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.]
OK; let’s see how we are going here. Let’s go back to page 23 in your notebook.
So, faith in Jesus Christ, dependence on Him, sets us into living interaction with the invisible Kingdom of the Heavens. Our primary attitude in this is expectation—expectation. What are we looking to, to accomplish the things that we have our heart set on accomplishing in our lives and in our work? Of course, we have our natural powers and there is nothing wrong with using them. Indeed, we must use them but the issue is, “What are we counting on to bring to pass the things we hope for in ourselves and also in our ministry?” Expectation—what do we expect? Now, that’s a thing that we have to personally take in half and it takes some work to identify what we are “hoping in.” “Why art thou cast down, oh my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for you will yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” OK? So, we are talking about a presence that manifests itself and it is preserved well in our benediction that we get from Aaron. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.” You need to stop and work on each little phrase. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you.” What’s that? “Be gracious unto you.” This is the blessing that he was to put upon the people of Israel. [3:29] “The Lord lift up His countenance upon you.” What does that mean? Well, maybe something like “living before the face of God and Him paying attention to you—looking right at you, as it were.” “And give you peace.” Right? Now, it’s a wonderful exercise though some people find it impossible to do, is to say that to another person. It’s one thing to stand up and sort of broadcast it across the assembly but have you ever tried saying it to another person, looking into their eyes and their face? You might want to try that while you are here if you can find someone who is able to do it with you. See, that is expecting the presence of God in the life of another person and we easily say, “well, bless you” but wait a moment, what is that? You might want to experiment with that. [4:50]
In any case, it is the interactive life of grace. It is the faith and the knowledge to be able to step out into that that gives us the empirical realism of life in the Kingdom of God. We experience the power of that and then the word of the Kingdom becomes a much more realistic way of working. I’ve already called attention to this verse in Mark 4 or this passage and Jesus is constantly talking about what is the Kingdom of God or what is the Kingdom of Heaven like? What’s it like? Why do you suppose He puts it that way? Well, analogical thinking is a way of bringing the mind to life. Analogical thinking is very important for our thinking because it draws us beyond what we can explicitly say, and gives us something that will work in our minds. So, the Kingdom of God is like a man who casts his seed upon the soil. He goes to bed at night and he gets up by the day and the seed sprouts and so forth; it grows. When you go back to Paul’s statement, which we briefly looked at in Romans 1,”I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation.” Well, that’s the same thing He is talking about here, you see? And, you don’t know how it works. You can’t control it. When you go out to sow the seed of the word of the Kingdom, people will respond in different ways, different types of activities—the birds, the hard stone on which the seed falls and so on. [7:22]
So, now, all of that to just come to each of us and say, “Now, what is it that we say to people?” What is it? And I want to challenge you to confront that question. What do I say to people? Maybe I am so busy talking I don’t know what I am saying. What do I really say? You can go along with it, “Well, what would I think is most important to communicate to them?”
I give you a quotation here from John Wesley. I think it’s one of the nicest statements I’ve ever seen from someone who is talking. This is number 10 on Page 23, “What is the good news according to you?” Wesley had a man come to him who was deeply troubled and he came to Wesley and said, “What religion do you preach and what is it good for?” And we need to think if someone were to ask us that question, what would we say? Wesley’s statement here is loaded. It says, “I do preach to as many as desire to hear every night and morning” and that was usually out on the streets or by the opening of the mines where people were going in and coming out and 5:00 in the morning and sometimes in the dark and there was Wesley preaching. “You ask, What would I do with them: I would make them virtuous and happy, easy in themselves, and useful to others.” Now, you could stop there for a while, couldn’t you and make them virtuous and happy. Is that what I am doing when I get up to preach? I’m trying to make people virtuous and happy? Well, I do have to answer the question; what am I doing? Or I think I do. I need to answer that question. “Virtuous and happy, easy in themselves.” Boy, a lot of the people we speak to are not “easy in themselves.” They are often deeply troubled in themselves. Many kinds of troubles: sometimes it’s, you know, how can I be right with God? That’s a really deep question and a lot of people are asking it. “Easy in themselves, useful to others. Wither would I lead them? “To Heaven; to God the judge, the Lover of all, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new Covenant. What religion do I preach? The religion of love; the law of kindness brought to light by the gospel.” I love that phrase, “the law of kindness.” That’s actually from the last chapter in Proverbs, isn’t it? Talking about a wonderful woman. It says, “the law of kindness is in her tongue”—a good place to have it. “What is it good for? To make all who receive it enjoy God and themselves; to make them like God; lovers of all; contented in their lives; and crying out at their death, in calm assurance, O grave, where is thy victory!” Thanks be to God who giveth me the “victory through my Lord Jesus Christ.” Mmmmm….. [Dallas sighs] Well, that says a lot.
