The Desire of All Nations

Dallas Willard Part 13 of 13

A series of talks Dallas gave for African Enterprise on his first trip to South Africa in 1985. He works through some of the material that became The Spirit of the Disciplines.

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Dallas: I will tell you that what I want to conclude with is an hour’s discussion of the result of the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and living it in the way of the disciplines for the spiritual life. The result of that would be the rectification of everything that is wrong with the world. If that isn’t grand enough for you I don’t quite know how else to put it, but I want to try to show you, this morning, how that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, as we follow Jesus into the Kingdom, and practice the disciplines for the spiritual life, that is the outcome. [00:47]

I would take my text from Haggai, the second chapter, and the 6th through the 9th verses. This is a case that is very typical of the prophet. The prophet is fundamentally one who has deep insight into the nature of life, the nature of God, the nature of human society, and, on the basis of that insight, they often say things about the future. And sometimes that insight goes underground and expresses itself in dreams and visions, but the preferred mode of prophecy, as is clear from the progress that you will observe if you study the Old Testament, is cognitive communications to the mind of the prophet.

Notice in verse 6,

“For thus saith the Lord of hosts: Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine saith the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place I will give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (Haggai 2:6-9) [2:26]

Now I would think that if there is any passage in the Bible that speaks to South Africa it would be this passage, in so many ways, but it also speaks to the world, and of course it speaks to the situation in which the prophet found himself. As he was trying to encourage Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, to be strong and carry on with the work of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, in that manner which is so familiar if you have studied the prophets. Gradually as he looks at this little task here, his eyes begin to raise and he begins to see something much greater than the little task in front of him. Well all of the sudden he’s caught up in the glorious vision of what God intends for His people and for the world

And so gradually he lifts his eyes from these few building blocks and the foundations that are started and poor, old Joshua, standing over there, trying to get people to work, and he says, “ . . . my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not,” in verse 5. (Haggai 2:5)  And then the vision takes off. [3:37]

Coming over to South Africa a couple of weeks ago I happened to be in London on VE Day, and as you know VE Day in London is a celebration. And I just happen to be at Westminster Abbey when the Queen and her friends came and they had a service of commemoration and they had a little loud speaker outside, so that those of us who were not among the blessed could hear. [Laughter]

And it was touching because as they met together to commemorate the victory in Europe, they read all of the great passages about how the lion will lay down with the lamb and the sword shall be beaten into instruments of agriculture and how peace would come, and no more would anyone know war, and all of the wonderful passages that you can think of  in the Old Testament and the New about this were read. “And the Kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.” (Revelation 11:15) (Paraphrased) [4:48]

That wonderful vision stands in the midst of humanity without any instruments for realization. And the only thing that can bring it to pass is the church of the Lord, Jesus Christ. That is the only way it can be realized. The desire of all nations is Christ and His community. The desire of all nations is His church with Him at the head. That is what the world wants. They don’t know they want it.

They’re like those cattle I told you about who eat the nails and the batteries, to get minerals, and they don’t know why they’re doing it, but this is what they want. Then of course, in a cool moment, when they’re intoxicated by one variety of intoxicant or another they sit back and say these wonderful words about how peace will come. And they indulge in their fantasy, which, in fact, is their God-given sense of how ought to be. [6:04]

The Old Testament uses the combination of language that is so important—mercy and truth. Mercy and truth—that’s what the world wants—mercy and truth. And they have a little truth and they have a little mercy, but the mercy doesn’t go together with the truth, nor the truth with the mercy, and there’s just a lot of life which has none of either. It’s all harshness, it’s all rigor, and all falsehood, and so the world lives in that condition.

Listen to these words from Psalm 85:9-13—

“Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.”—that glory may dwell in our land. “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from Heaven.” (Psalm 85:9-11) [7:25]

Isn’t that a beautiful picture; truth springing out of the Earth and righteousness looking down from Heaven?

“Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. Righteousness shall go before him; and He shall set us in the way of his steps.” (Psalm 85:12-13) [7:41]

Mercy and truth are met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. If you take not just the individual agonies of people who are suffering from the results of sin in the world and in their members, and if you look at the context of the home, or society, larger, or the international context between nations, you will find that the heart of the problem is the lack of mercy and truth. And again sometimes there is mercy and no truth, and truth and no mercy, it is the ability to combine them and that ability only comes in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. It only comes in the Kingdom of God, generally, and the church is the present form, which that takes. And the reason it comes is because in the Kingdom of God there is, or in the church, there is the power of an everlasting life—a new life.

