Study and Worship

Dallas Willard Part 26 of 34

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

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Everybody ready? I’m on page 87 of the notebook and now we are going to rejoice in happier scenes for awhile [and he laughs].

 

So now, the general idea here is that disciplines of engagement have to be given a little separate treatment. They don’t exactly meet the same issues and also, disciplines of engagement are confusing to people because most of them are also acts of service, worship, obedience, keeping commandments, and so on. And so, we have to make sure that we see them in those different aspects. Now, that’s important because people, if I may express it so, people like us are apt to burn themselves out on what looked like the disciplines of engagement but, they are not disciplines; they are services and that’s how they will burn you out. So, you have to understand how the disciplines of abstinence come in because they are the ones that will make engagement safe and also help us to understand that, for example, prayer is a discipline as well as a primary mode of obedience to Christ and working with Christ and so on. Let me go over that again just to try to make sure; you see, the disciplines of engagement say, “Grab something.” Disciplines of abstinence say, “Turn it loose.” And, you have to have both of those and if you don’t, then your disciplines of engagement may well wipe you out—burn you out—because they also are activities that are commanded, okay? [2:06]

 

So, let me just refer you to pages 175-176 of the Spirit of the Disciplines and read a few lines from that—175 and 176 of the Spirit of the Disciplines. I say here, “The disciplines of abstinence must be counter balanced and supplemented by disciplines of engagement. Abstinence and engagement are the out-breathing and the in-breathing of our spiritual lives and we require disciplines for both movements. Roughly speaking, the disciplines of abstinence counteract tendencies to sins of commission.” [2:45] See, then again, “The disciplines of abstinence counteract sins, habits, tendencies to sins of commission and the disciplines of engagement counteract tendencies to sins of omission.” Now, don’t push that but I think it’s helpful to have those concepts there in coming to understand how we work with a life of disciplines. “Life as we have seen in an earlier chapter does not derive its power of growth and development from withdrawal.” So, if all you’ve got is withdrawal—now, of course, God steps into that—but, if all you have is withdrawal, you will not develop. “Your life will be stunted at best and perhaps disappear. Abstinence then makes way for engagement.” And, so often, if we are looking, for example at the commands of God and they try to engage us, we are already engaged. So, if for example, we are trying to bear witness to the Gospel, to those around us but our mouth is already full of other stuff, we won’t be able to do it. If we are called to prayer as a way of working with God and with others, but we’ve already filled our lives with what we are doing, then—unfortunately, this is the usual case—we won’t pray and as we go along here, we will be talking about reading the Bible and so on and the truth is, most people who are talking about reading it ain’t reading it. Right? Your Bible believing churches have more of profession than they do actually engagement with the Bible—the same way in prayer. It can be the same way in worship especially when we have got people paid to worship and lead worship and it becomes a performance and so on. We have to really watch this distinction and if the places in our blood cells designed to carry oxygen are occupied by carbon monoxide, we will die for lack of oxygen. “If the places in our souls that are to be indwelled by God and His service are occupied by food, sex, and society, we die or languish for lack of God and right relation to His creatures. A proper abstinence actually breaks the hold of improper engagement so that the soul can be properly engaged in and by God.” Did I make any sense just now? This is really important to get because this is what explains why so many people are regular devaluates of religious services and do not grow. It’s because actually they are occupied with other stuff and so they come and hear a sermonette for Christianettes, go home and watch the game. So, this is an important distinction now and I hope you can take ahold of it. [7:03]

 

Now, really, I actually think the first—the most primary discipline for engagement is study. I think that’s why often you will find that people who have undergone an adult conversion wind up somewhere in the desert for awhile or at least manage to spend day after day after day after day reading their Bible and I don’t know about you, but I see this all the time. Now, it’s a little different for a kid. I was converted when I was nine and I liked the Bible and the stories but I wasn’t at a stage where I could do that but adults often, when they are turned to God, then they bury their head in the Bible. The Bible isn’t the only thing to study but it is one of the central things to study.

