Dallas: I want to pick up where we left off and one reason that I wanted to ask for some testimonies was because people often believe that this can’t be done. You can’t put off the old person and put on the new. And, I’m thinking, your last reading list or this one had on it this little piece by Mike Yaconelli of The Terror of Inbetweenness. It’s really a fascinating piece because, especially if you knew Mike, it’s really surprising to hear this coming from him because he was one, lovely, Christian man. [00:51]
In this little piece, The Terror of Inbetweenness, which I think is on your reading list, he talks about his conversion as a child and how he had hopes that he would become a person who was truly different but he reached 50 years of age and he was looking back on it. Most of that time he was in the ministry. The youth specialty, as you may know that, had been the magazine The Wittenburg Door. This actually, this little piece, is from back door of the Wittenburg. [1:51]
He says “looking back over these years, a now 51 year assumption I had made has haunted me throughout all my Christian experience. And that is the assumption of the changed life. I was taught that if I were a Christian, then people would see a marked difference in my life. And further, I was taught that the closer I was to God, the more spiritual I was, the greater and more visible that difference would be. And I have always believed that there was a visible sign of the invisible reality of conversion. I believe that Christianity changed you outside and not just inside.” And he says, “I don’t believe that anymore. It’s not that I don’t believe that Jesus changes you; it’s just my definition of the change has changed. Whatever the change is, it is not so much outward as it is inward.” Now that’s true, but what haunts us is the idea that you can be changed inwardly and not changed outwardly and that comes to us in many ways. For example, if you become concerned about spiritual disciplines that focus on inner change, people are apt to say, “Well, this is pointless.” [3:24]
See they don’t understand the connection between the inside and the outside. A major point about that is if you want to change the outside you have to change the inside. And that what you can do just by working with the outside will degenerate into the inside. People will be judging you, in terms of the outside and you focus on that and getting acceptance from people will be a matter of what is supposed to change and how you get that change. Then you start thinking, “Well, all these things that Jesus said to do, you can’t do them.” Then you’re in a real bind because he said, “I will show you who a fool is. A fool is someone who hears what I say and doesn’t do it.” So now you’re between the proverbial rock and the hard place and the Christian life won’t make much sense.
What Mike is doing is he’s looking at the church. That’s what he is doing. Of course, he was in the center of ministry where he had to deal with a lot of people who were even leaders in the church and he found it can be very rough if you’re in that spot, because you have people who have large professions and perhaps, positions and you get to know them, and you find, well its not there to put it mildly. So, you have that coming up in your readings and I hope you will benefit from reading it and thinking about, “What is this? What’s going on there?” [5:35]
Now, I in my wisdom and profundity, I have the answer to that. [Laughter] And it is very simple. We don’t intend change. We have got a gospel that does not involve change and actually it doesn’t involve inner change. He’s talking about outer change. And he is saying, “Well the change is there, I believe in the change, but the change is inner. Well, it’s so inner that you can’t find it in most cases.” Actually that’s because the essence is tied in our procedures to a magical moment of mental dissent that trips the heavenly computer and floods our empty bank account with the righteousness of Christ. That’s the essence. Then you have different stories on how that works. But I say the fundamental issue is that when we don’t preach the message that has anything to do with inner change. Now in times when that was done in the church you saw people change, massively change. [7:00]
I don’t know if you know anything about the Moravian brethren and sistern—worth finding out. These were people who were really changed. These were people who were so different that the outward difference was shocking. Moravians sold themselves in slavery to the Arabs so that they could go as slaves to witness.
Wesley, struggling with his faith, was on a ship coming from Britain to America. They were in the midst of a storm and he and everyone else was chattering with fear. The Moravians were singing hymns and enjoying the ride. That was one of the things that contributed to his turn, was seeing that and he knew there was a reality here that he was not in touch with but he was hungry for and because he was hungering for it he found it; it found him. So it’s all there, but if you try to accept the vision that is all over scriptures and all over the history of the church and you try to adapt that to current conditions, you will have a hard time getting a “match up.” [8:48]
So now I am hoping that by ragging on you about this you will say, “It can be done. You can actually put off the old person and put on the new.” And you will be much better off, in every respect, when you do that.
