Life in the Kingdom 3

Dallas Willard Part 7 of 22

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


Good Morning! [Good Morning!] Are you holding up? [Yeah! How about you?] I think so; you watch me and see! [Laughter] You be the judge! No, we don’t always know when we are running out of gas.


Alright, well, this morning we want to pick up with what was on your outline as the last section—section six and of course I am looking at Wednesday and we will pull it all together at the end and maybe we can just start with some hopeful words here—some good words. This is on page 24 of your section in the back if you numbered them.


So, now, this is our calling. We get to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. That’s a part of the announcement that is in The Beatitudes. In The Beatitudes, you have these people standing out there shocked out of their socks because they have been pronounced “blessed in the Kingdom” and now, He keeps working on them. “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” Who was He talking to? Many people say, “Well, He was just talking to a special little group,” but He was talking to the multitudes that was around Him. These are the ones who at the end of the Sermon comment on what a Sermon it was and how He spoke. He was not speaking to a special little group or a subgroup—He was talking to all of those who were His disciples and we will have to say a little bit more about that later on and how that division that is written in to that interpretation why is like a curse on the church and takes it more basically of saying, “Well, the preacher is supposed to read something special, but we are just ordinary folks.” So, we have to break that down and understand that we are the light of the world that we don’t need to advertise and say, “Hey, did you notice that I am the light?” [Laughter] Did you notice that? A city set on a hill cannot be hid.” That’s you! That’s you! [3:03]


That language was picked up, of course by the Puritans who came to America, and there was talk about America being a city set on a hill. That’s an interesting and long discussion in itself but it’s not directed at a nation. That’s a mis-application of the verse. It’s directed at individuals who are in the Kingdom of God and for those individuals; they are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.


He indicates there that they can miss it and they need to be careful about that because salt can lose its savor. That doesn’t make much sense today given what we know about salt. The salt in the ancient world was always a mixture of a lot of other things—limestone and if you left that out in the weather, the rain—it would leech the salt out of it and so it would still look like salt but it didn’t have any savor. It was salt that lost its savor. Now, that’s really an amazingly profound metaphor. [4:35]



But, He goes on and assumes, “let your light so shine” and that apparently is something we are to do. “Let your light so shine before others that they will see what’s coming out of you”—your good works and say, “You are absolutely wonderful.” Is that the way that verses reads? [No; not likely] They will zip right past you and me and go right to the Father and say, “God IS great! God IS good! We glorify your Father which is Heaven.” They go right through this.


Now, that’s the primary form of outreach in the Kingdom of God and Paul in Philippians 2:5 gives this picture of those who are following the example of Christ as laid out in the earlier parts of Philippians 2. You remember that I know. He talks about how Christ being in the form of God—didn’t think there was anything wrong with that and there wasn’t anything wrong with it.  That wasn’t why He emptied Himself. That beautiful passage, “Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” and then the description of how that goes. [6:34]


And then this is where it comes in. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Well, you know, a lot of folks say, “I want off this train at the next station.” Ya know? Can you breathe without grumbling and disputing? “That you may be come blameless and innocent, Children of God, above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you shine like stars in the world.” Isn’t that beautiful? See, that’s what’s given to us as people who have come to put their confidence in Jesus and to understand who He is and accept Him as Lord in that sense. He is Lord!



And again, we don’t know much about lords except that we think they ride around in fancy buggies or fancy horses or something of that sort. Lord is a very big word. I mean, “Lord” in the language of the New Testament means someone who is in charge. Not just master, but maestro! See. His mastery is built upon His abilities and not His identity and so, you know, once you get that clear and that you are in His hands, what is there to grumble about. Where did grumbling go? {8:23]


Q: At the risk of grumbling and disputing, it’s actually Philippians 2:14. People were looking it up.


Dallas: Philippians 2:14—okay! Make that correction! Yes, you are right! You are right!—2:14, thank you!


OK, now, you say, “How do we do that?” I have put here a note that the people of Christ have always accomplished the most when they’ve had the least and the more they get, the less they do. You can’t imagine anyone with less than those guys that were around Jesus. Especially, we will come in a moment to the Great commission and they heard him say, “Well, now, just go to all the world and makes disciples” and some of them didn’t really tie on to that and they weren’t actually believing that they were looking at Jesus and you can imagine how they might well have said, “Yes, in the light of our recent successes in Jerusalem, we are ready to take on the world.” [9:50]


Q: is this value of a vow of poverty? Yesterday you talked about that.


Dallas: You don’t need to vow it. Just accept it and actually if I had to just give a straight answer to you, I would say, “No, a vow of poverty does not have that.” Sorry! Poverty doesn’t help. [10:24]


Q: How does that statement connect with what you write there?


Dallas: God takes care of that. You don’t have to vow that. Just accept it and you know where your strength lies. It lies in Christ.


Poverty is not a spiritual discipline, nor an advanced spiritual condition. Now, then there are a lot of things that we mention or that come up here that we can’t develop, but you might want to look at the chapter in The Spirit of the Disciplines—Is Poverty Spiritual? Try it on.


Jesus was not poor. OK? He was not poor. He had everything He needed. He supported a group of people. He raised funds. He had enough money to have a fulltime embezzler as his Secretary Treasurer [and a great group of women who supported him]. Absolutely right! And some husbands who support that also! [Laughter] We are going to have a wave right now. [Laughter]  So, I mean you just have to get through that and think it out. It doesn’t help, and it’s very important because only if we get that straight can we begin to understand discipleship for people who are not poor. I may have to talk about that at length. Yes?


