Dallas Willard Part 22 of 34

In 1993 Dallas began teaching an intensive two-week residential course for Fuller Theological Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program. His task was to teach about spiritual life in a systematic way so that its full connection to the work of the minister was clear. These sessions from 2012 are from Dallas’s last year of teaching the course before he died. Though a bulk of the course was usually centered on the nature and practice of disciplines, the beginning of the course dealt with more theological themes like the nature of spiritual reality and the end of the course dealt with topics in spirituality like vocational issues. [Editor’s Note: We know that the class was taped on other occasions and would be glad to find these recordings.]


KEITH:   I put this stuff on the board. They are just some sayings over time that we have synthesized and put together here and I do think, you know, these things can be a basis of springboard for discussion—whether it be with youth or whether it be with adults to get the understanding of temptation. That whole idea of thought, temptation and sin is really an important teaching for our congregations. There are people suffering deeply because they think if they have a sexual thought that they are sinning. Do you know that? Do you realize that? You have this in your congregation—heavy guilt—they have to understand that thought is not sin.


Temptation is not neutral. OK? (He refers to a drawing on the board) I put the stop here on the front end of temptation, not on the back end here and there are a lot of places on this back end of temptation here.  You want to get it as early as possible and not all the way down to the one that Justin picked here. Justin said, “How about here?” No, I’m just kidding, Justin! We were pIaying, but I put Justin’s name right here. Don’t put Justin’s name in here, okay?


This is a good discussion, isn’t it?  Couldn’t you talk about that? Temptation is an understanding of desire, which pulls the will. Now, we’ve said a little bit about this but really, the big issue is not so much on the sexuality issue or homosexuality issue but the question is, what is the role of desire? That’s the biggest question of all is the role of desire. Is desire something that is to be instantly and consistently gratified OR is there desire that is wrong desire? Let alone, evil desire?  Desire is a huge thing and in our culture, desire is somewhat off limits now. Among kids, you know, when you are a culture that is, the flesh rules over the will, then desire—the natural extension of that is desire–whatever my desires say, I do.  Right? [2:33]


The sister of desire, I think is—Dallas and I have been talking about this for the past year—I came across a book from one of my other professors called Curiosity As Vice because I didn’t realize it in the Medieval world—actually, Augustine, curiosity was not a virtue; it was a vice and we are in an age where desire and curiosity are two things that are pretty much untouchable. Hey, that’s-we can go anywhere. Now, think about curiosity for just a second. What is the ultimate in our day with kids and curiosity? I think “tweeting” is the ultimate extension of curiosity. What is tweeting? Any tweeters out there? Any of you tweet? Brian, tell us what is tweeting?  What do people do on a tweet? [He explains tweeting] Okay, they can do that but in general when it started, it was like, “Oh, I think I’ll go to Brittany Spears’ tweet so I can see what she is doing for lunch.” Tweeting has a number of—because it’s only a certain amount of characters you can tweet—only 150 characters—you can only say little statements but it is the ultimate communication of curiosity—of what somebody is doing. This takes up a lot of time and energy in life. We live in a world now in today’s world that is obsessed with—desire and curiosity are two things that kind of absorb people. I mean, some folks—all day long………..


Q: Can you explain how curiosity was looked down on in the dark ages?


A: I think the idea was, and Dallas you jump in on this because as I look at that book, it was more—that there was a time when people realized that there was knowledge past themselves and they just looked at it and said, “That’s not for me to have to venture into. I don’t need to have knowledge about everything.” Think about that because when you feel like you have to know everything—talk about a drain of energy going out. You can literally spend your whole day and some folks—I know many people—I was with friends the other night who’s sister sadly is just on her own and she spends literally the whole day on the computer doing things that are basically curiosity issues and games and other things, so desire and curiosity can fill because I think the identity issues people are longing for. Right?


