Spiritual Disciplines and Putting on the New Man

Dallas Willard Part 19 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.


Dallas: Ok, let’s look at page 20 of your notes and this session and this afternoon, we are going to be talking specifically about putting off the old person and putting on the new and there are some very key things to understand here. [00:39]

The central idea is that you are dealing with a system and that’s why it talks about putting off the old person. The old person is a system. That means that it has various parts. They interlock with one another and the system won’t work except as all the parts are involved in a certain way. So, let me read a few words from Colossians and Ephesians to you and ask you to note how parts of this hang together.

In Colossians, I want to read 5 through 11 and the topic of mortification. This is central to what we are doing and Paul says, “Therefore put to death the members of your earthly body.” Now, again, especially “died in the wool” post-reformationists/evangelicals have real problems with this and you may want to compare translations to see how they struggle with it. The old version simply says, “Mortify your members which are on the earth”—your parts that are upon the earth, and that’s a good straightforward translation it gives to list them. [2:38]

Again, the old versions say, “Fornication.” That’s exactly what is there. My version says, “Immorality” which is really a different thing. Fornication is very specific—impurity. My version next says, “passion” but the real meaning here is, “feelings that are out of balance.” It isn’t just passion. I mean, the translator here is presupposing the passion will be out of balance. Inordinate affection—once again, the old English is really good. It isn’t just passion. It’s affections that are “out of whack” and inappropriate. Inappropriate affections are a good way of getting it. [3:56]

The next think on the list is evil desire. That’s desire that is not just out of order. It’s desire that is bad. So, the old translation says, “evil concupiscence—evil concupiscence.”  That makes you think, “I think I want to avoid that.” [Laughter]

Next on the list is covetousness. Covetousness—now you can use greed but you won’t get the word covetousness because greed doesn’t necessarily put you in opposition to other people and it doesn’t allow you to get the point of which is idolatry. You have in our culture today people of high standing who will want to say things like, “Greed is good” and it shows up in the movies and so on. It’s different to say covetousness is a good thing.

So, this language is difficult to come to terms with. Let me read on to 11—“For is it on account of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience and in them you once walked.” That used to be your habit. You lived by them. You were living in them. They were what nourished you. People may live for fornication or indulgence in practices of various kinds—pornography is a place where some of that may come to the head or just leering. “In them you once walked”—see, that was your pattern of life and you were living from them but now you also put them all aside. You also put off all this anger, okay; put that aside; wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech from your mouth. The old version says, “filthy speech out of your mouth.” My grandmother used to suggest washing my mouth out with soap. Not an inviting prospect. [It’s nasty!] [7:25]

“Do not lie one to another since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.” Well, the implication here I think is that if you lay aside evil practices, you won’t need to lie. “And have put on the new self as being renewed in true knowledge according to the image of the one who created him.” In other words, you come to see things, you understand things as God understands them. You have the God’s-eye view on life and others and then immediately, verse 11 and I won’t go into that now because I’ve already quoted it at least two or three times but the first thing that changes when you get God’s way of seeing things is the human distinctions that rule life apart from God no longer mean anything. So, he goes through that list and then begins to develop the positive side and I want to come to that in the next hour. [8:40]

Now, Ephesians 4—Paul gives us another run down and I won’t spend quite so much time on that. Ephesians 4:17-32 gives the same contrast and the idea of taking off the old self and putting the new in and one of the things that stands out in this again is desire or lust. It’s a little more analytic here. Verse 22 in reference to your former manner of life, “you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lust or deceit or deceitful lusts.” Lusts always are deceitful because as I said before they focus on one thing and they say, “If you just give me that, I’ll be satisfied.” But, it never is and you cannot deal with lust or desire—epithumia—intense desire. You can’t deal with it by satisfying it. It is never satisfied but it says, “Now, if you will just go over and give me that.” Right? [10:12]

Now, one of the things that stands out here again is speaking truth, verse 25, “laying aside falsehoods-speak truth each with the other, with his neighbor for we are members of one another.” Again, be angry but don’t let it govern you, turning loose as quickly as you can. Don’t let the sun go down on it and if you do, you’re going to give place to the devil.” The devil moves in where anger remains. That’s his opening.

