The Gospel of Christ

Dallas Willard Part 12 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.


Dallas:  Tonight I am breaking the final message, which you, or lesson, which you have in your outline into two parts, which correspond to the title that you have and that title is The Gospel of Christ and the Desire of all Nations. And my object will be tomorrow to show how the Gospel of Christ applied in the manner in which we have been speaking of it does indeed satisfy the needs of all nations, but tonight I will concentrate on the first half of the title which is simply The Gospel of Christ. In some measure, I will be repeating a few things, which I have said but largely elaborating on what the Gospel of Christ is. [00:57]

The disciplines will do us no good unless we love Christ and want to be like Him. All discipline, to be effective requires love. If you see a young lady or a young man who loves music, they will just sit for hours with a guitar or a piano and work away, and that love brings discipline. And when we think of the condition of entering into these disciplines, we must be thinking of the presentation of the Gospel of Christ which is so clear and so strong and so right that people will be overwhelmed with love for Him and His Kingdom and prepared to give all to follow Him because of the love that He had.

We think of Jacob and how he loved Rachel and how he wanted Rachel and he served seven years and then, he had his father-in-law who was a greater supplanter than the old supplanter himself, Jacob switch brides on him and he served seven more years for Rachel. But the scripture tells us it really didn’t matter that much because of how much he loved her, you see. (Genesis 29)

And it is love that makes discipline seem easy and it is the great love of Christ that comes to us as we listen to His Gospel that prepares the way for the disciplines. Disciplines are for disciples and disciples are those who have discovered such a wonderful thing that they wouldn’t miss it for anything and they are prepared to easily step into the way of disciple as Jesus has described it. [2:56]

Now, hear these words—

And “then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have, therefore?

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of his Glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 19:27-30)

In this passage, we see Jesus responding to a honest—an honest question from a man who had indeed left all and I wonder if we sometimes think what it meant for these people to leave their businesses and their fishing operations and their tax gathering and all of that and simply walk off and be with Him. We want to remember that when we see what they amounted to, that was the price they paid. If we were to spend that much time with Jesus, we might see a similar effect. [4:24]

There are enough people in this room to change the course of destiny in South Africa and the world—in this room, there are enough people and if you don’t find something to better—something better to do, you might well be the ones to do it but if you find something better to do, you won’t be the ones to do it.

So we have to understand the Gospel of Christ so clear—so clearly that we will see without any doubt that it is the most important thing—the greatest opportunity we have in life. [5:04]

Now, tonight I want to go into the nature of that Gospel more than I have. I have pointed out that when Jesus came and He preached the Gospel, which was an expression of His own faith, He did not preach as Gospel, His death for the forgiveness of sins. He did not do it. This is just a simple fact and you can establish this by just taking the Gospels and reading through them.

He preached and called people to have faith in Him but when He tried to talk to people about His death, it was the worst news they had ever heard and they could not hear it nor endure it because they didn’t understand the nature of His Kingdom but now it is just a simple fact that I would say not only the Gospels, but the New Testament generally does not teach, as Gospel, Jesus’ death for the forgiveness of sins. It teaches a larger truth of which that is a part but it does not present that as the Gospel. [6:36]

Now, when we find John the Baptist and Jesus coming on the scene in Matthew 3 and then in Matthew 4, we hear them saying simply, “Turn in for the Kingdom of Heaven is now available” (Paraphrased Matthew 3:2) and we’ve talked about that message and we’ve talked about the violence which Jesus said, “the Kingdom of God now suffers from violent men who press their way in. They do not stand on proprieties; they simply walk in to the Kingdom of God.” [7:08]

I want to give you this statement from John Ladd who is a very fine scholar in this field of New Testament studies and his writings on the Kingdom of God, I think are among the best in existence from contemporary authors—“The Kingdom of God is the sovereign rule of God manifested in the person and work of Christ, creating a people over whom He reigns and issuing in a realm or realm in which the power of His reign is realized.”