And this life is the life, which we have talked about so much now this week, that life which comes when we are brought into contact with the spiritual Kingdom of God, in which there are all the resources that are needed, all the care, all the love, all the mercy, all the truth that is needed.

This phrase mercy and truth recurs again and again throughout the Bible, and I would encourage you to just take your concordance and look up the passages where mercy and truth are talked about because the prophet, and the Psalmist, and the others see that this combination is the abstract ideal, which the world strives for, and then Jesus comes and brings the Kingdom of God and discipleship to him to provide the power to make it real. [9:47]

Mercy and truth—now the form that this takes in the larger society is one, which we need to think about just a little bit today. I want to give you a formula, and I know it isn’t nice, especially at the end of all your hard work, to dictate a sentence to you, but it’s so important that I would like to just ask you, if you wouldn’t mind, to write it down so we can look at it. And I’ll just dictate it, rather than take the time for me to write it. It will be quicker that way. [10:20]

The form that mercy and truth in community takes now is, and here is what I would like you to write down please, a sufficient number of the right people, in the right places, to see to it by the power of God that things go as they should. Now what I’m giving you here is not any secret. Any group—any social grouping, whether it’s a family or whatever that is going to function as it should, must have in it people who know what to do, when to do it, and have the resources to get it done. It’s just that simple.

And what I’m giving you here is nothing but a projection of the system of judges—the system of judges in the Old Testament, and that system is explained in various places, but I would like you, please to take a reference to Deuteronomy 1:18 and let me just read a few verses here. [12:00]

This is the case, you’ll recall, where the problem was created by Moses of too many people to judge and his father, Jethro—his father-in-law, Jethro, came to him and advised him, because he saw Moses being worn out—completely worn out—and of course, not only was he worn out but when you’re worn out you’re ineffective. You’re not doing the job right, because he had assumed the burden of the whole people. And he was straightening out all of their problems, and, as I say, seeing to it that things go as they should. That’s what he was doing; that’s the job of the judge in the Old Testament.

Jethro advises him as follows in verse 15 of Deuteronomy 1—Moses is retelling the story—“And so I took the chief of your tribes,” listen to the description, “wise men, and known”—wise men, and known. See these are responsible people in visible positions who are wise. “ . . . and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, . . . hundreds,  . . . fifties,  . . . tens, and officers among your tribes. And I charged your judges at that time saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man, and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. (And) ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small, as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man.” (Deuteronomy 1:15-17) [13:46]

This is such a rich statement. I would like to just stop and linger over every one of the phrases, but I’ll just have to ask you to think about the depth of meaning in all of these, and what they would mean if they were put into play in this society, here and now. And of course, before they can be put to play into society, they have to be put to play in the church.

I’m not legislating here or suggesting any formula, but the idea is a very simple one that you have to have people like this who know as it said, “For judgment is God’s.” This is God’s domain and then, of course, If the cause is too hard, “bring it unto me, and I will hear it.” That is what Moses says.

Now I hope you will think about this pattern and I hope that you might just think about what it would mean if you were to simply build a little pyramid. (Writing on the board.) 1 2 3 4 5 6…there we go…lose count of the zeroes. [15:02]

If you build a little pyramid of tens, and consider how quickly society can be permeated on a principle of tens, and how quickly a whole nation and the whole earth, if it were structured on a simple principle—now I want to reiterate, I am not giving you a formula. There is nothing sacred about the number ten. What I am suggesting here is a simple image of my statement—a sufficient number of the right people, in the right places, to see to it that by the power of God, things go as they should. And the problem is that we don’t have that, and the only place we can get them is if we look to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.[15:56]

But now, you see, I’m trying to lift your sights a little bit this morning. And I’m trying to get you to think about what your ministry, and your preaching, and your teaching might mean, because there is a whole world out there and this conference is on the theme: spirituality and missions. And now, friends, I’m talking about missions. [16:18]

We’ve got to stop thinking about missions in narrow terms and think of them in terms that encompass the whole of the human reality, which is before us. We’ve got to think in terms of capturing the leadership positions for those who are equipped to run their work by the power of God in the Kingdom of God. And we’ve got to think about capturing those who are in leadership positions for the Kingdom of God.