 

OK, so let’s look at page 87 now. I’ve tried to give a precise statement of what the activity is so I describe “study” here. In study, our minds engage with an objective order. Objective order, I mean something that is not just in our experience but stands over against our experience and takes that order into itself enabling it to be in sync with reality. Okay—simple illustration—a child learning the English alphabet—okay? Now, when they start out, they don’t have it but it’s there. They use the alphabet as an objective reality and then they in various ways relate to the English alphabet. They learn a little song—ABCDEFG and so on and they are proud to sing the little song to Mommy and Daddy. Now, what that does is that takes the alphabet into them: see, and they can start doing things with it so that basic idea here of objective order of some kind and it comes into the mind. Now, don’t miss the next step. In the mind, it now has power to direct action. So, you can see immediately here how this discipline fits the definition.  What’s the definition of a discipline? [Student answers: Something that is within our power to do. That gives us the grace to do. What we cannot do by direct effort.] Now, does everyone see how that works wit the alphabet? See how that works? So, what can the little kid do? Well, he can learn the little song—ABCDEFG, right?  He can do that and then pretty soon, he can do something he couldn’t do without the song. OK? Now, we need to teach at this level for our people because you know, if you teach about it this way, there not going to be people standing up and saying, “No.” Right? They understand this. It’s in their own experience and then we can move on of course to more important things but actually, there are not a lot of things more important than the alphabet and when you think about it, what it enables you to do, eventually it enables you to do things like read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, right?—or in Dostoevsky’s case, to write the blame thing. [Laughter] If you don’t have an alphabet, you can’t do that! [11:27]

 

OK; so, that is really fundamental now so when we study something, we take in an order and then that order enables us to do things we could not do if we didn’t have it. Now, okay, think mathematics. Think any subject area; that’s study. Right? Of course, the ideal of study is to enable us to interact with reality; not just to pass tests. So now I want to apply that immediately to what we do here—all of this stuff that Keith and I are talking about to you and that we ask you to read is worthless if it doesn’t help you deal with reality.  That’s the only point—and of course hopefully—in terms of what is good and not good because that immediately gets in there because now in action the human being has to deal with good and evil and that’s what the “old scratch” was saying to Mother Eve. “Oh, you know good and evil.” He didn’t tell her that they wouldn’t be able to do the good and evil would overwhelm them, right? They really know it but of course, we have the responsibility as those who are created to reign under God to choose and realize what is good and what we find to our dismay is we can’t do it on our own. Right? [13:21]

 

So, what is the Bible for example? Well, the Bible is essential truth provided by God on a need to know basis, which you can’t get anywhere else.  Now, folks, listen to me.  As ministers and teachers, we need to say that over and over and over and over again. Why is the Bible important? Well, try to find out what you can find out by reading it by reading anything else.  Just try! You can’t do it. That’s why when the Bible disappears as a source for living, humanity is at a loss. So, you know, most anyone in trouble, I can tell them how to get out. Keep the Ten Commandments! What are the Ten Commandments?—essential truth about living. Now, we are all armed to say, “We don’t keep the law.” Well, God help you if you don’t. You are sure going to need His help and actually if you try to keep them, He will help you and you will be able to do it. That’s where grace comes in. So, you don’t throw the law away and say, “Well, I’ll just get by with grace, thank you.” No, you won’t; grace alone doesn’t give you all that you need. You need grace but you need law and law will help you integrate your life with reality. Why should we only worship Jehovah? Well, because He is the only one worthy of worship.  Worship something else and you will be in a mess. We need to repeat over and over again that the Bible alone gives us essential truth we have to have to live. The Bible alone gives us essential truth that we have to know to live. [15:45]

 

And, there it’s just the empirical test. You say, “Well I‘ve got a book that does that.” I read whoever is writing one recently—who’s the guy that does sin—oh, I can’t think of his name so I’ll let that one go and it will come. So, you have all sorts of people with books and it’s a constant flow of books, right? And here comes the “secret,” for example. Well, okay, let’s see what we can do with that and we discover the author has made a million. Now, let’s see who else has done it. So, you put it to the test and so the Bible is absolutely essential and that’s why we need to be unashamedly sponsorers of the Bible and reading the Bible and punching people up who don’t what the Bible in the schools. Well, what would you rather have? Where else can you get what the Bible gives you? Now, of course, there is a ton of confusion about that. I understand it. It’s just a testimony to the importance of the Bible that the forces of evil have so much invested in shutting it down but a question always comes back. OK; if you don’t take this, where are you going to get what you need? Now, my point here is simply that when you study the Bible, your mind takes on an objective order that enables you then to interact with reality and it enables you to interact with reality in a way that is good for you and good for those around you –good for your country—good for the world. [17:58]

 

