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.]
- We are going to have to start up because now, this is our last shot, okay? And I would like you to look at page 129 and I want to cover a few things that have to do especially with care for yourself.
I wish I had time to talk about physical labor and spiritual discipline. I’ve got 128 here and you are welcome to work through it but labor is very important. I mean, just plain old labor in protecting a minister against the “stuffed shirt image” which is apt to fall on themselves. So, do think some about physical labor and I don’t mean ditch digging but working with matter and learning to appreciate the order of the Kingdom that is in matter and that’s in cooking cakes or baking cakes or taking a piece of wood and framing it into something. Wood is a marvelous display of the kingdom of God and there are all kinds of it and you can learn to love it. It would be good for you. [1:12]
But, let’s talk about spirituality and whole life on page 129—your call is to live your life in God and to His Glory and what you get out of your life is the person you become and actually that’s what God gets out of your life, too. We are apt to misunderstand that and think that what we get out of our life and what God gets out of our life are the things that we produce and particularly on our job. We had a lovely man in this course some years back who listened to this and other things and said, “We don’t get paid to live.” Yea, that’s true. But, of course, I am hoping that “you don’t live to get paid also” and so there is a disconnection here but WE have to take charge of this. It is something that our assurance about what we do—what is our work and our job and our ministry that we really must pay attention to? You want to be sure to distinguish your job from your work and your ministry. [2:33]
I have put over here on page 130 a little diagram that its really important to keep clear on and not get confused—“Aspects of me that I am in great danger of confusing” and I have here: your life, your work, your ministry and your job. Now, the temptation is to reverse those circles and make the encompassing one your job and actually you might like to play around with this and try what it means to locate and relocate them but your job is what you are paid to do; It’s how you earn a living. Your job is something that men, human beings assign to you and that’s important but you don’t want to confuse it with your ministry. Your ministry is something God has given to you; men do not give you a ministry. God gives you a ministry and your ministry is that part of God’s special work in my time that He has specifically allotted to me. Now, it would be wonderful if there were some cooperation between job and ministry but every job has a good bit of it that is not ministry. It’s just something that has to be done and it’s part of what you get paid for and if we have a correct perception of all of this, then I think we can gracefully accept the parts of our job that are not ministry and in fact, might even be questionable in relationship to our ministry. [4:24]
Then there is your work and my work is the total of lasting goods, which I will produce in my lifetime and just to help us illustrate that. For example, if you have children or a family, now, I am going to say something that is outrageous, “They are not part of your ministry,” and one way that children especially get really hurt is by having their parents jam them into their ministry and you know, sometimes it works well. You ‘ve got a kid whose heart is into it and there is no problem or conflict and it can work well but your child is NOT a part of your ministry. A child is a part of your work. It’s a part of a lasting good that you are going to produce in your lifetime. Probably for a lot of people who built this building, it was not their ministry but it was their work. Perhaps you aren’t taking part of some institution of education or government or the army or other things—medical stuff—now, there may be some overlap and for some people, that might be a ministry. That is, it might be a part of the work that God has specifically assigned to them in their lifetime but it’s certainly fine if it’s just good work. We really do need to cultivate a sense of work outside of ministry and especially outside of our job. [6:25]
On page 145, I include this little comic that I like a lot. It really makes a point and you may have some overseer in your job that thinks you shouldn’t have a life outside of your church; in fact, you may have parishioners like that. Suppose you are just out enjoying something and your parishioner sees you skipping and thinks, “That’s not a ministerial type of thing to be doing.” Do you skip? Have you ever skipped? I recommend it. But, you really, I think need to have a life outside the church and I believe, from what I have observed, it really always strengthens your position in ministry and possibly on your job if people know there is something more to you than just doing what they want you to do.