So, then he goes on and turns to the positive side. I am very fond of 1 Peter 2:1 because it, in a very short way, lays it all out here and just says, “Putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisies and envy and slander.” Now, that’s a system and the root of the system is the will to harm others. That’s malice. Often it isn’t there in an explicit form but it reveals itself when pressure and opposition come. [11:53]

Malice is related to guile because you need to mislead and deceive people with malice if you have it. It’s not something that people want to live with and yet, ordinary human life is keen to the possibility that you will hurt me, see? And the presence of malice in human life is seen by the fact that I am vulnerable and I know you might hurt me and so I am not able to trust you and trust which should be the natural atmosphere in which human beings live and in some measure is absolutely required. You can’t avoid it. If I even just speak to you, I am making myself vulnerable to you and I am trusting you in some measure to respond and if you ignore me when I speak to you, I’m hurt because the trust that goes into ordinary communications makes us vulnerable and if we do not care for one another, then hurt or harm will come into play. [13:37]

Being ignored—that’s a real wound and of course now we live in society where there are so many people that you can’t really acknowledge everyone and so people are suspicious in some cases if you do acknowledge them. “Well, what do they want?”

So, now, let’s think a little bit about these. You have chosen–your primary aim now is to be a person of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, kindness and the first thing that comes up is, “that’s not your habit” and it’s not the habits of people around you. And so you are going to have to come to understand what is going on in ordinary human relationships within which all of this old person stuff is the normal and then, “how can you break through?”

Now, the church would be the natural place where that is done. That would be the natural place. Jesus has some things to say about family that could be rather discouraging and He says you have to hate your mother and your father. Now, you know He doesn’t mean that you should hate your mother and your father. He goes on to list others and your own life also. You have to hate it. That’s a manner of speaking that says that you have to regard the claims of the natural world in human relationships as something you move out of in order to be His disciple because if you value those things as ultimate, then you will not be able to learn the lessons that He has to teach. Now, of course the idea is that you learn the lessons that He has to teach and then you move back into those relationships redemptively, but those relationships have to be redeemed. And of course, they vary in degree and of course it helps if the people in those relationships know Christ and so on.

But, the radical cure comes from not putting them first and putting first devotion to Christ. “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” In other words, if you haven’t taken that radical step, you will not succeed in learning what He has to teach you as His disciple and then you will not be able to go back into the setting of life and redeem that world. Now, if you have taken the radical cure, then you can. You can do that. [17:32]

So, Paul’s phrase that he uses twice in his letters is about redeeming time. You redeem something that has already been sold or given or put in a precarious position of somewhat—somewhat like a pawnshop, right? If you don’t redeem something that has been put in the pawnshop, then it may well be gone.

What Paul is saying is that how your time is set up in the world apart from God—it’s already in the pawnshop and you have to redeem it and buy it back. And here again, in the modern translations it will say, “Now, make the best of your time.” Now, that’s not what it’s saying and that doesn’t get the fact that your time has already been sold out—“put in pawn.” You have to understand that and how that is, it’s in the hands of the old person. It’s already possessed by what is wrong. Now, you have to step into time and redeem it and you do that by bringing the realties of human relations in ordinary life into the Kingdom of God and that will redeem the time, which if you didn’t do that, it’s gone because it’s already inhabited by the things that are not good. [19:18]

So, now then that’s the project that we are engaged in. How do you take a moral for malice and suspicion and foolishness and all kinds of harms are milked right into it? How do you break that and bring it back. This is where activities of various kinds—some of which would properly be called disciplines—have a place and there is some variation as to what is most useful to give individuals but actually, the disciplines of solitude and silence are fundamental to redeeming the time. You would have to stop the motion and turn loose and solitude and silence are major ways in which we manage to turn loose. Of course, a person who is so busy running things—then they actually go into solitude and learn that solitude means, “don’t do anything.” You know, you still have to review them but someone said to me, “Well I’ve got to lie down or sit or stand. Yeah, that’s okay.” But what it’s really talking about is putting Sabbath into place. You lay down profiting from your labors and the radical thing is to be some place and do nothing. [21:35]

Now, silence goes with that because most of what we live with is noise and a lot of the noise comes out of our mouth.  You know the scripture is just relentless on words that are occupying our world—just relentless on it—basically, it just says, “Shut them down.” Now, also it is good on words that can be life-giving and Proverbs is just full of discussions on what to do with words and warnings about them.

James is one of the main parts—the book of James is dealing with the tongue and see, words tie us into a system of meanings and depending on what the word is and what the heart is out of which the word comes and the system it ties into, it can be evil and it can be good. If it ties into the system of the Kingdom it will bring grace because as we’ve already said, words are essentially spiritual; they are not physical. They are living, with meaning; and that human idea of other things and so, in our ordinary world, you hear people talking if you and if you are a thoughtful, informed person, you will immediately recognize the system and this is good exercise, by the way, in helping us grow in our understanding is to listen to people and it’s okay to listen to ourselves and identify the system that our words are tied into. [23:40]

And so when we go back to these things like fornication and impurity and so on, words are loaded with systems that concern those. So, we have to identify those systems and one way to do this is to be silent and learn to listen. [24:07]

Q: Are there only two systems? The flesh and the spirit systems?