Q: Is that quote only about poverty? Is it about money?


Dallas: Oh, no, it’s not about poverty. It’s about possessions generally and of course, one of the things about poverty as it’s practiced in the history of the church is, “You don’t own things but you get to use them.” [12:49]


Q: Wouldn’t that also apply to power and prestige?


Dallas: It does; it applies to power; it applies to reputation and all of those things the work of God does not depend on. Now, it can use them. No problem with that but it’s like the rich young ruler. He didn’t have his riches; his riches had him. That’s why Jesus told him to get rid of it.


Q: It could even be your health or your social standing? A professor at Ashland says, “Never put your core identity into anything you can lose.” [That’s very good.} And at the peek of his pastoral service, he was hospitalized for 6 months in a psychiatric ward and so, he is doing greater ministry today out of that reality of who he is but he’s lost a lot.


Dallas: Well, but yes, you remember Nebuchadnezzar. “He was precisely talking about this very city that I have built. I have done all of these things” and [snapped his fingers] his mind snapped. [14:05]


So, in living here, you want to remember that and that will help us stop grumbling. Paul has these stark statements like, “Naked came we into the world and naked we go hence. Having food and raiment, let’s be content.” Well, that contentment is based upon the riches that are available to a person living in the Kingdom of God. It isn’t the contentment of the Buddhist or the stoic. It’s the contentment of the person who knows that they are abundantly cared for and they understand that the provision is there to them, that they are in the hands of an Almighty, loving God without limitation and that everything they need is supplied. So, the teaching in the Old Testament words, “The Lord is my portion;” see, that was in the Psalm that Jan lead us through yesterday. “The Lord is my portion.” [15:28]


OK; well, just a little reminder there and now we want to move on and talk about this. As we go through the day, we will try to make clearer the simplest structure of what we are talking about and we need to bring the idea of discipleship before us. But to help us get there, this is on page 37 on your copies. [16:09]


It’s just a way of formulating what we call The Great Commission, putting it in a little different wording might help us. This is Jesus now opening the floodgates. God chose Abraham and gave him a promise that in you and in your offspring, all the people there will be blessed. He entered into a covenant relationship with Abraham because Abraham, as he said, “would teach his children after him” and so, there arose a distinctive group of people out of the family of Abraham and they were given the covenant. They were given laws. They were given a cloud by day, and a fire by night to lead them and all sorts of marvelous things that happened to them.


Now then, Jesus comes and within that family warms a Green Beret group. These are the green berets. These are the Apostles. Now, if you want to have illustrations of the first Beatitude in Matthew, look at the Apostles. The Apostles are illustrations of the first Beatitude in Matthew; blessed are those who have nothing going for them spiritually. They are poor in spiritual things. They don’t have anything going for them. They have never been to seminary. They are not part of a respected group. This is a really important thing to understand is that the Apostles of Jesus were not what a Rabbi normally selected for his followers and indeed, Rabbis normally only selected upon application the young men who went through the synagogue school and performed well might apply to the Rabbi. Would you take me as your disciple, your student, and your apprentice? And then he might or might not. [18:57]


Now, these guys were all well beyond that stage. They didn’t have a shot at it and here comes Jesus who says, “You.” What a bunch of people he got. At some point, you will want to study the Apostles; preach on them a little bit. What a bunch of people! No one would have selected them. No self-respecting Rabbi and so Jesus now comes and He selects them and He says, “Make disciples of all kinds of people—all nations.” Nations are routinely contrasted with the Jewish people. The nations always refer to Gentiles. When He says, “Go, make disciples or as you go is really the way it is said, “As you go, make disciples of all nations.” Now, that was a spiritual earthquake—a huge thunderclap. It had never occurred to the Jewish people that this is what they would do, even though it had been told repeatedly by the prophets and you know that the book of Acts is primarily about bringing the Gentiles into the covenant. You know what a terrible fight that was and this was perhaps the biggest issue in the early church. It was not settled in a moment—it was a long discussion. We don’t have time in these meetings to go through the book of Acts and show you how the Kingdom of God and Jesus come together but if you notice right at the end of the book of Acts, Paul is sitting in Rome teaching the Kingdom and Jesus. See, they come together now. Kingdom is going to have a face and it will be the face of a King. [21:33]


So, now Jesus says, “I have been given say over everything in Heaven and earth. This is your equipment. Go, now, make disciples—make a parenthesis to me among people of every kind. Submerge them in the reality of the Trinitarian God and lead them into doing everything I have told you to do.” Then he bookends—“I have given say over everything” and He bookends it with, “Now, look I am with you every minute until the job is completely done.” So, where are we today? We are right there. The job is not completely done. That’s what we are dong—I hope. But now, you will find churches spending two or three years trying to work out a Mission Statement. Don’t you find that interesting? Well, it’s actually a reflection of the wondering condition they are in because they don’t know why they are there and they need to work on that. But you know, why not this? Wouldn’t this do? Couldn’t you put up a sign in front of your church that says, “We teach people to do everything that Jesus said.” More adequately, “We teach people in such a way that they routinely and easily do everything that Jesus said.” Wouldn’t that work well on your board out front where you put up clever sayings like, “A diamond is a piece of coal that stuck to its job.”   Isn’t that clever? [Laughter] Oh, that’s where I got it from……..I’m not smart enough to think that up on my own. [23:48]


Q: What did you say?