Now, of course, you still, your ministry is under the direction and support of the Holy Spirit and the other instrumentalities of the Kingdom but the Kingdom includes everything. It includes good work. God is actually working outside the church, right? And the church actually finds itself in a position of having to do a little “catch up” on what God is doing and that might be something that would be a part of your work—maybe in some technical field or political relationships between nations or groups and so on. Well, I just suggest—[8:24]
Now, your life—that’s you! And that’s what you are all about. You are not about your job and you are not about your ministry and you are not about your work. Your life is bigger than all of those and I suggest to you that your life is what God is mainly interested in and so we are apt to want to go from our job to our life and of course, there are occasions when the job is the most basic thing that we have to deal with. There are occasions like that and of course, we exercise judgment and when we’ve got to get this job done, okay, get it done. Just don’t live there is what I am saying. You don’t live there and if you live there, you are on a short course to “burn out” and anger and disappointment and you are going to make a lot of other people unhappy. [9:42]
So, now I am saying, look at that, think about that. What is your work? And I would challenge you to try to, on your way home or the next time you have time to write out a description of your job and your ministry and your work and your life. You will find that very helpful to do that. [10:13]
KEITH: As an executive pastor in a large or mega church, I used this with each of the staff folks and went through with each of my pastoral staff going through this. Now, I modified this different than Dallas has it.
Dallas: He doesn’t like work. [Laughter]
Keith: Yeah, I collapsed work and life together. I just collapsed them. I totally get what Dallas says but my folks got it a little bit easier but here’s the deal—the job piece, you have to put arrows pointing from the “outside in” (if you have your pencil), because the idea is to order your life from the “outside in” in this model. OK? When I crashed and burned—when I drifted: remember, I told you my story? This is what I went back to and that’s how I decided to go to my congregation and my leadership and say, “I am going to reorder my life. I am not coming in until 10. I am getting the life circle in order because my life circle was gone and my job circle invaded fully the ministry circle. OK? And that’s how it all got out of whack. So, when I would get with my staff, I would say, “Hey, let’s talk about each of those” and inevitably it would be often times, I’d have to deal with my youth folks who didn’t like even the job circle and I would say that if you are in a church, you need to do a job circle which is what you are paid to do. You have to fill out the request forms because you live in a church family. That’s part of your job. You do it unto Jesus. So, I would say, Colossians 3:17—what is that? Colossians 3:17—“whatever you do, whether it be word or deed, do it all.” This thing is about “all.” All the circles you do unto Jesus but sometimes in life, that job circle and your church life will be bigger—just kind of certain demand but if that job circle turns into the big circle year after year, you are not going to make it. You can start seeing yourself; that’s where burnout starts to hit. If you are not doing 60 to 70% of your life at the church in your ministry circle: if you are not at least doing that, you are going to start getting resentful. You are going to start getting bitter. You are going to be out of your zone. Does that make sense, you know? You should be at least doing, I would say, 60-70% better be in the ministry circle—your unique calling—the calling you feel God has upon you in the church. If you are doing 70 to 80% in the job circle, you are not going to be in it for long. It’s going to be really hard. You will resent ministry. It will just start dragging so these circles can be a really, really helpful thing for you to look at your own life. Here’s the deal. If you are not preaching and doing some of that vision stuff for months at a time, you are going to start to get drained because that’s not where you feel called. You are not able to do what you feel God has made you to do. You see church life has a lot of pieces that start pulling at us in different ways. We all have to do different things. [13:55]
Dallas: Now, let me tell you to make it doubly deadly—doubly deadly—think of your job in terms of outcomes. In other words, your job is to make certain things come about. Now, your congregation, very likely would be happy for you to do that and they may even suggest that.
Keith: They may even mandate it.
Dallas: They may even fire you.
Keith:…and you add on top of that, maybe—you are pretty good at that. What if you are good at that job piece and you get a lot of affirmation for it? I am trying to tell you and you can find yourself slipping into these spots where that job circle now starts absorbing more and more and more. When I hit my worst point, my life circle wasn’t happening. My job circle was huge; my ministry circle was small and it just started knocking me out. So, my first thing was to get my life circle in order—that’s where you order from—from the outside in so I ordered my life circle and I started saying, “I’ve got to do what I feel uniquely called to do.” I still did my job stuff because everybody has that. It’s like a family. You’ve still got to take out the trash, right? We all do stuff that we may not like to do but we do it unto Jesus. You see but this is a great place to help you get a little order because pastors don’t know how to do this because we are at the demand of everybody. I am just saying that this drift out of these circles happens over time and sometimes, we don’t see it. [15:43]
Dallas: What we are talking about here is not just for preachers; generally speaking, people are wiped out by this. They are wiped out and we need to teach this to our people–people who are housewives, raising kids, and people who are working at a job they don’t like and actually isn’t adequate to their training and all of that. Let me ask you? What does “He anointeth my head with oil, my cup runneth over?” What does that mean? Where does that show up? [Psalms 23] It’s something to think about, isn’t it? Is your cup running over? Is your head anointed with oil? What about “do you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies?” What about that one? What does that mean? That means my guts work well in the face of threats. I am provided for. [16:56]
Q: How do you help a guy that works sixty hours a week and his job is managing his life?