Maybe we could pick some things out of there that we could use and that touches on the question of “What do you count as success in your ministry?” What do you count as success? Now often, when we go into the ministry, we get loaded with the view of success from our seminary or our earlier church life or something of that sort and we need to refine that idea of success. Well, that’s just a little challenge I leave with you. What is your message? [13:14]
Now, we can go back to the things that we had on the screen and undoubtedly it’s related to some of that but just exactly, what is it you want to say to the people? I think that’s worth some time while we are up here in the weeds. Think about that.
So, now, the next question I talk about here at the bottom of 23 is, “Why do we hear so little about the Kingdom of the Heavens from our pulpits?” It is not talked about very much. There is a lot of confusion about it and fighting our way through all of that, trying to stay faithful with the scripture and faithful with what we have learned and know from our own experience and from the history of the church and so on, and we do have a problem with that. I understand that. Then there is so much that is said about it that isn’t helpful, really—speculative playing into one or another slant that someone is taking on life but we do want to remember that whatever it is, it is from everlasting to everlasting and we do want to understand that it is something that is here NOW and that we enter into it NOW and we take this statement of Jesus about “unless you repent and become like a little child, you can’t enter.” Right? Points like that—the new birth is birth into the Kingdom of God and so on. The scriptural moorings can help us. [15:45]
I have put on page 27 a quotation that comments on the problem of preaching it and on the first side there, I give a quotation here from Tom Sign who points out that “the victory of the future of God was a central theme of the ministry of Jesus.” Well, is that the Kingdom? No, it isn’t. It’s something that probably follows from the Kingdom but it isn’t about the future victory of God. I want to be sure about the future victory of God. That’s going to be here. We don’t have to worry about that but that’s because of a deeper truth about what the Kingdom of God is. It is the Kingdom of God and God is certainly going to bring it out right. He adds, quoting Michael Green—Michael Green asked during the Luzon International Conference of World Evangelism in 1974, “How much have you heard here about the Kingdom of God?” “Not much; it is not our language.” Well, see, we want to say, “Why is that? If it was Jesus’ language, why isn’t it ours?” [17:28] There’s got to be an answer and during the period in which these words were written, I have already mentioned that even to speak of the Kingdom of God was to risk the charge of liberalism because liberalism likes to talk about the Kingdom of God and especially about the Kingdom of God as something that we were going to bring in—bringing in the Kingdom. Not really very likely, I think but that number 2 on the gospels that are heard slants in that direction. I like this statement of Peter Wagner’s here. He and George Ladd were fellow faculty members at Fuller for a long while and Ladd was a conservative thinker who was trying to do justice to the scholarship, mainly liberal on the Kingdom of God and I mention that he’s the one that came up with the idea that the Kingdom is now and not now. When that comes up, “not now” always wins, by the way. He quotes Eldon Ladd as saying, “The modern scholarship is quite unanimous on the opinion that the Kingdom of God was a central message of Jesus” and then Wagner comments, “If this is true and I know no reason to dispute it, I cannot help wondering out loud why I haven’t heard more about it. It is in the 30 years that I’ve been a Christian—I certainly have read about it enough in the Bible. Matthew mentions the Kingdom, 52 times, Mark, 19, Luke, 44 and John, 4 but I honestly cannot remember any pastor whose ministry I have been under actually preaching a sermon on the Kingdom of God.” Now, this is basically true: I am sure his memory wasn’t’ totally reliable with that length of time but it is basically true and you have to say, “Why? Why is that?” [19:43] Of course, your answer is going to have to include, well whatever it is they are preaching doesn’t have any necessary connection to the Kingdom of God and the ones that Peter was sitting under were certainly preaching salvation—some kind of salvation—but not anything that depended upon an understanding of the Kingdom of God. Of course, you can talk about the Kingdom of God without using the language but, he goes on to say, “As I rummage through my own sermon barrel, I now realize that I myself have never preached a sermon on it.” And so, we have to ask ourselves, “Have we?” [20:38]