So we’ve been talking about putting off the old one and now we want to spend some time on page 23 in my notes with putting on the new. I repeat that these are not separable processes and they go kind of in a zigzag course in reality but for purposes of discussion, I would like to hold them apart for a little while.
And I want to start on this one, by reading to you some things that Jesus said about living in the Kingdom of God. First of all, from the sixth chapter of Matthew, verse 25: “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing.” [10:21]
Now, if you remember the two landscapes; the person who is living in the visible landscape will say, “No, life is not more than food; it is not more than clothing and so that’s it, and that’s why I devote my life to that.” The person who is living in the invisible landscape will say, “Yeah, life is more than that.” And they may, of course, take pains to live decent and fair decently, but that’s not what they live for. Their life is for the Kingdom of God and for the spiritual reality of the persons among whom they live and of themselves. Look at the birds of the air. They don’t sow neither do they reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? [11:26]
Well, if you are limited to the visible landscape, you may find yourself in the predicament of much of the so-called intellectual world today and you cannot argue for a greater value for a human being than for a cat. And the confusion about animal rights’ and so on, that you see…and I am certainly in favor of taking care of animals. I think it’s an essential mark of a person to be attentive to living things, not just animals, but plants, and I think that is actually what we were put here for in the first place, was to take care. You may recall that in Genesis 1 God says let us make human beings and put them in charge. And the first thing they are in charge of is fish. Well the fish have a pretty hard time, by in large, often from human beings but I gather it’s not easy being a fish. By the time you get to Psalm 8 domestication has occurred and the first thing on the list is sheep. Now, probably you haven’t seen a sheep yet today, and maybe not a fish, so it’s a good exercise, for us today, to write that for us today. [13:12]
If we were saying, “let them have dominion,” what would be the things that show up on our list? You might want to write that out while you’re here. God is in charge of it all. He looks after fish and He puts us in a responsible position there in relationship to living things. The Father needs them. Are you not worth much more than a fish? Or birds? Would you rather price someone in birds? “Which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life span?” And he goes on to talk about these things. Why you’re anxious for clothing? The lilies grow and they don’t work to get clothing but they sure do look good. Solomon, in all his glory in verse 2, is not clothed as well as one of these flowers. If God so raised the grass of the field, which is alive today and grown in the Autumn of tomorrow, will He not much more do for you; oh you of little faith?” [14:41]
Don’t be anxious. For all these things, Gentiles eagerly seek, that is people who don’t know God, look after these things. What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear? Your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things, but seek first the Kingdom and its kind of righteousness. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added.
Now, you have to have that in your mind and it has to have settled into your will and your body before you can go on to things that have to do with putting on the new person. That’s the background into all it comes from. So, if you have that fixed in your mind, then you will have given up seeking your own kingdom because God has that and I have responsibilities but they’re under God. And so, I don’t need to anxious about stuff of any kind and the way that works out is, I am in God’s hands. My life is in His hands and everything that concerns me is taken care of by God. I may act but it will always be in reliance upon God. I still have to eat my rice and gravy. He doesn’t put it in my mouth and chew it for me, but I’m not going to be one who worries about whether it’s one way or the other—what happens. I can trust God. [16:46]
This lovely story about the lady who was glad to have a flat tire on the freeway because she was going to get to see what God was going to do—that fits in with the statement in James, opening his book, he says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various kinds of troubles.” That’s why you count it as joy. See, that picture has to be fixed when we start thinking about putting on the new person. Now putting on the new person will be focused precisely on love, joy, peace, hope, faith, patience, self-control, and so on. That’s the new person. That’s a system of living that we put on, piece by piece, possibly coming out of a broken world or life. Maybe we are so distressed and we say, “I want peace.” [17:58]
I went to South Africa summer before last and Coca-Cola had just broken out this new campaign that was on the napkins on the airplane and all over South Africa—“Happiness in a bottle.” Open happiness. Well, good night! That’s the kind of thing you can’t say anything to, but that’s the kind of approach that a broken world takes to things. Now the people who are looking for happiness out of a bottle surely won’t go to Coca-Cola. [Laughter] There are other bottles they will go to. So the person might be drawn because they see the terrible ravages of anger, hatred, and they might say, “there’s got to be a better way.” But we, as Christians, follow one who brings the whole package in Himself—brings the whole thing in Himself. Even just a few hours before his death on the cross [Jesus] can be talking to His friends about how He’s giving them His joy. He’s giving them His peace. “My peace I leave. I give it unto you.” So don’t be troubled. His peace He gives. In Him we get to see the whole package of the new person and we can begin to appreciate what the parts are and how they came together, and so as we follow Him we can begin to realize this project of putting on the new person.
