Service and “Sacrifice”

Dallas Willard Part 8 of 11

Dallas Willard teaches through a variety of disciplines at the church where he, as he later admitted, got his start as a Christian teacher.

§

Dallas: “ . . . Word as it resounds in our hearts as you speak to us. We pray that will be our portion this evening and that as we look into the scriptures; we will hear the living Word of God in our souls. We are studying about how to present our bodies living sacrifices—living sacrifices; we are looking into reasonable service and this evening, we are going to talk about service and sacrifice.

Lord, help us to understand what these things are and as we rush about to be calm and thoughtful and able to recollect and read and draw ourselves together and center ourselves into reasonable service. Teach us this discipline this evening. For the sake of Jesus and His cause, Amen. [1:10]

We turned last Wednesday to the Disciplines of Engagement and we talked about study and meditation. There is one verse, which I ask you to read that so well sums up study and meditation as a discipline. I hope all of you have memorized it and that is Joshua 1:8.  Do you know Joshua 1:8?

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth . . .” Now, let’s stop on that just a moment. It’s in your mouth, hmmm?—so much wisdom in the particular wordings. What is in your mouth? Can you think of anything better to have in your mouth than the book of the law? You see the idea that Joshua had was that you would be going around saying it. That’s how it would be in your mouth. You wouldn’t have a scroll or a Bible stuffed in your mouth, of course. You would be saying it. [2:29]

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night . . .” Now, you see, there is the engagement of the body in the act of meditation. There is certainly a place for silent meditation but there is a place for out loud meditation, and you need to be saying the scriptures, saying the Word of God. You need to have it in your jaws. And this is one of those many places in the scriptures where the view of the body as the repository of sin and righteousness, right? Not just a piece of flesh and bone and hair but as something, which may be inhabited with what is good or with what is evil. Stands forth! “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth . . .”—it’s on your tongue; it’s in your jaws. It’s ready to speak and it is sounded and you meditate in it by saying it. [3:34]

Now, remember the first evening? We talked about how sometimes the disciplines look silly and one might back up and say, “How silly!” How silly that you would have to say it but if you think that, you have not yet understood the centrality of the body—the body; and you have not yet begun to understand the details of what it means to say that our body is to be the temple of the Holy Ghost or on the other hand that there is a thing in our members warring against righteousness, the sin that is in our members. It’s right there. It’s in your body.

I am hoping that one of the things that will come out of this series is that at some point, you will be able to sit down and ask yourself, “Have I ever? Have I ever given my body to Christ? Have I ever given my body to God?” Now you know, I’ll bet that a lot of you folks here have not really seriously thought He wanted it. “Not my body,” He doesn’t want, hmmm? He wants it! And while you are in this world in your present form, your body is substantially YOU and you cannot give yourself to God without giving your body to God. You cannot hold that back.  You have to give your body to God. [5:28]

This book of the law shall not depart out of your jaws, out of your lips, out of your tongue and your teeth “. . . but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein . . .” See?—in other words, to know the joy of obedience. The commandments are not grievous; they are good. They are wonderful—to know the joy of obedience. [6:01]

That verse, Joshua 1:8 goes with the Great Commission. Go ye into all kinds of people and make them pupils. Make disciples. Baptize them into the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and then you teach them what? What do you teach them? Anyone know? To observe, to do according; right, that same phrase essentially, isn’t it? You see the sameness there? Teach them to do according to all things that I have commanded you and that’s the same thing. So, I hope you see now the centrality of study and meditation as a Discipline of Engagement so that you will concentrate.  Open your minds, repeat, strive to understand and in that way, be transformed.

The rest of Joshua 1:8, we don’t want to leave off. “ . . . for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” Psalm 1:3—“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doth shall prosper.” There are going to be a lot of things He won’t do but whatsoever he doeth will prosper in the ways that God chooses to honor him.