The footnote on the next page quotes a scholar of the previous generation, Howard Marshall, “During the past sixteen years, I can recollect only two occasions on which I have heard sermons specifically devoted to the theme of the Kingdom of God. I find this silence rather surprising because it is universally agreed by New Testament scholars that the central theme of the teaching of Jesus was the Kingdom of God. Clearly then, one would expect the modern preacher, who is trying to bring the message of Jesus to his congregation would have much to say about it.” Well, understand by the way, that his son has done much better on this topic. Well, all of that just to say, “What are we going to do about it?” And that ties in with the question, “What is my central message as a speaker, spokesperson for Christ? What is my central message? And is it something that simply omits the Kingdom and if so, what is put in its place?” Well, those are questions that I wanted to leave with you and hopefully you will be able to make some progress with that. [22:17]
Now, I’ve added on after that something by John Wesley and he is talking about who is a gospel minister and how people in his day, among the Methodists, but others as well “made over the importance of having a gospel minister.” So, he carries on about that for awhile with some criticism of the people who are called gospel ministers but “have only a crude, confused notion about it” and he says towards the bottom of that page on your page 29, “What then is the meaning of the expression, ‘who is a gospel minister?’ Let us consider this important question calmly in the fear and in the presence of God.” Well, he says, “Not everyone that preaches the eternal decrees or that talks much about the sovereignty God, a free, distinguishing grace of deralecting love and so on. A man may speak of all these by the hour together—“yes, with all his heart and with all his voice and yet have no right at all to be called, ‘a gospel minister.’ “
So, he goes on the next page to dismiss a few more things and on the last page of this little selection, he says, “Not everyone who preaches justification by faith” and then the next paragraph, he tries to answer his question, “Who then is such? Who is a gospel minister in the full scriptural sense of the Word?” OK; here’s your answer. “He and he alone or whatever denomination that does declare the whole counsel of God that preaches the whole Gospel, even justification and sanctification preparatory to Glory.” Now that doesn’t exactly answer his question. See? “He does not put asunder what God has joined but publishes alike Christ dying for us and Christ living in us.” Now, we are getting close to what he would accept as an answer. “He that constantly applies all this to the hearts of the hearers being willing to spend and be spent for them having himself the mind which was in Christ and steadily walking as Christ also walked. He and he alone can be properly termed a gospel minister.” Then he enlarges a bit on that in the final paragraph there. ‘If the gospel be glad tidings of great salvation, then those only are in the full sense gospel ministers who proclaim both the great salvation that is salvation from all, both inward and outward sin into all of the mind that was in Christ Jesus likewise, proclaims offers of his salvation to every child of man. This honorable title is therefore wildly and vilely prostituted when it is given to any but those who testify that God wills all men to be saved.” He is punching Calvinists with that one. “And to be perfect as their Father which also I Heaven is perfect.” So, Christian perfection in his understanding only those have this honorable title of being a gospel minister. [26:20]
That footnote on the previous page also is—he obviously was very tired of hearing a lot of people preach the way they did and he says, “Let but a pert, self sufficient animal that has neither sense nor grace bawl out something about Christ or His blood or justification by faith and his hearers cry out, ‘what a fine gospel sermon.’” Surely he says, “the Methodists have not so learned from Christ. We know no gospel salvation without salvation from sin. We know no gospel without salvation from sin. But of all preaching that is usually called gospel preaching is the most useless if not the most mischievous, a dull yea or lively horang on the sufferings of Christ or salvation by faith without strongly encaugating holiness.” I see more and more that this naturally leads to drive holiness out of the world.” OK! So, the gospel for Wesley is tied to deliverance from the power of sin. He breaks the power of cancelled sin. So, it’s not enough just to cancel sin. It has to be broken in its power. All right, well, that’s Wesley.
Q: Can you clarify what you mean by the statement the Kingdom of God is not an eschatological event?