So, now you can study the logos I say here on the second paragraph on 89. “You can study the logos in the Bible, in nature, in history, and in individuals and you can study God.” Now, so, I run you through it again. What does that mean? You can take on in your mind, the order that is in all of these things—Bible, nature, history, individuals, Trinitarian God, okay? And that’s the reach of things. Now, of course in ordinary study in our schools, we are studying maybe nature, for example and we may have the idea that nature is all there is and that’s all we study –it’s going to make it a little hard on human beings but all in a good cause no doubt one would say. So, people try to manage history. What’s there in history?—Individuals—the study of Biography—the lives of individuals, scientists, saints, heroes, leaders, all of that. [19:30]

 

Now, I give you the statement from Bonheoffer here just to sort of—you don’t need it but—he says, “One who will not learn to handle the Bible for himself is not an evangelical Christian.” Well, you know that’s not true because there are illiterate people who are evangelical Christians and there have been tons of them through the ages. Well, he’s trying to make a point, you know. I guess something like everything else being equal, if you don’t learn to handle the Bible, you are not an evangelical Christian and of course he thought of himself and Lutheranism as evangelical so it was rather broad in his understanding.  “Even more, he has robbed himself and those around him of the absolutely indispensible truths that God has made available on a need to know basis.  Truths that cannot be obtained by man on his own in his present state.” And here again, as pastors and teachers and so on, we need to just point to what human beings are able to come up with on their own, right?

 

And now, we have this thing called secularism and our universities—big ones—are now all secular—so, you look at it and you say—“Well, how are they doing?” And I think you would have to say, “not so well” if you are thinking about providing truth for life.  See, the idea now is that knowledge can be as complete as possible and have nothing about God in it and of course now, a very natural progression, nothing about morals. So, your secular universities do not teach morality. They operate political machinery supporting one thing or another but they don’t teach it as a subject matter, which is developed through rational critique and understanding. They used to do that but not anymore because they have never been able to find an anchor for morality in anything other than divinity. So, we’ve been working on that project roughly since the late 1700’s of getting a basis for ethics without God and I don’t need to tell you, I am sure we have not succeeded. Now, there are all sorts of problems about God and revelation and so on but if you turn this loose, what I am hammering you right now about is if you turn the Bible loose, you have to find an alternative, right? Now, that’s where you and I as teachers, we come back to our four big questions—What is reality?, Who is well off?, Who is a good person? and How do you get to be a good person? And we stand there before the secular system and say, “Well, what’s the answer folks?” [23:00]

 

All right, well, we’ve already talked about Joshua 1:8. Maybe we could take a moment and look at Psalm 1? “Blessed is the person—the person blessed who does not stand in the way of the wicked—the counsel of the wicked.” Now, what’s the counsel of the wicked? Have you ever seen any counsel of the wicked? Where would you locate it in our world?—the counsel of the wicked? [Every commercial on t.v.] Ahhh….you are right on, Ginger. You want to see the counsel for the wicked, look at people who are trying to sell you something. What about your government? [Yes] That’s an interesting case, isn’t it? The counsel of the wicked—now, often that counsel is advanced by people who aren’t themselves particularly wicked because you don’t have to be wicked to walk in the counsel of the wicked but the counsel of the wicked is whatever people without God cook up as the way to go. And again, the four questions; see, I hope you will come to the place now where if someone wakes you up at 2:30 in the morning, and says, “What are the four questions?”—You will rattle them off just like that because those questions are the center of human existence and the answers to them define who we are going to be socially as well as individually. [24:50]

 

“Doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked nor stand in the path of sinners”—the usual way—“the path nor sit in the seat of the scoffers.” Now, probably if you walk in the way of sinners and stand in the seat of the ungodly, you’re gonna wind up in the scoffers’ seat. Lots of scoffing goes on in the world, isn’t there? Especially for people who think that they have something truthful to present; well, you are apt to meet some scoffers and truth itself nowadays is pretty much treated with scoffing. Now, the opposition is delight. Notice delight; doesn’t say his attention—“his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law He meditates day and night.” Now, the law is an expression of the Kingdom of God. The law tells you God’s way of doing things. God’s Kingdom is God in action.  Right? So, God has given us some indications about what it’s like to live in His Kingdom and that is in the form of the Law. Now, we can get some indications elsewhere. I mentioned history and individuals and nature and so on, but it needs to be said clearly and it is said clearly in what he is given to us of Law. Law is a beautiful thing. The law of God is beautiful. It makes you wise—even if you don’t have an education. You remember that’s what Psalm 119 says: “It makes wise the simple.” Remember that? “It makes wise the simple.” Or maybe that’s Psalm 19. What that means is you don’t have to be a smarty or have a high degree of education. And again, in 119, it makes me smarter than all my teachers. So, when you go back to Joshua 1:8, they will prosper in whatever they do and that’s here in Psalm 1. That’s a pretty good education, don’t you think?—an education where you will be fruitful. You will have abundant sources for your life. You will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season. Its leaf does not wither. See, it’s got sources. Now, the picture here is of a tree which if you look around it, you’d think, “hey, this is in a desert.” [28:03] It’s in a desert. Everything is dried up and here is this tree—wheeewwww!  Radiant fruit, leaves; how’s it do that? It’s planted by the rivers of canals and its root goes down where the water is. That’s what the fellow has. That’s what the lady has who meditates in the law day and night. OK? So, that’s pretty good. Now, notice the law has been taken in; it’s no longer out here. It’s out here but it’s no longer out here only; it’s in you and because it’s in you, then you have roots. It makes sense? [29:02]