So, you see the Disciplines of Engagement now, where we talk of meditation and study is absolutely fundamental—absolutely fundamental. It is so sad that in our whole culture the idea of study or mediation has presented itself as something, oh, either extraneous, at best or just down right bad news. [8:16]

The greatest thing we can do as human beings is give our minds to what is right and good and beautiful and so in summing up this work of last time, I want to just read to you that very familiar passage in Philippians, the 4th chapter—and I wish I just had to time to work along here for a bit and go through these various mental states about the peace of God and hearts and minds being guarded and being kept through Christ Jesus but verse 8—“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8) Think on them! That’s meditation. Think on them. [9:34]

You see we have to ask, “Where is our mind?” Where is our mind? And where our mind is determines where the rest of us goes.  Jesus, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross despising the shame because His mind was set on what was before Him—“ . . . the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame . . . ” (Hebrews 12:2)

When awful things happen to us, one of the greatest traps we can fall into is to be obsessed with the awful thing that has happened to us—a business fails, a terrible personal injury of some sort—and the worse thing that can happen is that our mind should just stick on those. The model of Christ was to pay attention to something else, and “ . . . for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross . . .” and said, in effect, in the words of Paul, “Why these things that are temporal, they scarcely deserve to be mentioned compared to the glory of the things that lie ahead. “ [11:00]

All right now; that I took as the first Discipline of Engagement because of its absolutely fundamental character and there are many things that should be said in practice about how this works—about what kinds of problems would come up; for example, you may have the problem that you go to sleep when you try to study. A lot of people do that and you are going to have to come to grips with yourself and learn why that is, and make arrangements for not going to sleep when you study.

For many people, it’s very simple. They don’t study until they are worn out so they give the best part of their time to whatever and then they think, “Well, I’ve got a little time left now” and they sit down and go to sleep.

So, now then you see, now the next question is, “What is most important to you? You want to be like this chap that is talked about in the first Psalm or Joshua 1:8? If that’s really important, then you do that first. You give that your best energy.  You don’t give at the tale ends of nothing when you get down to the end of the day and you are so beat, you know? So you see, now when you begin to have problems with this, you experience—a question of where your values are? What do you really want? We get back to that fundamental question—do you really want to be like Christ? Really want to be like Him?   [12:39]

If I could give you a bottle with some liquid in it and tell you that, “Now, if you go home and drink this this evening, in the morning you will wake up like Christ,” would you drink it? Would you drink it? Well, I’ll tell you; many folk would put some serious thought into it before they drank it. They might think of a lot of things that they intend to do the next day that they would not be able to do if they drank that. Hmmm? So, you see, we are thrown back on levels of reflection about who we are, right?

Many people are spoiled, are ruined for study because of their experience in school. They come out of school learning that they are idiots and that’s the message they got in school and so they don’t think of themselves as a person who studies. Study? No, not me; I’m dummy. You know they wear this invisible dunce cap the rest of their lives and they are unable to study and meditate until they change that part of their self and now, how is that done? [13:52]

Well, undoubtedly, it’s going to require deep prayer, some perhaps counseling with friends, talking to people who can help, a course of experience where they engage in studies and succeed because failure in study leaves awful marks on us.

What I am saying is simply this that you ‘ll want to approach this as I’ve urged you to approach all of the disciplines in an experimental fashion. Expect that things will go wrong. If you start to fast, expect that it won’t be like you thought it would be and perhaps you will find yourself eating.

Now then, don’t say, “Ah, well that’s just me. I’m hopeless. I can’t do this.” Say, no what causes that and come to grips with whatever it was and you have to do that same thing with meditation or study and all of the Disciplines of Engagement and denial. [14:57]

So, now, let’s come this evening to the disciplines of service and sacrifice. Yes?

Question: Inaudible

Dallas: Well, I think what it means is you will find your way into a happy, effective, useful life. I think that’s what it means. It also means that there is going to be a lot of changes before you get there.

From where we start, we are going to become very different people because I’ll tell you again, if you are going to spend the day with the book of the law in your mouth, it’s going to be a different day and you’re maybe gonna find your experience quite different. So, in other words, there is going to be a process of change. Basically, I think what it means is very simple—that you are going to be happy; you are going to be effective; you are going to be useful to God, and to man, and to yourself. I think that’s what it means.  [16:12]

I think people who know you are going to be very thankful that you are alive, grateful to God that He has made you and put you in the world. That’s what it is to glorify God, you know is to live in such a way that others, when they look through you, God looks bigger. Hmmm? You magnify the Lord by making Him look bigger and that’s really, I think what it means, Al. I don’t think it means anything very involved. He really just means that the basic kind of existence that God meant for us to live in this world, we will enter into it but that of course will be a rather different kind of life than the world presents as happiness. Thank God!

Now, we get quite a shift from the world also when we come to talk about service as we are going to do now. I asked you to read a few passages from the Gospels on service. I would like to begin just by reading a few of those verses with you. Let’s begin with Luke 21 and the parallel passage, the same story worded a little differently is in Mark 12:41-44. Let’s read Luke and if any important differences occur, we may want to jump over to Mark. [17:48]

Luke 21:1-6—and Jesus is standing now in the temple and He is watching people come by and make their offerings—“And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hast cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury—she of her penury—hath cast in all the living that she had.” (Luke 21:1-4) This lady took her purse and turned it upside down in the offering plate.