The Kingdom of God is an active rule. It is not a political entity of some kind. It isn’t even a group initially. It is the power which forms a group and that power was for many centuries present in a special way in the people of Israel but at the time of John the Baptist and in the break between John the Baptist and Jesus, there was a transmission of that Kingdom of God to a different group and these are the children of Abraham by faith and faith in the Kingdom of God now is the condition of entry into the Kingdom of God. [8:26]

Simple faith and the way the Kingdom presents itself is in the person of Jesus so that when Jesus comes into the world, He says, “Follow me.” Now, follow me is just another term for believe in me.

If you have a doctor that you believe in, you will follow his instructions and you cannot say that you believe him if you don’t follow his instructions. If you believe in your automobile mechanic, you will follow his instructions.

To believe in Him is to trust Him and to trust Him is to follow Him and to follow Him is to turn in to the Kingdom of God because that’s where He is. It’s just that simple. [9:18]

And so John the Baptist comes preaching the message, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2) and then Jesus, after His baptism and temptation comes preaching the message, Matthew 4:17—“Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Same message and then later on when he sends His disciples out as we saw the other day, they preach the same message, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is a hand.” The Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven with Jesus as the King.

What’s it like in the Kingdom of Heaven? In order to understand what it is like in the Kingdom of Heaven, we have to give full attention to the parables and teachings of Jesus and we can’t do that this evening.

I want to try to make one simple point about life in the Kingdom of Heaven and it’s on this point that our discussion of the desire of all nations and how Jesus meets that desire in His people and in His person will be laid out tomorrow and that simple point is that in the Kingdom of Heaven, there is an inversion of values from the Kingdom of man. And this is what Jesus is getting at in the repeated statement where He says, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 19:30) [10:56]

The first in man’s order of things may well turn out to be last in God’s order and the last in man’s order of things may well turn out to be first in God’s order. There IS a whole scale reordering of values in the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom does not operate on man’s system of values and that’s the single most important thing for us to understand about the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom, once we understand the availability of the Kingdom.

You see the problem with the world today is that implicit in its social structure as well as in the habits, which make up our individual lives, our sets of values that are wrong and we pursue the wrong thing. We are impressed with the wrong things. We hope for the wrong things. We hand out grades on the wrong basis. We say that people are good or bad or right or wrong for values and reasons which are destructive and harmful and against what God knows to be right and because we have those sets of values, then the world is what it is and our life is what it is apart from God so we have to get those straight. We have to get them rectified. [12:22]

In order to understand what Jesus teaches on this point, we have to step aside just for a moment and talk about how He teaches because you can’t separate what He teaches from how He teaches. And one of the great problems that’s caused in trying to interpret His teaching is that we try to read His teachings as if He were giving these kind of general engineering truths upon the basis of which we could erect a spiritual technology.

We try to turn them into general laws, which we can follow and say, “Now, I’ve got it all straight and I’ve got it all nailed down and I can forget about anything like living in faith and a personal relationship with God and love and all kinds of ambiguous and faithful relationships to our brothers and our sisters because I’ve got it all straight,” but Jesus doesn’t teach like that. [13:15]

Let me try to make that clear just by an interesting statement of His in the 14th chapter of Luke. We could use other passages but this is a very convenient one and perhaps you could remember it. This is Luke 14:12—and this is just after the time where He delivered the lesson to the Pharisee that brought Him to lunch and He straightened them out about seeking the highest places at the table. (Luke 14:11) We talked about that earlier.

And the very next verse, verse 12—“Then said he also to him that bade him. When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors, lest they also bid thee again, and in recompence be made to thee.” Some folks, when they read that, they say, “Call not they friends or brethren? Neither thy kinsman?” And they say, “I’ve been looking for that verse for a long time,” you see? [Laughter] Now, that clearly says, does it not, that you should not have your kinfolks to dinner? [Laughter] Isn’t that what it says? Sure! Your problem is solved. [Laughter] [14:33]

But now you know that He is not saying that, don’t you? You know that. You see, when Jesus teaches, with almost no exception, He is teaching to show the falsity of a generalization that people are using to base their practice upon and in this case, it was you ought to have people for dinner that will reciprocate in some way. You know?