Well, because it is here before the eschatology gets here, right? If it’s here from everlasting to everlasting, which is language that’s used in the Old Testament when this concept is developing, then certainly its not an eschatological event, which would not be from everlasting to everlasting and so, there are future events, right? Jesus says before He dies to His people, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine again until I drink it with you in the Kingdom.” So, there is a future and there are future events involving the Kingdom, but the Kingdom itself is not a human event or human historical event of any kind. Now, Daniel has interesting things to say about this in Daniel 2, for example, the great image and the Kingdoms of the world and the stone cut out without hand that comes out and smashes the image and expands to fill the whole earth and that is the triumph of God’s Kingdom in human history, I would say, and that’s a real event and thank God, some day that will happen—the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. [30:15] So, that’s an eschatological event. But now see, Jesus had to struggle with this idea that the Kingdom at His day on earth was a non-existent reality until it became a political event but the political side of it was all that they were hoping for and so that’s where He has to navigate that passage where He’s saying, “Now you’re going to have power but you won’t have any position” and learning to exercise power without position is still one of the greatest challenges that human beings face and the struggle over position for example in churches and denominations and social systems is something that continually goes on and so that involves humans voting and negotiating and carrying on and all the ways that we do as human beings but now Jesus teaches us about a power that is not dependent on human instrumentalities and says that’s what we live by. For example, in ministry, it’s tremendously important to know that and if you don’t, you will be a glorified politician—maybe not so glorified—maybe a grimy politician. These are known to show up. So, it’s important for us to make that distinction, I think. There will be a day but the Kingdom will not suddenly come into existence at that point. It’s in existence now and Jesus’ teaching in Luke 17 is, I think, clearest place where He just addresses this nest of misunderstandings that plagues the human mind. [32:47] They keep coming to Him, you know, and saying, “The Kingdom of God, where is it coming? When is the Kingdom of God coming?” in verse 20 and He answered them and said, “The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.” It isn’t something that’s going to be visible in its coming and He goes on to say, “Don’t say, ‘here it is’ or ‘there it is’ for behold the Kingdom of God is in your midst.” Well, that’s the same as, “is at hand.” It’s at hand. The old translation about being within you caused a lot of misunderstanding because that made it look as if it were some secretive little thing hidden in people’s hearts.” Well, it’s not. I mean, it is in the heart if you’ve got the right heart but the important thing here is not that it is hidden in your heart. It’s right here. The Kingdom of God is here and the place that this became obvious was in the exile of the Jewish people and the discovery that, ”Hey, it’s in Babylon. Hey, Cyrus is under it and Nebuchadnezzar and all the rest of them.” See, that’s where it really breaks out and then you look back and you can see the progression starting, especially with Abraham and his people and coming up through the history with Egypt, right? The Egyptians ran into the buzz saw that is the Kingdom of God. So, it expresses itself and it expressed itself in the miracles of Jesus and of course, above all, in His resurrection. That’s not human stuff. That’s Kingdom stuff and the task, if I can so speak without too much offense, the task is, and God has the problem of relating to humanity without squelching it. [35:40] That’s His problem and when you start out the first chapters of Genesis and read on with that question in mind, you will see how present the Kingdom of God was. The book of Judges is one of the most profound revelations of the Kingdom of God and that of course, is a situation where human Kingdom was dispensed of—dispensed with and what you had is people who were raised up in the power of God to take care of issues and then to judge issues that needed to be judged among the Israelites. Once you begin to get the idea, then you are going to see something that scholars struggle with under the title of the unity of the Bible. What is the string that runs through the Bible and holds it all together? Well, the Kingdom of God. [36:47] The first act in terms of the natural order is creation. “God said.” That’s how governments work. You say. The Roman centurion said to Jesus, “I don’t know how this thing works. I say to this man ‘go’ and he goes–this man, ‘come’ and he comes. “ See, what the Roman was struck with is the authority of words spoken in a Kingdom. They looked at Jesus and said, “I know what you are doing.” You remember Jesus; actually I think there are only two places that Jesus remarks on great faith and both of them are Gentiles. Well, what was that faith? It was understanding. This guy understood. It wasn’t a wild leap but He knew how it worked. So, that’s the way this works and when you come to the Sermon on the Mount, you see it and we have to talk a lot about that now. And then when you come to the Great Commission, that’s Kingdom! All power is given to me in the Heavens—well, that’s Kingdom! So, go! And they went and they did and that’s what we are doing. We get to be a part of that. [38:18]
Let’s take a little time and look at the three Kingdoms here at the bottom. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it unless you want to but we need to understand this concept of Kingdom has various dimensions to it and it causes a lot of trouble if we don’t understand it, so I start with the quotation at the bottom of 23, “Seek above all the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all else you need will be provided.” Seeking the Kingdom of God—now, if what I have said is true, the Kingdom of God is God in action. To seek the Kingdom of God would be to find what God is doing and then involve yourself with it and of course, we are not just to seek it, we expect to find it. Then our lives come into harmony with that Kingdom and we then suffer no lack. Now, this is an old principle. It’s in Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 8. Joshua 1:8, God has on His hands a rather frightened young man who has stepped into some big shoes and now he has to lead in the place of Moses and so, he is scared. So, God said, “Don’t be frightened” and He tells him how to deal with it. “This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth but you will meditate in it day and night.” Now, let me suggest; that’s how Joshua sought and found the Kingdom of God. The law of God manifests the Kingdom of God. You know of course the idea of law is more inclusive than that and it certainly doesn’t just include the Ten Commandments; actually, if you just do that much, you’re going to establish contact with reality in a way that will be of tremendous help to you because you are going to be lining up with the reality of God’s Kingdom. You meditate; put it in your mouth, memorize it, say it to yourself constantly, day and night, all the time. