’t have to take a run at the mountain. You just put her down in gear and give it the gas and you go over it. If your little “boat” is throttling and you are pulling a big trailer and you’ve got a big mountain, you’ve better be coming off of a big mountain and keep your speed up! Keep your speed up! And then maybe you will just sort of chug over the top and that’s it, you see? Jesus was in a different place. [8:46]

Now, notice also that He clearly implies that praying and fasting has something to do with your faith. Where do you get faith? By trying to have faith? No! Never try to have faith. Do the things, which will give you faith from God—obvious faith. These people did not have faith.

I don’t know what it was. Did the devil yell at them real mean or something and scare them? I don’t know! But for some reason, when they walked into that situation, they couldn’t believe. And because they couldn’t believe, they couldn’t contact the power of God and speak with authority to move what needed to be moved. [9:35]

This passage is very important for you to look at the details. I’ve gone over just a few of them. Believe Jesus’ explanation in terms of unbelief. Don’t feel guilty. You know, another thing that doesn’t help you have faith is feeling guilty because you don’t believe. That won’t help you at all. In fact, that will just punch you down further. “You worm, you should have believed. What kind of a person are you?” Well, the only answer to that is, I ain’t much. Any honest person who answers that question about this—well, just me—I’m not going to do much. Of course, everyone living in the Kingdom of Heaven, as we’ve already seen, is greater than John the Baptist.

So, in connection with the Kingdom, that’s one thing, but if it ever gets you isolated from the Kingdom and someone says to you, you know, “What are you?” The end of that story in Acts 19, where the seven sons of Sceva heard Paul going around using the name of Jesus to cast out demons. They were in that business. They were exorcists—or they thought they were—and they found this fellow who had a demon. They said in Acts 19:13, “We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches” And the evil sprit said, Jesus I know and Paul I know; but who are you?” (Acts 19:15) Who are you? [11:23]

It is in prayer and fasting and other things of that sort. We are going to be talking more about this, next time we come, to clarity about who we are in the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s where we and on the basis of that, we have faith and authority.

I want to give you some other verses just to go with this. I can’t spend as much time on them but you’ve all got your flack jackets on now so I can read these with abandon. [11:48]

Listen to Matthew 21:21.

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, if ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if you say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, [all things!] whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believing you shall receive.” (Matthew 21:21–22, KJV)

Note the continuity now because this is the other thing that we have to be real clear on: between praying and saying. Jesus starts out talking about saying and He winds up talking about praying. [12:29]

Skip on with me to Mark 11. This is the same scene, the same wording. Note, Peter has observed this bit of gardening that we were talking about last time that Jesus had done. He gardened with His word. He didn’t need a chainsaw or a pick axe, and Peter is mightily impressed.

And verse 22 of Mark 11,

Jesus answered and said unto him, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, that whosever shall say [underline say] unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” (Mark 11:22–24, KJV) [13:29]

Then Jesus goes on to give a teaching about forgiveness, which is always essential, because you cannot stand in the authority of the Kingdom with unforgiveness in your heart; because all unforgiveness is ultimately unforgiveness against God Himself: “Why did You let this happen to me?”

Luke 17:3, “Take heed of yourselves”—same context, forgiveness, except now the teaching about forgiveness comes first.

“Take heed of yourselves, if your brother trespass against you, rebuke him and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to you saying’ I repent—saying I’m sorry—you shall forgive him. And the apostles said, Oh Lord, increase our faith.” (Luke 17:3–5) [14:25]

Now, actually, they were right on because only if you have faith can you forgive. Faith and forgiveness always go together. The essence of forgiveness is, “I am not going to punish you anymore. I’m not going to make you suffer because of what you did to me.”

It is not, by the way, to forget. That saying, “forgive and forget” is pure poison—psychologically and spiritually—you don’t have to forget in order to forgive. The person who comes and says, “Well if you haven’t forgotten it, you haven’t forgiven me.” They are just trying to do a number of your brain. They don’t want to be reminded. They don’t want you to even think of what you did to them because they feel guilty. They would also like for you to forget, possibly, so that the next time they come around, you won’t remember what they’ve done before. That’s not part of forgiveness. Forgiveness simply says, “I will not make you suffer. I will not punish you for what you’ve done.” It does not say, “I will forget.” On the other side, people have trouble with forgetting. So, you may want to say, “Lord, help me forget.” [15:42]

When you forgive, forgiveness is always an act of grace that is enabled by God. You should never hesitate to ask God to help you forgive. Also, the pain remains. Many times, you will have people who are suffering because of what’s done to them. They’re suffering is obvious, and of course, most of this goes on in families, doesn’t it?