Now, the immediately following verses, I want to tie onto this to try to make a contrast. “And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:5-6)

I don’t know how you would feel if when you get your lovely new building finished, you were to walk through it with Jesus and He were to respond to your exclamations about what a fine building it is by saying, “There is not going to be one piece of this building left on another.” And I hope as you use your new building, you are firmly fixed in your intent upon the glory of God and what really counts for eternity and if you are, you can make the building count for eternity. See? [19:56]

But, Jesus could be a real “wet blanket” and He often was—He really often was, and He’s not coming out against temples. We need temples and we need buildings but we have to have a correct appreciation of what the buildings mean in terms of service and sacrifice.

True devotion, Jesus saw in the service of the widow who had practically nothing but gave it all—not in the service of those who had much and gave largely. Now, we have to keep our eye on this conception of service; otherwise, when we come to deal with service as a discipline, we will be constantly caught up in questions of egoism and reward and duty. [21:00]

Egoism, reward, and duty cause us all kinds of trouble with service and Jesus over and over again strikes at this problem by preaching His inversion of values. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 20:16) He says it over and over again in many, many ways.

Let’s look now at Matthew 20—Matthew 20 and here we want to read verses 25-28—“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.” (Matthew 20:25)  I hope that these words will sink down into your heart now because it can straighten out many of our problems if we just understand it.

Jesus said, “ . . . it shall not be so among you . . . ”  “ . . . whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister.”  (Mark 20:26) The word there is deakinos. Let him be your deacon. Let him be your deacon.  “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”(Mark 20:27)—your doulas—your slave. Let him be your slave. [22:50]

“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto . . .” (Mark 20:28)—you know, out of all of the astounding things about Jesus Christ, the most astounding is that He did not come to be ministered to. You watch Him. He didn’t come to be ministered to. He had no equipage that had to be maintained. There were no public relations jobs. There was no attempt to manage His image. There was no attempt to make His life easy and those who would follow Him, He would say to them, “ . . . foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:58) And to me, the most utterly astounding thing about Him was, He did not come to be ministered unto.

And you look at our great leaders, who call themselves servants of the public, etc. and look at who is being ministered unto. I often think that the way we should sell sermons as these people use it in this way—SERVE US! Serve us! And Jesus read it exactly right. He said that among the Gentiles, they lord it over you. Yes, your majesty! [24:29]

“Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 20:28) On the last evening when He was speaking with those few men and I believe also those few women who had accompanied Him in His travels and who probably cooked the meal and prepared the meal or helped with it that they ate that evening and who stood by the wayside when He went out to be crucified and who watched, as early as they could to anoint His body.

In the 13th chapter of John, after they get done eating, can you imagine, can you imagine the last thing He would do for these people? The last thing He would do for them is He would wash their feet. [25:43]

Now, foot washing was a necessary kind of thing. It was not a ritual as we might find it today in some churches. There are churches today that wash feet and there are some churches where that’s needed but it was really needed then because people walked around in sandals or barefoot and it was a common courtesy to wash feet and these folks who came to the last supper, there was no one who stood apparently in the position of the host in that and they were not about to wash one another’s feet. They were not about to do that. [26:31]

And so, observing this, Jesus, in His last act of ministry to them as a group, after they had had the supper, verse 4, “He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments: and took a towel, and girded himself.” Peter, as usual, is so instructive in his response. He’s not going to let Jesus do this. Actually, Jesus bawls him out about this because he recognizes Peter’s response as of a piece with Peter’s refusal to wash other people’s feet.

You see, Peter was saying, “No, You are too great to wash my feet.” That was Peter’s response. Jesus’ point was, greatness comes precisely with the washing of feet and other services to people and this is why—this is why Jesus spoke to Peter so sternly, and you may have wondered about that at some point because this looks like a pretty hot discussion here for a few verses and Peter gives in and in his typical fashion says, “Well, don’t just wash my feet. Wash my hands and my head too” in verse 9 (“Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”) You know, anything worth doing is worth doing twice. [28:06]

Of course again, we have to understand here that his hands and his head probably didn’t need washing and it’s important to understand that Jesus here is not talking about ritualistic service, He’s talking about real service. He’s talking about doing something for someone that needs to be done which I just insert parenthetically.