A: Well, you don’t tell him to quit his job. You try to get him to think about what’s it like to be a human being living in God’s world. That’s where you start and you try to help him see why he is investing himself the way he is and how prayer and leading guidance might work to get him in a better place. Generally the first thing if you are in a job that isn’t good, the first thing you do is be faithful to the job but you be faithful to it under God, not under a boss, see? Now, I know you are going to go ahead and read and maybe memorize the rest of Colossians 3 but a major part of that is about how to work on the job and make sure that Jesus is your paymaster and your boss. See, that’s what you want to do so you know, as I’ve said so many times now, Doug, you go back to what is the Gospel. What has this guy been taught about the Kingdom of God and being saved and so forth and that’s how you approach his actual situation. You start talking to him about everything that he is doing in life. What are his opportunities? For example, many people are holding on to impossible jobs because they are scared they won’t get another one and you know, at least in your mind you just have to be able to say, “you are perfectly welcome to ruin your life but I don’t have to.” [18:45]
Q: If you have a guy or girl who works sixty to eighty hours a week: how do you deal with and what do you say to someone like that?
A: Well, you have to have a place to stand to deal with “time” and if you don’t have a sense of these distinctions and especially if you don’t have a sense of what your life is, you don’t have any place to stand and so, now, ordinarily people feel trapped in whatever it is they are in and they don’t have a place to consider what they might do and then they lock themselves in to a routine that just makes that prison harder and more impossible to get out of. [19:46]
I include in the notes here on page 139 something written by a man named William Martin, The Art of Pastoring-Rediscovering God’s Grace and I frankly tell you, I have not seen that book and I don’t know the man but on 139, you have some wonderful advice or description—“If you fill your calendar with important appointments, you will have no time for God. If you fill your spare time with essential reading, you will starve your soul. If you fill your mind with worry about budgets and offerings, the pains in your chest and the ache in your shoulders will betray you. If you try to conform to the expectations of those around you, you will forever be their slave. Work a modest day; then step back and rest and this will keep you close to God. One’s daily planner tells plenty about one’s spiritual formation. It reveals volumes about the pastor’s spiritual condition, values, fears and ambitions. It tells who your bosses are; who your lover is and how much value you place on your soul. If you are working more than 50 hours a week, you are not doing it for God no matter how eloquent your rationalizations. Take a long, meditative prayerful look at your calendar. Who are you trying to impress? God? Give me a break! Congregation? Maybe! Yourself? BINGO! Now, cut some big chunks out of each week for family, rest, meditation, prayer and flower-sniffing and when you’ve done that, you will be more sensitive to the path of God.” Now, the thing is, you can’t do that unless you have at least some adjustments of your vision of who you are and what you are doing and then you may find a place to stand to do that. [22:06]
I want to just walk over a few points in this piece by John Cotton on page 131 and this is a reflection of the old Calvinist and Puritan idea of vocation and it approaches what you are doing as a minister but it doesn’t distinguish between ministers and butchers. They all have a vocation and this is a wonderful piece—very thoughtful—very philosophical in a good sense, and he starts out by making distinctions and then utilizing them at the bottom of 131, he distinguishes between civil or natural life. Civil life is that whereby you live as a member of this or that city or town or commonwealth. Now, their view was you had to have a community. Human beings have a community and the community has a common good and that you are going to have your place as a member of a community working for a common good alongside of others. On the next page, 2nd paragraph—“to begin with the former, a true believing Christian, a justified person, he lives in his vocation by his faith, not only my spiritual life but even my civil life is in this world—all the life I live is lived by the faith of the Son of God. He exempts no life from the agency of His faith whether He lives as a Christian man or is a member of a church or commonwealth or does it all by faith of the Son of God.” Now, you can see how Biblical that is and “right on.” [24:09]
So now he makes a number of points. I’ll just quickly go over them on page 132, the middle—The first faith draws the heart of a Christian to live in some warrantable calling. Now, the word “vocation” is just a Latin term that is tied to “calling”—vocation; and that is something that is desperately lacking now. The idea of “calling” or “vocation”—not many people you will hear discuss it because we like to think, “Well, you want to do this?” “Well, you can do that!” “Well, you want to do this?” “You can do that!” And it’s often, counselors of children do so much harm to them by the way they talk about what their possibilities are. He goes on to describe “a warrantable calling” and he gives you three points to cover that in that paragraph but I want to skip on because of time here.