 

So, now then getting it in you and keeping it in you, well, that’s meditation and memorization. If you don’t take it in, you can’t do what it says. You won’t know what to do. On the other hand, if you take the law in, it will give you sources without even thinking about it. One of the things you will discover as you practice extensive memorization is what you memorize actually ends up guiding your life, often without even thinking about it. You don’t have to think about it because it’s in your body and the law is a powerful thing. It has great power so mediation and memorization. You memorize it so you can meditate on it and memorizing is actually meditation as you may have found. As you memorize Colossians 3:1-17, I venture that many of you will have noticed some things you never noticed before and that is a part of meditation; is digging it out and turning it over and looking at it from this angle and from that angle and as you do that, it embeds itself in you and now you can turn it over. Someone was talking about waking up this morning—talking about waking up in the middle of the night and can’t go to sleep, I’ll tell you—you spend your time in Colossians 3:1-17 and it will be better than sleep. Probably knock you out anyway. I wouldn’t count sheep if I could count verses. So, that’s why I recommend memorizing lengthy passages. That is a way of taking the objective order into you. Now, in some things, you don’t need to memorize. Like, the kid usually doesn’t exactly memorize the alphabet. You can think of that, for example, I had to memorize the Greek alphabet at one point. I didn’t have a song that goes alpha, beta, gamma. I probably wouldn’t have used it anyway at that point. Sing it to my professor? So, you take things in and memorization, as an outcome isn’t just a matter of repetition. You need really three things to memorize. One is repetition; the other is concentration and the third is an understanding. Now, sometimes, you can remember something just by understanding it; like, I remember right where I was when I heard that John Kennedy had been shot. Now, I didn’t have to memorize that in the sense of repeating it. The shock of that event implanted it in me and that’s a very effective way; of course, you don’t want to have to shoot someone every time you need to learn something. [Chuckles] –Behead a student? That would do it, wouldn’t it? So, the mind works in various ways and we can reply on repetition and concentration and then there will be gifts of understanding and all of that goes together so that we have now implanted in us the word of God. That’s just so important and how to get people to do it. Well, teaching them the difference it makes giving them some experiments with it so that they can feel the power of it and that will often help them memorize. [33:56]

 

Now, I suggest here at the bottom of 87 that you read entire books of the Bible repeatedly in a short period of time. That has proven for many as I mentioned earlier—people who go through some deep experience possibly conversion often wind up just repeatedly reading the Bible and reading the New Testament three times in a week or something of that sort, you know? Now, obviously, that would be an unusual way of doing it unless you had special provisions for you but sometimes you can do that. Intensity yields great gains in spiritual growth. Intensity is essential in silence and solitude and all of these, especially the disciplines of engagement but also disciplines of abstention. Intensity makes a difference in us that nothing else can really do and many people read the Bible like trying to take a shower one drop at a time for five years. You can’t get a shower that way but a lot of folks take the Bible like medicine—a little dab will do you—and it won’t. So, we have to lead our people and we ourselves have to realize that if we are going to get the benefit, we need a lot of drops close together and we cannot substitute repetition over long periods of time for intense periods of concentration and that does make a difference. [36:10]

Also, I mention here Ignatius’ spiritual exercises. Those exercises basically attempts to use imagination to make the scenes of the Bible real and I think you had a—I think Jan did an Ignatian exercise with you—and this is something that comes out of the experience of Ignatius and he went through a period of convalescence. He got a cannonball in his leg and he was having to lie in bed or around the room and he asked for things to be brought to him and a couple of books—The Golden Booklet was one and The Life of Christ, I think was another one; and fundamentally what he did was he engaged in imagination during that period of convalescing and that taught him what an impression that makes. So, his exercises are so powerful in imagination that if you are going to do them straight, you really need to be in touch with someone who can help you deal with it because it will upset you—the power of imagination with study. Of course, we need to think about out programs now of Biblical teaching and what would we do—is it possible we could do anything in our church similar to St. Ignatius? Some of it we would need to not do because he has some pretty strange statements in there-one is where he says if your church tells you that black is white an white is black, then you believe it and you see how this sort of thing can be abused and hurtfully used but we don’t have to go there. We want to respect our understanding as well as our imagination when we are reading the Bible.