Dallas: A diamond is a piece of coal that stuck to its job. You know, recently they discovered something like a planet and it’s just a diamond. So, if you are worried about “streets of gold and gates of pearl” don’t think about it. I mean, that’s easy! Right? Just a little chemistry. Why not put up, “We teach people how they can routinely and easily and joyfully do everything Jesus said.” Hmmmm? Or you could put up, “We don’t do that.” [Laughter]  “We don’t do that.” So, what DO you do? It’s a good question. [24:56]


Ok, so this has three parts to it—one is making disciples. So, now we have to talk about it that at length but notice the other two parts. You make disciples—apprentices of Jesus. How do you do that? You ravish them with the Kingdom of God. You tell them about the Kingdom. You tell them about the King and they come to the point; perhaps with some struggle and it’s not easy of saying, “Listen, this is the most important thing for me to do is to be a disciple of Jesus.” It’s the most important thing. They have looked at it and it has grabbed them. See? Now, that’s the way Jesus presented it. Of course, He is exceptional but at least we could intend to do that and then we go back and we look at our Gospel and say, “Will that do it?” So, that’s what we talked about yesterday. Do you preach a Gospel that makes apprentices to Jesus or one that only makes consumers of religious good and services? [26:14]


Q: Could you take for a moment compare Matthew’s Jesus with Luke’s? [If you would like.] I am trying to bring the two together—I mean, Luke doesn’t start out with the Sermon on the Mount per say. [He has the sermon on the plains.] At the end of Luke’s Gospel is not the same direction. [Now, you tell me what you see different?] Well, in the end he opens the minds of the disciples to understand the scriptures which I can see that but I am trying to understand…….


Dallas: What you are trying to understand, I think is very common. “Doesn’t this let us off the hook?”


Comment: No! [No?] Not necessarily. I mean, how do the two mesh?


Dallas: Well, you read the whole Gospel and look at what Luke says about discipleship in 14 and elsewhere. Then I think you will see where they mesh all right. [27:27]


The Gospels don’t mesh by saying the same thing. [Right.} So, at the end of Luke, he sends them out, doesn’t he? Do you want to look at that?


Another student comments: Then He writes all of Acts and shows how it actually happened.


Dallas: Right! This is one of the ways that you are moving in that direction. I didn’t mean to suggest that but this is one of the ways that scholarship tends to dodge The Great Commission is by saying, “Well. We have other ways of putting this, but especially the charismatic way at the end of Mark for example and in both cases, you don’t have the explicit statements “to make disciples.”


Verse 49 of Luke 24, “You are witnesses to these things and behold I am sending you forth on you the promise of my Father but you are to stay in city until you are endued with power upon high” and then of course that picks up in Acts 1—He tells you to be my witnesses. [29:03]


So now, do you suppose that He was saying anything different than making disciples? Bringing together in Trinitarian presence? I think He was saying something different? You get to fill in the Luke or Mark versions however you can and look at the results and see if you think that’s suitable.


Student comment: I think Luke tends to focus or it start out with Jesus’ healings and addressing people’s needs and I think with—it seems sometimes folks come to recognize who Jesus was by the care He took of the poor and in this case, you are talking about these disciples who no one else would have chosen—I mean reaching out to those who would be, I guess “outside” the accepted realm. [30:16]


Dallas: Well, that’s okay with me. You just have to fill in what exactly that meant like when He says, He gives His commission from Isaiah and talks about the poor and all the others. Well, how does that work? That’s the practical question that the church faces and in general, we have decided we can do that without becoming disciples. That’s our condition today. Our condition today is that we accept the fact that you do not have to be a disciple of Jesus to get the goods—whatever the goods are.


Comment: Which doesn’t make sense.


Dallas: And that’s what we practically have to address. Can we do that? Now, here the idea is that you would bring people to the position where they were disciples. You bring them together in Trinitarian presence. That’s what it means to baptize them in THE NAME. The NAME is the reality Biblically. That’s how names work in difficult times. So, you bring them together in Trinitarian presence and then you teach them in such a way that THEY do. See? We have accepted that you sort of teach them to do; it’s just we don’t tell them how.


Now, that fits a model of law. I teach you the law. That’s what you are supposed to do but what about doing it? That’s a different process. I have to teach you in a different way if you are gonna do it. Then that brings you back to the end of the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plains where you are clearly told that if you hear what He says and does not do it, “you are a fool.” I didn’t say that. He said it. [32:33]


Q: Could you review one more time yesterday’s–this is a new thing for me. When Jesus is teaching, we tend to look at that and make it law—like turn the other cheek; always turn the other cheek.


Dallas: Then, I’ll knock you head off.


Continued Question Comment: But you said there was a different way to look—because I think a lot of churches that want to teach Jesus’ commandments and want us to follow Jesus—they teach that every word out of His mouth is law. It becomes, once again, a hard system.


Dallas: Well, not quite every word out of his mouth; for example, because when they do that, they are doing what He said NOT to do, especially in Matthew 5:20 where He said, “Unless you get beyond the righteousness of the Scribe and the Pharisee, you will not make contact with the Kingdom of the Heavens.”