Comment: In Luke 12 in the same account. Let’s read this. “But seek first His kingdom and these things will be given to you as well,” and then another verse, “Do not be afraid little flock for your father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”
Dallas: Right and then the next verse.
Comment: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Buy purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in Heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” [20:59]
Dallas: Good. Now what were YOU going to say?
Question: I was just wondering how that would add to where He leaves off in Matthew to say He’s pleased. It’s as if He’s saying I want you to seek it and He adds how much he wants to give it to you.
Dallas: That’s a beautiful point and that statement is one of my favorite verses. Fear not little flock. “Fear not little flock. Fear not little flock.” It was a little flock! And it’s not too big today. It’s bigger than it was then. Fear not little flock. Why not fear—because it was the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. That’s how this works. You enter the Kingdom of God and as you enter the Kingdom of God, then you have a new vision, a new vision of what life can be. Once you get out of the center and you’re living under the Father, and now you still are active and the difference is that you don’t run the show. Yes, did you have a question?
Question: We didn’t hear what the verse was?
Dallas: Oh, Luke 12…what’s the verse? 32! Luke 12:32
Question: So we have, by Him saying that He’s pleased to give us the Kingdom; that means that we can live in that invisible realm now?
Dallas: That’s right.
Question: But do we have to go sell everything to be there? (Laughter)
Dallas: That’s why I asked Jim to go ahead and read that next verse because I wanted you to confront that.
Question: I’m wondering, will you confront it?
Dallas: You have to be free of all other dependences and that’s what He’s talking about. Now, Jesus Himself was not a poor man. He had enough money to have a thief for his treasurer and those kinds of people stay where the money is. Jesus was not a poor man and He did not tell you that you were better off if you were poor. Poverty is not a spiritual virtue or a favorable condition. You’ve read The Spirit of the Disciplines in the next to the last chapter. I deal with the issue of “is poverty a virtue?” And my answer is not at all. I had the benefit of having been raised among poor people and I know it’s no advantage, and I know that poor people can be just as mean or meaner than rich people. [24:16]
Jesus is dealing with the assumptions of the day and undermining them when He gives teachings. In the case of the rich young ruler He found a person whose money had him, and He helped him see that, and told him you have to get out of that. Now it’s true of all of us that we have to have complete freedom from our possessions. As St. Francis—one of his lovely sayings is, “Wear the world like a loose garment, one that touches you at few places and there lightly.” Think of a muumuu.
Our riches are in Heaven. That’s where we invest. Now, Heaven is here and it’s mainly in the form of other people. FedEx doesn’t run to Heaven, nor does the Internet. So, if you want to send something to Heaven you store up your treasures in the lives of people who are there, are going there, could go there, need to go there, and that investment is something that moth and rust can’t do anything about. [25:45]
So now, what is the teaching here? Let’s cut through the stuff and just try to say it as plainly as possible. The teaching is you are completely taken care of. I am completely taken care of, for life and for death.
Question: Dallas? Would you address the interrelationship between treasures and heart? Because it seems like Jesus could have said where your heart is, there your treasures will be also.
Dallas: That would be true, wouldn’t it?
Question: Yeah. So in terms of us developing new treasures, and our heart having originally fixed on other treasures, that’s just part of all this process?