The church has suffered awfully from a terrible eschatology over the last several decades, indeed the last couple of centuries. I don’t have time to go into all of the causes of that, but I think you will know what I’m talking about, and the effect of that eschatology is, simply, that what we do is we get people ready to die by preaching to them the forgiveness of sins through Jesus, and then we do the best we can until He comes back and bails us out. [17:25]

We used to paraphrase the old song, Sweet Hour of Prayer when I was in college with some rather rowdy, fellow Christians: “And shout, while passing through the air, ‘Farewell, farewell, dear creditor.’” [Laughter] And we owe a lot to the world and too much of the church has been sitting around just writing the world off, and just saying, “Well give the universities to the Devil, give the government to the Devil, give the army to the Devil, let them all have it; they’re hopeless,” and have concentrated, simply, on getting people ready for what comes after the funeral. [18:09]

Now the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is not that kind of thing. The Gospel of the Kingdom of God is an invitation to life. And how I wish—we had, in the United States some time ago, a big campaign, which used the slogan, “Here’s life,” and how I wish they had understood the fullness of what they were saying. Because that’s what we are here to offer; we are here to offer life, and I’ve spoken with you about this from the very first day until now.

And now I’m trying to emphasize the impact of this life upon the nations of the earth, and I say the desire of all nations is exactly the life that is in the Kingdom of God. It is exactly the life that comes in the following of Jesus Christ, and it is the community, the kind of people, which come with Him at the head.

And I want to tell you He is going to return, and He is going to rule the Earth through His people, and those people are going to be the qualified community of disciples. They are going to be the ones. And now when He comes back those people are not going to just sit in the church house singing songs; they’re going to be in the World, reigning by One, Christ Jesus, as we are told in Romans 5:17—reigning in life by one, that is Christ Jesus. [19:43]

For Christ has come to teach us how to reign with Him in His Kingdom, as a holy nation, and as a kingdom of priests, and as priests and kings unto God. And where we are, each of us, we start our reigning by starting where we are, no matter how lowly that place may be, or how far out of the way man may put us. We start there, and we reign there. We bring God into that place. It’s a home, a simple home, or a shop, or a schoolroom, or a study, where you’re working away, some of you, to learn the Bible, or to learn a language, or something of that sort. Every little bit of that is the place where we bring God in and we let Him teach us to reign there in life, by one, namely by Christ Jesus. We are called to reign and that is the meaning of our life in the Kingdom is to reign, and God is looking for people that He can trust with His power. [20:48]

God is looking for people that He can trust with His power to reign, and the person who accepts the power of God to reign in the little thing is the one whom He can promote to the greater thing. And if you learn that secret—I say to you again—there are enough people in this room, today, to change the course of history if they learn that lesson—if we learn that lesson and stick to it, we reign where we are.

See, so much of our problems come from trying to reign where we aren’t, and it hasn’t yet been done, and it won’t happen with us because we can only reign where we are, and as we reign where we are God brings us where He wants us to be, and that is the way that we generate these people who can act as judges. And we are placed throughout society to stand as judges with God, to see to it that things that need to be done get done, by the power of God. And I just emphasized that last phrase, now, again: by the power of God. [22:03]

We learn to walk with the power of God. So much of the problem with our religion is that it has no power. We can’t actually do anything other people can’t do, because we are not integrated into this life that is in the Kingdom. Our experience really is no different; all we have are a set of beliefs, no power and that’s why we must follow Jesus into His kingdom, and live with Him where we are, and learn that He actually does things—ACTUALLY DOES THINGS in our relationships to others or in our relationships to inanimate things. We learn to pray about everything.

I had wanted to have time to talk to you about a method of continuous prayer, and I just haven’t, but it is possible to learn how to pray without ceasing, how to bring everything you deal with before yourself in the hands of God in prayer. You can learn that habit, and that’s the surest way to keep constantly bringing Christ into your situation, to know how to reign, by Christ Jesus, in your situation, to know a power, which is greater than your natural life, and in so doing come to the place to where you can stand as a judge—as a judge, in your world. [23:40]

These people come through the Gospel of Christ. They come from following Him, in His Kingdom. They come from the experience of the Kingdom with Christ, and this transforms their character so that they can bare the power.