Dallas: Well, I think there are various mixtures and some of the—what we would call flesh are not bad—it depends on what it is concerned with. For example, we speak of literature and music, of good things in society, and of political order. The political order is a really good place to illustrate this currently because of the discourse that prevails now and you just wonder why are people trapped into this? The way people campaign and how they attack others—see, that’s a system. That isn’t just a little snippet of language that shows up. That’s a system and it could be a good system and it has been often in the past—not only in this country, but in other countries, you find very exalted political discourse. Unfortunately, that’s not what we are in now. Right? [25:26]

It seems like the people who are involved in that system are incapable of rising above a very degrading and hateful form of discourse and so you look at the Congress and you say, “Well, they can’t compromise” and so forth. Well, that’s not the deepest issue. That’s a result. That’s a symptom.

Much that we see in the area of sexuality or covetousness or all of the things that we mentioned is tied into systems of language. You think that the production company that produced Gone with the Wind paid $5,000.00 for “what’s his name” saying, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”—Clark Gable. And you say, “What was that?” Well, that’s a system and then now, we are in another system. That’s a language.  [26:41]

So, now, thinking about putting off the old person, we have to look at things like language and understand what it does to sustain the system of the old person.

Q: Dallas? [Yes?] In talking about language—in putting off the old person and putting on the new? [Yes.] You have talked with regard to Calvin and the balance between self-affirmation and self-denial? Can you use the terminology of old self and new self in terms of self -denial and self- affirmation? [27:30]

Dallas: We can but we want to understand that the old self is the one where self-affirmation is leading the system and self-denial is the one that puts different things first than “my way” and that, as I’ve said, this is a system. It isn’t some one or two things that kind of list….they work together.

Q: Could we think of self-denial as being putting off the old self and self-affirmation as putting on the new self?

Dallas: Yes. The effect will be the old self is put off. Self-denial is something that is fairly definite and you can identify it and you can do it and you have to work it out but the putting off of the old self is the result of that. That would mean, for example, putting your own desires in subordination to what is good. If the “old guy” is running the show, he will put his desires first and the most important thing for him would be for him to get what he wants. Then he will run up against another person who wants to get what they want and perhaps, he will then decide to harm the other person or to lie to the other person—to veil what’s actually going on. [29:21]

Speaking the truth or lying is one of those practices that are fundamental to other practices. Most people would not do things that are wrong that they do if they didn’t think they could lie to hide it so the practice of speaking the truth comes up early in these lists because it’s so fundamental to everything else and just coming to the place to where you don’t mislead.

Guile—an interesting term. Jesus says in one place, “Be wise as serpents and guileless as doves,” and it’s a picture—if you watch pigeons and doves, they don’t seem capable of misleading. Harmless is another translation—harmless as doves. [30:44]

So, that’s a part of how the system hangs together and then disciplines, to break the grid of the old system is what we need as means to accomplish stepping free, speaking truth, living without anger, guile, wrath, and so on. You have to decide if you want to do that. That’s where the vision comes in—would that be a good thing? Many people don’t really think it would be a good thing and so, you need it as a kind of resource. “I may need to lie so I don ‘t want to give up that” and if you do decide you are going to give up on that, learn how to be truthful. That includes things like learning when not to say anything and learning how to let others talk. “Be swift to hear and slow to speak.” James says, “Slow to wrath” and there is an interesting connection between speaking and wrath. [32:20]

So, you learn how to break that habit of taking charge, making things go my way and if I need to do something that was wrong. Now, I often will ask my students when I am at a certain point in the course, “how many of you have told a lie?” And with more or less hesitancy, all of them will own up. But, then I say, “How many of you are liars?” [Laughter] Different picture, see? And they sense the difference. Being a liar reflects the whole personality and well, maybe lying doesn’t depending on the circumstances—that’s the way they think about it. So, if you are going to choose now to be truthful, then you have to learn how you can do that and that will then throw you back on your vision of life in the Kingdom of God because the question will always be, “Can I afford not to lie? Can I afford not to lie?”  And that’s true of all the things that are parts of the old person. There is always the question, “What will I miss out on?” if I don’t do this thing which I believe to be wrong?  As long as a person thinks they are going to really miss out on something, they will not be able to make the choice of being truthful—being a truthful person—being a pure person. [34:29]