Q: How do we communicate that to people? [33:26]


Dallas: We just teach it. [We just teach it.] We say to them, now, “What do you suppose that means—‘going beyond the righteousness of the Scribe and the Pharisee?’” So, we take up His teachings—the old law says, “Don’t kill, but ‘I say unto you.’ Don’t commit adultery, but ‘I say unto you.’ Don’t swear, but ‘I say unto you.’” So, you just teach it and you talk to them about how they could be like that. Now, that’s where we have to spend most of the rest of our time here is talking about that. How do you do that?


Q: But the bottom line is that Jesus commands these things—I think a lot of people can’t get past that word, “Command.”


Dallas: Right! No, that’s true but that’s because they are not taught well. You have to teach this and among other things, you have to recognize what you are just saying and Jesus does intend that we do what He said.


Then the quest is how do you do that? And He’s got an answer to that question and He gives it in many ways. For example, when asked, “What is the one thing that sums up all the law?”—He doesn’t say anything about turning the other cheek, but He tells you what will affect that if “you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself.’ Right? [35:02]


Now, these are good questions. They are right where you want to be because then you will want to talk with others who will ask these questions, and getting out of the Pharisee and Scribe mode is really hard. That will involve you taking some hard points. I have people who occasionally ask me, “As smart as you are, why are you still in church?” And I joke with them about it and I say, “Well, you know you are supposed to love your enemies and you will find a few of those in church.” [Laughter] But when you find an enemy at church, that’s not the time to leave. See, the normal procedure is, “Well, I’m out of here, man; they don’t like me and I don’t much like them so I am going to go find someone I do like.” That’s not the time to leave. Let them crucify you. They will remember you! And it will come and that will be your challenge to go deeper and learn more about what it is like to live with Christ. [36:37]


So, now if you have made a disciple and that disciple is now gathered with other disciples in Trinitarian presence, now we can teach them in a way that they will say, “Of course! Yes! I do what Jesus said!” Not because I am trying to do what Jesus said but because I see myself being transformed into His likeness. Now, that’s the picture, isn’t it? [37:17]


Listen to these beautiful words of Paul who knew by experience the sorts of things I am just referring to here and in 2 Corinthians 3 is one of the great testimonies of ministry. It is Paul’s record of how he ministers and what he counts on and I do urge you to look at that sometimes as—2 Corinthians 2:14 through the end of chapter 5 but here is what he says—verse 16 of 2 Corinthians 3—“Whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Sprit of the Lord is, there is liberty”—not bondage, not trying to do the things that we are supposed to do—“where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, but we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory even as from the Lord’s Spirit.” See, that’s how it works! Be sure to make room for that in what we do together as Christians. OK! [38:57]


So, now, we need to think for a while about—Who is a disciple? You know, we are told by Paul that or is it Paul who says that God is not the author of confusion for guess who is?  And he works overtime on confusion and so you get an important word like “disciple” and just look around you at the ways that gets used. You will find different versions with different groups so I am going to—and you know that everything I say here is for your appraisal—for acceptance or rejection—but I want to try to give you a view of what a disciple might be and this one is on page 36 if you numbered your pages, you will find it there in your notebook.


So, who is—and I like the word apprentice—that is a perfectly good translation of the language. Student would do also but student has been kind of messed up too. I like the word apprentice because it has a lot of connotations—one of being with the master and learning by watching and listening and talking and making mistakes and becoming adept at a trade, an activity and this is really what the early disciples did. They were with Jesus and they watched Him and they listened and you know, if you, once you get the idea of what a discipline is and what spiritual formation is, you will realize that Jesus devoted 2 ½-3 years to intensive disciplines on the part of His apostles as they lived as His disciples. [41:33]


Now, I just suggest this as Jesus’ apprentice—“I am learning from Him how to lead my life in the Kingdom of God as He would lead my life if He were I.” But, now I suggest that as a statement about who is a disciple? Now, you want to have a fairly clear notion if you are going to make disciples. Of course, you are not going to make disciples unless you are a disciple. So, I wanted an understanding of disciple that allows me to be a disciple with very clear understanding and to present that to others in my life and in my words and invite them to become a disciple. Think about what that would mean in our context and think about—Are people invited to become disciples? And, if they are invited, what are they being invited to do? [42:52]


Now, we have organizations—the most well known one is the Navigators and it’s a very interesting study to see how they have thought about discipleship. Actually, I got on their case in print 35 or 40 years ago because they divided up and they say there are three classes—one is Christian and the second is disciple and the third is worker; and workers can make disciples and disciples can make Christians and Christians just make trouble. [Laughter] You accept that? Well, they are wonderful people. The NAVS are among the most faithful followers of Christ on earth and they love me and I love them.  And actually, they have done some “rethinking” about that because they realized that what they were teaching as discipleship—which is basically training to make converts—they realized that their people were not changing—that you could become a convert-maker with bad character. Hmmm. Now, they never said that. They would have said just the opposite, “Well, it’s good to have good character” but their discipleship training was not devoted to it.  On the left wing in the church, basically discipleship is some kind of social action from soup lines to pouring blood on government files or whatever seems appropriate to do to protest. You know, there is a place for that, no doubt but it doesn’t do much for your character. So, I would say, and you please disagree with me and correct me if you think I am wrong. I am here to learn. I would just say that the test of your understanding of discipleship is—Does it lead to Christ-like character? [45:34]