So they don’t want to be reminded of their deed by the pain of the other person. They want you to stop suffering. Stop hurting, so they will come to you and lay that burden on you. Stop hurting! Don’t! Don’t worry about that. [16:22]

We live in America where it’s a sin to suffer. It’s a sin not to just be flowing with great bouts of pleasure and great joy all the time. That’s stupid! It’s okay to suffer. It’s okay to be in pain. It’s not the end of the world. You don’t even need to take an aspirin. It’s all right to suffer, and in fact, much of the suffering in America comes from the pain of not being able not to suffer. And the acceptance of suffering and pain, even if it’s dental work, will cut the quantity of it by a tremendous degree.

So, it’s very important now to understand this business about forgiveness. And forgiveness—if we forgive, it’s because God has given us the grace. Faith and forgiveness go together. If we want to deal with our suffering, ask God to help us with our suffering. I’m a great believer in being able to pray directly and immediately about pain and feelings, and asking God to lift them off of you. I know that it works. I’ve seen it help others. There are times when the elephant is standing on your foot, and all you need is God to help you get out from under that pain or confusion or resentment or all kinds of pain. So go to God and ask Him for help. [17:53]

But the main thing here is, you want to understand, you can’t deal in faith and unforgiveness at the same time. Only faith enables you to have forgiveness, and only as you experience forgiveness does your faith rise to what it should be. This gentleman over here has been wanting to say something.

Comment: [Indistinguishable in the beginning] Are we obligated to forgive people who do not repent?

Dallas: You can’t forgive people that don’t repent because you can’t impose forgiveness on anybody. What you can do is you can stop building your life around that incident. That’s a very important thing. Forgiveness is a transaction. So, we need to have actually a whole, another lesson on what to do in the case where the person says, “You know, I didn’t do anything. What’s the big deal?” So we really need to have a whole lesson on that, but that’s an excellent point and thank you for making it. [19:11]

And the Lord said, verse 6, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you might say unto this sycamine tree . . .”—it may be what? A mulberry tree or something like that—“just pluck yourself up and go plant yourself in the sea, and he’ll say, “Yes ma’am!” (Luke 17:6)

Comment: Indistinguishable

Dallas: Well, I was sort of . . . I was willing to revise King James Version. That’s Luke 17:6 and it will say, “Yes, ma’am.” [19:49]

Well, there are some other deep teachings in that passage that we can’t go into. Let me just give you two more quickly from the Gospel of John. John must have known more about prayer, I think, than any of them. Did you ever read John on prayer, and especially the little epistle of John on prayer?

Listen to what John says. This is quoting the words of Jesus—Jesus was getting ready to take His leave and He is giving them final teachings. Look at John 15:6—“If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me . . .” That is to say, if you really, by faith, receive your life from my hand, constantly resting in that; think about how a little branch abides in the vine. That little branch is just sitting there all the time just [Dallas makes a sucking noise] sucking that stuff out of the vine. That’s how a branch abides in the vine. And that’s what is available to us! That’s the Gospel. “Hey, think of that again,” Jesus said. The Kingdom of Heaven is now available to you. [21:14]

“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you . . .”—see, that’s the other side when you breathe in [Sucking noise from Dallas] the word of Jesus, the truth of Jesus, His teachings, His reality comes into you. “. . . ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:6–7, KJV)

In John 16:23–24, Jesus says, “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask me, ask the Father in my name.” (John 16: 23, KJV) Jesus came as mediator, didn’t He? And what that means is that He makes a connection to the Father. Up to this point, who did they ask when they wanted something? Jesus! You know, they’re in trouble; they say, “Jesus, wake up! Help us!” [22:15]

Now He says, “Ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily”—truly, truly—“I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 17:23–24, KJV)

That’s 23rd Psalm-like:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, leads me beside the still waters, restores my soul, leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I’ll fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff—symbols of His care and strength—they comfort me. Ye prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. (Psalm 23:1–5)

And I say, “Sit down and have a bite with me.” No, that’s not it! “Ye prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemy, and my stomach isn’t even upset because my enemy is standing.” [23:26]

You anoint my head with oil; my cup just runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23: 5–6)

That’s life in the Kingdom. [23:41]

Now, we’ve talked in this series about the kind of righteousness that is characteristic of those who have entered the Kingdom of Heaven. And we’ve talked about the kind of blessedness that they had and how it is available to people because we live in a universe that is cared for by the God of the sparrows.