There are so many things here that I won’t be able to talk about but one of our problems in service is, we often try to do things for people that don’t need to be done. [Laughter] Right? But we’ve got it in our heads that we would like to do that. Well, I will say a little bit about that later but this is Peter, you know and Jesus is looking at what needs to be done. [28:55]

Well, the key verse here, of course is verses 13 and 14—“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet: ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” (John 13:13-17) OK; now this, I hope has given us a somewhat revised conception of the dignity of service in the Kingdom of God. [29:51]

We want to remember that in service what is important is not the largeness of our service, and I ask you to read one other passage, which I want to look at now in Matthew 10 to stress that. It is not the largeness of the service. The widow’s mite, of course, the washing of feet, which might be regarded as a small thing . . . [Silence 30:22 through 30:33] . . . a cup of water to drink as a disciple of Christ.

It isn’t the large things that defeat us in attempting to live before God. It’s the small things that defeat us. It is precisely the missing of a cup of cold water, the simple little thing that we could do to everyone we meet in some measure–to confer a benediction upon their day, to look at them, pay attention to them, to listen to them and when we have heard a need—a small need; to meet that small need. That’s the cup of cold water. To pray for them as we meet them—that’s the cup of cold water. To be cheerful—that’s a real cup of cold water many days is just to be cheerful. [31:49]

Sometimes this means that instead of dwelling on what is bad in the news or in the gossip that is in your work place or wherever you may be is to simply pass over it and dwell on something good. Do you have enough faith to find something good to talk about? It is amazing in the groups of non-redeemed people at least; it is amazing to what extent—anything that you can find bad to talk about, you find it and you dwell on that. You just dwell on it. Complain and murmur and grumble and gripe.

Now, that’s not going to do anyone any good and going back to our little sketch over here on the board the other day, that just feeds poison into your system and probably runs a bit of that glandular stuff through your system that jumps on your stomach and kidneys and everything else and hurts them. The more you dwell conceptually on bad threatening things, the more you are injured.

Now, that’s just the truth of your system and you say, “Well but I don’t mean it to be that way.” It’s not a question of what you mean, your glands don’t care what you mean. If you let your mind dwell on certain things, they react in certain ways. That’s the way your body is built. That’s the way your soul and your spirit are put together. There is a connection. [33:27]

Now, I don’t think we should believe—a lot of these folks today who talk as if somehow, if you would just use your imagery right—you could make anything happen. I don’t believe that is true. On the other hand, we have to recognize that what we say and what we imagine affects us; and you are giving a cup of cold water to the people you encounter if you will bring a spirit of calm, cheerful, faithfulness into a setting. And where people are being torn “limb from limb,” as we say—to speak a mollifying word, to plead for understanding—you are giving a cup of cold water when you do that.

Now, once we begin to understand the dignity of service in the Kingdom of God and the trap of large things looking for the big deal—the big show; then we are prepared to begin to choose to serve and as in all of the disciplines, we must recognize that serving is a consciously chosen activity which we enter into in the hope and faith and confidence that in that act we will meet the reality of God and be able to live in the character of God by the power of God.  Setting quite aside any transcendental or spiritual overtones, the person who sets out to serve others is going to be by far better off than the person who sets out not to serve others. [35:25]

Jesus threw this off as an observation about life in general. He that seeketh to save his life shall lose it,” (Luke 17:33) and the person who is concerned to serve themselves is constantly defeating their own purpose. It is a self-defeating goal. I am pausing just to let that soak in because it is so commonly missed and we must understand that it is a self-defeating goal even if it just takes the aim of protecting yourself. Just protecting yourself—if that is the aim of one’s life, suddenly one’s life becomes not worth protecting. It is when we are devoted to service that life begins to take on a worth and a dignity that makes it valuable—that makes it worthwhile. [36:37]

Now, on the spiritual plane, we have the joy, not just of entering into this natural reality that he that seeketh to save his life shall lose it and he that loseth his life for my sake and the Gospels, as Jesus said, will find it but we also learn the joy of cooperating with a greater power to accomplish a good which we could not accomplish by ourselves.

I want to reiterate that that’s the great difference between Christian disciplines and just discipline. It is that it makes a contact with the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God and brings a force to bear upon the point of your action, which is greater than your natural abilities. That’s the life of faith. That’s the experience of God working with you and that happens as we enter a life of service as a discipline. [37:51]

Now, in entering the activities of service that come to us, we have to disregard certain things. Paradoxically enough, one of the things we have to learn to disregard is the effect. If we aren’t careful, get to trying to serve people with the intent of transforming them into angels or at least into decent neighbors or children and that will generally be totally self-defeating because you see, there once again, what we are normally after is some effect which we desire and that has to be totally surrendered and laid down.