There is a right desire and there is good desire and bad desire and things like that as well but we have to have a discussion about it. The question is—Is desire to be something that whatever we desire, we are to fulfill?  Can there be desires that are wrong desires? [5:43] Can we have a discussion even on that level let alone going to talking about are there desires that are outright evil desires? The scriptures talk about those kinds of things so that’s the bedrock of some of this conversation.


I love this statement that Dallas made many years ago, “Desire is a good servant but a bad master.” Great, great sentence. See, we are not Buddhists and others that want to eliminate desire. We want to steward desire rightly. We are different in that way. I like this [pointing to Board] “There is not such thing as a sinful thought.” Sinful thinking or cultivation, yes. That’s what we want to warn and curtail is the cultivation of thoughts that come into our mind that will then pull the will. Temptation gets empowered at that point when we cultivate, right and then that pulls the will toward sin. That’s the operation there and I put this little sentence because I think it’s helpful theologically to understand Jesus in relationship to temptation. I’ll let Dallas elaborate on this one but Jesus understood temptation “of a kind and extension but not depth or degree or experience.” [Say more on that.} I’m going to let him say it because that’s his…… [7:18]


DALLAS: Well, that’s the idea that Jesus was tempted on all points like as we. Uhn-uhn. There isn’t a general kind of temptation that He didn’t experience so that’s true but He never wanted to drink a Jack Daniels like a drunkard wants it, right; because he had not developed the corresponding habits and brain tracks and whatever you want to talk about. So the kind of temptation that comes form the development of sinful character, He never experienced. He never experienced it.


OK, let’s just tie onto that—James 1, verse 14, “Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own desire (lust). When desire (lust) has conceived…..” Now, that means, it has brought something into existence that wasn’t there before. “It gives birth to sin: and sin when it is accomplished, it brings forth death.” So, that’s the genealogy of death and sin and what you want to understand about desire is, it is absolutely vital but it never questions itself. That’s’ where Will comes in—to question Desire. Desire says simple, “I want that.” Desire is an impulse towards an object and little children experience it; it’s a part of what we need for us to live and for example, you see older people who have lost their taste for food and they have to eat but they don’t want food. Now, that’s pretty close to torture, you know. So, God has implanted Desire in us but He has also implanted Will and the Will doesn’t say, “I want that.” The Will says, “What about that?” The Will deliberates and that word “deliberate” I think I mentioned earlier and that means to “free up.” It frees you up from Desire. Now then, the Will has to be guided by what is good. That’s what it is looking for. The Will looks for what is good and that’s the only freedom from Desire is what is good. Now, if you lose sight of that, then you are in real trouble and that’s the point at which, as we say now, “why not?” Now, let me just point out to you that “why not” is never a reason for anything and so you may not realize it but the world of “why not” is a different world from “Why?” “Why” seeks a reason for something. “Why not” attempts to establish there’s no reason against it. Right? So “why” and “why not” are different realms. The Will needs a “why” and that is where reason comes in. It’s looking for a reason for something and that is designed to identify what is good and then to act for that.


Now, when you back up on that you think all of the disciplines operate in the realm of the “why” and of the Will. All of the disciplines are “Will training” and they are trying to liberate you from Desire and the immediacy of Desire. So, that is the importance of margins, which some of you have already mentioned once or twice and that’s a tremendously important idea because it is in the margins that you have a chance to deliberate. So, when you go into solitude and silence and fasting all and all of these things where you essentially put Desire on hold. The disciplines of abstinence always are designed to put Desire on hold and give you a chance to reflect. And if you don’t have that space, well then you will be dominated by your desires and some of those will take the form of emotions. See, like anger is an emotion. It has lots of feelings with it as well and you have to be able to stall it. That’s why the practical advice “count to 10—count to 10.”—that’s actually very good advice and that keeps your firecracker from going off and so now, then you can consider why and that will be very helpful.


