The Beatitudes

Dallas Willard Part 8 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.]

§

Now, we need to finish this part about inversion by looking at the beatitudes and this is important not just for the beatitudes but to firm up the ideas about how Jesus teaches. I would say that if you do not come to understand how He teaches, it will be impossible to understand what He is teaching because there are two general areas where Jesus teaches.

 

One is perfectly general principles. So, when He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your Strength, and your neighbor as yourself,” that is general teaching. It is not attempting to correct a mistaken assumption, though it does indeed do that. But the point here is to give a general teaching. It really means you are supposed to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. No exceptions. [1:32]

 

But now, Jesus doesn’t always teach in that way. He teaches colloquially and He teaches contextually and usually I think you find that teaching refers to a concrete situation with actual people before Him and assumptions that prevail in the minds of the hearers. I always like to refer to Luke 14 as an illustration of that and we will go back to the beatitudes, but Luke 14 is a situation where Jesus is invited to a party and He watches, verse 7 of Luke 14, He watches how the invited guests were picking out the places of honor at the table and He says to them, “Now, when you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him.” [2:45] Now, you have to start thinking at that point. Is this really the issue? You might be embarrassed? I mean, you think Jesus is giving us teaching on how not to be embarrassed? Probably not! But, that’s His way into this.  “The one who invited you comes and says to you, ‘Well, you get up from here and you go down there and you come over here and take this place of honor.’ Well, you can imagine sort of how people would feel. You go down to the last place and sit there with your teeth in your mouth and your bear faced hanging out and you are embarrassed. So, what do you do? You go to the last place to start with and then your guest comes and says, “What are you doing way down there? Come on up here.” So, now, He says, “You will have honor in the sight of those who are at the table with you.” [4:10]

 

Well, was He actually advising people on how to get honored; again, probably not. He is looking at a practice and He is saying now, “This is crazy.” What’s the practice? Get in there and find the most honorable seat. No, don’t do that.  Try it this other way around because, now you have a general principle. “Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled and who humbles himself shall be exalted.” Now you look at that and say, “Well, I now have a principle showing me how to be exalted.” Be humble. So, humility becomes a strategy of exaltation. [4:57] And, I hope you would worry about that as something Jesus was teaching and he continues, verse 12, “When you give a banquet, luncheon, dinner, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you.” Now, do you think He is actually saying you should not invite our relatives? Some people would be happy to find that as an instruction but probably not. When you give a reception, invite the poor, and the cripple and the lame and so on. Address real human needs and you will be blessed since they do not have the means to repay you. What is He talking about? He is talking about “tit for tat” stuff. Don’t invite people on the basis that they can invite you back. Invite people who need something to eat or need some social fellowship. They are left out. Now see you could turn that into a legalism, Now, He’s not advising us as a general principle. He’s telling us how to get past the practice that is wrong. Much of His teaching is designed to get at the general principles that people assume are how you do things and He is saying, “No, that’s not it” and He is letting the air out of the general assumption that is floating by. That’s just an illustration and I think know, if you’ve got that in mind, you are ready to have a look at the beatitudes and at least think the though that what is going on here is something similar. [7:04]

 