Now, we don’t put it that boldly but we have our friends over and we have our kinsmen over and we think well, they do have us back over, don’t they? Even if we don’t expect it, that’s the way it works. It’s a little tit for tat and a little quid pro quo and a pat on the back and then this and that and there it is, right? [Laughter] You see? That’s where it all comes out. You have in practice a generalization and what Jesus is saying here is that generalization is a false way of approaching your relationships. There ought to be times when you go out and you invite people who need to eat and they will never see you again. You take the stranger off of the street. There ought to be times when that is possible. [15:45]

Now see, don’t go make another generalization on the other side, please. OK? Because He is not saying that you ought always invite every person who ever needed anything to eat to eat at your house. He’s not saying that. But He is saying that you should live in a spirit where that is an open possibility and sometimes it will actually be realized. You will take the stranger in off the street and give him something to eat—a person you don’t know—because that’s the spirit in which you live.

Now, please understand the point. Jesus does not teach by laying out generalizations, which provide us exception-less rules that we should always follow in order that we should be right. [16:36]

When it comes to principles, the great principles, like “Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind and thy neighbor as thy self,” (Paraphrased Luke 10:27) this is dealing with attitudes and it’s a completely general statement. All of the other teachings that He gives are to break up our general preconceptions and allow us to act like children of the Kingdom.

Now, with that in mind, I want to look at the beatitudes this evening as an expression. Indeed, I think the purest expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and I’m going to say some things about them now, which you will, I’m sure find surprising and that, I hope will not distress you because the beatitudes are a very rich passage and they have many truths in them and it may be that what I am saying this evening will not bring out the truth that you would like most emphasized. Nevertheless, I hope that I will be able to make you see the wonder of the Kingdom of God by presenting a certain interpretation of what Jesus is doing in this passage. [17:49]

Now, first of all you have to remember who is before Him as He speaks, and we find this in verse 23 of chapter 4—“ . . . Jesus went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom . . .” Notice what He preached—

“ . . . the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And His fame went throughout all of Syria: and they brought unto Him all the sick people that were taken with (divers) various diseases and torments, and those that were possessed of devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them. And there followed him great multitudes . . . ” (Matthew 4:23-25)

Great multitudes of people, and these are the same multitudes now that are in chapter five, verse 1. [16:40]

“And seeing the multitudes” (Matthew 5:1)—and this is the same group that is still present at the end of the sermon. In the older version of chapter 7, verse 28, it is translated “the people” but it is hoi ochloi—it’s the same multitude that’s there at the end of the sermon.

Now, I have to say that because many interpretations of the sermon present the situation in the following way—that Jesus saw the multitudes and He ran away from them and took His little group of disciples and gave them some very special, esoteric teachings which were only for them. And when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” then He was just speaking to His little group of disciples. But you will notice that the crowd heard Him and the end of the 7th chapter of Matthew indicates that His audience for the Sermon on the Mount was the multitudes—“And it is in the presence of the multitudes with them before Him that He states now the beatitudes.”

Let’s think about these, one by one—

“And he opened his mouth, (verse 2) and taught them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they (that) which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they (that) which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” [20:44]

Now, I want to say, in just simple ways I can what I believe that Jesus is doing here. This is a list of people who from the human point of view are regarded as unblessable. This is a list of “the last” on the human scale. This is a list of “the last.”

It may help you some to parallel that with the way the beatitudes are listed in the 6th chapter of Luke. You don’t need to turn there if you don’t want to but let me just read them to you. They are a little more straightforward, I think and it’s easier to see that they indeed are a list of “the last.” [21:29]



In this case, Luke 6:20—

“And He lifted up His eyes on his disciples, and said, “Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you that are hungry: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are you that weep now: for you shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and separate you from their company and reproach you and spit out your name as evil for the son of man’s sake.” (Paraphrased Luke 6:20-22)

I hope it’s quite clear that that’s not a very pleasant list of people. If you were asking—if you were asked whether or not you want to be on that list, you might have doubts about it because those are the people that in the human order of things are regarded as being beyond the pale of blessing. [22:22]

Let’s go back to the Matthew version now for just a moment. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Who is this talking about? This is talking about a person who really doesn’t have anything spiritual about them. They don’t have the spiritual goods.