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. How did it get in your moth? Well, memorizing probably is the simplest way to put it. “But you shall mediate therein day and night that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. That’s the point You take it in and study and we will comment on this more when we come to talk about the discipline of study but you take that in and then it takes over and directs you in relationship to the realities of life and that enables you to harmonize your life with what God is doing so then you will make your way prosperous and you will have good success. You know, if you are taking over an army, especially from somebody like Moses, you certainly would be justified in saying, “How am I going to do this?” In fact, you would be a fool not to say that. And then he goes on in verse 9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” OK? He sought the Kingdom of God and he found it. He found it. And, finding it means, the Lord your God, will be with you wherever you go because you have adopted His ways. That’s where He is. Right? And, so that’s true for us today. Now, we’ve got more knowledge but I must just say that most people who are in trouble would get out of it pretty fast if they would just decide to do the Ten Commandment. The best advice you could give to anyone having trouble with their life, is to try the Ten Commandments and things will begin to straighten out very fast; partly because you will be driven to God even in your efforts to do those and being driven to God will mean that He comes into your life and directs you and empowers you as long as you are going In the way of His words. Now, we don’t do justice to this in our common teaching today and most people who are in our churches think the law is bad news. The law is one of God’s greatest gifts of grace to human beings. He didn’t have to give it. It is a grace and a gift and actually it was received in that way in the Psalms and in the historical books, you see people celebrating the fact that God gave them laws. This is a wonderful thing. OK. [44:40]
So, let me just quickly work over a few things here on 24 and 25 now. The Kingdom of God; what is it? It’s God in action; reigning directly or indirectly. It’s where what God wants done is done. It is from everlasting to everlasting. OK; so, we’ve said that already but you can’t say it too many times if you space it out a bit at least. We want to remember that. It’s God in Action. The Kingdom of God is God in action. You can’t divorce it from Him. There are aspects of it that have some distance and seem to run on their own but basically it is God in action. Salvation is birthed into the Kingdom of God. That’s John 3. That’s what it’s all about. Now, how does that work? Well Nicodemus came professing to be able to see God in action. He said, “We know that you are from God to Jesus because no one can do the things that you are doing unless God is with him.” But, Nicodemus didn’t know what that meant and so the discussion continues. Jesus understands his situation and He is trying to teach him and so He says, “You know, Nikki, you can’t see the Kingdom of God unless you are born from above” and then of course, Nicodemus had to go and reverse and sputter a bit but, but, but, but, but, but, but….. [46:30] That can’t be! Well, Jesus was just helping him see that he didn’t understand what He was saying and then the next time around in verse 5, that you can’t enter the Kingdom of God except from a birth from above. OK?
Now, birth has to do with life so what He is talking about is having a life from above. That’s what comes from alignment with the kingdom of God—alignment with the Kingdom of God and that means you have to know something about what that is but also that has to be your expectation. You expect that when you align with what God is doing, He will be with you and He will make a difference, so Nicodemus was right, he just didn’t know what he was saying. No one can do these things unless God is with him. What’s the “with” about? The “with” is action; joint action.
Now, I don’t know if we will have time to spend appropriately on this but the “with God” stuff is one of the deepest and most pervasive ways of trying to explain what life in the Kingdom is about. [47:54] “With God” and you see that over and over in the Old Testament and the New Testament and at the end of Acts, chapter 14, Paul and Barnabas go up to the church at Antioch to explain “all that God had done with them.” See? They knew how it was working—all that God had done with them. The book of Acts is not just the Acts of the Apostles; it’s the acts of God with the Apostles, right? Certainly, Paul and Barnabas, they didn’t miss that point. “All that God had done with them.” Isaac is presented in the book of Genesis as someone who was absolutely scary because of what happened around him and no one could explain it. They’d have a famine and Isaac would be overflowing with food. It scared Abimelech so bad that, first of all, he ran Isaac off, and then he saw how Isaac was “with God” and went and got him baacccckkkk.. He said, “Come on, you come back with us. We want some of this blessing that comes from God’s presence.” And the blessing of Abraham that is mentioned in Galatians 4:13&14, I think it is—the blessing of Abraham that is to come upon the seed of Abraham and all who trust him is spelled out in Genesis and it is simply, God was “with him” in everything he did. That’s the blessing of Abraham. God is “with him” in everything that he did. Maybe I had better give you the verse on that because I am moving pretty fast here but the “with God” stuff is really essential. This is Genesis 21: 22, “Now it came about at time that Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, spoke to Abraham, saying, “God is with you in all that you do.” That is the blessing of Abraham. That’s to extend to all of us and this is where now your prosperity gospel people really take off like a rocket. But, that’s an unwarranted extrapolation.