Of course, we also have to lay down the whole idea of reward. When we serve people, we do not serve them for reward and the most deceptive kind of reward for us—the thing that is most apt to defeat us is simple appreciation. We do not serve people in order to be appreciated by them or anyone else. We serve people simply to do a good thing for them; that’s all; nothing beyond that. That’s it. Simply to do a good thing for them: that is all there is in service—not to transform them. We may pray for that. We may hope for that but that is not the point of our service.  We do not serve them for appreciation or reward and now I want to go one step further. [30:37]

We do not serve them simply out of duty. We do not serve simply out of duty. I wish you would look at Luke 17 with me now for a moment here. Jesus had some words to say on this point that I think many folk have found puzzling and I hope that I can cast a little light on what He is saying—Luke, the 17th chapter.

Now, the context here is a discussion of forgiveness and Jesus is saying in the first verse of this chapter that it is impossible not to offend. It is impossible not to offend and if you are one of those dear folks who have hoped to make it, sorry about that. You will offend. You will offend and you will be offended. [40:34]

Now, what then about forgiveness? Well, if someone offends us, verse 3—“ . . . If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3) That’s simple enough, isn’t it? I think on the other hand, when you come to the realities of our mental states as we go through life, it’s very hard to rebuke in a straight forward simple way and simply say, “This was wrong.” Instead, we have to go through a whole cycle of silent burning, resentment, self-righteousness and BOOM!!! See? Instead of, “This was wrong.” Period. This was wrong. Rebuke him and if he says, “Sorry, I won’t do that again.” Forgive him. It’s a very simple transaction.

Forgiveness means that you do not continue to make a person suffer for what they have done. It does not mean that you forget what they have done and it does mean that you no longer hurt because of what they have done. It means you do not continue to make them pay for what they have done.  Please, please believe it, okay?  [42:04]

So many Christians suffer because they’ve been told, “Well, if you didn’t forget, you didn’t forgive.” Bologna! Bologna! You don’t have it in your power to forget! Maybe God will give you that grace! Forgiving means I no longer hurt you for it; I no longer bring it up to hurt you. I no longer make you pay! That’s forgiveness! See? That’s forgiveness. That says in effect, “Let’s go on as if it didn’t happen.” That doesn’t say it didn’t happen; it did happen and you do hurt from it.

See, many people when they hurt another person, they want them to, for goodness sakes, quit hurting no they won’t feel so guilty for what they did. It isn’t in your power to take guilt away from other people, especially for something they did.  You can forgive them and you should. Al?  [43:04]

Question: Inaudible

Dallas: I don’t think it is referring to just whoever happens to be a member of your church. I think he is referring to you fellow citizen, your neighbor, the person who lives with you or around you, and the person you are involved with. [43:23]

Statement: Inaudible

Dallas: No indeed! No indeed! That usage of brother in Jesus’ language that just isn’t his usage of brother. He doesn’t use it in that way. He is referring to really the same as neighbor—the same as neighbor—the person who is closely involved with you.

Now, the teaching on forgiveness extends to service. Luke 17:7-8 says “But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, make ready wherewith I may sup . . .” Fix my supper! “ . . . till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?” Peter had said or let’s see, is it Peter? No, the apostles said, “Lord, increase our faith.” Right? When He said, “Well, you forgive them seven times in a day” and then Jesus goes on to say, “Look, if you really understand what faith is like and what it’s like to relate to other people, consider this. “Doth he thank a servant because he did the things that were commanded him? . . . ”—Because he does what he ought to do? Is that service? Is duty service? No! [45:02]

Duty isn’t service. Duty is just duty. Service is where you go beyond what you are commanded to do. I don’t serve you if all of the things I am supposed to do for you, I do. I serve you when I begin to go beyond those and I begin to look at you and I begin to understand you and I being to seek ways of loving and helping and being of use to you, then I am a servant. [45:34]

So, I repeat now—concern about the effect, about the reward or about simple duty does not begin to touch the concept of service. Look at Luke 7:10—“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