I mentioned the other day that this is one of those passages where many of the modern translations simply can’t stand what it says in the Greek and so they have to supply a little bit and they say things like “Blessed are those who think they are poor.” Right? I assure you, this does not mean this. [22:57]

I sometimes use, to teach this verse a picture of a little fellow—you know, back in the United States, we have something called The Special Olympics. You may have them in this country too. The Special Olympics are Olympic games for children who are handicapped and many of them are mentally retarded. And it’s a wonderful thing for these children and I have a picture of this little fellow—it looks like he is about seven years old; he has down syndrome or he is mongoloid and he’s just come in 34th in a race with 36 people in it and you know, the way they do that is there, they have cheering groups for each one and it really doesn’t matter when you come in, because every one in that group just cheers like you won the biggest race in the world and they just go out and throw their arms around these kids and just love them and just put a big medal on them and it’s a wonderful thing to see. [23:57]

And this little guy is just grinning from one ear to the other and probably around the back of his head and I have written under that, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” That little fellow is a case of the ones who are poor in spirit. He doesn’t have anything. His spiritual goods are gone. He never had any.

Blessed are those who haven’t had an opportunity to be the right kind of religious person. That’s poor in spirit.

You see, Jesus found many of these people scattered across His path—the publicans and the harlots, the woman who had been turned out of her husband’s house and had been handed form man to man, the poor little fellow who—Zacchaeus—who couldn’t—wasn’t tall enough to see Jesus and he had to climb a tree and he was “up a tree” anyway in, this fellow was, in life. He was not exactly the person most wanted for your dinner parties and Jesus found him and saw him up in a tree and saw him looking and said, “Zacchaeus, you come down because I want to have dinner at your house today” and I am sure he almost fell out of the tree at that. [25:24]

You see, Jesus found these people who were—they didn’t have any spiritual goods and he says now, “Some of those are blessed.” He looks out in the crowd in front of Him and says, “Some of those blessed.” They are not blessed because they are poor in spirit—they are blessed because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

In all of these cases, the blessing is not in the condition described. The condition described is not what makes them blessed. We have to be very careful about that. I once taught on these in a church there in southern California and a woman came up to me and said, ”You know, my son left the church because he didn’t fit into the beatitudes. He wasn’t poor in spirit and he wasn’t mourning and no one persecuted him and someone told him that in order to be blessed, you had to fit that list.” That’s not what Jesus is doing. He’s not saying in order to be blessed, you have to fit this list. He’s saying, “There are a lot of people you think couldn’t possibly be blessed who are on this list.” [26:39]

The blessing is not in the condition; the condition is awful and we have used this in such beautiful language for so long that they sound almost like poetry to us, you know. “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .” Well, they are blessed because the Kingdom of God is open to them, you see? Now, you can take that and that’s Gospel—that’s good news! A lot of these folks are waiting for someone to say that to them if anyone has faith enough to say it.

“Blessed are they that mourn . . . “ We are talking here about people that are extremely sad, okay? Mourn is too pretty a word. Say, “Blessed are the depressed.” The Luken version says, “Blessed are they that weep” and that gets us a little closer to it—“Blessed are they that weep.” And when you are thinking about the people who are well off as you go down the street, if you see someone just tearing themselves up sobbing and crying, you don’t normally tend to think that those people are blessed. That’s another one on the list of those that are commonly thought not to be blessed. [27:59]

“Blessed are the meek . . .” Who are the meek? The meek are the people who are shy, painfully so, who stand back. They get off the sidewalk when someone else comes down the line and if something goes wrong, they think they are to blame. They feel guilty for things they have never had anything to do with. If anyone asserts something, they take it. These are the people who are the “run overs” of the world—the meek. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”