So, the option would be is to say that when He gives the beatitudes in let’s say, Matthew 5 or again in Luke 6 that He is giving general principles on a par with love your neighbor as yourself. The human tendency to pick things up and turn them into legalisms and self-righteousness nowhere asserts itself more strongly than with reference to the interpretation of the beatitudes that has come down through the ages. You look here and you see, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit” and you try to find a way of translating that that will make it look good—look like a good thing—and maybe you come up with “Blessed are those who think they are poor in Spirit.” Well, that might be a good thing too. See, many times when we read scripture, we wind up teaching good things; they just aren’t what the passage says. And that way, we miss what it says but got something good. It is good to be humble, right? It’s good not to think you’ve got it made or that you—that’s good but actually, that’s really not what He says here, is it? What He is saying is not they are blessed because they are poor in Spirit. He doesn’t say that. The blessing is not in the condition sited and here you just look at the language and see how it works. The blessing is not in the condition sited. It is in the Kingdom. Why are they blessed? Well, because they are in the Kingdom of God. Now, does that say that everyone who is poor in spirit is in the Kingdom of God? So, now I am throwing these things out at you. You have to wrestle with them because you know; you have to decide what you are going to say about this. Blessed are the poor because theirs is the Kingdom of God. Is that a guarantee that if you are poor, you are in the Kingdom? What do you think? There are people that have said that and it follows from that that you are better off if you are poor than if you are not. That forms a little “nurdle” of spiritual misunderstanding that rests in the minds and souls of multitudes of people that the blessing is in the poverty or in the case of Matthew’s version, the blessing is in the spiritual poverty. [10:11] The poor in spirit are people who just have nothing going for them in spiritual terms and actually, the people who thought they were in charge of things in Jesus’ day, they thought He was poor in Spirit. That’s why they were always coming around and saying, “By what authority did you do this?” He didn’t have any authority and He really got some pretty serious criticism. At one point, they were saying He was a half-breed Samaritan, demon-possessed, and so on. Another case you know He was teaching and all of that and people were amazed at what He could say and they brought up the issue of His qualifications. Did this man really graduate from Hebrew University? Does He have a legitimate credential? How does this man know letters having never learned? He ain’t gone to school. How could He possibly know? They couldn’t question that He knew it; that was obvious but what lies back of the question is a criticism. And their criticism is based on the idea, well; He really doesn’t have good credentials spiritually. He didn’t study under Rabbi Smellfungus. He didn’t study under any rabbi. He didn’t study under John the Baptist. So, now you see, that’s where all of those human orders come down. Well, if He is legit, then He has got to have this human order. So, now He comes and He preaches the gospel of the Kingdom of God. He announces the availability of God and the Kingdom of God to everyone.

 

When Jesus goes out in His ministry, He does three things. One is to announce; and in a sense, that’s the easy part. So, He announces. The other is He manifests the Kingdom and then the third is, He teaches. You will see this in Matthew 4:23, “Jesus was going about in all of Galilee teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every kind of disease.”  Those three things—that was what He did.  Same thing in Matthew 9:35, “Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” So, there were three things—proclamation, manifestation, and teaching. [13:39]

 

Now, when He sends His green berets out in the next chapter, chapter 10, verse 7, He says, “Preach saying, ‘the Kingdom of the Heavens is at hand.’ “ That ‘s the continuity of John the Baptist and Jesus and now His disciples. “‘Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.’” Well, that’s quite a list. Do you notice anything missing from that? That was in the other two passages? Teaching! See, if you teach, you have to understand and they didn’t understand yet but they could proclaim and they could manifest. It was a challenge—no doubt about that. This is the typical disciple-apprentice relationship. If you are an apprentice to a plumber or an electrician or something, you do a lot of watching; you do a lot of assisting. You learn and you asked questions and then one day, the guy or gal who is the master says, “Now, you do it and I’ll watch and criticize.” That’s a natural progression so Jesus is experimenting with this and sending them out and it looks like it was a matter that He, in His incarnation, had some learning to do about and there is this beautiful passage here in Luke 10 where they come back from their trip out that He assigned them to and this is actually not just the green berets but some of the non-berets, I guess. This is the other seventy also. Chapter 10, verse 17: “The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name.’ Apparently, they didn’t raise any dead people and that’s pretty appropriate, I would think. They found something they could do at any rate. They were happy about that. [15:56]

 

Now, then, notice Jesus’ response in the next verse, “And He said to them, ‘I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.’ In other words, his reign is over. His reign on earth is over; it was an illusion largely anyway but he was…now, why did that come up at that point? Well, Jesus’ teaching here is apparently based on the idea that He saw that human beings could do this. Ordinary human beings could manifest the Kingdom, proclaim it, and then He has a little warning there in verse 20 about “Don’t let it go to your head.”

 

This teaching that He gives about the Kingdom of God ties in with The Beatitudes. What are The Beatitudes? Very simply, they are proclamations! The Beatitudes are proclamations about the Kingdom and the availability to the Kingdom. Again, you know, test all of this and try it. Basically, The Beatitudes are a list of things that are “last” on the human scale—in the Matthew version. There are things that are last on the human scale. You might look at it and say, “Well, there are some good things here like mercy.” Merciful! They are good. We think of them as good primarily because we have a history of the Christian teaching that comes down through the centuries that says they are good but you ask your typical Roman soldier, “Is a merciful person blessed?” He would like at you like your head was in the wrong place.