Dallas: Well, the passage here, and in Matthew 6 again, is pointing out the fact that what your treasures are is determined by where your heart is. And your treasures may not be very valuable. Like a person whose living out of a shopping cart—they’ve got lots of plastic bags, and rags, and bottles, and things of that sort, and they are his treasures, and it’s very pathetic, but we have to be careful lest we, who don’t live out of a shopping cart, would windup with treasures that aren’t that much better. So, put your treasure in the Kingdom of God and your heart will come. He’s concerned about correcting the heart and He’s saying you have to get the treasures in the right place for your heart to be in the right place. [27:46]
So now, when we come to putting on the character of peace and joy and love and so on—that’s the background from which we come and if you don’t have that, it’s going to be almost impossible. I just say “almost” to avoid any questionable connections. Really I think it is impossible—but to love. It would be impossible to love because you’re going to be so busy with your plastic bags, and bottles, and bones that you won’t be able to pay attention to people and you have to pay attention to people if you’re going to love them.
I’m sorry about the mess this is in but I hope you can read it. It’s a statement from John Wesley, “Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry.” That’s a very interesting contrast. Haste refers to the speed with which you’re moving; hurry refers to the attitude in which you’re moving and the hurry is always an attitude of anxiety, probably guilt, fear, and it’s something you don’t want to be involved in. If you are in haste, you will not be able to pay attention.
There is a constant lament of those of us who have had children that we didn’t spend enough time with our children when they were young and now, no longer possible, but we were busy. We were in haste, not just in a hurry. Now you can be in a hurry and have perfect peace, but you will not be under the control of your environment, and that will allow for you to pay attention to people and that will allow you to love them. Now, obviously, you need to be at peace to do that because if you do not have that sense of well-being, you will not be freed up from the kinds of concerns that make you obsessed and driven and just doesn’t manage to deal with people in terms of what they are worth, and investing in their lives, and laying up treasures. We just won’t be able to do it. [31:00]
So this begins to get us into the fine texture of a life of peace, and love, and joy, and see how it is based upon this knowledge that “we are taken care of.” Now we need to go farther into that and explore the past and think about how we have been taken care of because one of the things that will support us in our life of love and joy is the recognition of how God has taken care of us and many of us will not have thought about that very much. It takes a discipline of remembrance and that often has a lot of bumps in it, often with our parents, and the task of recovering that relationship. Sometimes, of course, they’ve passed on, but coming to the place to where we can actually honor our parents. For some of us, it will be easier because they were really good to us, and all we have to do is remember them, and thankfulness enables us to honor them, but if we can’t be thankful for them, then we have to work out honor on a different basis.
Question: When we were at the monastery last time I was sitting at the chapel, on our day of retreat, and I just laid down on a bench. I was looking up at the lights and it reminded me of the lights of the church that I grew up in—the light fixture. I found myself thinking about my parents, because I used to lie in church with my head on my mom’s lap and look up at the same lights, in that same way. Then it made me think about the church that I grew up in and today I started thinking about, when we were talking about pilgrimage, because I wanted at that time to go back to that church to remember God’s goodness to me through those people and growing up in that church. So, when you talked about remembrance here it wouldn’t be a pilgrimage, but it’s traveling to a place and remembering God’s goodness to you in that place and I think that would be an interesting discipline and I went through it in that day, thinking about all the people in that church who had been a blessing in my life. [33:57]
Dallas: What’d that do for you, Brad?
Comment: It was amazing!
Dallas: Did it give you any hope for your future?
Dallas: Made you think God is in charge…God is in charge. You know the old hymn, “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, do not be discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” I love that line. It will surprise you. It will surprise you.
Comment: I’ve heard it described as “stacking your spiritual stones” and go back through your life and look for the twelve events that were like seminal events.
Dallas: Good practice. What did you call them?
Comment: Stacking your spiritual stones. Stones! [Laughter] Stack your rocks.
Dallas: Does that help you put on joy?