Steve: I feel embarrassed but I think Dallas saw a lot more in my question than I saw in my own question but I had a question / comment during the break and that is the thought occurred to me that in the life of our church today that the homosexual issue is actually a gift from God because it will force us as the Church to really re-examine how we come to thinking about sin. I appreciated Richard’s comment toward the end of last session that the Bible does teach us about certain sins but it also teaches us about a lot of sins that as a church we have chosen to overlook whether its contempt for my neighbor or pride or a lot of other sins that we have kind of said, “well, we can swallow that sin” and if you look at the life of the church, we have gotten to where we can swallow divorce and a lot of other sins and now we suddenly have this issue that is so big that I am not so sure we can ignore it. The gift for me or at least the idea that I had was that it is a gift that will force us to go back and to reexamine really the foundation which is what Dallas I think gives us is for living life in the Kingdom. I’m sure you saw a lot more than that in my question, Dallas. [15:15]


Dallas: But that is a crucial insight for us at this retreat to understand that in affect what is being taken away from the church is cultural power and we have been leaning on that for a long time so because of the cultural power, you couldn’t even have a discussion about things, you know, like, go back “always” and in movies, you never saw a man and a woman in the same bed. So, a bedroom had two beds. Right? The producer, being fined $5,000 because what’s his name in Gone with the Wind said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” So, you look at that and you think, well, that’s a reflection of a cultural authority that essentially backed the Ten Commandments. Now, that’s gone and the attempt to get that back is totally futile because the people are the forces on the side of desire have found a way to work the Constitution and the court system to get what they want enforced by law. Right? Now, we sit around and moan about that. Well, I think there actually are some people that are supposed to do something about it and that’s not bad but we need to ask ourselves, “Since when did we start waiting on the government to do what was right?” Our power doesn’t lie there. Our power lies in holiness of life, clarity of understanding truth, and power that comes from God. That’s what we really are talking about here. That’s why we start with the Kingdom of God and the spiritual nature of God and the spiritual nature of the human being. Then, broaden that out and tie it into all the other dimensions of personality and then out of that comes ministry and we are not waiting but actually I am afraid many people are waiting and they don’t understand that all that is required is that we simply live in the character and power of Christ or as I say that we, “say what He said in the manner that He said it.” Teach what Jesus taught. Now, that’s going to take care of Richard’s point here that he made earlier. But it will also go deeper because what he is doing is at a righteousness beyond the righteousness of the Scribe and the Pharisees and that’s the level of action and it does justice to the complexity of the human self and human society and it says, no we locate the problem fully where it is and that doesn’t mean that we don’t do anything about what people do, it just means that we’ve got more to do and that’s where I think we have to recognize that we come in. There is more to do and it has many dimensions—the full ministry of the people of Christ in society and it certainly isn’t just preaching at people or running successful churches. It reaches out into the lives of the people in our communities because we love our neighbors and we love god with all our soul, mind and strength and then various ministries develop such as Bill does and others to reach people where they are and set them free. So, Hallelujah, that’s it! Now, Steve, that’s a good point and I hope you will hammer on it, okay? [20:16]


All right, well, we want to hasten on here a little bit on page 73 of your notebooks: Secrecy: The Discipline of Secrecy. Now, what is this discipline? It is the discipline of refraining from letting our good deeds be known. There is no idea that we should always do this or that this is a holy action in itself anymore than fasting is something we should always do or that it is a holy action in itself.  When you have the passage in Matthew 6, Jesus is not speaking against being known, He is speaking about acting in order to be known and the teaching of this whole section in Matthew is badly misunderstood by people and you have people who think they should never pray except when they are in their closet. So you have people look at this and say, “Should we pray publicly?” It’s not about praying publicly, it’s about praying in public “to be seen,” right? It’s the motivation and unfortunately, so much of our religion is for the benefit of public consumption. [21:44]