 

The issue here is how do human beings think about this? We look at “blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Well, that’s wonderful. Well, not necessarily. This is probably talking about people who…their child died in the hands of a medical malfunction and they spent a lot of money suing the doctor and when they are done, the lawyers take all the money and they get nothing. Now, you want to thirst for righteousness, try that. People who thirst for righteousness are just folks who love Sunday school. They just want to get to church. They thirst. That’s not what this is talking about. The person from the human point of view looks at that and says, “Man, that ain’t blessedness.” You hunger to see what is right. Dung! The word righteousness there is the word that is properly translated “justice” in many contexts. People who hunger and thirst for justice are not normally thought to be blessed on the human scale and they aren’t, but now you just think the thought and I’ll shut up in a moment and you can come back at me on this.

 

This is a list of “lasts.” That’s what The Beatitudes are; now, you go to Luke and you also get a list of “firsts.” They are the “woe-be’s”.  Woe to you who are rich. Well, those are “firsts” on the human scale. Woe to you who laugh, and I can tell that a lot of you are in real trouble, right? I’ve heard a lot of laughing going on around here so “woe be to you.” Woe be to you when all men speak well of you.  You guys have got pretty good reputations I’m sure so you are in real trouble. Well, not really; it’s only if you think being blessed resides in the condition that human beings ordinarily think it is…being blessed. Well, hallelujah, I’m rich. I won the lottery. I inherited something from my rich Aunt Elfie who had the good sense to die. [Laughter] Right? And here He comes saying, “Woe be—woe be.” Well, as once you understand that there is nothing wrong with being rich but there is something terribly wrong with trusting riches. If you trust riches, you’ve got a bleak future ahead of you at some point—if no other point at which you die. Now, you can’t even get email after that. [21:50]

 

You see what He Is doing is correcting the human way of looking at it. There is a Kingdom of God and in that Kingdom, blessed are the poor because they are in that Kingdom. Blessed are they that mourn, not because they mourn, but because they are in the Kingdom and so, He undercuts the generalizations that people have about wellbeing, right?

 

They used to read an ad in the LA Times here for a certain kind of car—a French car and it said, “Pursue happiness in a car that can catch it.” That’s human. The idea is that in the Kingdom of Heaven, you are still blessed, not because you are mourning but because of the Kingdom. So there will be mourning and there will be times when people hate you, and of course that is spelled out more fully in the Matthew version. “Blessed are you when people cast out your name—spit it out—despise you because great is your reward in Heaven.” That’s how they treated the prophets so you are in good company. Again, ask a policeman about the blessings of being a peacemaker and how many times they are shot when they go to try to settle a family dispute or they are trying to negotiate between gangs in South Los Angeles. The human view is not good. Pure in heart—well, who is that? Pure in heart, as Kierkegaard says, “Someone who wills one thing.” Ever live with someone like that? Well, again, from the human point of view, you think, hmmmm! Now again, we have looked at these things for centuries through the light of the gospel and that helps us think that there is some blessing in the condition because it’s a good thing, right? But the blessing is still in the Kingdom if there is a blessing.  Now, I’ve heard people, well known, international preachers, say you can’t go to heaven if you don’t do these things. Well, give us a break, you know? I mean, Jesus didn’t actually say that. Blessing is not going to Heaven though going to Heaven is certainly a blessing. Right?  Because they are constantly thinking, well, the blessing is in the condition. That’s where it’s important to understand. That’s not what is going on here or in the case of the “Woe-be’s,” the curse is in the condition. No, it’s not in the condition. [25:17]

 

Q: I am wondering if Joseph wasn’t a pre cursor to this?