Dallas: So you don’t have to sort of say, “Now joy.” You find the basis for joy. The fundamental idea here is being confident that God has done well by you. Now let’s soak in that a moment because your confidence that God is in charge and cares for you, so you can turn your Kingdom loose, will be strongly supported if you, with clarity, understand that God has done well by you. That sometimes is hard because you probably think there are a lot of things about you that aren’t good—could’ve been better—and we’re used to judgments about ourselves, that we lay on ourselves. So you have to go to God with that in the margin of your consciousness and then ask the question, “Has God done well by me?” Even given all of that stuff, my own failures and my own shortcomings and deficiencies. As you do that, then you move into the several dimensions of the fruit that we’ve been talking about and that has the benefit of taking you beyond the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees. It puts you in a position to deal with actions, out of the richness of your life. [37:15]
Let’s just stop a moment on that new fact, would you, and think about that. Because this is Jesus’ encapsulated way of putting the kind of shift that we have to make if we are going to put on His character. So think about that verse now for a while. Jesus says, “Unless your kind of goodness goes beyond the kind of goodness that the Scribes and the Pharisees talk about, you can’t interactively with the Kingdom of God.” It says you can’t enter into the Kingdom of God. Now the way we are trained we think, “Uh oh we won’t go to heaven when we die.” But it’s not talking about that.
So often when Jesus uses that language of entering the Kingdom of Heaven you have to put out of your thinking what’s going to happen when you die. That’s important but if that’s all you think about, then you won’t be in a position to make the shift to the righteousness that has gone beyond the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees. That righteousness is just really the stuff that we’ve been talking about as we get to the spirit. It is righteousness of the heart; not on what you did but what you would do.
So now he immediately picks up the stuff that is “street level” and that’s anger and contempt. That’s where He starts. He doesn’t try to give you a theoretical treatment of Christian ethics. He can leave that to Bernard and Wesley—he’s good at it; Bonheoffer and many wonderful people that come along to give a treatment—Augustine. So He just goes right out there where people live and he identifies people who think they are righteous because they didn’t kill anybody. Righteousness is described in the Pharisees with a level of action. Putting on the new man requires that you put the actions aside and deal with where actions come from. [39:45]
So now we’re talking about decisions, what we’re going to do, what we’re going to be, so you have to understand that now. We are told to lay aside anger, and that’s good, but how do you do that? Now that passage in Matthew 5 will be very helpful to you if you follow it along and you see the levels of change that He’s talking about. This is where we need to really use our scriptures carefully. He says, verse 21, “You’ve heard that the old folks said ‘You shall not commit murder.’” And they did say that. “But I say to you…” Now, in understanding the shift, we are all people who revere and respect the scripture and we want to follow carefully the discussions of these things and see how they work just to help us. So He says, “I say to you, everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court.” That’s sort of like the lowest level of legal responsibility.
Now, where does anger come from? So, suppose you were not going to be angry, what would have to change in you so that you wouldn’t be angry? When do people get angry? [41:45]
Dallas: Fear is a big one, yes.
Comment: Control…when your will is crossed.
Dallas: When you don’t get your way. Anger is a natural response. It’s created to form a good function in a person whose will is crossed. Fear of course is a threat to that. It’s the anticipation of evil, something you want to avoid. [42:22]
So now, suppose you were going to lay aside anger—“get it out of the floor and junk it!!!” Isn’t that it? Well, I’m not angry. Deny. That’s not it. You deal with it. You recognize that it is not in itself an evil thing, but you sure can do a lot of damage with it. That’s in Ephesians 4 where Paul calls holding onto anger the same as “giving place to the Devil.” If you hold onto anger, you just open up a place in your life and say, “Come on in, Satan. Come make yourself at home; see what you can do.” If there is anger, it is an alert to you that something needs to be changed. Something needs to be dealt with and the natural response of anger is push back. It distances you. It sets you to actually hurt somebody. That’s why when you find that someone is angry with you; you are already hurt if hey haven’t done anything because you know the set of their will toward you. If they don’t want to hurt you, they would probably at least be kind of happy if you were hurt. [44:07]
Ok, you didn’t kill anybody. Who would you be happy to see dead? Those are movements in the heart and He goes on to—this is really a very subtle passage. “Whoever shall say to his brother, Raca!” It’s a very kind of…you’ll have to translate it…its an Aramaic phrase. My margin says “empty headed, good for nothing.” Wonder where they got that one, but it’s an expression of contempt. And then progressing on stronger, “you fool!” See, fool in Biblical language is not what we think of, like the fool who is a goofy guy that maybe is maybe doing stupid stuff and so on. A fool is someone who is settled into evil. That’s why the Psalm says it. “It’s the fool who has said in his heart there is no God.” It’s the fool that says things like that, so these are progressive down gradings of a person. Then he begins to build back.