Now, the other things are important but you are going to do those much better and much more effectively if you have the character of Christ. For one thing, you will step into places of conflict and you will do it with salt and light, not in a way that just provokes more trouble. We have a society that is sick with rights and if you want to start a movement, start selling bumper stickers that say, “Stand up for your responsibilities.” Wouldn’t that be good? [Yes!!!]  If responsibilities are taken care of, there will be no need for rights except to instruct people who don’t understand and there is a need for that.  And if responsibilities are not taken care of, rights will achieve something—something good but it will grind the spirit of the human being to pieces. You cannot conduct your life on the basis of rights and most people have enough sense not even to try. Responsibility is the key and the way to be responsible is to live in the Kingdom of God and take on the character of Christ. That will enable you to be responsible and you will be able to live up to your responsibilities because you will have the resources to do it. See, the issue of rights always raises the question, What are the resources?” Well, I am apt to get deflected into that and I don’t want to but it’s an important topic. [47:45]


So, I am with Him in all my circumstances learning to be like Him. He is my teacher. See, one of the things that accounts for the situation we are now in is that Jesus, as teacher disappeared from the church and that was a part of what I mentioned right at the outset about the displacement of the content of Christian teaching from the domain of knowledge into the domain of faith. That’s why the Institute is hard on you and says, “Do all this reading and writing because we are hoping that you will lead the way out of the morass that has come upon our world and our nation because the church no longer presents Jesus as The Teacher.” Now actually, the world has enough sense to recognize that often and you will find His teachings brought over, usually without His name in many contexts but that’s not effective. So, teaching is like you shall love your neighbor as yourself, which we want to talk about after lunch—used to be a part of the language of people who weren’t Christians. That’s not there anymore. You can hate you neighbor just as long as you don’t discriminate. Hate everyone equally! [49:42]


Now, where is that going to come from if it doesn’t’ come from—it won’t come from any place but the church. No one else has it. No one else is in a position to teach it and practice it. You can’t get a government grant for that. It’s the people of Christ who teach that and they learn it from Jesus and that’s why one of the lessons you want to learn is to think that Jesus was actually very smart and intelligent. You need to think that thought.


That comes under the heading of that great preaching question—What think ye of Christ? One of the best sermon texts in all of history—What do you think of Christ? Well, the key to everything is what you think of Christ. And we went though a period of conflict in which one group said, “Well, Jesus is a great teacher but that is all He is. He is not the Divine Son of God. He wasn’t resurrected from the dead. He wasn’t born of a Virgin” so all of those fighting phrases—He’s just a great teacher. It turned out that even on that teaching, He didn’t know what He was talking about often because most importantly, they said, He thought the Kingdom of God was going to come immediately. He got it wrong. But, the other side said, “Well, teacher is code language for not divine” so we are not going to talk about Him as a teacher. Now, if you don’t have a teacher, guess what else you don’t have? [Students!] Students! And so that aspect of learning from Him simply disappears. [51:49]


So, there are three main aspects of discipleship. We want to separate them out here a little bit. They are not actually separable but for purposes of analysis, it’s good to distinguish things and talk about them and then let them come back together. There are three main aspects of discipleship. One is simply learning to do as He did and what He taught. That’s up front. That leads the pack so I look at the things that He taught. We discussed contempt and anger and so on and look at the things He taught and say, “We will learn how to do that.” That’s the first level of learning and of course it’s totally overwhelming and impossible for human beings but then of course, it’s not supposed to be something that we attain by our smart abilities or whatever because He is our teacher and He has given His Holy Spirit to move in our spirit and guide us and inform us and teach us, and not just by lectures but by leading us through life. [53:00]


So, now, if I haven’t decided that I am going to learn to do what He did, accept all of my imperfections and so on but not let that stop me from staying in there. See? Then I really am not His disciple. I am learning to handle the ordinary events of daily life within the principles and the power of God’s Kingdom rule. Discipleship is for all of life. Running a business, a difficult committee meeting, a family dispute, writing a book, living with some political issue, all of those kinds of things; how would He do that? How would He get engaged in a controversy over homosexuality? How would He be involved in perhaps leadership in government? Could He do that? Well, yes, He could do that. Now, suppose you are doing that; okay, then you are learning from Him how He would do that if He were you. We’ve got a lot of learning to go. [54:35]


Among other things, you learn how to be a man or a woman of unclean lips in the midst of a people of unclean lips. You don’t just wash your hands in purity and walk off.  You stay involved but you stay involved as a person who is a person of light and you don’t diminish that and you have to let people bounce off of you in whatever way they are going to bounce off of you and they may hurt you. It’s going to come in handy if you have already learned the other stuff.