I mentioned to you before, the physical law, that every action generates an equal and opposite reaction. We see some very ridiculous things about us in this world. [24:11]

I remember some years ago, my daughter used to watch—they had a television program where they had this fella that was all blown apart and they put him back together with electronic and plastic stuff.

Comment: Six Million Dollar Man.

Dallas: Six Million-Dollar Man, or whatever, something like that! Of course, for every sex million dollar man, there has got to be a sex million dollar girl, and so they had this girl that had a few legs and things that had been built out of plastic and wire, and it is so idiotic, you know—they’re always trying to kill her, you know. That’s what makes it fun. They’re always trying to kill her and one time they left the fluid out of her brakes and so she’s going—she’s going down hill in this car, you know, and has this nice pair of slippers on, and in order to stop the car she just puts her foot out on the road and stops it. Do you know what would happen to your shoe if you did that? It would tear your leg off and your shoe would be shredded, but not in the movie! [25:17]

You see, you can’t put that much action without suffering the equal and opposite reaction, and when we begin to exercise the power of God we have to have the character of God to bare the equal and opposite reaction.

If you decide you’re going to raise the dead, you’d better have your affairs in order, because if you do that your life is going to change. Your life is going to change; you will never be the same! And if you decide to take on a healing ministry, or if you decided to begin to act in the power of the Spirit, generally, you have to have your life in order. [26:04]

And in particular, you have to have these fundamental matters about fear, and love, and hate—the passions have to be crucified with Christ. They have to be firmly nailed to the cross. Now, they don’t have to be gone—just crucified. That’s enough. “ . . . they that are Christ’s”, Paul said, “have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” thereof. (Galatians 5:24) They are on the cross—they are firmly nailed down, and that nail, which holds them to the cross, is a major part of the character that can endure the exercise of power. And we must have it, and we must have it in place, and the experience of the Kingdom with Christ makes us what we are, and that’s where we get the people who can stand in the midst of the world, as the light of the world, and the salt of the earth, and show the world how to live, and guide, and help those who are out of the way, and exercise power, occasionally, if that is needed, in order to make things go as they ought to go. [27:09]

But these are people who are dominated by the real presence of Christ in them, and I use that word purposely. And you’ll know that that ties in with a lot of discussions about the nature of the Eucharist—the real presence of Christ. But when we are talking about the life of the Christian, we have to be talking about the real presence of Christ in the life—not words. Paul says, “The Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” The Kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)

Now you see, we often talk or I’ve often heard people scold the liberals in theology by saying they are the ones whom Paul said that they have a form of Godliness but deny the power thereof. In many cases, that isn’t true. In many cases, it’s the very Orthodox who have the form of power but deny the power—the form of Godliness but deny the power thereof.  Many times the liberals don’t even have the form of power. They don’t have enough sometimes. [28:06]

But the point is simply that the form of Godliness is not enough. One must have that power and that power comes as we live in the Kingdom of God and more and more, out of His real presence in our lives comes into us so that we can say without “hype,”—if you know what that means—“hype,” if you know want that means, without exaggeration. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me. . . ” Christ liveth in me!
And when we get to that point, dominated by the real presence of Christ, we are in a position where we will not be dominated by the disturbances of our emotions. We will be free from the fear of death, free from the fear of man, free from the fear of reproach or condemnation or rejection. We will be not disturbed or dominated or ruled by the emotions of depression or boredom or rage and our desires will be entirely at the disposal of Christ. [29:13]

Those three things that are in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life will be submitted to him and the sin that is in our members have been replaced by the habits of Christ in His real presence.

By the way, that’s what it means to be “dead to sin.” We need to talk about hat just a little bit because we are talking about people here who are established to the point that they are as Paul says in Romans 6, they are“ . . . dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through (by) Jesus Christ our Lord. “ (Romans 6:11) [29:45]

What does it mean to be dead to sin? Well, I hope you will not get caught up in lengthy discussions about the eradication of the sinful nature and so forth and so on. Those are endless discussions, which we don’t need to go into. There is a very simple meaning of “dead to sin.”