So, you see, in the Kingdom of God, we are functioning at a totally different level of relationship to persons and I must frankly tell you that I think that many folk have not begun to understand this kind of relationship—that our teaching has not succeeded generally in leading those who count themselves among the membership of the churches to understand this sort of pre-loving service, which is not an expression of duty—has no regard to reward nor to the transforming affect it may have, but simply to the intended good done for another person—a cup of cold water, a benediction, a prayer. [47:02]

One of the problems of the big things we may do as servants is, it’s so hard not to notice them and it’s very important sometimes that we NOT notice them because our pride is our primary problem in service. It is our pride, which turns us away from service and our pride is joined with our obsession with ourselves, with our own comfort, with getting what we want.  Right? And they come together in this way—if I serve you, I won’t get what I want. Why shouldn’t I get what I want? I want my way. Well, what has your way done for you lately? What’s so great about having your way?

You know that silly song of Frank Sinatra’s, “I Did It My Way?” Looking at poor dear Frank, I just can’t get enthusiastic. I’m sure he must be a nice man because the casinos recently gave him a clean bill of health and I don’t mean to take him on personally. I’m sure that he’s as good as most men and better than a lot but let me tell you, I would hate to think that the best way was Frank Sinatra’s way. [Laughter] I would hate to think that. I would hate to think that the best way was Dallas Willard’s way, apart from the union of my will with Christ.  I would be terribly depressed by that thought—terribly depressed by it.  [49:12]

So now, once we come to the understanding that our pride intermingled with our selfishness causes us a lot of spontaneous trouble, then we are prepared to begin to serve as a discipline. We are prepared to begin to serve others just for the sake of serving and we find that as we do so, our pride and our selfishness more and more ceases to control our bodies and we enter in to the stability and simplicity of a life of service and find that the whole idea of sacrifice does not apply. It is no sacrifice. It is an entrance into life.

When we have that kind of stability, we are prepared to face the seasons of life. I would like to close this evening just by reading another passage from Ecclesiastes. I gave you one the other night. In the 4th chapter of Ecclesiastes, there is a lovely statement about life that is sometimes hard for us to accept but the writer of the book understands that God in His wisdom has appointed an order and this order includes many, many things. It is the person who has learned to center in meditation and study, upon the truth of God who has learned to center into the simple act of service without asking all of the grand questions of what does this mean for me and what am I going to get out of this? And is God going to be appropriately glorified by it and etc., etc. and it just says, “Here’s a cup of cold water.” Right? Period. Period. Period. Period. That’s it! [51:09]

That person is prepared to take the seasons of life. I’m sorry, the 3rd chapter of Ecclesiastes—“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together (a time to throw rocks away and a time to gather them up in a heap); a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, (and dear heart) a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away . . . ” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-6) Some of you don’t know that and that’s why your garage is full of junk. [Laughter] “A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love . . .” And would you believe, there “ . . .is a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7-8) [52:47]

See, one of our problems is that we sort of suppose that God says a time to love, and there is time for peace, there is a time to speak possibly, a time to sew, a time to get, but not a time to lose and so on. Once we have entered into the life of a servant, among other things, we are prepared to accept the seasons of life.

If we have said, there is no time to hate, then when the time comes and we find ourselves hating, we say, “Uh oh, God has deserted me.” If we have said that there is no time for war; there is not time for death; there is no time to lose, then when we lose, we say God has left us. [53:45]

The person who has mastered the discipline of service is prepared to lose, is prepared to die, is prepared to accept the time of hate and the time of casting away. They have entered a life in which their simple will to serve has answered nearly every question that can be asked and they are prepared to say, “God is with me in this season, also. God is here.” And there is no discipline that brings that stability and simplicity of will to completion but the discipline of service—the simple act of service. [54:39]

Let’s pray! “Now Lord, we know that you need to give us wisdom as to how we should enter these disciplines and how we should carry them on. We pray for a faith that will enable us to be experimental and be prepared to not have things turn out as we thought they might but to go on and to learn.

Lord, help us to wash one another’s feet in simplicity and love without asking all of the grand questions. Help us to give the cup of cold water, the benediction of the two mites to the mighty temple. Dear Lord, let those simple acts of service grace all of the grand activities and acquisitions with which the church is so commonly confused so that your Power and your Spirit might live in our midst and use all that we are and have for your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen. [55:41]

[He talks to students until the end of the tape.]

Comment: Inaudible
Dallas: About forgiving your brother? No, I don’t think so; Jesus didn’t use it in that way. Really, I think our word neighbor, which He also used is a much better sense for that . . .

Listen to all parts in this The Disciple, the Disciplines, the Triumphant Life series