The teaching of Jesus about leaning to lust in Matthew 5—you can’t defeat that unless you are sure that you will not be missing out on something if you do not look to lust. It’s that idea, “Well, if I don’t do this, I’m going to miss out on something.” That’s the background that you have to have in mind, “Oh no, I won’t miss out. I’ll be okay.” If you are going to lay aside anger; same thing. “Well, if I don’t get angry, I’ll miss out on something.” That idea of “missing out on something” and that always goes with another interesting turn of language—“getting away with it.” It’s the idea of doing something and “skedaddling” away and not paying the price for doing it. These little terms of language illumine a lot of the spiritual landscape. [35:45]

Now, once you are convinced that malice is—or will not if you give up on it, you will be okay—that you won’t miss out on something important. Anger—same way. Forgiveness or unforgiveness—once you are convinced that your life will be quite good without that and that you will not be a deprived person; then you are ready to make some steps towards breaking the parts of the old person. Then your disciplines can come in and the earlier discussion about how people respond in terms of, say, “Well that’s mysticism, or that’s Eastern” or something of that sort. Once they begin to see that there’s something to be gained of great value and that they have decided to do without the benefits of falsehood… guile and so on—and that practices of various kinds could help them do that, well, then it makes sense. The real problem is not with a fear of mysticism or something of that—that’s not the real problem. It never is. The real issue is how have they decided to live?

That’s where you want to try to help them and that’s, in my opinion why you always want to go back to the teaching about Jesus and trusting Jesus and living in the Kingdom of God and you start there. Then you say well, Jesus has these things like Paul in the New Testament and so on, great saints through the ages and so on have done, “Well, how are you doing with them?” Then if you can get an honest perception on their own part of the realities of the old person—the old man, then you can begin to talk about steps to do that. [38:26]

I have had so many people, you know, that take up for example, fasting and they say well, why would you do that and so on? Well, you know, there’s no holiness in it. That’s right. You don’t gain merit. You don’t put God in a corner by fasting so you have to make sense of what it is. What is fasting? Oh, well, you know, it’s not eating and so on but what does that mean spiritually? For many people, it just doesn’t make any sense. What does fasting do? Well, in fasting, to begin with, you learn how to be sweet and strong when you don’t get what you want and you find that this is not going to kill you to not get what you want. [39:37]

Now, we’ve already talked a great deal about desire and you can see how liberation from domination by desire would be a big deal. And of course we have the God side of it—Jesus saying, “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never thirst again but those who eat of the bread of life that is me will never hunger again.” Well, that’s wonderful and it’s true but what do we do? How do we enter into that? And that’s where a practice of fasting can help us. [40:20]

Now, that’s really only half of the story because the other half of the story is that when you learn to fast, you learn how to receive the reality of God directly into your body and your soul yourself and you will find that the substance of God and His life can come to you without “biscuits.” And when Jesus said in John 4 again—such a rich passage—and He said to the fellows that came back and said, “Eat.” And He said, “I have meat to eat that you do not know about.” He wasn’t just saying pretty words and the challenge often is to look at what He says and try to make some good sense of it. Is it really true what He said? He said, “My meat is to do the will of my Father.”  Is that actual nourishment?

Ok, we are back to visible and invisible here again. The reality of this is something you learn—you practice—you fail, you find out why you fail. You fix that and try again and gradually you learn. Bill Bright, in his old age learned to fast and it was a peculiar kind of fast that he did and he found to his surprise that he didn’t get hungry. See, that’s the result of the adjustment of the body and all of the parts of the person to the condition of life in the invisible Kingdom, though you are still visible. In the invisible Kingdom, there is actual nourishment in doing the will of God and this explains why people find that fasting empowers them because in fasting, they are experiencing a different kind of dependence on God and God works with them in a different way. The result of their activities are far different from what would be there if they simply relied on their own natural experience. Fasting is a way of bringing the flow of God’s life into our life. It doesn’t earn anything. You don’t back God into a corner by fasting; you offer yourself to Him in a different way and He comes into your life. [43:59]

Now then, for example, the words you speak can be very different. They can be loaded with grace as Paul says back in Ephesians 4, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment that it may give grace to those who hear.” Now, if you are able to accept the sorts of things I’ve said here, you would understand that the word being loaded with grace would be a matter of God acting in that word. So, if you have off loaded the systems of meaning that govern ordinary discourse and now you are living an eternal kind of life in relationship to God, then your words have different power. And in the light of that you may decide, “I’m not going to speak a deceitful word. I can trust God with my words.” The grip of the falseness that is in so much discourse, so much so that at times in Christian history, there have been people who have just looked at it and said, “I just can’t talk.” So, they go so far as to make a vow of silence and treat silence as if it were some special kind of position in holiness and it’s not. It’s not! There is nothing particularly good about silence and it can be tortuous. We talk of giving the “silent treatment” to someone. All of this is operating in the realm of grace where God is active and then that helps us put off the old person and put on the new. [46:31]

Isaiah, you remember when he had his vision of God said, “I am a man of unclean lips and live in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” That’s language. Language is loaded with all of this bad stuff and so silence and solitude can help us get freed up and make the space for grace to inhabit our language.