So, now the three things here—Doing righteous deeds of alms giving and so forth and the word is beware of practicing your righteous deeds before men “to be noticed.” That’s like the passage in Matthew 5 where He says, “You look on a woman “to” lust.” See, that’s the reality of the person lies in their motives. That’s what makes something good or bad is the motive. We retain this for example in our court system. The difference between pre-meditated murder and manslaughter and in the courts there is constant attention to motives. That is something we really want to hang on to; that is where true human goodness lies. It is in motives and we have to come back now to this wonderful piece that Steve brought to our attention from the New York Times because there is something very good in it and there is something quite mistaken and harmful in it and we want to talk about that but it has to do with motives. That piece is talking about the difference between, you know embezzling a little and embezzling a lot but the difference is not between a lot and a little. The moral difference is between “Am I an embezzler?” or “Did I just embezzle?” And people are very wary of wanting to be identified as an embezzler because that gets to the kind of person they are. They think they can fool themselves by sticking at the level of the deed and the deed is not where the action is and that’s what Jesus is talking about. He is not talking about giving your money in such a way that it’s acknowledged. He is talking about giving your money in order to be acknowledged. It’s a kind of truism around fundraisers and universities and other places that you cannot raise funds for mops.  Fundraising usually wants something with a wall big enough to put a name on it and mops aren’t very good in that connection—so janitorial services are hard to endow. It’s because of what Jesus is talking about—people wanting to be seen as righteous and same thing with reference to prayer and with reference to fasting. I am not saying don’t let people know you fast or don’t let people hear you praying; don’t pray to be seen and in each case, He has this very clever observation. Well, they had their reward. They prayed to be seen and what do you know? They got seen.  They got their reward. But pray to your Father who is in secret; that is to say He is not visible and your Father who is in secret will reward you openly and people will not have any idea where it came from but you are not doing it for their recognition anyway. So, secrecy is a discipline that frees us up from approval and disapproval by human beings.  Now, you can reflect on how much of your life might be changed if you were freed up from that but practicing this enables us to live and stand before the audience of One. The audience of One is the only One that matters. The others do not matter. Now, sometimes it is an act of love to help an honest inquirer understand what you are doing as long as it is to help them; that is certainly legitimate. It is your caring about them but as long as it is to help people appreciate you, you better not do it—not a good thing. Let that go! [26:28]


This is one place where the practice of the discipline of silence will help you.  It will enable you to keep your tongue in your head and not go out of your way to make sure that people understand you and think well of you. If it’s to help them, there is a way that can be taken care of and sometimes that is an act of mercy and we have Paul’s admonition, “Let not your good be evil spoken of” and sometimes we need to help people with that but that’s not the general rule.  Secrecy frees us up; there is nothing wrong with good deeds being known. Sometimes they should be. There is a legitimate role of testimony but there is something wrong with doing them to be known and drawing our joy out of their being known. How much does our peace and joy depend upon people knowing and understanding? We need to be careful with that. So, this practice teaches us to be content without human approval and that our business with God is not filtered through others of necessity. We don’t depend upon the approval of people and that is a real load off your back. I remember how it helped me to read in Thomas a Kempis many years ago about what people say about you doesn’t make you any different. What you are, you are! If they speak ill of you, it doesn’t make you ill. If they speak well of you, it doesn’t make you well. Of course, he was very big on this idea of standing before the audience of One. [28:32]


I mention here the example of George Mueller in—I quote this in The Spirit of the Disciplines and talk about him some.  It is very interesting to see how in recent years a lot of people have attempted to tear him down and criticize him and find something wrong with him. I am sure he would have been the last to deny that there is something wrong with him but what he did was very remarkable indeed and while it was not perfect no doubt, he did often make his requests only known unto God. Now, after you build a community around that, well, it works a little differently but nevertheless, he following a practice which he wanted to renown to the glory of God, not to his talking, not to his fame and so, in his stories you have numerous accounts of how not telling anyone they were out of food at the orphanages and going to sit down at the table when there was no food and food coming to the door. Now, I understand that people tend to tell their victories and not their defeats but you don’t need many victories like that to be pretty impressed. So, I think he’s a good one to look at and in general, our idea is we want to be dependent on God. Being dependent on God is a great faith builder and knowledge builder and so we can learn through secrecy to break the habit of depending upon being known. Well, this is a really important discipline, I think. [30:26]