In 2nd Peter we read, “ . . . they that have suffered in the flesh have ceased from sin.” (It’s actually 1 Peter 4:1) (Paraphrased) What does that mean? Well, that means that we have here people who have had enough experience of sin to know what it is. And to them, sinning looks like eating slop when you could be eating ice cream. [30:31]

When I was a young man, it used to be very exciting to run across the fields and steal watermelons out of people’s fields and even if they were green, they tasted so good just because we had stolen them. [Laughter] And raw chicken is, which is about all we got because we never knew quite how to do it, but the thrill was in doing it. And then later on when I moved to town, we liked to take an air rifle and go shoot out streetlights. Now, suppose you were to come up to me now and say, “Dallas, let’s go steal a chicken and go roast it.” [Laughter] What do you think my reaction would be? [31:27]

I’ll tell you. I am not interested in it at all. I’m not interested in it in any way. I have no interest in shooting out streetlights or stealing watermelons. I am completely dead to that. It is un-interesting because I see it for what it is and I have more interesting and important things to do. And the person who is dead to sin is the one who is immersed in the life of Christ to the point that they understand how uninteresting sin is.

We speak of original sin but it is so dreadfully unoriginal. It is so terribly destructive and poisonous but the main thing that makes it drop off is you are no longer interested. It’s at the point to where it doesn’t even have enough of a pull on you to make you angry that you are dead to sin. [32:23]

And you are free to just let it drop off because now, as Hebrews 8 tells us and Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 11—“we have a new law in our heart.” And the law has now moved out of something which stands over us and provokes resentment and perhaps provokes disobedience because one of the main joys of that kind of disobedience in young people, you know is because it gives them a chance to “stick out their tongue” at what they are supposed to be doing and to “thumb their nose” at it and that’s thrilling and there is something that remains all along in us about that and Paul discusses that very acutely in Romans 7 where we come to the point to where there is a different law in our heart and we are now reigning in life by one, by Christ Jesus.

That’s where we get these people and there will come a time when the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached so thoroughly and so effectively that human history as we know it will seize to exist. Jesus says in Matthew 24:14—“And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all of the world for a witness unto all nations;” The very nations that desire this. And to them the desire of all nations shall come “ . . . and then shall come the end.”  [33:47]

When the Kingdom of the Gospel of Christ has been preached to the point to where people have been drawn out to stand in the midst of this world as His men and his women, I believe there will come a time when He, in a special way, will come to inhabit them. And He will claim them and then the age of peace, which is the vision of man will be realized. Then it will come.

Now we have these excessively militaristic visions of what it’s going to be like when Jesus comes back and if there is anything that should make you uneasy about them, it is the fact that that’s exactly how they thought He was gonna come the first time. And if you listen to some of the talk in, not only among Christians, but in Israel and among Israelis, you will hear them saying the very same things that were said in the days of Jeremiah. [34:45]

They are saying exactly the same thing about how God’s going to do it. And the idea is that God is going to come back with a big stick—a very big—probably an atomic cattle prod or something like that [Laughter] and everyone is going to line up. They are going to line up.

Now, dear friends, if that had been God’s intention, He could have done that five seconds after Adam sinned. That is not God’s intention. His intention rather is to bring to fullness the life of Christ in the Kingdom of God among men so that He can inhabit the church in a tangible way. We are meant to be the temple of God. [35:35]

Now, I am not here to give you any prophesies about how this is going to come to pass. I am not a prophet and I must say that if the penalty for false prophecy that is assessed in the Old Testament were handed out in America, we’d be short on preachers. And almost any well known figure the evangelical circles that you can name, I have personally heard utter a few well-chosen prophecies which are resoundingly false and have been proven so.

I can remember Pat Robertson making a few prophecies about 1982. Not a one of them came through. We are so used to this that we don’t even go back and check because the truth is, this kind of prophesy—forgive me and forgive me, Pat is really more entertainment than anything else. [36:32]

But the worst thing about it is that it is still hung up on this militaristic view of Christ’s return and the power play which He will force people’s face into the mud and from there, they are supposed to thank God for God but it isn’t going to be that way.