 

Well, actually, I think the Old Testament is full of this and that’s the inversion principle at work, and Joseph is certainly a case of this because it’s hard to imagine anyone who is in worse shape than Joseph.  And yet, God lifted him up and he had a problem with being lifted up to start with and in a manner of speaking, that’s what caused the whole thing because he had these dreams and he just couldn’t keep his mouth shut.  And his father bald him out and his brothers hated him and so he had to go through a process of change. You know, when you think about the years he spent in prison and these other places, you think, boy, he must really have had his mind on God or he wouldn’t have survived. But, again, you have all these cases and not just him. [26:25]

 

David, of course was an illustration of this also. You see, David is out here keeping the sheep and he’s got all these fine looking brothers and apparently, he is maybe just a kid or teenager and the prophet keeps saying, “Well, don’t you have another son?” Now, then, when you think about the profound spiritual understanding of David, and I know he didn’t write all the Psalms, but what he did write are just unbelievable. Unbelievable! This little guy who had his loot or something of that sort singing songs to God out in the sheepfold, well, I think that’s all of us. That’s all of us. What that says is, “God is with you. God is with you.” Now, He will take charge and He will see to it that what is best for you comes as you simply accept that. The nearness of God is my good. [27:49]

 

I’ve included on page 19 this little guy as an attempt to sort of give an illustration of who the poor in spirit is and in a curious manifestation of wisdom, Simon and Garfunkel come up, “Blessed are the sat upon, the spat upon, the ratted on.” Well, I doubt that they understood The Beatitudes rightly but they’ve got a point in that there is a blessing for this little guy from the Special Olympics and God loves this little guy and has made a life for him. OK, now, if there are other comments and questions now, let’s have it.

 

Otherwise, I have to today work through these passages in Acts on the Kingdom of God because you have this impression that somehow it disappears. The Kingdom of God disappears with no message. What actually happens is the Kingdom of God—the message of the Kingdom of God and the message about Jesus come together so there is one message. You get a King with a Kingdom. That’s important if you are going to be a King. You better have a Kingdom. You get a Kingdom with a King. That’s important too. Kingdoms don’t work well if you don’t have a King. [29:36]

 

So, let’s look at some of these passages quickly and maybe we can get though them.  By the way, I did want to just make sure that your attention has been called to Matthew 21:43 because this is what happens in the book of Acts, so Matthew 21:43—this is another dog fight that Jesus is in and He says, “Because of the failure of those who were appointed over Israel to accept Him, verse 43 of Matthew 21, “Therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” Now, that’s what happens in the book of Acts. One of the primary functions of the book of Acts is to show how that comes to pass and so, a huge issue in the book of Acts is “Do the Gentile believers have to keep the Mosaic Law?” Of course, it’s always about really big things like circumcision. That’s the idea is you can’t be a Jew if you are a man unless you are circumcised and it’s important to be a Jew and the outcome here is not important to be a Jew. So, you want to understand what that verse now is saying and by the way, you might want to ask how it applies today or does it apply today? It’s something to think about and worry about a little bit. Who is in the position of the Jews today? Now, then let’s see how that goes in the book of Acts. You start out in the book of Acts, Jesus is now back from the dead. He has scared the “bejeebers” out of His followers and He is trying to get them used to the idea of interacting with Him. What’s He talking about in Acts 1:3? The Kingdom of God! Right? That’s what He is talking about. “He presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the Kingdom of God.” Well, He wasn’t done with the topic, was He? I mean He taught a lot but now, actually having dragged them through His death and resurrection, He needs to teach them more about the Kingdom of God.  So, He’s doing that and especially in the light of now His project—His worldwide project that He has before them. They are still saying, “Are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” and they were talking about the political Kingdom, which is the only one they were really able to think about even at this point. He doesn’t answer the question and He says it is not for you to know about that stuff. They are looking for position and they think, well, if I have a Kingdom, I can have position. Right? So, they have a lot of discussions about that during the days that they were being Jesus’ disciples and He was the Rabbi and a couple of them even got Mama to come and talk to Jesus about that—trying to get a “leg up.”  Who’s going to be the Secretary of State and who is going to be the Chancellor of the Executer. That’s what they were still interested in. And He says to them, ”It is not for you to know the times and the seasons. You are not going to get a position but you will receive power. The important thing there in verse 8 is to understand that power does not depend upon position. The human way of thinking is, “give me position so I can exercise power.” See, that’s the wrong Kingdom—wrong Kingdom.  That goes with Jesus’ teachings before, “He that is least is the greatest among you.” You want to be a leader?  Be a servant—different Kingdom—different city. Now, Jesus is continuing with that, see and so that’s a really important thing to understand that He is doing. [34:48]

 