You know, it’s one of the disciplines where you sort of “get it down” and then you don’t pay much attention to it. It is what I call a “hygienic” discipline—a clean up the mess discipline and so it’s important, I think and you can imagine how much of our lives, especially in religion, would be changed if we were not angling for approval or to avoid disapproval. [30:59]


Ok; let’s go on to the final discipline of abstinence on page 79 and this is sacrifice and loss. Now, for the most part, this is a discipline, which is received. I don’t encourage the choice of sacrifice and loss just for itself but that may come upon you and then if it does, then receive it as a discipline. Receive it as something that will teach you in a way and develop you in such a way, as we say, do what you can’t do without the discipline. So, it consists in surrendering that which is necessary. Now, this is where it differs from frugality. Frugality is not surrendering what is necessary; it is surrendering what is optional and you don’t have to have it but you might indulge. The practice helps us learn to rest upon the sufficiency of God when we don’t have what we need.  That often is something that we need to practice because many times we are deprived of what we need or of something that goes much longer than luxury, like the death of a loved one or something of that sort. This sacrifice may lead to the laying down of our lives and so the statement of Jesus in John 15 about laying down our lives for our friends—that need not be all the way to giving up our lives but giving up what is necessary. I love this passage in Psalms 138 because it is talking precisely about that kind of situation and how you respond to it so let me find that. [33:11] It’s 138:7-8—“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; you will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; your loving kindness, O Lord, is everlasting; do not forsake the works of your hands.” See, that’s abandonment to God and that kind of abandonment is crucial in teaching us that even if the ship goes down, we are still safe. Even if we drown, we are still safe. God keeps us in His hands and learning that through sacrifice can prove to be a great discipline for the firmness of our commitment and faith to the Lord. Based upon knowledge that He has delivered us. He has stretched forth His hand and saved us in certain circumstances that were hopeless or looked hopeless.  You will find people who have given the last money they have and the paycheck is a week or a month away to see whether or not what will happen. Will God provide? And Jane and I have done that on occasion especially when we were in graduate school and didn’t have money and found amazing provisions for what we needed which wasn’t much but you know, you still have to eat fi you don’t have any money and you have children and you have to take care of them and so I remember on one occasion in particular we decided to just empty our pockets and we had a couple weeks to go and you know, you almost hate to tell the result because it sounds like—but we found money pinned to the steering wheel of our car and those were days when actually you might leave your car window open.  [35:37] Today, you would want them to pin it somewhere else, no doubt. You know, it’s not a big deal but it is a big deal to believe that you can face loss and you can deal with sacrifice, perhaps not asked of you but there you are, you’ve got to do it and God still has provision. When Jesus sent His people out first to preach, “the Kingdom of God is at hand,” you may recall that He did not tell them to take provision with them and that is an illustration of what we are talking about here and He wanted them to know by experience, the truth of what they were preaching. They were preaching that the Kingdom of God is at hand so let’s see it. So, the instruction there, what is that, Luke 10, but in any case, it’s very helpful to see the teaching there of putting yourself in a position where you don’t have any provisions and yet, the provisions come. In that case, mainly through people that were around them—not everyone, but there were those who provided for them and a part of that was eating what is set before you asking no questions and that itself it a great act of trust and willingness to have what you don’t want because it might have just been turnips and water or something of that sort. So, you eat what is put before you; receive the provision and that also is an exercise in learning as Paul says, “to be content with whatever I have, wherever I am.” [37:35]


So, here I recall the statement by William James about discipline that is at the end of your selection on as also in your notebook about practicing denial on little things and these smaller things prove to be things that build up a character that can live without fulfillment. I give you a poem here from Madame Guyon. She was repeatedly imprisoned by authorities for

nonconformity to the edicts of the church as interpreted by the authorities of that day—imprisoned for long periods of time—and very painful in some respects because for long periods of time she couldn’t see her little daughter and that’s quite a blow and so here is her response:


A little bird I am shut from the fields of air and in my cage,

I sit and swing to Him who placed me there.