And, then the third thing I mention here is learning to act with God’s power in bringing the Kingdom to bear on obvious human need—individual and social. That’s sometime we have to learn to do. It’s not automatic. It has to be taught. It has to be practiced. Praying is not something you automatically know how to do and Jesus Himself responded to the request of His students, “Teach us to pray. Teach us to pray.” And He gave them a Kingdom prayer and I have re-worded some of it, not that there is any possibility or desire to replace the one that we are used to. It’s on 25 of your notes and you might just try this out as a part of your discipleship. I tried to change the language a little bit to help us see more of a Kingdom context of the prayer. It is a Kingdom prayer.  [56:55]


You start with, “Dear Father, Always near us.” If you start with the common understanding, “Our Father who art in Heaven,” then you’ve got a God who is way off and way away. The Biblical understanding of Heaven is that the first Heaven is the atmosphere—the realm of the birds and the clouds that we sometimes call it. The second Heaven above that was the Heaven in the stars—Heavenly bodies and planets and all of that. The last Heaven is the Heaven where the angels dwell with God and so, that’s the place that Paul apparently visited and was caught up to the third Heaven and stuff going on there that apparently we are not really supposed to know about but it comes down to us.


“Our Father always near us, may your name be treasured and loved”—that’s the first request and actually, that would take care of everything else—we are done. “May your Name be treasured and loved.” Is the name of God treasured and loved, do you think now? I wouldn’t think so. I knew a person who said he was raised in a family where they thought God’s last name was, “Damn it.” Actually, I think He has a witness in all of this; perhaps, that ‘s the most repeated prayer on earth is, “God, damn it.” But it’s not actually something that we should identify God with is damning things. [59:01]


“May your Name be treasured and loved, may your rule be completed in us”—your Kingdom be completed in us—“May your will be done here on earth in just the way it’s done in the Heavens”—“Give us today the things we need for today, forgive our sins and impositions on you as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us. Please don’t put us through trials.” Remember this is a child’s prayer. Don’t over-sophisticate it. “Deliver us from everything bad.” You should pray that prayer. You should pray every day, “Don’t put us through trials because you are the one in charge.” So, you start with recognition, “Our Father, the one in the Heavens” and you conclude with recognition, “You have all the power and the Glory too is all yours forever which is just the way we want it.” Now, you know, “Amen” doesn’t mean much to people. We are sort of like “over and out.” [Laughter] So, you may want to supplement that with something different. You might want to say, “Hallelujah!” or perhaps even “Whoopee!” Try it! [Whoopee!] You can do it in solitude where you won’t worry about what other people think you are holy.  Try “Whoopee!” [1:00:49]

If you get the point of the prayer, you will want to say, “Whoopee!” That puts this in a teaching context—these people who feel adequate to prayer—no one.  As Paul says, “We don’t know how to pray as we ought. The spirit helps us.” So, we come to learn to pray and then of course, this is just a schematic prayer and Luther’s teachings about using it are very good. He remarked how often he would get lost in one phrase and just not make it through. Well, that’s okay. Just stay there.


I use “Hallowed be Thy Name” often as a word to go with me through the day and you know, the Jesus Prayer—well, that’s okay but you can try some other things. “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” That’s good but try, “Hallowed be they name.” Let that run in your tape in your mind and then you dig into these parts of the prayer because you see, when you pray, you have to think something. You can’t pray without thinking. So what are you going to think? Well, what you think will make a big difference and under these, you will see that this is a prayer that invokes God’s presence into our lives and takes the essential things, like putting forgiveness next to daily bread. It’s a wonderful vision of where we live and so that we are learning to bring the power of God into our lives that includes miraculous things, that includes turns of events in business and in all of the affairs of my life. Then, those three go together of course because you realize you need to be doing all of those. Yes? [1:03:19]


Q: Could you speak a little bit—your comment about you can’t pray without thinking—one of the sort of, whole concepts of this centering prayer or contemplative prayer where you try to, I guess devoid your mind of thoughts and that sort of thing….


Dallas: Well, centering prayer is a good thing to get you from distraction but don’t identify what is called centering prayer with prayer. See, there are a lot of thing that we can do that will help us prayer that aren’t prayer. In order to understand prayer, go to Jesus and see what He describes as prayer, like in Luke 16-18. Prayer is asking and receiving. That’s why when He says, after He gives the Lord’s Prayer, He doesn’t say, “Now, let me talk to you about centering.” No, he talks about a man in a tight spot who goes to somebody and asks for something. Same way that the widow had to deal with a judge and she went and asked and she asked again and she asked again. So, there are a lot of things and one of the things that is troubling when you read a lot that is said about prayer is that you find many good things and you just never get around to praying. Get to it. No problem. [1:04:59]


Frankly, prayer is asking and receiving and it’s embarrassing to people for a lot of reasons. Sometimes, because they think it’s selfish. Sometimes, because if they ask for something and don’t get it, that shows they are not quite “with it.” Yes?


Jan: One time, you identified centering prayer as a discipline of silence. I’ve found that very helpful.


Dallas: Actually, that is what you do in centering prayer. You don’t do it when you are jabbering and I hope you’ve turned off your boom box. Centering prayer brings in silence and of course, it will be done in solitude. It can be done in groups but it is harder. So, you have the various disciplines that influence that.


I don’t’ really advocate emptying your mind— exinanitionis tuum, (not sure this is correct; it was hard to hear) and viewing your mind, you don’t know what goes from there. There is a positive benefit of eliminating distraction when you come to pray but be sure to fill the vacant space in you with something good. Maybe if you are going to start with The Lords’ Prayer. Yes? [1:06:26]


Q: What about Psalms 131 where David said, “I quieted my soul and I rest on God like a weaned child from its mother?” [Yea, that’s good] I don’t see any request though.