So, then, salvation is birthed into the Kingdom. The church is one manifestation of the Kingdom of God but it is not the same as the Kingdom of God. Important, I believe to say that and I think now to aggravate you all the more—the Great Commission is not about planting churches. It’s about establishing beachheads of the Kingdom of God in the lives of people and then churches result from that. Assemblies of “called out ones” result from the movement of the Kingdom. The church is a manifestation of the Kingdom of God but it’s not the same as the Kingdom of God. The Catholic church for a couple of millennia almost tried to identified the Kingdom of God with the church but of course, the church had some pretty serious drawbacks to put it mildly, and it became clear certainly to Luther and the reformationists’ people that whatever the Roman church was, it wasn’t the Kingdom of God, and then of course, it wasn’t the Lutheran Church either or the Reformed Church or the Baptist or the Methodist. It isn’t any church. A church is an expression of the affect of the Kingdom of God in the lives of individuals. Now, it would be a wonderful thing if it would serve the Kingdom of God and how would it serve? Well, it would make disciples and I’ll be saying to you in coming hours that the church is for discipleship; discipleship is for the world. Discipleship is what happens with people who have become disciples and have been cultivated and helped to grow in a fellowship of Believers and now they are doing the things that Jesus said but they don’t just hang around the group and do that. Where is the need for the Kingdom? Well, everywhere but especially throughout human life. OK? So, now you can plant churches; there is nothing wrong with planting churches. It can be a good thing. It’s just that’s not the same thing as making disciples as you go. A church will always have non-disciples in it; that’s been true from the original group with Jesus …a guy named Judas. [53:30]
Q: Would you be willing to comment on the conversation around missional church and its connection and relation to “with God” language?
Well, the missional church idea arises from a man who was a missionary to India and he came home to England and found that churches did not reach out to their world and he thought that was not a good idea and so he introduces the idea of the missional church. Now, the missional church is often thought by people simply to be a matter of the outreach of the church to bring in people into the church and make them Christians and so on. Obviously, that’s a good idea but if you have a church like the church in England where basically it is assumed that they had a Christian world society with a few disinterests to that, then there is not much to do except sort of run the church and go through its rituals and do whatever was to be done about the needs of the human beings who were members of the church and so he saw the ingrown nature of the church and said, “this is not good” and it wasn’t good. So, now then, missional church has become something that you could have a church, for example and all of a sudden they would wake up and say, “Hey, we are not missional; we should be missional.” That’s an odd picture of the church and I would rather define a missional church as a church you can’t stop growing rather than one that has woken up and said, “Hey, we need to be missional. And in this country, what I run into in many places is people who say, “Oh no, if you concentrate on being disciples, you will not be missional. You know, history does such strange things but I hear that over and over and actually, I have had people in this retreat that have decided they wanted to be a church that emphasizes discipleship and they were fired because their elders said, “Oh well, our church will dry up and die.” I mean it’s just layer upon layer of misunderstanding. Being missional is an inevitable result of being disciples. You can’t stop it. Now, having said that, you know, you have to do what you have to do in whatever situation you are in and a church that doesn’t reach out or have outreach or isn’t missional in that basic sense really has a serious problem but it’s not one that can just be solved by saying, “Let’s me missional.” There are deeper problems involved in that kind of situation. The way that church has progressed in times that it has progressed most obviously is by a kind of viral motion where you had something like a fever that was contagious and it spread and when that happens, mission in many dimensions happens, like now we have ministries in this country that do a lot of feeding of starving children in the Sudan. Well, that’s good. That’s missional too. You have evangelistic outreaches in other countries and in this country. All of that is very good. I just think that being missional is a natural expression of being disciples and that what you are apt to fall into if you don’t know that is outreaching for something that doesn’t transform character and transform communities. Lots of activities, you know; like the Church of Thyatira, “Thou hast a name that thou art alive but are dead.” That’s a scary proposition, isn’t it? [58:24]
- Instrumentalities of the Kingdom of God: God’s own direct action; Father, Son, Holy Spirit, angels, the hosts of the Lords, the Host in terms of which we call the Lord, the Lord of Hosts are of course, multitudes of angels; ministering spirits sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation. We don’t do near enough justice to the role of angels and then you have people who do too much. Angels are not under our direction but they are our servants. They serve at the direction of God. If you’ve got an issue with angels, you don’t deal with angels, you deal with God. He’s the one that is in charge. [59:20]
Now, we even have in the popular culture some people who really don’t believe in God but they believe in angels so then you have people acting with God. These are covenant people; Jewish people; the nation; non-covenant, Balaam, Cyrus but they are people acting with God. That’s a part of the Kingdom; the written Word of God, the Bible. That’s a part. Remember? What is God’s Kingdom?—God in Action. Conscience—thank God for conscience. It doesn’t wholly give up under the impact of false education. It continues to be a kind of witness to what is right and at least helps out in intimate relations to some degree. It’s not adequate but it’s a part of God’s Kingdom.