Well pleased a prisoner to be because, my God, it pleases Thee.

Not have I else to do, I sing the whole day long.

And He who most I love to please doth listen to my song.

He caught and bound my wondering wing but still He bends to hear

me sing.


So, that’s a striking expression of contentment with God. “I am with you always,” He says and is that enough? Well, people who have followed Christ through the ages have repeatedly found that it was enough and in fact, it’s amazing how many wonderful things have come out of prison. Prison is of course a kind of forced deprivation that includes other disciplines such as solitude and silence sometimes and the benefits of accepting that and dwelling on God alone. See, what sacrifice and loss helps us know is that God is enough. God is enough! Now, that presupposes of course that we are with God, that there’s a meaningful understanding of what that amounts to and that when we are told that nothing can come between us and God. [40:34] What can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus? Now, you have two ways of taking that. One is, if you wish a non-experimental way that no matter what happens to you, God still loves you, right? But, I don’t think that is what He is talking about. I think He is talking about no matter what happens, you can be and live in the conscious presence of God—the conscious presence—not just a metaphysical truth or a theological truth but the conscious presence of God and that is what I think is dealt with elsewhere–the 23rd Psalm—Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because what?” Though art with me. That’s good company and it’s enough and it will even go through death. So, this is a really important thing to learn and in a time when martyrs were a very real part of Christian life. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this old book, Fox’s Book of Martyrs? And of course, it’s written from a particular point of view but then you can get those that were written from other points of view because in those days both sides burned people on the other side. So, that’s a kind of run through of some of the main disciplines of abstinence—disciplines of abstinence. [42:12]


Now, we will be looking at some of the Disciplines of Engagement later on. Not as many as this because our purpose here is to try to establish the principle and some understanding of a few of the main disciplines as activities that enable us to actually live in the way that Christ teaches us, but now we want to pause at this point and confront that question: Can we actually do that?  Can we actually do it? [43:00]


And we want especially to look at The Sermon on the Mount and think about the things that are taught there and whether or not we should think of this as something to do. Now, I don’t think there is any question that the text itself presumes that these are things to do, right? When you come to the end, there are various warnings about not doing what Jesus said and boy, that can really get you going if you don’t understand what He is talking about; especially if you think as most people do that when confronted with the Sermon on the Mount, you are being challenged to do what it said without being transformed and if you are not transformed in a significant degree, you can’t do any of that. You simply can’t do it and that’s how most people approach it because they don’t understand how Jesus teaches and because they don’t understand how He is teaching and they don’t look at His teaching as a whole and they are just brought up against this stuff and it slaps them in the face and they are hopeless.


So, we want to take some time now to look at this Sermon on the Mount and we want to start in the lead up to it but let’s back up a moment because if you want to appreciate Jesus, you have to put Him over against everyone else that is teaching. You don’t just look at Him. You look at Him and you are comparing to all the other people who are talking and these are the basic questions that any great teacher of any small but presumptuous teacher has to address [overhead is displayed] so your favorite talk show host will address these questions whether they want to or don’t even understand what they are doing. [45:33]


So, now we want to talk about these for a moment and then we look at Jesus’ teaching and realize how He is responding to them and the basic question is right out of Exodus 20—first and second commandment—reality. What is reality? Well, “I AM the Lord your God”—I brought you out of the land of Egypt. You want to know reality? That’s it! Reality. Or when Jesus comes, He says, “Repent for the Kingdom of the Heavens is at hand.” That’s a reality teaching. Now, when you read someone like Plato or Aristotle or Confucius or Buddha or whoever, they will give you a reality teaching and in some of the clearer cases, for example, Plato, the nature of reality consists in what he calls forms—universal kinds of entities which fix the nature of everything else. We might call them qualities and relations but the most important ones are things like the form of the good and you address, what is goodness? Well, goodness for him is a kind of great power that gives reality to everything else and through which alone you can understand everything else. You want to understand why there are plumbagos; well, in the end, because it is good that there be plumbagos. Now, of course, he is concerned mainly about human life and he has a lot to say about the soul so who is a good person? Well, it’s a person with a soul that is in a certain order dictated by the form of the good. You read Sigmund Freud and he will tell you about reality and he will tell you “well, there is an id and an ego and a superego,” right? And all of the psychologists—Watson, Skinner—existentialist psychologists of various kinds; reality is what they are teaching. [48:11]