Let’s move on to 8:12 and in 8:12, we see a development of the understanding of the Gospel. This is Philip and Philip was manifesting and preaching and then, Peter and John come down and they also manifest and preached and teach. Now, they can teach a bit and Philip’s message is what is interesting to look at. Here’s what Philip preached, verse 12 of Acts, chapter 8: “ …the good news about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ….” Wow! What’s that? What’s the good news about the name? Now, when you study the book of Acts to look for this, you realize what a big deal it was to be able to work in the name of Jesus. Now, working in the name of someone is working for their purposes with their power. This is like power of attorney. The power of attorney with someone gives you access to their resources and to fulfilling their objectives and Kingdoms work through names. That’s how they work. So, what’s Philip preaching? OK, well, see, the Kingdom of God is the basic message here but it is accessible through Jesus, and you access Jesus by speaking in His name. And so then you watch and then you remember that in Acts 3 is Peter and John going up to the temple and have a lame man there and he is begging and they say, “we don’t have anything to give you but what we have we do give to you and, in the name of Jesus” and then you have a big fuss breaking out and the Sadducees and the Pharisees, they want to know “in whose Name” did you do this? Remember? “In whose name” did you do this? Now, the answer to that is Acts 4:12, “There is no other name given among men under Heaven whereby we shall be saved.” You can take that and take that as a declaration about salvation. In the context, it’s about delivering people through the Power of the Kingdom and they are saying, “How did you do this?” Right? They say, “Well, you know, the only name that enables you to do things like this is the name of Jesus.” And you can try other things but that’s the only one that actually works. It invokes the Kingdom and makes something happen that can’t be made by invoking Caesar’s name or any of the other Gods. The name becomes important in the working of the Kingdom. Let’s move on. [39:03]

 

Acts 14, this is now, we are into the ministry to the Gentiles and Paul is going to them and so, 14:22, they had gone through a series of towns and had seen people called out in their faith in Christ and had received some pretty rough treatment and then they go back through the towns where they had been previously “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.’ “ So, the Kingdom of God is still the center of the presentation and you see this showing up in other passages. Let me move on quickly here—Acts 17:7: “and Jason welcomed them and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar saying there is another King—Jesus.” So, now you see the Kingdom and Jesus coming together and it’s threatening to the authorities and so, they have to work out how they are going to handle that. Another King Jesus: Acts 19:8: “And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the Kingdom of God.” Now, of course, Jesus is at the center of the whole presentation and you see that more clearly in Chapter 20 because you have Paul’s description of His ministry in two different ways. He is talking here to the Ephesian elders in verse 21 of chapter 20, he says, “He has gone about publicly from house to house solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Then, he re-describes what he did in verse 25:”Now behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the Kingdom, will see my face no more.” Was that a different message?—Preaching the Kingdom? Is that a different message from testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ? No, they are the same. [41:47] It’s the same message. Not two messages and each way of describing it casts light on the other way of describing it.

 

 

Now, you look at the end of the book of Acts and you see how this comes together in the ministry of Paul in Acts 28:23: “When they had set a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the Kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.” See, these now have come into union. There is one message and the very last verse in the book of Acts completes the transition mentioned in Matthew 21:43, so here this is a long time ministry of teaching—wonderful provision of God sets the center of the mission now away from Jerusalem, away from Antioch. These were both still very important but you have the description in verse 31 of the last chapter of Romans; what was Paul doing? Well, he was welcoming everyone that came to him preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus with all openness unhindered.”

 

I’ve given you some other references here in the letters. Paul to the Kingdom of God but what I am most concerned simply to say to you is, “It’s one message.” If you’ve got a Jesus who is not a King and doesn’t have a Kingdom, you don’t have the whole Jesus. If you’ve got a Kingdom that doesn’t have Jesus as the King, you don’t have the Kingdom. You’ve got something that you’ll probably wind up trying to run in terms of human abilities and that happens over and over. The commonplace presence of the Kingdom is brought out in Romans 14:17 and this is a kind of typical church mess. They are fighting about eating and Paul just says to them, “Look, the Kingdom of God is not in eating and drinking.” That’s not it. It is in righteousness, peace and joy of a quality that only the Holy Sprit can produce–righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. I think I will leave the rest of the references there—Corinthians and Colossians for you to follow out. But, let’s stop there and see if you have comments and questions. [45:13]

 

So, my point is, the gospel of the Kingdom of God and the gospel of Jesus—they are the same thing and if you have one without the other, you didn’t get the one. You have to have them both. That means practically for us, we speak the gospel of the Kingdom and the gospel of Jesus and we help people understand the simplicity of stepping into that. Now, tomorrow and following, we will talk about that transition and about becoming a disciple and so on. Any comments? Questions?