Dallas: No, you are not but now, Is He talking about praying? See, quieting your soul is a good thing. There are lots of things like in the Lamentations, Jeremiah talks about, “It is good for a person to have warned the oak of suffering in the end.” Well, there are a lot of good things and you know, to say that “x” is not prayer is not to say it’s not prayer. So, then you say, “Willard, where to you get your information?” Well, actually, I am a follower of Christ. So, when I want to know about prayer, I go to Him and not just in the Scriptures but also in my practices. I ask Him to be present. So, now, you just evaluate that, use your reason, study think, talk with others and then find out. [1:07:50]


Q: Do you use Psalms?


Dallas: Yes, you can use Psalms. Now, then again, praying the Scripture—sometimes that’s actually a form of studying but you can use them. Luther used the Ten Commandments and he would pray through those and then he used the confession—“I believe in God the Father Almighty” and he used that word. We need words and there are ways that we can use them.


I would just encourage you if you are going to be a disciple of Jesus, you need to learn how to use His power and that comes primarily through prayer and that’s why Jesus said in the passage that Jan gave us last night, “This kind does not come out except through prayer”—that’s power. That’s power and prayer is the main doorway to power. Prayer is a power-sharing device for a world of recovering sinners. It’s how God let out His power in conjunction with what you are doing. Prayer is a power-sharing device for a world of recovering sinners and you don’t want your power in prayer to outrun your character—and God usually will help! [Laughter] [1:09:40]


Q: I guess the reason I get nervous when thinking of prayer as asking and receiving is because of the Word of Faith Movement so how do we think of prayer this way—the way that Jesus described it without getting to the point where it becomes “ask for anything and receive it” even if it’s not within God’s Will?


Dallas: Do you think Jesus teaches that?


Comment: No! No, I don’t but how do we teach this in such a way that people don’t move to that because that’s what we want—our desires. We want to be able to say, “Oh, I can just pray for this desire and God’s going to give it to me. He’s my ATM; I’ll just go to Him and take it out. So, how do we teach it so that it doesn’t go there? [1:10:24]


Dallas: Well, first, you teach positively about what prayer is and you teach that it is not something that you are in control of. That’s the most important thing we need to teach. Now, if we get into a situation where there is a friendly acceptance of evaluating this sort of thing; you can ask people, “How do you think the world would look like if that were true?”

See, the people that push “word of faith” in that way usually have done pretty well in the world but their followers normally aren’t like that but they teach something like, Word of Faith, you know, like in South Africa.  Some of the biggest congregations are Word of Faith. That always goes with prosperity and what is most obviously lacking in the lives of the people is prosperity. This comes up in non-Christian settings. Who is the Australian lady that wrote this book? It just swept the world and made her a multi-millionaire about attracting? [The Secret] The Secret, and you know what? It’s still a secret. [Laughter] [1:11:58]


Just suppose that Mr. Obama were to solve the national debt problem by using his money? See, He just doesn’t know how to do it? Well, why doesn’t that lady come and teach him? [Right. Laughter] We are drawn to magic and prayer is not magic. It is a personal transaction.


So, in the way of discipleship, we need to learn about that. We need to learn what happens when we pray and nothing happens. What does that mean? That’s in the process of discipleship because frankly, that happens very often for the very best of disciples.


John Wimber, who was one of the really wonderful Christian leaders in recent years who taught the use of power was also a very honest man and he had healing meetings and he would invite sociologists in from the surrounding universities to evaluate the results and his view was basically in his ministry, ten people out of 100 got something and then it kind of went down and maybe one in a 100 really received a shocking answer that affirmed their need. They were healed or whatever it was. And, if you could bat a 100 on this, it would probably ruin your character. I mean, these verses that we read which I read constantly because I want to be moving where Jesus in John 14 says, “If you ask anything in my Name I’ll do it.” Well, I think that He wants us to know just again what He said to the man with the son who had trouble, “All thing are costly to those who believe.” Now, how do you live with that? Well, if you have a model of prayer where it’s like putting money in the coke machine and you put the money in and there is no coke, you don’t keep putting money in there and if you have a view of prayer like that, then you will quit praying. Many people pray themselves into skepticism and then they retreat to something that isn’t prayer and call that prayer—the spiritual happy hour. That’s the things we learn as disciples. We learn how to live them and we begin to understand how prayer works and when its working and what’s going on and so on. [1:15:08]


Well, I want to get you a little further along here in five minutes and particularly, I will say something about the place of discipleship and the place of discipleship is wherever I am now. That’s the place of discipleship—wherever I am now.


Now, that goes back to what we talked about the Gospel last time; how the Gospel is for whole life. It’s for family, work, community life; wherever we are, wherever we are in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is available there and discipleship is wherever I am now and whatever I am doing now. I am learning from Jesus how to lead my life if He would lead my life if He were I.  So, that has really important indication; most important, I think is that when I am in any situation, I am not running the show. I am not running the show. And so I want to live in truth and transparency.  I want to be open. That would mean things like checking whether or not I am really dealing with others out of love. Did you find that thing? Is it in the front or the back? [In the front] Sorry; Page 9—close to the front.