And then, last of all and very importantly, nature. Nature is an expression of God in action. [1:00:35] Natural laws are God in action and that also is made clear in the New Testament teachings. The “upholder God” that shows up in Hebrews 1: “upholding all things by the word of His power.” See, that’s the idea that He’s also expressed in Colossians where in Colossians 1, it is said that “everything holds together in Christ.” It’s kind of like He’s the cosmic glue. He is why things can be built and worked and have a career and natural order such as you see around here. Christ is the one who holds everything together and makes a place for human beings to be creative and responsible for what they do. That’s why people, of course are so refreshed by nature and when it’s not running over you, it’s very refreshing. I love to just walk down the path here and look at these little flowers and it’s just amazing what comes out of the end of a branch. [He laughs] That’s a testimony to God’s presence and He has given that to remind us of Him.
So, there are a lot of instrumentalities there now and this comes up and gets the Kingdom of Satan. What is the Kingdom of Satan? It’s Satan in action, directly or indirectly and he is a sign, the position of the prince of this world in John and the prince of the power of the air in Ephesians and so on. Now, I’m slow to acknowledge that that is a straightforward statement about Satan. Satan is a bluffer and I think you see in his temptations of Christ, he suggests that he could give all the kingdoms of the world to Christ if Christ would just worship him. I don’t believe it for a moment. But, he certainly acts that way and perhaps in some limited sense, you can say he is the “prince of the power of the air.” [1:03:12] Certainly, he is a spirit working in the sons of disobedience. Now, sons of disobedience are simply people whose nature is disobedience and his kingdom is where what Satan wants done is done, just like yours and the Kingdom of God. So, his business is to destroy. He enjoys destructiveness and his little helpers are called unclean because they are always making a mess. They like to see men accuse God because of their suffering and he likes to harm, confuse and mislead the church. He is the most regular attender at church services. And, his opt is always to work by deception, lying, deceiving, and setting people against one another. James says, “Where envy and strife is, there is every evil work” and that’s a sobering thing to think about.