Secondly, next paragraph, another work of faith about a man’s vocation and calling—when faith has made choice of a “warrantable calling,” then he depends upon God for the quickening and sharpening of his gifts in that calling. He does not look at his abilities. He looks to Heaven for skill and ability and he does not depend upon his abilities but upon God’s blessing in the use of his gifts though he had never so much skill and strength he looks at it as a dead work unless God breathes in him—plumbers, electricians, janitors. Thirdly, top of the next page. We live by faith in our vocation in that faith in serving God, serves men and in serving men, serves God. The apostle sweetly describes it in the calling of servants, not with “I” servant as men pleasers but as the servants of Christ doing the will of God from the heart with good will as unto the Lord and not unto men. And then, fourthly, next paragraph, another act of faith about a man’s vocation is this—it encourageth a man in his calling to the most “homeliest” and difficult-est and most dangerous things his calling can lead and expose himself to. If faith apprehend this or that to be the way of my calling and it encourages me to it, though it be never so homely and difficult and dangerous, take you a carnal proud heart and –I love this language—take you a carnal, proud heart and if his calling lead him to some homely business, he can by no means embrace it. Such homely employments a carnal heart knows not how to submit unto, but now faith, having put us into a calling if it require some homely employment, it encourages us to it. Fifth, bottom of the page—another act of faith by which a Christian man lives in his vocation is that faith casts all the failings and burdens of his calling upon the Lord. That is the proper work of faith. It rolls and casts all upon Him. [28:03]
The next page he gives you three different kinds of burdens—care about the success of it and for this, faith casts its care upon God. The second burden is fear of danger that may befall us therein from the hand of man. Another burden is the burden of injuries that befall a man in his calling. Sixthly, faith hath another act about a man’s vocation and that is it takes all successes that befall him in his calling with moderation. He equally bears good and evil successes, as God shall dispense them. Faith frames the heart to moderation be they good or evil, it rests satisfied in God’s graces dispensation. So, our successes are also rolled off on the Lord. Seventhly, the last work, next paragraph there, which faith puts forth about a man’s calling is this—faith with boldness resigns up his calling on to the hands of God or man. Whenever God calls a man to lay down his calling when his work is finished, herein the sons of God so far exceed the sons of men. Another man, when his calling comes to be removed from him, he is much ashamed and much afraid but if a Christian man be to forego his calling, he lays it down with comfort and boldness in the sight of God and man. Now, in terms of our cycles, that’s because this man knows that he really lives in that outside circle. A man in his calling has sought that in his calling “hath sought himself” and never looked further than himself. He never comes to lay down his calling but he thinks it is to his utter undoing. I have been told by actuaries, that for men who retire, the average age of survival is 18 months and it doesn’t matter that much how old they are when they retire. That’s a profound metaphysical truth as well. I love this one now. A swine that hath never did good office to his owner til he comes to lie on the hurdle (the hurdle is where it is slaughtered), he then cries out but as sheep who hath many times before yielded profit through it’s wool. Though you take him and cut his throat, yet he is as a lamb dumb before the shearers so a carnal man that has never served any man but himself, call him to distress and he murmurs and cries out at it but take you a Christian man that is wanted to serve God in serving men, when he hath been faithful and useful in his calling, he never lays it down but with some measure of freedom and boldness. [31:38]
So, finally, this is the comfort of a Christian man—top of 135—when he comes to lay down his calling, he cannot only with comfort look God in the face but all the sons of men. There is never a Christian that lives by faith in his calling but he is able to challenge all of the world for any wrong done to them. “We have wronged and defrauded no man,” he is quoting Paul, “We have done most there where we are least accepted.” That is the happiness of a Christian. Those who have been the most weary of him have had the least cause. So, hang that on your circles. [32:32]
OK, now I’d like to skip to page 137—Joy—and I have some, I hope very helpful remarks, if I may say so on body, burnout, and spirituality on the previous page, and this is where I have a little remark about being “righteous over much.” “Righteous over much” is a response of false spirituality that is a spirituality supported by fleshly strength and devices only and it will kill you if you live long enough because it will wind up basing self acceptance on performance.