Verses 23 and 24 are about breaking your religious ritual to make things right between you and a brother and I don’t have time to do a full exposition on this but it’s very serious to break a religious ritual. This is talking about you’re in the temple and you are making your offering for sin or whatever and you say, “Well wait, I know you’ve killed a lamb and all that but I have to go talk to my brother.” Jesus is saying that’s more important than the ritual. [46:19]
And then He goes on to a situation that we’re all acquainted with, I guess. You’re involved in a lawsuit, a contest before the court. Now, what is this all about? This is about deepening the right attitude toward people as opposed to the attitude of anger and contempt. If you’re going to put on love, joy, peace, and so on, then you have to deal with these kinds of issues and the way you deal with them is in the way that Jesus is describing. He is saying, “You know, when you’re going to the court together, be friendly and talk with one another and find out if perhaps the issue can be resolved before you get to court. Now that’s a special attitude. Not many people can go to court in that attitude. They go to court in the attitude, “I’m going to beat their brains out. I’m really going to make them pay.” But Jesus is saying, “No, don’t do that.” Find a way to work it out. If you don’t get everything that you think you should get, well, you’re still in the Kingdom of God. God’s taking care of you. [47:50]
Now, “the tempest fidgets so fast here.” I wish I could go on to the next section – don’t commit adultery and how that’s all there is to your righteousness in that area or in marriage –don’t divorce your wife or when you divorce her, make sure she’s got a bill of sale, a pink slip. That was the law and Jesus says, “No, no, that’s not it. That’s not it.”
He goes on down the line—swearing and the use of swearing to bulldoze other people and to agreeing to things or thinking things that they shouldn’t agree to but you’re standing there swearing by the Bible and a deck of cards, and Jerusalem in your head. And so they’re kind of overwhelmed—and okay—don’t do that! Just say, “It’s this way or it’s not this way.” Just say it like that. Don’t do anything to push people verbally. That’s pretty big, isn’t it? You have to think about it—what would my attitude be towards God, towards them, towards myself if I didn’t do that? Yes? [49:14]
Question: This also involves the zigzagging—what I’m trying to get at is it’s not something we are only just doing; it’s something that the spirit also working in us is empowering us to do.
Dallas: Absolutely, that’s right. And now, that actually goes back to verse 20 where He says, “If you don’t move to this level, you won’t be interactive with the Kingdom.” And entering the Kingdom means you move to the level of the heart, which speaks simply, and then you are in a different world, and in that world you are going to be interactive with the Kingdom. The Spirit is going to be there, the Word is going to be there, all the instrumentalities of God’s Kingdom will come into play. If you stick at the level of action, they won’t come into play. That’s what verse 20 means. That’s why it is so very important to understand that verse and to understand especially that it doesn’t mean you’ve got to do more of the same kind of thing that the Scribes and the Pharisees did. Going beyond them does not mean you drive the same highway faster. It means now you’re on a different road. [50:30]
Ok. These different issues of self-control and kindness, loyalty, faithfulness, come into play in the same way. You have to look at what’s involved in the fine print as it were and the fine print is always about these changes and attitudes that go into a different approach from being alive in the Kingdom of God.