“Blessed are those who burn because of the injustice that has been done to them. They hunger and thirst for justice. “ (Paraphrased)

“Blessed are the merciful . . .” and here again, we think that is something that is a beautiful thing but in the world’s order, the merciful are not commonly thought to be all that blessed. And if you step outside the church and get into the rough and tumble of life, you will see what happens to the merciful. “Good guys comes in last,” they say and in most games, that’s the way it goes. The person who is merciful will get stepped on. [29:22]

“Blessed are the peacemakers . . .” Well, ask a policeman who goes to make peace in a family, hmm? Ask a minster who goes to make peace in a family how blessed it is. Peacemakers are always caught in the middle. They get shot from both sides. Peacemakers are not thought to be among those in the world who are among the blessed; rather there, it’s the person who is able to run over you. They are the ones who get their ways. They have power. Peacemakers are not among the world’s blessed.

And likewise for “the pure in heart . . .” Pure in heart is a painful person in this world. If you have a pure heart, you are going to be causing trouble all of the time. You will not be able to compromise adequately. You will be single-minded and you will be always sticking to principle and the world is not built to make people like that first on the list. [30:30]

“Blessed are they that (which) are persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . .” You have to remind yourself of the times that you have done what was right and suffered for it to know how blessed this is. This is a painful condition. “Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake.”

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and (shall) say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad . . .” You would be among the ones who are unblessable and the Kingdom of God now comes near them and Jesus says, “In the Kingdom of God, you can be blessed.”

This list of people is drawn from the crowd in front of them—the miserable mass of humanity that comes with all of its needs and all of its hopelessness and all of its failures; all of its inadequacies and sorrows. And Jesus looks at that crowd and from that crowd He selects those who represent these classes of unblessable people and says, “In the Kingdom of God–in the Kingdom of God, these are blessable.” [31:44]

You have to think about the list you would make. Suppose you were to make a list of beatitudes, who would you put on that list? Who would you be able to put on the list? Think of all the people in this country who suffer hunger and thirst for justice in so many ways. People of all kinds—they lay awake at night and their stomach gnaws at them over the injustice they have suffered. In all countries, there are people like this and for different causes and different reasons but still the one thing you find is people who have not got justice, who have not got righteousness.

And if you want to put it in terms of righteousness of person, well, that’s possible too. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness . . . ” Righteousness, if it’s your own personal righteousness that you are hungering for to be gnawed upon by guilt and the weight and responsibility of the sins that you have committed—if you want to read that verse in that way; that’s fine still. People don’t normally think the person who is eaten up with guilt is among the blessed, yet Jesus says, “Blessed” and He gives a reason because in the Kingdom of God, they can be filled with righteousness and justice. [33:10]

Now, I don’t want to upset your interpretations of the beatitudes. A lot of people will tell you that this is the way to be blessed and you can bring many good and important truths from the beatitudes with that interpretation and I am always thankful when good and important things are said but I wouldn’t want them to hide the fact that Jesus is addressing the common, ordinary mass of miserable humanity and pronouncing blessing where normally it is thought to be impossible and that He is announcing that blessing because of the availability of the rule of God to any person of any kind starting from where they are. You see that’s the people He called in. These are the people He called into His Kingdom; just like the people on this list. [34:13]

If you look at His list of disciples even, the apostles, they are not a stellar group of individuals. They are plain, ordinary people with all of their problems. They were not among those who were rich in spirit according to the standards of that day, nor probably according to the standards of our day.

They were just plain, working men for the most part and they didn’t have very much going for them, either intellectually or spiritually or probably in terms of their talents, but Jesus took them into the Kingdom of God; and in that Kingdom of God, everything they needed was supplied so that those who were rich in spirit and thought of themselves as rich in spirit and in man’s order were rich in spirit were left behind and forgotten while these simple fisher folk and tax collectors and people of that sort were able to stand in that Kingdom and bring forth what we know of the history of the church and of God’s work in that church. [35:19]

Do you think you qualify for the list?—maybe not for this. That’s why we need to get the idea and be able to expand the list. I’d like to challenge you this evening; perhaps, before you go to bed to just sit down and write some beatitudes of your own. Who would you select for that list? Blessed are the parents who just lost a child. Blessed are those whose businesses have just been ruined. Blessed are those who have just been faced with a divorce.