Of course there is no complete list of disciplines. The concept is what matters and the concept is very simple. A discipline is anything that is in our power that allows us to do what we cannot do by direct effort and that concept which we will be looking at as we go along here is important to have because it isn’t the list. There is no complete list of disciplines. It’s any act that enables you to accomplish what you can’t accomplish on your own. [47:45]

So, a further step in language is to bring the study of scripture, of nature, of history, of God’s action in our own lives and let that be what occupies our language and that pushes out the old stuff and replaces it with something that is new. If you are able to see your way into studying the scripture, then as we talked about this the other day, what is in the scripture becomes a part of our life and memorization helps this. Memorization of passages of scripture go far beyond just snippets here and there but sometimes the snippets are good enough in themselves but to get the concept through memorization of passages like John 14 or others that are so rich and important.  We can do that as a part of putting off the old person—is to bring a new power into our lives and let that begin to work for us and that pushes out the stuff that was working against us. [49:14]

Q: Dallas, I want to just begin to try to get a handle on this—putting off and putting on! [Sure!] So often—let’s say solitude for instance—solitude is definitely putting off activities, putting off companionship, but it almost seems to be a bit of a vacuum [It is!] and I know that’s not what it is totally so the putting aside those things that would normally be my old life—my manner of willfully doing things but I, in the midst of that solitude, something else has to happen too, right? I need to meditate and just so I can get a handle on what’s going on? Is it a dual thing or is it me putting off so that God can put in? You know what I’m saying?

Dallas: I think it’s the latter and you have to be concerned when you go in solitude not to try to get God to do something or then you just turn it into more work for you. What you have to do is you have to quiet yourself for lengthy periods of time. God WILL show up. Don’t worry about. That’s not your job but of course, something will happen and possibly in the same way with silence and same way with fasting. All of the disciplines of abstinence have a positive side to them but the positive side is not our doing and we will not benefit from the disciplines of solitude if we try to turn it into a position for us to do something. Our role in these disciplines is to abstain. I mentioned Sabbath a moment ago really because for most people, they can’t practice Sabbath without solitude and silence and what happens at church is not Sabbath—whatever else it may be, it’s not Sabbath. [51:26]

Q: So, there is no “putting on” in solitude?

Dallas: It may happen; it’s just you don’t do it. [Okay!] You don’t do it and silence is like something real happens. It’s extremely powerful and people even undergo conversion by going into silence. The wind of eternity blows in your face and you sense something that you can’t really discover if you are not silent. Anyone else have a comment? I don’t want to miss a hand here. OK….

At the bottom of 20, I have a question: What would you add to the list? Now, there are a lot of things not on the list that are well known—some things are more useful than others.

Journaling—for example—many people find that very useful. Pilgrimage! [What does that mean?] —Pilgrimage?—traveling to places that have some association with John that are powerful—usually some part of history. Of course, The Holy Land, as we call it [Laughter] and actually many people experience a kind of reality in their faith by going to places. Maybe other people that Jesus in history—it can get kind of weird—the practice of relics. I find that I am not able to get much out of that myself but historically it has been a big deal to have pilgrimage to a shrine.  [54:07]

The philosopher, Descartes thought that God gave him in a vision his method that became analytic geometry in mathematics and became what he called a method in philosophy. He believed that an angel gave it to him. It’s very interesting to read the attempts of people who come to grips with this but he pledged to do a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Virgin at Loretto and he did that.  Pilgrimage used to be much more common than it is now. What have you found useful?  [54:49]

Comment: My spiritual director had me do this thing where you do these drawings and they are symmetrical drawings that start from the center and rotate outward and it’s interesting what it showed me about my personality.  I was upset with the first ones because they were not perfect but then I would keep going and I would pull them away and the whole thing looked good. So, it’s just been an interesting letting down and just engaging in drawing……  [OK; good. Yes?]

Comment: Through Merton, several years ago I was prompted me to spend a lot of time in nature so that’s what I’ve done. [Yes!]

Comment: Secrecy!

Dallas: Yes—secrecy is the practice of not letting your good deeds be known and then that helps a lot to free us up from approval and disapproval.

Jan: Back to pilgrimage–everyone may need to realize that the labyrinth is the poor man’s pilgrimage. If you couldn’t afford to do a real one, you could just walk the labyrinth. It can be a really lovely way, especially for the kinesthetic learners to create some space for God and if you have trouble focusing during your retreat, the labyrinth is great!