And so, then, I recommend at the bottom of 136, play and leisure; and to challenge your image of Jesus, did He ever play? Play is the space of non-productive behavior. See, if you want to see play, you have to watch a child. You watch a child that has no toys and nothing to do and you will see play break out and that’s the real stuff. Now, you know if they’ve watched too much t.v. already, they can’t do it and they will say, “I’m bored, Mama” but we need to think about play and what are the activities of play and I have already recommended skipping. It doesn’t cost anything. It has certain lightness about it. [34:20]
Joy. Joy is a sense of overall well-being. Joy is a primary foundation for Kingdom ministry. It flows form vision—peace and righteousness and reinforces them. It is a gift and a duty. You have a duty to be joyful. It needs to pervade your body. It doesn’t hit your body—it’s not there yet and so body language will be a primary way of communicating it. Jesus had joy and when He said on the last night, “My joy I give unto you,” and in the great prayer of John 17—“praying that their joy would be full”—that was not something that those around Him I am sure didn’t understand. Jesus was a joyful person. You say, “Well, He was a man of sorrows” but yes, you can be joyful and sorrowful at the same time and Paul explains that when he is going over his little list there in, what is it, 2 Corinthians 4, I think—“sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
Now, joy is always bound up with hope. You cannot be joyful if you are not hopeful and so these things like joy and hope and love and faith, they all begin to exhibit their structure. They are not feelings. They are conditions that are interwoven with one another and they have feelings that go with them but you don’t try to reproduce the feeling and if you try to reproduce the feeling, you will become an addict of the feeling and you may wind up doing a lot of silly things and saying a lot of silly things and calling it joy though going back to law and the connection between the body and the soul, we do want to remember sometimes being joyful overtly can help us have joy in the soul. So, you don’t want to forget about that either. [37:17]
Well, I don’t have time to do the verses that I have listed here on 137. I hope you will find time to work through them and understand that joy is something that we can cultivate and activate and make a point of being joyful. Now, the thing is, you have every justification not to be full of joy. Life is hard and lots of disappointments, lots of opposition but it’s possible still to choose a life of joy and then as we do that, to change the things that keep us from being joyful and I stomp my foot here by underlining and bolding and capitalizing; basically, WE CAN STOP TRYING SO HARD AND DIRECT OUR MIND TO GOD AND TO OUR PLACE IN THE WORLD, NOW AND FOREVER. You have to kind of keep a subtheme running here and that is, the solutions to problems rarely lie in trying harder and trying too hard will destroy your joy. It will get at your body and your relationships to others and so on and joy will dissipate. Now, if we had time, we could talk about the relationship to peace and to love and so on, but we don’t.
Here at the bottom of 137 are some things that destroy joy–our sins and failures; boy, that can really get you and if you look backwards, if you are like me, you are going to find lots of reasons not to be joyful because one of the worst things about the past is it’s in the barn but you can’t change it and things the that you did that were wrong and hurtful are there. So, the way forward with this is to accept the fact that I am a failure. I am a failure. Now, there is hope because God has an overarching purpose in my life and I have to help myself understand some things like, for example, when I am tempted to go back and feel regret, I am apt to slide into asking for forgiveness again but regret is different from guilt. We don’t want to spend a lot of time in the house of regret but it does prove to be very instructive and humbling about where we are now. [40:51]
And, then fear of what will happen to us destroys joy. This is looking forward. Looking backward, looking forward: and I remind you again here of Psalms 16:8—I’ve set the Lord always before me. He is my right hand. I will not be moved and so on. Psalms 55:22, what does that say? Cast thy burdens on the Lord and He will sustain you, so I am able to commit the future to the Lord who is going to sustain me. Pressure of our work, responsibilities—I call this looking inward and when you look in there, boy, is there going to be a bunch of stuff to discourage you, you know? That’s where we really do need to consecrate on God’s fairness and His mercy, which as the song says, “is new every morning.”