And you know, that little bit of bagerole[3] catches so well with teaching. Said the sparrow to the robin, “Friend, I’d really like to know why these anxious human beings jump about in worry.” So, said the robin to the sparrow, “Friend, I think that it must be that they have no Heavenly Father such does care for you and me.” The God who knows all, who cares, who is able and now His eternal subsistent being, He invites us to share that life that He has. [24:53]

Wonderful verse in John 5—John 5:26, “For as the Father hath life in himself . . .” That’s eternal, self-subsistent Being—He has life in Himself. What does that mean? It means He doesn’t have to go some place else to get life. He’s got it in Himself. He doesn’t borrow from someone. That’s what it means to be God. It means, to have a Being which is so exhaustible in grace that you don’t need anything from anything else. [25:38]

Now, “ . . . as the Father has life in Him; so He has given to the Son to have life in Himself. (John 5:26, KJV) The ultimate generosity of God is seen in His readiness to give life in itself to another. The Trinity is a group of persons, each of whom enjoy life in itself and yet there is no conflict. There is no subordination in the Trinity. Now, you theological types perk up your ears. There is no subornation in the Trinity except by choice. Hmmmm? Except by choice.

The Father indeed is subject to the Son in that He gives to the Son the same privilege of existence that He has Himself. Did you know that’s what’s called generosity? And the Son, with that kind of being says—you know the great passage in Philippians 2 now—the Son says, “Well, I don’t have to hold on to this. You know, like we might say, ‘Boy if I ever hit the lottery, I am going to hold onto it.’ ” [Claps his hands] But He didn’t think it was robbery to be equal with God. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. He didn’t think—when a robber robs something, He holds on to it, doesn’t He? (See Philippians 2:6–7.) [27:21]

When Jesus was given self-subsistent being, what did He do? He turned right around and gave it back up. He emptied Himself and became like a servant in the form of man and poured out Himself. Listen, you want to know about faith and love? Oh, God make us see it! This is it! To every person who steps into Jesus’ hands under the Kingdom of Heaven, He promises that same faith and love. And when people walk into it, they know the authority of the Kingdom because when He gives His right—His ecclesia—and His power—His dunamis—He is doing the same thing that God did and continually does in that blessed society which is called the Trinity, which sets the standard for what it is to be the person for all of eternity. [28:34]

Now, when you come into the Kingdom, we come into it with a lot of things going in other directions. So when we began to see and hear the word of the Kingdom coming to us and say, “You know, you can be generous to people. Someone makes you go a mile with them, you can go two miles with them. Someone curses you? You don’t have to curse back; you can bless them. Someone does evil to you? You can do good to them.”

Once you understand the message of the Gospel, you no longer immediately respond—it may take you three seconds—but you no longer immediately respond by saying, “What’s going to happen to me? Because you know what’s going to happen to you. God is going to take care of you! And you will gradually learn how to make the choice of trusting Him. And the lag time between saying, “Who’s going to take care of me,” [and trusting Him] will maybe get up to five minutes before too long, till we grow and we grow. Then pretty soon, you get to where you don’t live with that concern at all. We are moved by learning, and then, as far as exercising the power of the Kingdom, you will learn how to do that. [30:13]

Romans 12:3—we enjoy the first and second verses so much that we sometimes don’t get down to the rest of it here, but here’s what will happen. Romans 12 starts out with the wonderful statement, “I beg you brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice.” The effect that that will be—and we are going to talk about this more next time because we need to ask ourselves the question—how do you present your body a living sacrifice?”