 

But, we do have that challenge—what are we doing in our church that advances study and probably having “whizz bang” speakers in doesn’t do much. Right? That’s a serious problem for a form of religion that is deeply tied to consumerism and that’s where Keith mentioned the revealed study in one of the most wonderful and brave and good things that has been done is to bring in people who have the tools sociologically to look at what actually comes out of church and it was very discouraging. Now, does it have to be that way? No, it doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to be that way. That’s tradition. We have traditions and just because we are so contemporary doesn’t mean we don’t have traditions. We have traditions and we have to worry about those traditions and see in what way we could replace them. [39:50]

 

I refer some on 43 here; I don’t want to turn to it but you might want to look at it. It’s talking about what you do on your bed. “I remember the days of old. I stretch out my hand after God” and that’s an exercise in basically memory and imagination and those are good things. I’ll say a little more about that when we come to celebration. [40:21]

 

Well, quickly—the next page—master the masters. One of the responses that I often have after people have done the reading for this course, which is pretty extensive—those of you especially if you are in for twelve units, you know that. One of the responses that I have from people is “Why didn’t anyone make me read this before?” And, there are too many books today. Probably, that applies to my books too. I will accept that. I don’t see why anyone should read me if they could read Kempis or Wesley but that’s not normally thought the thing to do. You read the latest but these people on your reading list like Kempis and Law and Wesley and Teresa of Avila and others, see, when you read them, you discover that there is a quality here that is very distinctive and they are, in every case, if you look at them, you realize this is based on actual experience that people have. The person who worked up the imitation of Christ was working from not only his experience, but the experience of others in the church and that book was a training manual for priests and it was directions in how people coming into the priesthood in northern Europe at the time could actually become like Christ: therefore, imitation of Christ. It’s not actually imitation in the sense that people like seize upon that. It’s imitation in the sense of becoming like Christ and that’s what that book is about. Now, again, you know, I understand everything but my books have stuff wrong with them and [laughter] and you know you must have to get used to it. So, you use your judgment and you also if you discussing the things with others who are reading the books, then you have a chance of pulling it straight, if it needs to be straight and it probably does. Richard Peace is a very fine Christian faculty member here at Fuller. I think you can use his book, Contemplative Bible Study well and I refer here to a memorization program—I wouldn’t doubt but what that address has changed—but you can find the Scripture Memory Fellowship and I would really try to have a memorization program. This one is very nicely worked out and there are others as a part of a church if I were a Pastor. I would try to make sure that I had a memorization program and young children especially as they memorize, they will not forget much of what they memorize. They will never forget it; it is a part of their mental equipment but older people need also to have a memorization program and I would just encourage anyone in the role of pastor or leader in a congregation to think seriously about “do we have a memorization program in our church?” [44:08]

 