 

Q:  Dallas, just for clarification, is the idea that we get these two gospels—one of Jesus died for my sin and arose from the dead as the gospel and then the Kingdom, which is what John creates—but it’s really not the gospel that was at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Is it because of this separation that Paul preached the Kingdom and Christ? Is that how they try to separate that out?

 

Yeah, and it’s rigid in the inability to get clear about what the Kingdom of God is. That’s the root of it all and we’ll have to talk about some points on that tomorrow but basically, that’s where I said yesterday, you have to do the antology and the Kingdom of God as a spiritual reality is what people simply have not been able to understand but because of that, they also can’t understand life with the resurrected Christ because that’s a part of the same story. So, we wind up with traditions to follow and when people such as you all get concerned about these issues, the main thing you run into are your traditions.

 

You know, the seven last words of the church? “We never did it this way before.” Someone had a hand up?  Yes sir. Perry?

 

Q: There is a common phrase explaining the Kingdom; that it is both here and not to come. Is that referring to God’s Will?

 

Yeah, that’s a part of what is included. This is George Ladd’s development of a way of handling it and George did something very dangerous and threatening by suggesting that the Kingdom is here in any sense. See, the big conflict here was between people who still thought that the Kingdom of God was a political order and that has not been washed out of the minds of people and that’s why again, the Left Behind thing and all of that is so important is because it appeals to that and so, what George Ladd was rightly and well concerned about was “Is the Kingdom here now?” Well, obviously, if you read the Gospels and look at the New Testament, you’ve got to say, “Yea, it’s here.” Is it everywhere? Well, no not everywhere. That’s what in my statement here, I say, “The Kingdom of God is present wherever His will is carried out” and so we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come.” There is no point in praying that if it’s already everywhere. So, what we are praying is there are areas in human life where the will of God is not done and the Kingdom if not present and He allows for that and we pray that that will be remedied. We are praying not that the millennium would start but that God’s will would be done in places where it is not done. So, now, the formulation from George Ladd tries to balance out actually two very different understandings of the Kingdom—the Kingdom as a public objective governmental order; that’s not here. And the Kingdom as the presence of God’s Will; that’s here. Not everywhere, but it is here. So, “the present but not yet” teaching is an attempt to respond to that and of course, it was a very brave thing that George Ladd did to try to even talk about it because up until….who is the CBN man? Published his—Pat Robertson. Until he published a little book on it, you couldn’t talk about the Kingdom without being suspected of modernism/liberalism and there was substance in the history for that because the people who rejected Christ as anything more than a misguided teacher wanted to say that, “Well, He had some teachings about the Kingdom but they didn’t want to hold that He was actually a divine personality of some sort. So, “the Kingdom talk” through something called the social gospel was divorced from the presence of Christ as King. So, then a big battle to re-assert that and so gradually it has come back in now and there is a lot of talk about it. But, we need to integrate that talk now with discipleship and character formation and becoming the kind of person who could stand to manifest the activity of the Kingdom because you know, if you actually were to raise someone from the dead, it would ruin you life. Just think about it. I mean, you understand why Jesus when he did these things, He said, “Don’t tell anybody” because that would have been the end of his capacity to do what He wanted to do in training people for the work that was to go on. So, character is the main issue and the main focus in Jesus’ training is on character but that is not to exclude manifestations of the Kingdom that are primarily because He loves people and He wants to help them. If we exercise a gift, we do that out of love. We want to help people; we don’t do it to prove anything. That’s important, I think to understand. OK?  Questions or comments?

 

Alright, then, I am going to pick up in the morning on page 20: Gospels Heard Today and we will have to work carefully through a number of points that lead us to a better understanding of grace and then the Kingdoms in conflict on pages 23-25 and so, that’s what we will do.

Listen to all parts in this Spirituality and Ministry 2012 series