Now, they don’t normally start there just as with Plato. They normally start with the second question: Who is well off? That’s the big one and that gets quickly related to three—Who is a really good person? And the piece from the New York Times is actually about who is a really good person? And people are vitally interested in that and they desperately want to be a good person. That’s why snipping a little bit here or there isn’t as important to them because they think, “well, you know, I can do that and still be a good person.” One of my favorite illustrations of this is—what is the talk show host, Imus when he used some racial language and lost his job and so he got on the talk shows and one of his lines was, “I’m a good person but I did something bad….. but I’m a good person.” People desperately want to hold onto that. We don’t have time to go into that a lot but being a good person has a very different meaning from doing the right thing and everyone understands that there are levels. Who is well off? Well, for Plato, if you are well adjusted to the form of the good; that usually has to be through a society of a certain kind and that’s nearly true of all the traditional moralists; all the way up to Kont or even later is the idea that you are a good person if you are integrated in a certain kind of reality so the first question is primary. You may not start there but that’s the one that is primary in answering all the rest. Who is a really good person according to the Buddha? Well, there is an answer to that and it is based upon the Buddha’s understanding of what is a person made up of and it involves things like the visible world is actually an illusion and the problem is to escape suffering, passion, feeling, and the way you do that is finding out that you are an illusion so why should you be worried about you? Why should you be trying to get one up on somebody else? The teaching about reality determines who is well off. The veil of Maya, which we look at when we look around isn’t real. A tiger coming at you to eat you is not real and you are not real either so why worry about it. Let him chew away because it’s a non-existent chew. The story about—man goes to his guru and learns that elephants are not real so he goes out on the street and here comes an elephant and he steps out in from of him and the elephant steps on him so he goes back to the guru and says, “the elephant stepped on me” and the guru says, “What elephant? What elephant?” So, there is some real strong medicine in many of the traditional teachings about these things and one of them does have to do with simply denying that the physical world is real. It is amazing how many people come up with that. Now, the Christian teaching isn’t that because the Christina teaching holds that creation is real and it is good and so on and that’s a different teaching. [52:30]


And then you have this issue of who is a really good person? And….how to become a really good person? So, Sigmund Freud thought you did this through psychoanalysis and he thought that what he called the “illusion of religion” would disappear once we got the psychoanalysis on a good footing and everyone got their kinks straightened out and you would no longer need to be scared by God into treating the people around you well—“civilization and its discontents” as he spoke of it. Civilization’s discontents basically arrived—guess what, from desire running over other people and you can’t have that and have civilization so you have to stop it somehow so you have God to scare you into obedience but now once we get our science of psychoanalysis going, we won’t need that any longer. The illusion has no future. See, all of these teachings fit on this grid and that’s what we need to understand as teachers and preachers, you see. When we present the teachings of Christ, we put that up against the alternatives. What are the alternatives? I mentioned a few the other day, but when we present Christ, see, we want to present Him in His answers to these questions and how they can be known to be true. [54:21]