On the other hand, he is defeated. No one ever need fear him. You speak to him as a child of the Kingdom of God and the best spiritual conflict warfare is obedience. If you obey Christ, he won’t want to come around. If you don’t obey Christ or God, then you are sort of out here in “no man’s land” and others including Satan can victimize you, right? There is a sobering statement of Paul to Timothy that has a lot to say about how we are to relate to Satan. Let me see if I can find it. This is 2 Timothy 2. 2 Timothy 2 lists a number of things in verse 22 and following to stay out of including foolish and ignorant speculations. Verse 24 says, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil having been held captive by him to do his will.” Someone earlier was talking about the atmosphere of contempt and we are not to step into that. We are to follow Paul’s instructions here, “patient when we are wronged, gentleness correcting those who are in opposition if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to knowledge” and so forth and so how do you do that? Well, you do that because you are working with God. [1:07:06]
The instrumentalities of the kingdom of Satan on page 25: Ideas and Thoughts—those are the main instrumentalities of Satan and if we open ourselves to the wrong ideas and thoughts, we open ourselves to Satan. Satan did not hit Eve with a stick, he hit her with an idea and she bought it. The ideas that govern the world in which you and I minister as teachers and spokespeople for Christ, you see? That’s what we are mainly up against and I will say more about this next week but we don’t often understand where our opposition lies and because of that, we don’t know how to take a posture that we need to have as spokespeople for Christ. That’s where we need to go back to the great commission and look at that and say “what does that mean for us?” We are to teach people to do everything that Jesus said. Well, what would you be up against if you tried to do that in our world? You would mainly be up against the educational system—the system of higher education, which professes to have the authority to teach the truth in so far as there is truth. And, of course, sometimes they even want to get rid of that so where does that leave you and me? Ideas and Thoughts: if Satan can control those, he can take a nap and the people who under the domination of the ideas will do his work for him. [1:08:51]
So, I mention feelings—ordinary person, especially a young person, is dominated by feelings. Often these are feelings of wanting to be “in” with others who are as confused as they are and so, if you look at the popular arts; much that comes over in television and movies, you will see that they are plays upon feelings. Some of these feelings, if you are halfway sober; you can’t understand why anyone would want to mess with them like horror movies. I mean, why should anyone want to look at Freddie Krueger or some of these other monsters that you have in horror movies? Horror movies are not good for you and they are not good for young people but they make them “feel” and feeling becomes a way of knowing that you are alive. The words, in Ephesians 4 about how the world is lost in the futility of this thinking is deeply instructive for what we are up against in ministry and spirituality. Verse 17 of Ephesians 4, “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their minds.” Now, what does that mean? That means thinking that leads nowhere. It doesn’t get you anywhere. And he says,”being darkened in the understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their hearts.” [1:10:58] What’s the hardness of their heart? They don’t understand; they don’t feel; their heart is hardened. It runs thought and feeling—it doesn’t do them any good. “And they, having become callous.” Now, what does that mean? That means, they don’t feel and feeling, if you do not have feeling in your foot, you wonder if it is alive. And if you don’t have feeling in your life, you, “you know, I am bored to death.” And give me something that will bring me to life. “Being darkened, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” See, that’s feelings; if you live for feelings, they die on you and you have to stimulate them in some way and that’s where we get so much of what is harmful in human life in our world. [1:12:04]
So, instrumentalities—accepted social practices—everything from war to racial conflict and so on in our culture today, the world—how is the world present in our culture today. Well, accepted social practices. If you want to know what they are, just read the newspaper or watch the media and you will see how they work the world. The world works through practices that are accepted and as John says in 1 John 2, “the things that are in the world are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” Well, that’s what you get if you look and the practices that are accepted in the world. “Unclean spirits, vast historical forces, he is at work in the economy, he is at work in the economy of the world. Things are not going very well and they probably are not going to get better very fast, if at all. So, he works in all of these areas. Now of course, the disciples of Jesus Christ would be in those areas also, right? They would be right out there dealing with ideas and thoughts and feelings, artists, technicians of various kinds. If the Christians who were involved in the economic system were disciples and stood up for what they knew to be right, we wouldn’t have the contemporary economic crisis that we are in. That’s caused by people doing what they knew to be wrong but no one was there to stop it. [1:14:05]
Well, then, finally the kingdom of me and you—what is it? It’s where what I want done is done. That’s my Kingdom. It’s what I can do or control directly or indirectly. It’s my car; my checkbook; my body. Now, is that bad? No, it’s not bad. We are meant to have kingdoms and the only question is “who’s in charge?” We want to make sure that God is in charge of our kingdom and that we do, by repentance, and by moving into activities that involve us in faith and expectation and knowledge of God with us. God with us! And then the instrumentalities of my kingdom are well directed—my body, strength, talents appearance, sexuality, my non-physical powers of thought and creativity, personal relations and influence, power over groups including charisma and magic or enchantment. There is a lot of that that goes on in our world; often not recognized and then instrumentality of my kingdom is cooperation with Kingdom 1 or Kingdom 2 because all of that stuff about selling your soul to the devil and so on, that is an attempt of people to manage their kingdom and to enlist and then you have people who want to enlist God’s Kingdom to help their kingdom work. Well, it’s true that our kingdom won’t work except in the Kingdom of God but it’s not for our benefit that we do that. It is a benefit for us so whatsoever you do will prosper. Well, that a big benefit. Not many people can promise you that. So, that’s good but we don’t do it as a way of making our kingdom succeed. We do it as a way of honoring the Kingdom of God. OK.
So, those kingdoms are there and they are important. OK, let’s quit for today and get some time to think about stuff and you can do that when you are asleep, by the way. [Laughter]