Dallas: They have one here? I haven’t seen it.

Jan: Yes! It’s very beautiful. It’s very simple. That may help you—just kind of walking and pondering and clearing your head.

Q: How exactly do you do that? I’m not familiar with that.

Comment: They have a handout at the front desk. [56:36]

Comment:  Not that I necessarily wanted to do it the “right way” but I am just…[Laughter] I don’t want to do it the wrong way either! J

Jan: Don’t make it too complicated!

Comment: I’m still not sure.

Comment: You don’t have to do anything; it’s just a path you can wonder and not get lost. You just follow it in and out and in and out.

Comment: You can’t pick a trail?

Comment: But there is only one-way in and out. It just creates some mental space.

Dallas: In disciplines, you don’t want to worry too much about doing it the right way—with all of the disciplines really. You are apt to turn it into more work if you do it that way. [57:30]

Now, certain general points might be like, you are not “earning points” by walking the labyrinth or fasting or anything of that sort. That is important for us to be clear about, but as far as the details, you learn them as you go and that’s true of all the disciplines and actually, they will individualize themselves to you through your experience that you are having. You have to “turn it loose,” engage in the practice and let God be with you. That’s really what they are all about.

Comment: The one that I think we are missing here is resting—resting and sleeping well.

Dallas: Sleep is a spiritual discipline. [Amen!] Well, just think about it. If you go to sleep, you have to turn the world loose, don’t you? If you don’t, you won’t go to sleep. It’s an amazing arrangement—sleep. [58:39]

Comment: In the past few years, I have found kind of a discipline of a hobby to be important or anything that I can engage in that takes time and process that isn’t just a quick fix of something. For me, I have tried to learn how to do bowl turning where it’s creative and it’s engaging and it takes a long time to do it. It’s just kind of worked against my need for immediate results. [59:06]

Dallas: Well, the good things about hobbies is that they don’t accomplish anything unless you make work out of them which some people do; like if you want to do golf as a discipline, don’t keep score. [That sounds good!] [Laughter] Because it’s about as close to doing nothing as you could imagine. [Laughter & Chatter]

Comment: We put off the old. God puts on the new.

Dallas: Well, we are engaged in that too. We are going to talk about that this afternoon. [OK] Actually, we don’t by ourselves put off the old. All of this is cooperative. We have to do something but what happens is not the result of what all we do. It’s what we do together with what God does. That’s both in terms of putting off and putting on and it’s really important to understand that part.

Paul really nails all of this of course. He had worked it all through and understood this rather delicate perk to people who don’t understand it. The way it works and in Romans 8, talking about the mind of the flesh and the mind of the spirit—verse 10: “If Christ is in you though the body is dead because of sin yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness but if the spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.” And so he goes on to talk about how we are not debtors to our flesh to live according to the flesh.

Now verse 13 is one of those very analytic kinds of statements that we need to pay much attention to. “If you are living according to the flesh, you must die but if by the spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  Now notice that. “If by the spirit, YOU are putting to death.” —see how both of those involved. What you will learn as you practice disciplines is you will recognize the action of the spirit in the practice. You will see thing happening. You will sometimes have a sense of presence but not always, but you will find that things are happening that you do not accomplish. At the end of Galatians 5 discussion, Paul says, “They who are Christ’s” –verse 24, Galatians 5—“those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with the passions and desires.” [1:03:05]

Crucifixion is an interesting case. If you are crucified, you are not necessarily dead but you are nailed. You are in a position of progressive inability. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with the passions and desires. They are on the cross. Now, you will notice that you cannot crucify yourself. You don’t have enough hands.

So, we are living by the Sprit—we are walking by the spirit and because of that, things happen that cannot be understood in natural terms. So, that’s an excellent point. Thank you for making it and we just want to remember that whether it’s putting off or putting on, it is a work of “me’s” and the Spirit together. [1:04:08]

On page 21 of the notes, I mention examples of more recent times. We glorify these people long ago and don’t come to—I remember once at the University of Wisconsin, I had a girl in a class who said, “Are there any living philosophers?” [Laughter] Well, she didn’t know any that she could recognize so we need to think about people now who have actually put off the old person. I list some people here just to aim at. You may not know Dawson Trotman. He’s not well known now but he was an absolutely wonderful man who practiced all of this and he was the founder of the Navigators. There is a book called Daws if you want to see someone like that. [1:05:28]