I wanted to just read a little testimony here from a past student in the course. I won’t read all of it. It is a very touching story about how she grew up and one she loved Jesus and she wondered if she was a Jew or a Gentile because she wanted to be one of His children and she grew up and then became involved in churches and Bible studies. She says, “I was extremely naïve and probably didn’t even see what the leader was doing. We were studying the book called The Edge of Adventure by Bruce Larson and Keith Miller. We were challenged to memorize Scripture as part of the adventure. I was determined to outdo the rest of the group, all of whom were older than the priest and I so I set out to memorize the whole of 1 Corinthians 13. I worked hard all week memorizing the verses by writing them out over and over again.” That’s a good way of doing it. “I set off to the group prepared to strut my stuff. The group included an older man who had the ability to bring out the worst in me. We could hardly ever see eye to eye on any issue except that we both loved the lord. Almost every week, I would end up having argued my point over this man—not necessarily able to change his mind. It came my turn to recite my memorized scripture and the strangest and yet most life-changing thing happened to me as I began—I looked across the room at Archie, my opponent, and my heart overflowed with love for him. How I loved this man! I could hear the fish tank behind me and I new I loved the fish. I loved them all. Tears flowed as my heart welled up with joy at the knowledge of love with God as its source. I realized later that what had happened was a conversion to the word of God’s love sinking deep into my heart and into my spirit. The discipline of study—the study of God’s word engaged me with the nurturing spirit of God—one of the deepest lessons I have ever learned came out of that experience. The love of God in my heart would help me love those who I found difficult to love. I felt as if I had discovered a key that would help me to love the unlovable, the unlovely, the irritating, the enemy—I used to say I could love them without liking them because if God in me loves them, who am I not to love them? If God loves them as much as He loves me and I know He does, who am I not to love them? Or Am I more than God?—Of course not. Years later, I would discover God was taking me the next step. He wanted me to like them as well. Life changed for me.”  Now, that’s a great testimony! You see, we are talking disciplines. We are talking about doing things that enable us to do what we can’t do by direct effort. Do you see the illustration? And so, we want to be able to present study of scripture in such a way that it actually has that kind of effect. [47:45]

 

Let’s move on to just get the definition of “worship” before we have to conclude. Worship is intentional admiration of God. It ascribes worth to God. That’s what you do in worship; you ascribe worth to God. Here is an example from the Bible: “Thou art worthy, oh Lord to receive Glory and Honor and Power for you have created all things for Thy pleasure they were created.” Revelation 4:11  “Again, worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, riches, and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing. Blessing and honor, glory and power, be unto Him who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb forever and ever.” Revelation 5:12&13

 

Worthiness is the center of focus in worship. The old word itself, wor-ship. Ship has to do with making or creating worth. Worship and so this is a choice now for us to choose to worship. We need study to help us worship and if we are studying God, we’d better worship because we can’t get close without ascribing worth to Him. As a result, worship fills us with joy and hope in the vision of God. [49:58]

 

I give you here, Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  So, now, obviously, the Holy Spirit is involved in worship but we can count on Him to do His part. We don’t have to take care of that. Our part is to make sure that our mind is turned to God in an attitude of admiration and ascribing worth to God. The old translation of Isaiah 26:3-4 says: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee because He trusts in you.” Well, what you are trusting in is a matter of what you are worshipping—what you are ascribing worth to; and the tendency of human beings is to ascribe worth to themselves or to other things which they think that they can possess and control. That’s always the form of idolatry. I have an idol; I can control it and if it doesn’t do what I want, I’ll slap it around or throw it in the fire because I’m in control of it. Now, that is eliminated when we worship God. We are not in control and once we get the right view of God, we are very thankful that we are not in control. [51:38]

 

I give a quotation here form A. W. Tozer at the bottom of 89: Tozer has a lot to say about the way we think about God. He says here, “It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.” Why would he say that? Well, he says that because I think he rightly understands that standing in the presence of God with the dignity that He has pulls everything straight at a moral level. The greatest hindrance to sin is a clear vision of God and that’s why he says that and the greatness of God is what we hold before ourselves in worship. Now, you go back to study, well, what does study do? It helps you get an appropriate perception and admiration for God. That is one of the things that come out of it. It works indirectly in some cases and sometimes the scripture sets before you the beauty and greatness of God and as you stand there, then everything that might present itself as a sin to tempt you appears very tawdry—very thin and uninteresting. You have the feeling, “Well, who would want to do that when you are standing before God?”
The choice to stand before God continually is made by developing the habit. Develop the habit of keeping God before your mind and I had the—I put a little copy of Frank Laubach’s Minutes of a Modern Mystic and the Game with Minutes because he took seriously the project of developing the habit of keeping God before your mind. The many ways that we can habituate ourselves to do that and his project was to bring God back into the mind once a minute because he realized as a good psychologist that things don’t immediately disappear from your mind and if you bring them back once a minute, you will keep them before your consciousness. Now, in some cases, like if you have fallen in love or you have a grandchild that has just been born or a book that’s just been published, you probably will not need a habit to keep that before your mind. But, we are set in our own Kingdom and the Kingdoms around us and they are constantly asserting themselves and as a result of that, we need to develop the habit of bringing God constantly before our mind and thinking of Him as exalted and wonderful and worthy and totally admirable. [55:35]

 

Well, there is an awful lot more to say about that but we’ve come up against the limit and so, let’s sign off for this morning and we will pick up here at 1:00.

Listen to all parts in this Spirituality and Ministry 2012 series