So, there are ways of dealing with these things and we have to be, I believe, rather self-conscious about dealing with them—things that destroy joy. If we are not joyful, what’s the problem and then deal with the problem and let joy well up again out of hope that comes to us as we realize how that we can deal with the past and the future and the present.
I need to just emphasize you know that this is a choice. This is a choice. We can choose to be joyful and we have to. We have to choose it. That’s true of love and peace also and the other fruit of the spirit because the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t mean that we do nothing. We still have to choose and not only to choose the fruit, but to choose the arrangements, which allow the fruit to emerge. That again is where indirection and disciplines come in. [43:42]
Now, a few practical things here on page 138—we promise too much. It’s almost in the nature of our calling that we promise too much. Sometimes it’s because we are people pleasers and some times it’s just because we want to help. We want to be able to do things that will help people. It is often a legitimate desire to serve that leads us to promise too much but we still must recognize that this is a problem—promising. We have to learn that all promises must be under God, recognize our limits, understand the wisdom of saying “no” and that it is not bad to say “no.” We can say “no” in kindness and in love. It will help us to remember that horse sense is the ability to say, “Nay.” So, you can write that on your wall. [44:47]
Now, running on promises is like living on credit. In fact, living on credit is a particular form of it. The bill always comes due. The day comes and now then, or the week comes or whatever and now then, you have to do it and then the question of your energy, your time, your relationships to others; in short, your life now becomes an issue. So, I recommend a technique that I have found useful and try to work and have gotten some help from it and that is, “Never promise on the spot,” or have someone who deals with requests. Now, you can’t do that all the time. I know that. There will be cases where you’ve got to respond immediately but you don’t have to live like that and most of the things that we are tempted to promise can be held off until we have a time to talk with our family or friends, our counselors, and then decisions can be made and promises or “no” can be given. So, if we are going to have joy, then we need to have a plan for dealing with promising and we need to have a calendar that we look at and think about that we have to consult and I recommend that one have at least a two year calendar and that when you look at it, you really make sure that you haven’t filled it up. And, then once you have sort of repositioned all of this, give the next hour to God and delight in what He gives. Delight in the work now at hand for you and you really can’t do that unless you have managed to push things off at some distance and then you can delight in things that are at hand and that often like here, I so enjoy walking by these flower beds out here and just looking at those flowers and thinking about what Jesus said about all of that. But you have to look at them and you look at them and you think, “Well, Donald Trump in all his glory wasn’t as beautiful as these.” [Laughter & Comments] You bring in anyone you want and compare them to one of those little purple flowers or one of those yellow lilies and here it is. There it is; it’s just provided. They didn’t have to be there and of course, those are taken care of and that’s important too but the beauty that is at hand and the enjoyment of beauty is one of the spiritual disciplines that has great power if we are able and willing to turn to it and it has that power through the conveying of joy. Also, peace, you will find it’s very hard to be grumpy when you are looking at a beautiful flower. Beauty has a tremendous power. It is the sensible presentation of good. [48:51]
Ok, so then we begin to get mastery of our time. I do hope you will think about this statement of Coleridge on 141—Coleridge, the poet. He is some kind of Christian, I think. He was quite sincere about it but a little wild and he has this to say, “If the idle are described as killing time, he, the methodical man may be justly said to call it into life and moral being. While he makes it the distinct object not only of consciousness but of all the conscience, but of the conscience he organizes the hours and gives them a soul and that the very essence of which is to flee away and evermore to have been, he takes up into his own permanence and communicates to it the imperishableness of a spiritual nature of the good and faithful servant whose energies thus directed are methodized. It is less truly affirmed that ‘he lives in time than that time lives in him.’ His days, months and years, has the stops and punctual marks of the records of duties performed will survive the wreck of worlds and remain extant when time itself shall be no more.” [50:28]