The effect of that will be verse 2. If you do that you will not be conformed to the world because you’ll be transformed through the renewal of your mind. You have this little mind and it’s in a process of renewal. The first step in the process of renewal is when you hear the message, think again, because the Kingdom of Heaven is now taking applicants. And you say, “Well, what’s that?” You start thinking about that. You look at people and you hear the Word and you study the Scripture and people show you. Then you say, ”Maybe I would like to join up with that. Maybe I would like to get into that.” That’s the beginning. But it’s only the beginning. You start there and then the work continues. [31:29]

So your mind is renewed. That means, you don’t think the same way any more. Your mind has a picture that is used, “the washing of the word (Ephesians 5:26)—it’s like you throw your mind into the washing machine of the Bible and of God’s constant walking with you. It washes the crud out of your mind and puts new stuff in. So your mind is renewed in a process of submitting your bodies to God in ways that are appropriate, and we will talk about some of those next time.

Romans 12:3 (KJV)—“For I say, through the grace given unto me . . .” Now, Paul had been given something. He called it the grace. It’s charistas; as in charismata or charis—grace. “. . . to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think . . .”—see, that’s a temptation, constant temptation to exalt oneself and to take a false position—“. . . but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” [32:42]

You will be given a measure of faith. You will be given a job to do in the Kingdom of Heaven and it isn’t all preaching. There are many, many ministries in the Kingdom of Heaven. And basically, the ministry of the Kingdom of Heaven comes when we work for the glory of God at anything in the power of God, whether it’s running a bank, or school or a business—being a policemen or a truck driver or a greengrocer or anything you want to do. God has put you in your place to fulfill the charge in Genesis 1 to have dominion over the earth.

Now, you’re not going to be the one that has dominion by yourself. That’s the problem there. We are into dominion, but it’s not that kind of dominion. We are talking about dominion under God, where we do our work in the way I said last time when I explained to you why Adam didn’t sweat before he fell. You will learn to do that as you receive the measure of grace that God has given you. You are put in a place and a time for God’s purposes. We’ve already talked about that. I just need to review it. You are put there to know God’s glory and to glorify God. [34:02]

In that place, you receive, as a child of the Kingdom, the power and truth and love of the Kingdom to live as Jesus would live if He were in that place. It’s important to remind you again that Jesus, for most of his life, was a blue-collar worker. What He taught was what He practiced while He was in that place.

We are so trained to throw away our place and ourselves that we have to hear the Beatitudes—blessed are the—you know, fill it in with however you describe your place. Make sure you do that. However you describe your place—whatever it is—write “Blessed are the . . .” and then you describe it and make sure that you add, “. . . because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” So, you learn how to do that. [35:00]

Jesus’ little guys that He chose from among the poor in spirit, they spent awhile at this. He called people to be His disciples, and discipleship now is the key to learning. This is what I have to say to you this morning. I’m going to say it to you and you can—you’ve got it so you can leave. I’ll say it to you and I’ll elaborate on it for a few minutes if you stay.

You can’t learn to live in the Kingdom of Heaven unless you become a disciple of Jesus. We have a lot of confusion about this today, and I, by no means, wish to condemn or blame anyone. These things just happen. I think that there is someone at work on this, and certainly of all the things that Satan employs himself about, He most employs himself about the church. The only thing that he has to fear immediately is the church. That’s why he constantly stayed after Jesus from His birth when he tried to kill him until the garden when he tried to kill Him again. [36:18]

You probably would be shocked to learn that, when Jesus was in the garden praying, He wasn’t struggling in the garden because He was scared of death. His prayer in the garden was answered, and you can find out in the book of Hebrews, chapter 5. It was not unanswered. It was answered, and He was given what He was asking for. And what He was asking for was to be delivered from death in the garden at the hands of Satan.

He was not groveling in the garden because he was scared of dying. He had always taught people that there was no point in being afraid of death. He knew all that was going to happening even to the bearing of the sins of all the world. He knew that was going to happen and when He got down to His last meal before the execution, He said, “Fellows, I’ve really been looking forward to having this meal with you—prepareth the table before me in the presence of mine enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” But there was something after him, and he had to come to terms with that. [37:25]

Satan was concerned to stop Jesus, and he is still concerned to stop Him. One of the ways he stops Him most effectively is to put a partial, good message in place of what Jesus taught, so that you get a gospel of sin management instead of the gospel of life.