Henry Nouwen is a good one to look at—Teresa of Calcutta—Billy Graham. If you have come to know his life, you will see how he practiced things that put off the old person. Things like, for example being on salary that is supervised by a board and not dealing with finances in the way that many people do. That was a decision—a circle of close friends to whom they were mutually accountable to one another for their behavior—making decisions about things that some people would think were a “little too sticky” but I suspect it had much to do with his own success at living the way he did for his life—about relationships with people of opposite sex and so on. Just arrangements and then when you think about the great failures, you think in terms of what they did not do—failure does not come out of no where. It is rooted in the experiences and the practices of the people who fail and after the failures happen to people who are knowledgeable about the situation will usually say that they knew something was wrong because of the way the people had arranged their lives. Have you known someone personally who had put off the old person? Think about people you know. [1:07:31]

Comment: Dallas, I had the privilege of spending three months in Switzerland back in the 70th’s and I came to know Frances Schaeffer. He wasn’t perfect but really committed to what he felt like God had called him to—he lived a very selfless life. His books were popular but he lived a very humble, limited existence in community and made life pretty difficult for a man who, I think actually liked his privacy as well as just his commitment to causes like abortion before anybody else was committed to it.

Dallas: I think that’s a good choice for an illustration. Anyone want to talk about anyone else? Perhaps someone that no one knows except for a very small group because many of these people are hidden from man; not from God of course. And you look at the list of the things to be put off now—malice, guile, hypocrisy, slander and so on—and we have known some people that were well advanced in a life without those things. [1:09:14]

Comment: I had a seminary professor, Dr. Glen Henson and he [talk about him!]. Well, he was one of the people that first introduced me to understanding spiritual formation and I took a few classes under him on the classics of Christian devotion and just his demeanor, his way of life. I remember one of the things was he always walked back and forth to campus—maybe a mile away but he would walk back and forth every day and just the simplicity of his life style. He received a lot of persecution within out tradition. [Yes, I understand that’s true!] And yet he handled it with grace. He is still living and I don’t have a relationship with him ongoing but still have a great admiration to him. [Where is he located now?] He lives in Kentucky now—Georgetown, Kentucky. [1:10:17]

Comment:  My grandmother—she modeled faithfulness. [I was hoping to hear about some grandmothers.] She never spoke ill of anyone. She prayed every Christian into my family into the Kingdom of God so she was most definitely someone who was subordinated to Jesus in a way that was very, very attractive.

Comment: Dallas, I would say Dwight and Betty Carlson. [Dwight and Betty Carlson.] They really took me under their wing. [How did you know them?] Well, Betty was my small group leader and then after I was stabbed, Dwight was my psychiatrist. [They were remarkable.] They mentored a lot of us young couples. [That’s right!]

Comment: Dallas, I would say, Dallas—my Dad. He is a really great man. He was transformed by God’s order and he lived that and it had a profound impact on me.  [1:11:37]

Comment: Don Crowder – Exchanged Life Ministry Counselor. [Tell us more about him.] Well, Don was converted while just reading the book of John and he said two weeks later he realized he wasn’t using drugs or alcohol anymore and he had difficulty in his marriage and were exchanged life ministers themselves and then he decided to go out where he could go. He’s just a remarkable person.

I actually went to him for counseling because I went for lots of counseling, especially for myself for our marriage and he was the first counselor that didn’t say at the end of 50 minutes, “write a check and time’s up.” He never did that but of course, my daughter keeps his schedule now. She’s his office manager and it drives her crazy but for somebody who’s talking with him and he would finish and he would say, “oh, by the way, Vianna cooked lasagna and such and such and she wants you to come by and eat.” They introduced me to Richard Foster also and they just, they loved me. They didn’t try to preach me into faith but somehow they ended up at my husband’s church and I know was from God. They are not there anymore but there is no reason in the world that they came there other than that God put them there. [1:13:03]

Comment: Emmie Newman—when I first got saved was in a church I always went to. She was a little old lady that was just on fire for Jesus and she invited me to come to Tuesday morning prayer meeting. Now, in my usual way of doing things, I get bored after about five minutes. I would read my list to God but Annie would say, “Come and sit next to me.” She taught me how to pray by listening to her prayers and then I began to realize people in life didn’t pray for other people that way but she was the kind of person that if her car broke down on the freeway, she would get excited thinking now she was going to meet somebody new for Jesus. [Laughter] She would get into that tow truck and say to the young man, “Now do you know Jesus?” She really influenced me a lot but this is the way I always thought it was supposed to be.

Comment: I would mention Roger Frederickson who was my pastor when I was a young boy in South Dakota. He just exudes Jesus and who He is and loves people like I’ve never seen. [That’s a good one.]