So, then I am taking everything that is moving with me as a disciple as an occasion for whatever. Now, that keeps the Lord with you. See, and that’s where you want to be. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age. I will never forsake you for you are here now. “ Whatever now is and wherever now is, that’s the place of discipleship. It means you don’t go into your life, your days, or your places you are thinking that you have got it all figured out. You hopefully have learned a lot but still, you have more to learn about that situation so you go into it with God, surrender to Him, listening for His voice and taking the teaching that He gives. [1:17:58]


One of the greatest problems through discipleship is that we don’t understand how it relates to our job. Most of our conscious waking life is spent at our job. {Keith, do you think you are going to talk about jobs? Can you do that for me?} [We could. I can do that.] I think that would be a good thing to do because for many people, their job consumes their life. They don’t know that they have a life other than their job. Now, that’s not the best way of asking Keith to do some teaching on that but in any way you look at it, if you are not a disciple on your job, you have just eliminated most of your waking life from discipleship. Do you understand?


So, it’s extremely important to know that everything we do is to be creative work under God. Now, we go way back to the beginning. What’s your image? You are creative will under God. Well, what about your job? Can that be creative will under God? That’s something you learn. You know? Every job has a lot of “stuff,” doesn’t it? You are apt to think creative will isn’t under anybody. That’s the nature of jobs and that’s why we have an epidemic of hatred of jobs. Of course, when we are in a period when a lot of people don’t have one, we think about it differently but when things are moving along, then its “Oh, Johnny Paycheck, take this job and shove it.” I hope it’s needless to say that’s not a really profitable attitude for the disciple and so, we want to learn how Jesus would do my job as He would do my job if He were I. How would I do my job as Jesus would do my job if He were me? But we want to say, “Jesus wouldn’t be caught dead at this job.” [Laughter] I like to when I am speaking to Christian faculty in colleges, I like to raise the question, “How would Jesus teach Economics 101?” And their first response is, HE wouldn’t! But, probably there is nothing more important to learn than Economics in the Kingdom of God. Yes? [1:20:55]


Q: A couple of years ago, the “What Would Jesus Do” movement was pretty strong and pretty similar to what would Jesus do? But I don’t think that left was a lasting impression.


Dallas: It’s a sad mistake.


Comment: So, why do you think it didn’t take or didn’t set because its similar principle.


Dallas: Well, you need to start asking questions, “Why do you need to ask in this situation, ‘what would Jesus do?’ Why don’t you already know?” Now, there is a point to the question, okay, but it’s not a helpful one for character development. It doesn’t really help. Now, if you’re in a position like the novel that that came out of [In His Steps] where you don’t know what He would do and you develop the habit of asking, “Now, what would Jesus do here?” Well, that’s probably helpful. It’s not a bad thing but one of the things, you know, that Jesus would do is He would be growing in a position where He rarely had to ask that question So, they sold a lot of bracelets and t-shirts and you know, that is not a wholly bad thing but it’s just if you think that’s the solution, then it won’t really help to just go around asking, “What would Jesus do?” [1:22:37]


Q: OK—according to the things she said, “How is this question different then?” How is this different than that?  What would Jesus do—how would I live my life as Jesus would—


Dallas: The question is not what Jesus would do but it’s what you would do. [OK] And you are taught by Jesus about what you are going to do. The emphasis is on your life and then of course growing where you don’t need to ask that question. You already know what He would do and that’s development of character. [1:23:22]


Q: And then I would do it in the way He would do it and not just the what He would do in the way……


Dallas: Well, that’s a really important distinction….


Comment: It’s the heart.


Dallas: Well, I’ve go tot take a break but let me leave you with a funny. This is on there. [Laughter]  So, now, the church is not the center of the universe.   Actually, there is not going to be any ministry positions in Heaven. [RUR-ROW]. There will be some preachers in Heaven but they will      ditch the church. [Laughter] The church is for disciples. I have to say that bluntly but you have to decide whether or not that is true. What is the church for? Why is it you have churches that don’t know what they are for and they wind up trying to stay alive. [1:24:40]


Discipleship is for the world. The world won’t work without disciples and there is nothing wrong with any church that discipleship won’t fix. Churches in trouble are always in trouble because they are not disciples. They tear themselves apart. They are not communities of love because they are not disciples, because Jesus said, “By this, one thing, people will know you are my disciples because of the way you love one another.”—Not love the world. We are never told to love the world—one another and of course, that’ll catch the neighbor and the neighbor will overflow that a bit. That’s the one mark that He gave. That goes out to the world and if you don’t have a life outside the church, then you are missing the Kingdom’s presence in your life. Actually, even preachers can’t live their life in the church. They have to have a life and Keith will talk to you some about that later. [1:26:15]


OK; we have to take a break and let me just leave you with that thought on prayer that showed up on the wall of a Coventry cathedral in England before they were bombed out and this will give you something to think about in terms of how discipleship is going to work—Hallowed be thy name in ministry. That takes a phrase out of The Lords’ Prayer—Hallowed be Thy name—in Ministry. God be in my hands and in my making. Then Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Heaven and Earth are full of your Glory, Hallowed be be thy name in the arts—God be in my sense and in my creating. Hallowed be thy name in congress—God be in my computer and in my finances, trading. God, hallowed by thy name in government. Hallowed by your name in education. Hallowed be your name in the home. So, I will leave that up there and it is in your thing.  Is it close to the front or the back?  [Right after the cartoon.] All right, we’ve got to break.

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