Two business friends of my acquaintance in Los Angeles have fellowship regularly and one morning they came together and one said, “Praise God for me because I’ve just been trusted with this huge account in an advertising agency; and the other said, “Praise God with me because I’ve just been trusted with cancer.” Blessed are those who have cancer. Can you say that or does that sort of choke? [36:44]

You see, now we are getting down to where it matters. Hmm? Because that’s the people that Jesus is talking about. You think of your biggest disaster and Jesus looks at people of that class and says, “Yes, they can be blessed, too in the Kingdom of God.”

You need to make that list of beatitudes because those are the people to whom you need to minister and when you go to them, you want to be able to preach the Gospel to them and the Gospel is blessed, blessed. Blessing is available to you, not because of where you are but because of who God is and what the Kingdom of God is like and because His Kingdom is accessible to you where you are. [37:45]

The thief hung on the cross and Jesus looked at him and said in effect, “Blessed is the thief on the cross who is able to reach out his hand to me and say, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” You see? The dying thief was blessed and there is no one beyond the reach of this blessing of the Kingdom of God.

Now, you see, once you understand this, then you are prepared for verses 13 through 16—

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewithal shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” [38:51]

Have you thought recently that you are the salt of the earth? Have you thought recently that you are the light of the world? I want to give you an exercise now if I may. In the morning when you get up, go to the mirror and look in it and say, “You are the light of the world.” Will you do that? Say to that person in the mirror, “You are the light of the world.” Hmmm?

You see, if you’ve understood the beatitudes you will be able to do that because you will know where the light comes from and you’ll be ready to reach out and be appropriate but if you haven’t understood the beatitudes, you are apt to have a hard time with that. I’ve had people come back to me the next day and say, crying, say, “ I just couldn’t do it. I could not look at me and say, ‘You are the light of the world.’ “ See? [40:02]

You know, if you are not the light of the world where you are, there will be no light. You have a place that God has given you. You are someone’s son or daughter or mother or father or brother or sister or neighbor or boss or worker or whatever and that is on a moving belt of history and there will be no one else in that place. You are put there to be the light of the world and God Himself will not be the light of the world in that place, unless it’s through you. You are given that dignity. You are the salt of the earth in that place. If you are not the salt of the earth, there will be no salt.

And of course, if you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, God will be glorified because it is He who enables you to be that and so verse 16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) [41:08]

No question where the glory goes or where the light comes from but you are the one in whom it shines and if it doesn’t shine in you, if you are the person who says, “Oh, it couldn’t be me. I am not the light of the world. I am too humble to be the light of the world.” Well, that isn’t humility; that’s a lack of faith, friends and let’s call it by its proper name. That’s a lack of faith.

They have this saying, which is a little overused in the United States by people, and it goes like this, “God didn’t make no junk.” And so, when He made you, He made something important; and you better rise in your faith to be the light of the world where you are and accept and appropriate the Kingdom of God for that purpose and stop making excuses because someone told you, “You are on the list of the unblessedables. Who do you think you are that you should be the light of the world?” [42:09]

And we must understand that the blessing is in the Kingdom and not in the condition, but the condition does not close out the Kingdom and that’s the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is that it is open to everyone no matter what the condition may be.

Now, this is very revolutionary teaching of course because we have ourselves tied to all of these standards and when we come to things like poverty and wealth, and black and white, and all of the other ways we distinguish people, we want to say that there is some kind of difference here which is just built into the nature of things and God cannot get over them—the poor and the rich, for example is a great case in point.

We tend to keep thinking somehow that the poor are beyond the reach of the Kingdom of God unless they get rich and that’s one of the roots of the prosperity Gospel—the Gospel that is preached to the poor on that version is, “You can be rich.” Bologna!!!  The Gospel is “You don’t have to be rich to be blessed!”