Paul in his wisdom has twice in his letters, “redeeming the time.” You know, this is another case where these modern translations try to help you out; pat you on the head, “dear little reader, we are going to help you out here” and they don’t say what the verse says. Very commonly, they say things like “making the best of time.” No, no, no; that’s not what it says— you have to redeem it. That means, you have to buy it back; that it’s already gone wrong and if it’s gone and if you don’t do something about it, then it’s gone forever. You have to redeem it. Redeem the time because the days are evil; that is to say, just let it go and it’s automatically taken over by evil and this statement by Coleridge, I think is a lovely way of carrying that thought forward, right? So, you need to keep your calendar carefully and among other things, make plenty of time to just “be.” Remember, your life is what amounts to you and you can take control of that and make it count, catch it up, and make it eternal and Coleridge’s words are quite helpful, I think for that. [52:21]
Well, just a couple of other things here quickly. On page 164, there is wonderful statement here from an early Christian writer, “The Christian as the Soul of the World.” So, he starts out by saying, “Christians are distinguished from other people [page 164] neither by country nor language, nor the ethnic customs they observe. They do not inhabit cities of their own or use a unique form of speech. The everyday course of conduct they follow has not been devised by some philosophical program or agenda. Neither do they as some do proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human ideology, instead inhabiting cities of every nation according to the circumstances in which they find themselves, they follow the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food and the rest of their ordinary conduct.” Now, we know how that went awry very quickly in Christian history. Too bad! He goes on to talk about “nevertheless they really are very different; nevertheless in a different sense, Christian display a remarkably distinctive way of life that is admirably paradoxical. They share all things with their fellow citizens, yet they endure all things as aliens and strangers.” Well, of course, we know that’s because they live in two landscapes. We’ve talked about that, haven’t we? “They marry and bare children as others do but they do not abort their unwanted children as others do. They have a common table but not a common bed. They are in the flesh but they do not live according to the flesh. They pass their days on earth but their citizenship is in Heaven. They are unknown yet condemned. They are put to death, yet restored to life. They are poor, yet they make many rich. [54:55]
Next column on that page—here for a reason. To sum it up, what the soul is to the body, Christians are to the world. The soul is dispersed through all parts of the body and Christians are scattered though all the cities of the worlds. Soul dwells in the body yet it is not of the body. Christians dwell in the world but they are not of the world. Though the flesh suffers no injury, the soul, it hates the soul and wars against it because the soul restrains the flesh from enjoying illicit pleasures and in the same way even though the world is not injured by Christians, it hates them because they say, “Nay.” They say, “No” to worldly passions. Hmmmm.
Well, just skip down to the last paragraphs there—In all these ways, Christians find their relationship to the world difficult but it would be wrong for them to flee from it for this is the position to which God has assigned them and it is glorious. It is glorious. [56:17]
Well, one more little thing here on page 168. To believe in God is to believe in the salvation of the world. The paradox of our time is those who believe in God do not believe in the salvation of the world and those who believe in the future of the world do not believe in God. Christians believe in the end of the world. They expect the final catastrophe—the punishment of others. Atheists, in their turn invent doctrines of salvation and try to give a meaning to life, work, the future of humankind and refuse to believe in God because Christians believe in Him and take no interest in the world. All ignore the true God. He who has so loved the world but which is the more culpable ignorance? To love God is to love the world. To love God passionately is to love the world passionately. To hope in God is to hope for the salvation of the world. I often say to myself in our religion, God must feel very much alone for is there anyone besides God who believes in the salvation of the world? God seeks among us sons and daughters who resemble Him enough to love the world enough that He could send them into the world to save it. [58:13]
So, take care of yourselves now. I leave you in good homiletic fashion with a poem.
The wind one brilliant day called to my soul,
With an odor of jasmine
And the wind said, “In return for the odor of my jasmine
I’d like the odor of your roses”
But I said, “I have no roses
All the flowers of my garden are dead.”
Then the wind said, “Well, I’ll take the withered petals
And the yellow leaves”
And the wind left
And I wept
And I said to myself,
“What have you done with the garden
That was entrusted to you?”
Now, that garden is your life. It’s you!
Lord, help us to know the truth; to live in it; to do what is necessary to make it a part of our lives. Each one here, let us know your Kingdom as our Kingdom because we have submitted to you and have brought ourselves into harmony with your good world and your good help and the beautiful fellowship of the Trinity and we ask that IN the Trinity. So, please let it be done. Amen.
Julie, you’re on. [Applause and Standing Ovation] Where did she go?
Thank you, thank you, thank you, please; thank you very much! Please be seated