Then the next thing that Satan does is he says, “Well, you know, you’ve heard the truth now, and all we have to do is just sit around. Be passive. And you’ll get the infusion if God wills and you’ll have joy or whatever it is, power.” [38:10]

Now Jesus didn’t say that to these people. He said, “Follow me.” He didn’t say to them, “Now you’ve heard the Gospel, so just sit down and soak it up. And the Holy Spirit will come by some day and drop it on you and you’ll have all you’re supposed to have.” No indeed! He said pretty tough things. [38:27]

Let’s look at Luke 14. Jesus said some pretty tough things, and Luke 14 is just kind of a summary of it. You know Jesus discouraged people. He called some to follow Him; others He discouraged from following. He said, “You don’t want to follow me.” He said things like “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man doesn’t have anywhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58) And if you think that that contradicts what I said earlier about Him not being a homeless person living under the bridge, well, you need to think about it.

Luke 14 is the passage where Jesus, at greatest length, instructs people about entering the Kingdom of Heaven. See verse 25. He had just told a fascinating parable about how people make excuses. “And there went a great multitude with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man comes to me, and does not despise or hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14: 25–26) [39:49]

You find a lot of people that say, “This is good news. This is just what I’ve been looking for.” “This is gonna be easy. I’ve already met the conditions.” And you know, some cults have picked this up and they’ve tried to split families by saying you are supposed to hate your father and your mother. I don’t have polite words that are strong enough to express what that is. It’s just terrible. Perversion.

On the other hand, if you had been John’s father—remember John and James? If you had been their Father the day Jesus came by and said, “Follow me” and they took off after Him and left you standing there in the boat, you might have been tempted to say, “I’ve raised children that hate me.” You might have been tempted to say that. Jesus is certainly saying that so far as our attitudes to the common allegiances of life are concerned, those cannot be ultimate. They cannot be ultimate. [41:02]

One man said to Him, “Lord, I would like to follow you but I need first to bury my father.” (Matthew 8:21) Now, his father wasn’t sort of lying around the house and buried at that point, dead. It was a rather a matter of waiting until he died and then taking care of things and all of that sort of thing. So Jesus said, “Let the dead bury the dead.” (Matthew 8:22)

There are a lot of niceties in this regard that we will not stand on. Remember, that that’s what it means when it says that “the kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and violent men take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12, NASB) They see it as the most important thing. The first mark of a disciple is that they see life in the Kingdom of Heaven as the most important thing for them. [41:53]

On to number 1 under point IV. I have given you some verses to study with that. They are not all from the New Testament. Jeremiah 29:13, for example, says, “If with all your heart, you seek me, you shall surely find me.” A lot of people are complaining about not finding God, but they are not what He most wants. They want Him so He will fix up their businesses or their marriage or something of that sort. That’s important, and actually God puts up with an awful lot of that. But if you really want to find Him, just make Him first. Make finding Him first. [42:37]

That’s what Jesus is saying. “Whosoever does not bare his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) Well, what’s He talking about? Listen, bearing the cross is one of the commonest things that you ever saw around Jerusalem because every day or so, they had a number of people that they took out and killed. Jesus wasn’t an unusual event in that regard. There were times around Jerusalem that the Romans crucified so many people that they ran out of lumber to hang people on. Everyone knew what it meant that this guy carrying his cross—now, what’s he thinking about? What’s he worrying about? He’s worrying about death. Is he worrying about whether or not someone will deliver his newspaper? Is he worrying about the mark on his new car’s fender, worrying about whether or not his wife is going to clean the house? He didn’t have to worry about any of that. [43:41]

The cross has cut him off. He’s got one thing to think about. That life is gone. All that is left is the life that is ahead. And Jesus said that if you are going to be my disciple, that’s the way you do it. You go at it that way.

Then He goes on to talk about which of you intending to build a tower. Now, folks I want to tell you. You have to read this carefully and understand that verses Luke 14:28–32 have to do with planning, planning, planning. It’s all about planning. “ . . . which of you, intending to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first, and count the cost whether they have sufficient to finish it? (Luke 14:28)

Back in the Ozarks where I was raised, people would often start to build a house. They would start the basement, but they would never get beyond that. They would just live in the basement. You go to Egypt or Greece today, and you will see a lot of buildings that have iron rods protruding up from them? Ever see that? Do you know what’s that’s for? That’s for the next story—if you get around to it. If you don’t get around to it, okay. Maybe they will never have enough to build it. [45:13]

Jesus is familiar with people who start to build and don’t have the wherewithal to finish. He uses that as an illustration and says, “People will poke fun at them and say, ‘Ha, look at that guy!’ ” (verses 29–30). This man began to build and wasn’t able to finish.