Comment: My husband’s grandparents were dear Christian people and they were very frugal in their lives and loved their children and grandchildren and prayed for them constantly, the same sort of thing. When she didn’t want to throw something away, she would give it to me. [Laughter] Grandpa showed me how to die. He died of cancer and he was at home and I saw him cross from life to death with a smile on his face and I always think of that when I think about dying. What you said, when you just cross over, you may not know it and that’s what he did and he saw Christ and just went.

Comment: I have to say my husband. When I met him 30 years ago, he had been in politics and had his own business and such and he had been in the Baptist Church all of his life and was a Christian but he had the old self on as so many people do He even had a list of those that he was going to “get back at.” He kept a list and he had this transforming experience with Jesus Christ and you know, laid that aside and I’ve seen him progress over the years to where he is truly the spiritual leader in our family. He had the personality of—well, he’s an entrepreneur and so you don’t get that way unless you are used to getting your way and he had the personality where he had to be right and he had the last word and all of that. Just seeing him over the years as he’s studied to word of God and he put together a scripture book for us that he reads all the time and has given out hundreds of them and how the Lord has just—Tom has been putting on the new self continually.  He is loving and loyal and he doesn’t speak ill of anybody anymore even though he has an opportunity and it certainly would be the right words to say. It would be truth if he said it but he doesn’t say it and it’s just been a remarkable experience to see how he has put off the old self and put on the new self and he has even started three day weekends where it’s focused on the Holy Spirit and bringing people from all over to go to those weekends—not only here in Georgia but in Ohio. They’ve spread to Ohio and such. It’s a “true living in front of me” example of putting off the old and putting on the new with the power of the Spirit.

Dallas: Let me ask you—you mention “not speaking ill of anyone.” Isn’t that a universal characteristic of these people? [Yes] They won’t speak ill of any one. It goes very deep into their character and into their relationship with God. [1:17:57]

Well, I wanted to go there because, you see, so often when we deal with these things, we say, “Well, this is impossible.” No it’s not impossible. People actually do it and that’s something we need to hand on to because one of the deflective devices is to say, “Well, this is impossible,” and I constantly run into this in teaching the Sermon on the Mount and the response is, “Well, it is impossible if you remain like you are.” That’s why you have to put the emphasis on changing the inside. If you become different on the inside which is what spiritual formation in Christ is about, it’s not only not impossible, it’s hugely attractive and the people who find it and do it will tell you it’s not hard. It’s easy! But that’s because, now, there is something different on the inside. Of course, the inside includes the body which is a living part of the person and one of the most remarkable things about these people is the way their body shows forth the beauty of Christ and I can’t think of any exception to that. It doesn’t matter how ugly you are. Your body will show the beauty of Christ and so these are good things to know now and so we can say this is a manageable task. You have to straighten out all these things about whether you do it in your own strength or does God do it without you doing anything and all that stuff. You have to have some teaching and some people do it without that teaching just because they are led into the goodness of it and they go with that. [1:20:16]

See, we are talking now about people who shine as the lights in a darkened world and that is the primary form that evangelism, apologetics and whatever else you think along those lines takes. The passage in 1 Peter about “being ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you” is talking about people who are joyful in unfair persecution and they are happy. And people see them and say, “How do you do that?” “Give me a reason for the hope that is in you.”  A head-knocking apologist will take that as an invitation to try to rob each of you with good arguments about your faith in Christ but it’s a request for an explanation of a reality. There is a place for the arguments and I certainly agree with that but that’s not what that passage is talking about. That’s talking about a life that calls for an explanation and some one wants to know, “How did you get that way?” What makes you that way?” Now, in every case of these people that you mentioned, there is an explanation. It didn’t fall on them out of the sky. They lived through something that brought them to that place and that’s what we need to pay close attention to. [1:21:46]

Comment: Can I share one more example? [Yes!] There is a woman in my church and she was misdiagnosed for several years with an illness and it left her essentially in a wheelchair or using a walker. She is in about early 30‘s and had they diagnosed correctly, they could have treated it and she would have been perfectly normal.  She’s in a nursing home environment now and in physical therapy, which she needs but she is one of the most joyous Christians I know. She is a prayer warrior in our church and she just beams when you see her. She is that person that is just so full of love for God and for people and in her circumstances, she has the right to be bitter and there is just no bitterness there. It really captures what you are talking about. [1:22:56]

Dallas: OK; well, we are coming up on break time and this afternoon we will want to talk about the positive sign of putting on the new man because we need to address that part of it because in real life, you can’t separate it. But for purposes of discussion, we want to talk about that some, so Gary?

Gary: No announcements so take about a minute to Quakerize your own food—your own blessing in silence and then I’ll say a blessing.

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