“Every knee shall bow . . . and every tongue shall (should) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-10) and when they do so, they will say, “I am so thankful that it’s true.” I am so thankful that it’s true. The goodness of God is the thing, which finally will come to rule the earth and may I say to you, that even hell itself is simply God’s best for some people. It’s the best He can do for some people. And one of the worst things they are going to have to suffer from is the knowledge that this is the best He could do for them. [37:34]

The goodness of God will triumph in human history and it will triumph through His church. It will triumph through His people that are brought to the fullness of life in Him and are able to stand in the world in such a way that the whole world comes to them to learn how to live. Now, that’s the ancient prophecy, isn’t it? They will all go up to the house of the Lord and they will call upon Him for knowledge and the time will come when one will not say to another, “Know the Lord for all shall know him from the greatest unto the least.” (Hebrews 8:11) (Paraphrased) And when He comes, it will be because of the power of the truth as it is presented with mercy.

You see, when Jesus stood before Pilate, He said, “ . . . all who are of the truth, hear me” (John 18:37) (Paraphrased) and Pilate’s answer was, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) What is truth? Well, he should ask since he didn’t know. But, as Bacon or someone says, “what is truth suggesting Pilate did not stay for an answer.” He did not want an answer, you know, because the truth is tough. You know the great Chinese philosopher said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you flee.” [Laughter] You will have to work on that awhile, perhaps. [Laughter] (39:03)

No, the true will make you “flee” and people are running from the truth. That’s why they don’t come to the light, isn’t it. That’s what Jesus said. They don’t come to the light “because their deeds are evil.” (John 30:20) The truth shall make you “flee” and Pilate was fleeing but there is a Kingdom of truth and when that truth is joined with mercy and power, truth is triumphant over all and it is able to rule without crushing, without force, without the power of death, which is at the heart of every human kingdom as we know it.

And when the kingdoms of this world are become the Kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, it will be truth and mercy and life everlasting that rules and people will not argue with it because they will be able to see the goodness of it. And if they do argue with it, the truth will have a power to convince them. I don’t know what all the detail are—of that is—but I’ll tell you, that’s the vision of life in the Kingdom of God. [40:08]

Let me just read a few words from A. B. Bruce. I think I noticed that this is another book that Jim has included on your bibliography. A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, I think is in there and the very last words from that book are among the most beautiful I have ever seen in describing the experience of the apostles with Jesus and what it meant to them. Would you just listen to these words? [40:36]

“The teaching conveyed, assuming that we have even an approximately correct account of it in the Gospels, [he said, the truth—the teaching conveyed] was fitted to make the disciples what they were required to be as the apostles of a spiritual and universal religion: [and here it was] enlightened in mind, endowed with a charity wide enough to embrace all mankind, having their conscience tremulously sensitive to all claims of duty, [and] yet delivered from all superstitious scruples, emancipated from the fetters of custom, tradition, and the commandments of men, and possessing tempers purged from pride, self-will, impatience, angry passions, vindictiveness, and implacability. That they were slow to learn, and even when their Master left them were far from perfect, we have frankly admitted; still they were men of such excellent moral stuff, that it might be confidently anticipated that having been so long with Jesus they would prove themselves exceptionally good and noble men when they came before the world as leaders in a great movement, called to act on their own responsibility. Not, certainly, as we believe, without the aid of the promised power from on high, not without the enlightening, sanctifying influence of the Paraclete; yet even those who have no faith in supernatural influence must admit on purely psychological grounds, that men who had received such an exceptional training were likely to acquit themselves wisely, bravely, heroically as public characters. According to the actual narrative in the Acts of the Apostles, they did so acquit themselves.” [42:27]

The Jesus who formed those people is alive and available to us today. He is there to put His law in our hearts. He is there to give us the power to reign through Him in the place where we are located by Him.