St. Anthony has these beautiful words—“Some of those who stop in ends are given deeds while others having no beds stretch themselves on the floor and sleep as soundly as those in the beds.” [Laughter] “In the morning when night is over, all alike get up and leave the Inn carrying away with them only their own belongings.” Now he says, “it is the same with those who tread the path of this life. Both those who have lived in modest circumstances and those who have had wealth and fame leave this life like an Inn, taking with them no worldly comforts or riches but only what they have done in this life, whether it is good or bad.” [44:24]

Now, look, I feel deeply the need to say that this does not excuse the social irresponsibility of the rich for the poor. There is a responsibility there but one of the worst things we can do for the poor is teach them that the only way they can be blessed is to get rich because if we teach them that and they get rich, then they will find that that ain’t blessed either. Excuse my English.

This is revolutionary teaching and Jesus recognized in it verse 17, he says, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. . .” Now, why would He say that? Well, He would say that precisely because He knew that what He had just said would make them think that He had come to destroy the law and the prophets and that’s why He says, “think not.” [48:18]

Because you see they had so identified the law and the prophets with the human order of things. They had seen religion sanctified, baptized and glorify the human order of values so long that when He says things like this, “You are the light of the world.”—oh—well, then the law and the prophets must be all wrong because it was understood as sanctifying the fallen order of human battles and so He has to say, “Don’t think that.” And go on to correct the misunderstanding by saying, “that we must go beyond the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees, not throw it away, not fall short of it, but go to something deeper which will take care of it as a matter of course.”

Notice what He says. “ . . . I say unto you,” verse 20, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, which Jesus preached is the Gospel, which we are to preach. It is the availability of this Divine order which we know by experience through faith as we step into it, following Jesus Christ and as we follow Him evermore and live in His practices, we evermore know the reality of this Kingdom and that’s what makes us more and more spiritual persons, you see? And that’s the good news which we then preach to others is that they too can step into this and we call them to be disciples of Jesus and we say to them, “Follow us as we follow Christ. Follow us as we follow Christ.” [47:12]

Now, you see, if you haven’t mastered the bit about the “light of the world,” you are going to have a hard time saying, “Follow me.” But if you have mastered that, you will know that as you call people to follow you as you follow Christ, you will be depending wholly on Christ to enable you to lead them and as Paul said, “the things that you have seen and heard in me that do and the God of peace will be with you.” (Paraphrased Philippians 4:9)

Well you say, “But I’m not Paul.” Sure you are not. You are not Paul. We’ve had Paul. Now, we need you. Right? But the fact that you are not Paul does not mean that you are not to stand in the way of Christ following Him and saying to others, “Follow me as I follow Him.” That’s the way we make disciples. We disciple people to Christ by saying, “Follow me as I follow Him.” [48:13]

I said a few days ago when we were talking about the nature of mission that the way we make the new people which are the children of the Kingdom is by imparting life and that life is present in us and we impart that life to others. Now, you see, if we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth by the grace of God, then we are prepared to impart what is in us to other people.

Listen to these words from Paul. They are very helpful I think in understanding this and it’s where he is explaining what he calls, “his Gospel in Galatians.” Galatians the first chapter and he says in verse 15, “And (But) when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, To reveal His son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen . . . ” [49:11]

First, God revealed His Son in Paul and then he preached Him among the heathen. It is the revelation of the Kingdom in us and of Jesus in us that makes it possible for us to preach Christ to others. We impart that life in our words and our deeds to others as we call them to follow us as we follow Christ.

There’s been a lot of confusion about the Gospel which Paul preached and I don’t have time to go in great length to it tonight but I just want to say that there is no difference between the Gospel which Paul preached and the Gospel which Jesus preached except that Paul had the advantage of being able to peach Jesus in conjunction with the Kingdom of God. [50:08]

And I want to just give you a few verses from Acts and perhaps if some of you want to look at more verses on this afterwards, we can do that, but I don’t want to hold you much longer.

Look at Acts 20, the 25th verse—this is Paul talking his departure from the Ephesian elders. Verse 25 he says, “An now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.” What did Paul preach? The Kingdom of God.