Or a King going to make war. He doesn’t just sort of rush out the door one day and say, “Let’s go get ‘em.” He sits down and he says, “Now, can we with 10,000 people go to successfully fight with these people that have 20,000.” If they can’t do it, what does he do? He sits down and says, “Hey, send somebody over there and tell them, ‘We will talk peace.’ ” That’s planning. [46:06]

“Likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33, KJV) He didn’t say,
“I won’t let you,” did He? He says you can’t. You can’t study in my school, unless you have put everything else in second place or lower.

John Joseph Surra, a well-known Catholic writer of some years ago, was asked the question, “Why is it when so many people aspire to spiritual growth and greatness so few make it?” His reply was very simple and went right to the heart of the matter. He said, “They pay too much attention to insignificant things.” And that’s true. Of course, they often think that they are significant, but they are not. They are not taught about the significance of things. And consequently, they ensnared them. [47:17]

“So likewise, whosever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33, KJV) Now, remember what being a disciple is all about. Being a disciple is about learning, is about being with Jesus to learn how to be like Him and do as He did. Being a disciple is a matter of being with Jesus to learn how to be like Him and do as He did.

Now, we are going to be talking about practicalities more of the how next week, but let’s just focus on that a moment. We first of all, have to settle in our own minds whether that’s what we really want. We are in a dimension which every one of us as individuals has to stand alone before God. I’m sure that one of the things which we will get to deal faithfully with in the next life possibly is that question, [What do you really want?] Imagine you are standing before God and your life is over and God says to you, “What did you really want? What did you really want?” How are you going to answer that question? It’s a big question and I guarantee you that most of the things we want, we are going to be ashamed of, not because they were wrong, but because they were so insignificant. [48:46]

It’s just astonishing at the amount of time we spend on things that are insignificant, but every one of us has to answer that question. Do we really want that? Do we really want to be able to live and be as Christ was? That’s a hard one, because many of us have this kind of flannelgraph picture of Jesus, that sort of that nice bearded gentlemen standing around looking sedate and orderly, and saying great words and perhaps waving His hand occasionally or something of that sort. And it’s very hard for us to fit ourselves into that mold, so you have to think of Jesus being, doing what we are doing. You have to be able to go to the Gospels, especially, and bring from that the picture of a real human being.

Now you see that—our theology often bothers us there—even that very phrase, “a real human being,” over which counsels of the church have struggled for so many centuries, and how they hammered this out that He was “very God of very God and very man of very man—very woman of very woman.” You’re included in this too. Because, actually, women are in the spectrum—how are you going to be like Jesus if Jesus was a man? That’s a special problem, isn’t it? So you have to work through that. [50:29]

Now, I’m sure that the Lord will guide you and lead you if you want to work through it; but it is so hard for us to get out of this posture of having this little project, which we call our lives. It is so much, and of course, that’s because people come to us and tell us, blame us, and maybe even praise us. All of this blaming and praising of ourselves and others, then go on. They want us to be—of course, we want to—be responsible. Don’t you want to be responsible? But the thing is you can only be responsible if you turn away from this project you call your life and say, “God has a project which He calls my life. I’m going to shift over into that one and I’m going to let Him run it. I’m going to let Him run it.” Then you are putting it in good hands, and as Jesus taught, then you will find your life. [51:36]

If you try to hold on to that project, you’ll never find it. You’ll lose it. If you give it up, you’ll find it. That’s the thing we have to understand. We have to really want that. That means that we are then in a position to accept from Him our life, and we are in a position to learn that Jesus didn’t say, “If you don’t forsake everything you have, you cannot be my disciple” in the sense that I won’t let you.