I just have a minute or two left and on page 24 and 25, I talk about the importance of their being community where this is being done and being taught. Being in the presence of some people conveys the goodness of God and when people come into the fellowship of believers, it should be like they’re walking into a different atmosphere, and they’re breathing pure oxygen with no smog. Then these people will be practicing disciplines and naturally others will be drawn into those disciplines and take on the form of life that goes with life in the Kingdom of God. [52:11]
Just to set us up for the final session in the morning I want to reemphasize on page 26 of the notes, the importance of knowledge. I want to ask you to think about the difference that knowledge brings. When people have knowledge, they are able to operate cooperatively to accomplish things that are good. One of the most obvious illustrations in terms of the modern world is electricity. Electricity is something people had no knowledge of not that long ago. Where I was raised out in the Ozarks we knew electricity in the form of lightning and the electricity you could generate by running a comb through your hair. And that was about it.
Progressively, people have gained knowledge about electricity. They didn’t have any. Poor old Benjamin Franklin; it’s a wonder he didn’t kill himself! but he experimented and he learned something and piece-by-piece, knowledge fell into place. Now just think about what that involves—your computers. That comes from knowledge of electrical power. It wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for that. Knowledge enables people to cooperate, to teach, and to share enterprises. So if an electrician comes into this building—for the most part—there are always some interesting exceptions—though he’s never been here before or she’s never been here before, they know exactly what to do. Right? If there’s a problem usually they can isolate it and fix it. That’s what knowledge does. [54:29]
Belief doesn’t do that unless it is also knowledge, and it is possible for you to know what you believe and it’s really a good thing to know what you believe. It changes everything. How YOU approach all this material we are talking about, all the readings and stuff in your program, will significantly differ if you think you are gaining knowledge or if you just sort of think you are “juicing yourself up.” More juice. [55:15]
My challenge to you as I leave this topic today is please work with the idea of knowledge of the spiritual life—knowledge of the spiritual life. Something that can be taught, learned, tested, developed, and when you read these great men and women of the past—Madame Guyon; you see, she had knowledge of the spiritual life and the other great ones—some of my favorites—William Law—he had knowledge.
And then the last thing I will say to you for today is present it as knowledge and encourage those who minister for Jesus Christ to present what they have to say as knowledge of reality and not just as an effort to convince people to do something. So much of what we do in our church activities is in the mode of convincing people to do something—trying to get people to come forward, trying to get people to profess their faith and so on. The result of that is we have crowds of people that we’ve convinced to do something.
Now in any responsible area of knowledge you impart knowledge. You can teach people about Greek verbs and nouns, and you can teach them how that works in the New Testament or in Plato, or Aristotle, or Thucydides, or whoever it is you’re reading. You can teach that. You don’t try to get them to do anything, I hope. What you do is make it possible for them to do things that they find to be desirable. Maybe they’d like to read Thucydides in the Greek? Ok, you teach them Greek and they can do that. [58:04]
Suppose people perhaps dimly, but surely would like to know God? How can you help? Well, you can communicate knowledge of God to them. You can communicate knowledge of God to them. Then they will be able to find their way forward in their lives. It doesn’t cure everything to have knowledge because they may be resistant and they may reject knowledge. That’s one of the things about knowledge—you can always reject it. It doesn’t jump down your throat. It doesn’t matter if it’s religious knowledge or French knowledge; it’s all the same. You have to pursue it. You have to want it.
Now you teach people about Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God and life in the Kingdom of God. Then they can make a choice and if they make a choice, you will find that you don’t have to jumpstart them every week when they come back to church. If you got them to do something, you probably will have to jumpstart them. In fact, the mark of a successful minister in our society is generally someone who can get lots of people to do lots of things that they don’t particularly want to do, like giving for example. [59:41]
Giving in our church world is an absolute disgrace; a disgrace, and of course you, who are in positions of leadership, you pay a great price for that. Why is that a problem? Well, they don’t understand what giving is and they don’t understand that because they don’t understand that giving is participation in the Kingdom of God and that is the greatest opportunity that they will ever have in life.
So this issue of how you think about what we’ve been talking about and whether it’s actually knowledge of reality or it is something we are trying to get people to do makes a huge difference in terms of how people are or are not helped. And that’s why I am ragging on you about it here now. I will talk more about this in the morning.