Look at the last chapter of the book of Acts. Here he is in Rome—verse 23—

“And when they had pointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the Kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.”  (Acts 28:23) [51:05]

Notice what he preached—the Kingdom of God and persuading them concerning Jesus in relation to that.

Look at the very last verse of the book of Acts, “Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concerned the Lord Jesus (Christ), with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” (Acts 28:31)

Now, this is very cheap and quick exposition this evening on this point because I don’t have the time to go into it very far but I just want to call your attention to the fact that as far as Paul was concerned and the book of Acts as it is recorded, his Gospel was the same Gospel which John the Baptist preached. It was the same Gospel, which Jesus preached. It was the same Gospel, which the apostles preached when Jesus sent them out. It was the Gospel He preached all over the Mediterranean and coming to a fruition or fulfillment in His time here in Rome where the Kingdom of God was moving in its present form for its headquarters. He preached the Kingdom of God. [52:05]

The question is, do we have any authorization to preach anything else? I trust that by now you know what my answer is to that. I don’t believe that we do but I want to address one question in closing and that is; where does it leave evangelism because someone might say, “How do you preach this as an evangelistic message?” and my answer is you preach it just like you’ve been preaching anything else you may preach.  You go to people who need to hear it and you say it. You say, “The Kingdom of God is available and Jesus invites you to trust Him and follow Him in the Kingdom of  God.” And then you show them how to do it and you lead them as they experience the reality of the Kingdom.

You see, many times today, we don’t even give those who hear us a chance to accept the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and enter the Kingdom, because we don’t preach the full message of that Gospel. We preach something very important but it’s not that full message and rather, what we need to do is to simply go to people, call them to believe in Jesus, tell them who Jesus is; namely, He’s the living Lord and tell them what it is to believe in Him and that is, to follow Him and to follow Him into the Kingdom. [53:30]

We enter the Kingdom of Heaven, sin is forgiven by the grace of God through the merits of Christ but that is not something, which we later wonder about—how do we tack life onto that? How do we get lordship in there, you see?

It isn’t that way. We go at it the other way. We say, Jesus is Lord, He is Risen. He is Living. I can introduce you to Him because He’s in me and in my friends, come and join us! We communicate the life; and then God looks at that fellow and says, “Well, he’s trusting Jesus. Why should I send him to hell? He’s got new life in him. Why should I hold his sins against him because he’s resting on the merits of Christ now?“ And sin is forgiven as a matter, or course. [54:21]

We go at it the other way? We never get life back into the Gospel. All we get taken care of is what comes after the funeral. That’s all it works for and life is left as a great puzzle. That’s why so many young people have a real problem in staying with the church is because all they hear is how to get ready to die and they don’t hear a Gospel about how to get ready to live, you see.

So, we bring life and we give them life and because that life is there, it comes to the Word of the Kingdom as the Gospels tell us, if it is sown in the heart, because that life is there, everything else takes care of itself. [55:06]

Now, the Great Commission becomes a wholesome kind of thing, which makes perfectly good sense. The Great Commissions tells us to go into every nation and make disciples and we make disciples by preaching the Kingdom of God and introducing people into it.  We make disciples in that way.  We baptize them into the fellowship and power of Christ and we teach them then to do all things whatsoever He has commanded and that is the full Gospel of Jesus Christ. [55:49]

In the light of the Gospel of Christ, thus understood the needs of the world can be met and the hope of all nations—the desire of all nations—is possible to explain, to bring to bear on humanity, to see how it works out in detail and all of the problems of the world, which we bemoan and belabor and die under and cry under—all of those problems can be solved because men and women, such as you and me with all of our drawbacks and our un-blessable-nesses have come to live in the everlasting Kingdom of Jesus Christ. [56:39]

Lord, we are thankful for this word and we pray that you will help us to understand and sort it out in such a way that it will make sense to us and be strength to us and we will be able to extend it and hold it forth as the word of life in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Listen to all parts in this Spirituality and Mission series