Jesus was just saying that if you don’t see surrender to life in the Kingdom as the greatest thing for you, you can’t learn how to do it. It’s like the person who says, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, unless thou canst do decimals, thou canst do Algebra.” It isn’t a matter of someone saying I won’t let you do Algebra. If you don’t know decimals, no one has to keep you from doing Algebra, do they? You just don’t do Algebra. You don’t go on with the lesson, and that’s what Jesus is saying: “This is the doorway; this is the doorway to discipleship.” [53:00]

This is before all of us, and now I have to move into some of those troublesome truths. We are not generally told this, folks, and I say on the back of the sheet there something that I hope you will receive as a loving open statement. I have been wrong about things before. Did I tell you about the man who once thought he had made a mistake? Think about it.

There is no New Testament category of non-disciple Christians. There just isn’t. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have non-disciple Christians. There are a lot of things the Scripture doesn’t say. The Bible doesn’t say anything about airplanes or cigarettes. It doesn’t say anything about vacations in Hawaii. It doesn’t say anything about Hollywood Presbyterian Church by name, but here it is. There are a lot of things that we could mention that are good and some that are bad which are not in the Scripture. But I am just telling you, you will not find in the New Testament the category of non-disciple Christians. I’m not saying that anyone who is not a disciple is going to go to hell when they die. I am just presenting you with this fact. [54:43]

One of the saddest things is that many of the promises that [are in the Bible are for disciples,] because the New Testament is a book for disciples. I have given you some number of occurrences of the word disciple—singular and plural—the number of occurrences of the word. Well, I thought I did, maybe I didn’t.

Comment: 269!

Dallas: [The word, “disciple,” occurs] 269 [times]! Thank you! Three times the word, “Christian,” occurs. That doesn’t include words like verbs. It’s just the noun, “disciple”—singular and plural. This is a book about disciples. It is by disciples. It’s for disciples and the promises of the Scripture are for disciples. [55:28]

I can tell you this, that if you are interested in the substance of the Scriptural teachings about life, it is something that is offered to disciples. For example, the teachings of Jesus about living in the Kingdom of Heaven; that’s for disciples. First Corinthians 13 is for disciples. It is for people who have said, “Yes, I must have this life.” And they are reaching out for it.

The word, “Christian,” is introduced in Acts 11:26 to refer to guess who? Disciples! It had come to the point where they needed a new word because they could no longer call them Jews, because now they were Gentiles. They had to get a new word that would refer to this group of people, so they called them Christians. And there is some discussion about what exactly that meant. [56:24]

I think the best account is simply that they were referring to their leader, the one they were always talking about, the one they said met with them and lived in their midst and in whose name they acted. They were called Christians because of their association with Christ. [56:39]

Now, I have a class of what I call vampire Christians here under point III. A vampire Christian would say something like this, “Well, thank you Jesus, I would like to have a bit of your blood to cover my sins but I wouldn’t care to keep constant company with you. I have far better things to do.” Those are heavy words—heavy words. And I’m going to leave them with you. I’m going to leave you to think about where you stand with this.

Have you ever decided to be a disciple of Jesus in New Testament terms? Have you decided to do that? You probably won’t drift into it. It is a decision. If you would like to know the realty of the Kingdom of Heaven and stand in its authority and power where you are, you can do that as a disciple. [57:56]

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or what has happened to you. It does not matter if you are old or young or any other classification whatsoever. It just doesn’t matter.

Paul thought of himself as being used as a special testimony to the grace of God because he said, “God picked me up while I was murdering His people.” David was a man after God’s own heart, but I’ll tell you that if someone came up to your door and you knew they had done everything David had done, you probably wouldn’t want them in for dinner. He was a man after God’s own heart—why? I’ll tell you why. David is one of the most beautiful illustrations and studies in trusting the Kingdom, and he had foolish joy. He had foolish joy in His great shepherd. [59:03]

It’s your decision. You’ve got the rest of your life—maybe two days, maybe two hours, maybe twenty years, maybe eighty years—and you have to decide whether you’ve got something better to do than to live as a disciple of Jesus. [59:25]

“Lord, be our teacher and our friend and guide. We know that you, you hobnob with people that aren’t respectable, with people who have their heads twisted and their emotions gutted and ruined or distorted. We know that you simply walk amongst us. We remember that it was said of you that you had gone to have dinner with a man who was a sinner. Thank you, Jesus!”


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

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

[3] We don’t know what this means, but we welcome your input.

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