Let me just conclude then by returning to a few remarks about the disciplines in this connection because I think I want to reiterate that the disciplines meet us where we are and bring us where we want to be and the trouble with so much of the advice that is given in our churches and in our teaching is that it does not in fact enable the pilgrim or the disciple to begin and successfully carry on to the end which they have in view. [43:25]

In the normal case, our spiritual asperums are told to do things, which they really cannot do or cannot do in a way that is beneficial to their spiritual growth. They are told for example to pray, to study, to serve, to worship and so forth. [43:42]

Or the individual may be told that one discipline such as fasting or praise or prayer or whatever is favored at the time will do everything that is needed and this is almost certain to create a great failure, though thank God, such advice sometimes works because God does meet us and the graciousness of God is great and as He says in Jeremiah 29:13—“ . . . ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) But good teaching is wondrously helpful in bringing that to pass. [44:16]

Overall, however, the low quality of the results of our spiritual direction speaks for itself. Failure to enter the Kingdom like a little child and deal seriously, first and foremost with the residue of evil that inhabits our embodied personality will, as a rule prevent solid progress to the greater works. Clear-minded acceptance of discipleship on the terms offered by Christ excludes this failure and the disciplines are precisely for disciples.

And the genius of the disciplines in full array as portrayed in what we have tried to set before you in these days is that they allow us to begin where we really can function—no matter how distressed and bound we may be. We still have some measure of freedom in the disposition of our body and the direction of our thoughts. We start where we can, no matter how lowly and meet there the grace, which sets us free to go higher, and as you will recall, my suggestion is that we start with solitude and silence and study; thus, we build and maintain the integrity of our soul by the grace of God. [45:22]

We do not engage in the foolishness of constructing the house from the roof down. Thus, also we escape the bondage and death of the law in our day-to-day practice of following Christ. The common religious routine, very frankly lies heavily upon so many faithful Christians because they undertake to obey in the full range of religious obligations and opportunities. They undertake to pray, to give, to serve, to study, to witness without having adequately lived in the disciplines of preparation. The effect of earnest religious practice is all too often very dissatisfying causing disgust in others and dismay and hopelessness in ourselves; yet many grind on and on under the banner of being faithful and that is not the worst thing they could do but the disciplines allow us to shift the ground of our battle to move to the things we can do—solitude and silence for the renewal of many faithful Christians or celebration and confession until such time as in our growth as we can move on into a happy efficacious practice of the religious routine that may now only increase our burdens. [46:37]

Those disciples, who under the hand of God have been transfixed by the Heavenly vision, who have counted the cost, precisely, reckoned up the price to be paid and the price to be won or lost, forsake all and take up their cross to follow their Lord on the triumphant march, and we see them in their spiritual journey after and with him and they see that as their only calling and the only one worthy of the human soul—the greatest opportunity available for human existence.

They are firmly convinced they have nothing better to do. The things, which to others may seem hardships, whether they are disciplines or just trials are to them, to use Paul’s words,

“ . . . light afflictions which are but for a moment, working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but those which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) (Paraphrased)

And they band together and they sing as they march across the hours and days and across the pages of history into eternity. [47:40]

Lead on, O King eternal, the day of march has come; henceforth in fields of conquest your tents shall be our home. Through days of preparation, your grace has made us strong; and now, O King eternal, we lift our battle song. [47:58]

I would like to conclude just by reading some words of Jesus. First, Luke 14—you can just listen if you want.  [48:15]

“A certain man made a great supper and bade many and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, ‘come for all things are now ready.’ And they all with one consent began to make excuse and the first said unto him, ‘Well I’ve bought a piece of ground, and I have to go look at that. Pray have me excused. And another said, ‘I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come.’ And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen and I go to prove them. Pray have me excused. So the servant came and showed his Lord these things and then the master of the house, being angry said to his servant, ‘go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in hither the unblessables, the poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind. And Jesus said—and the servant said, ‘Lord it is done as thou hast commanded and yet there is room.’ (Luke 14:16-22 (Paraphrased)

And then from Matthew 13—

“When any one heareth the the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. And this is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into the stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet he hath any root in himself, and he last for awhile but when tribulation or persecution arise, because of the word, thine by he is offended. He also that received the seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and it becometh unfruitful. But he that receiveth seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word and understandeth it which also beareth fruit and bringeth forth some an hundred fold, some sixty and some thirty. “ (Matthew 13:19-23) (Paraphrased) [50:44]

Amen.

We’ll have a break now and Jim will come to speak to us. I think it’s a brief break, right?

Listen to all parts in this Spirituality and Mission series