The fourth question—How do you become a really good person? Well, go to USC. No, they won’t promise you that and you want to realize that now our university systems don’t try to answer these questions. There are a lot of people in that system that will “throw off” answers but if you go to UCLA or USC or Harvard and you inquire about the reality department? They will say, “You wait here and we will get somebody.” They will come and get you. They don’t’ have answers to these questions and that’s one of the things that is so important for us to understand as ministers and teachers today. They have no answers in the system that surrounds us and that’s why we are so prone to consumerism and drugs and all sorts of experiences that will distract us and take our minds off of the hopeless situation and Christ comes and says, “Well, God is real and His Kingdom is real.” Now, reality is what you can depend on. That’s reality. It’s what you run into when you are wrong. So, reality, the test of reality is your experience. Also, it can help if you have some information from various sources but reality is what you can depend on. What can you depend on? Well, got lots of offers—your, what is it? Your 401K? You can depend on your 401K; then someone starts messing with money. So, we try to depend on things. You can depend on national defense. Well, until others catch up, right? So, that’s the question Jesus says, “the Kingdom of God.” That’s what you can depend on. Stop scheming and trust in the reality of the Kingdom of God, which is at hand. What’s the Kingdom of God? It’s God in action and then you go on to things like “Who is well off?” And Jesus says, “Anyone alive in the Kingdom of God is well off.” Are you poor? If you are in the Kingdom of God, you are blessed. Are you rich? If you are not in the Kingdom of God, you are not blessed. Right? So, you get a teaching about blessing and then you get a teaching about who is a really good person. Well, that’s someone who is beyond the righteousness of the Scribe and the Pharisee, right? Who is a really good person? A really good person who is someone who is permeated with agape love; their lives are soaked in it and they come out dripping. That’s a really good person. And, then of course, how do you get to be a really good person? [58:23] Follow me. That’s what Jesus says. He says, “those who hear my words and do what I say, I’ll tell you what they are like. They are like a man that built his house on a rock.” Right? Because of course if you do that, you are going to be based upon the reality of the Kingdom of God and enjoying true blessedness. All of that comes together, you see. Become a disciple of Jesus. Follow His vision into the Kingdom of God. Am I making any sense to you at all? Because this is what you are presenting when you speak and live wherever it is you speak and live. Well, I hope that is what you are presenting. [59:19]


Q: How do you answer a question that you don’t know anything about?


A: Well, if you don’t know, what you would say is, “I don’t know.” You just say that. Christians are honest. They don’t try to fake it. So, maybe you say, “I don’t know but I’ll go find out.”


Now, of course, very few people can know all the philosophies but someone should in the fellowship of Christians know about this. So, those of us who can’t know about it perhaps we know someone who does know or perhaps we don’t and all we can say is, “Well, look, I don’t know about that but let me tell you about the Kingdom of God. Let me tell you about Jesus and then you can compare Him to the Buddha and Sigmund Freud.


Q: Can I use these questions in other religions?


A: You can and I think you should because you know, he probably has never thought about this. Most people don’t think at this level. They just, for example, they are Buddhist, or Christian or Islam or whatever and they have just thought about what they have been taught. Now, that was different in another world but now then the whole world is right here. Now, not in outer Mongolia probably but even there, they have email—the Internet so we are increasingly living in a world where people are in touch with all kinds of stuff. Even when they are kids when they are small because they ‘ve got that machine and they can punch that button, unfortunately in many cases. [1:01:19]


See, what I am concerned about is you and me and how we stand in the world. How do we stand in the world? And I suggest that when we are presenting Jesus, we need to present Him as answering those questions and we need to understand that what we are up against are others who are answering those questions. It comes in many forms and one of the most important is what we call the secular approach also which answers those questions. When you get up to preach, you are talking to people who know about the answers to those questions. So now, this is all preliminary to moving to the Sermon on the Mount, which we are going to do when we come back form lunch.


Now, I want you to understand that when you look at the Sermon on the Mount, you are looking to the answers to those questions and many people have no idea what they are looking at when they look at that but Jesus certainly did. He knew about those questions and He answers them, right? And if we are going to present a message to the world that lays a different foundation for life, we have to know what He gives, Okay?


Well, God bless our food and God bless our fellowship and give us strength and wisdom to understand and know what we need to know to the Glory of God and to the benefit of ourselves and others that we talk with. So, let it be done. Amen. [Amen]

Listen to all parts in this Spirituality and Ministry 2012 series