Dallas agreed to teach separate two weeks for the Renovaré Institute in Denver, a cohort of 40 students, mostly in ministry positions. He rehearses many of the themes from his speaking ministry elsewhere, so there is little new to be heard, but with more time with a “committed” group he is able to be more comprehensive than usual.
Good morning, and the blessing of God on you.
And we are plunging along, working our way through the material that goes into the Renovaré Institute. And we are presenting what we’re presenting as knowledge. Knowledge, remember knowledge; and we want to try to keep our continuity, but I am tempted often to review too much and not move on. And we’ll try to avoid that. But let’s say this: when we think about our life today not only as individuals but as people who are leading and guiding in the fellowships of believers, we think of all of the kinds of problems we run into that we’re faced all the way from the public noise and chatter that constantly goes on now, down to the intimate details of group life and then individual life, and all the problems there.
We need to understand that those problems and the limitations that we often encounter and that seem to stop the work of God in our midst. The only thing that prevents us from overwhelming our communities and our world with the glory of Christ and the power of God in righteousness is never that we do not have enough people, that we don’t have enough money, that we don’t have enough influence. There is more than enough in this room to do the job. The problem is that we do not do what Jesus told us to do.
It’s very simple. We don’t do what he told us to do, him standing with us, and we have many explanations of why we don’t. And yet, to do that as his disciples requires no special human resources. You don’t have to have a budget. It requires no special human talents; nor human connections or advantages. It requires only the intention to obey based upon a vision of life in the kingdom of God. It requires persistence in learning how to be with him in all of our activities and circumstances.
Persistence in learning. If we do that, God will provide everything else as we go. Very simple, but of course also, depending on where you are, it looks complicated, and to many people they will tell you it’s impossible. And that is the barrier we face when we come to think about where we are. Now, that is possibly a provocative statement to your mind. I hope it is. I hope you might be willing to say, “That’s not true,” if that’s what you think, and then work from that. An honest person who begins there and stays with it will come out at the right place, because they will be forced to work out the understanding that says things like, “Oh, that’s not true. We can’t do that.” And it will turn out much better if we honestly say that, as some people do. And if we can honestly say it and begin to work from there, then things will begin to change.
Knowledge, Belief, and Action
[5:24] So now, a little bit of review this morning, not too much, but we need to keep some things clearly before us and in the process of transformation it is very important to understand that while what we’re thinking about is Spirit-driven, we are not passive. We cannot be passive. And that gets into a lot of theology very fast. In the recent past of Christianity in the American context, the Arminian branch of the Christian church has been in disarray and abeyance. Now, I won’t go into the denominations that are involved in that unless you ask me, and then I will.
But they have been intimidated, frankly, by what we can refer to as the more Calvinistic side of theology. And we often misunderstand how important the theology is. Theology is what you really believe about God, not what you say you believe. What you really believe. See, when you look at the spectrum of Christian life, you have to distinguish knowledge from belief, belief from commitment, and commitment from profession. And then you have to apply that not only to yourself, but to the situation in which you are working.
Now, I hope you will forgive me if I am too brutal with some of these statements, but this is serious class, ok? And what the ordinary preacher, teacher or leader confronts when he stands up before you as a group is a wall of unbelief. So let me explain that a little bit. We’ve already talked about knowledge, and we’ve said knowledge is when you are able to represent or treat or deal with things as they are on an appropriate basis of thought and experience. Now that is the substance of eternal living, is knowledge. Interactive relationship with the Trinity. Our lives being taken up in what God is doing on earth. That’s knowledge.
It’s not what we call head knowledge; head knowledge isn’t knowledge, because it doesn’t possess the whole person. It has some relevance, but real knowledge is interactive relationship, and on the basis of that you become able to represent, treat, deal with things as they are on the basis of your experience and your thought. That does not exclude revelation and authority; they are a part of thought and experience. These are not separate. You believe something if you’re ready to act as if it were true. So to believe in the Trinity is to be ready to act as if the Trinity were real, as if it were true that there is a Trinity and that there is a relationship.
And now we want to come back to that idea today and talk more about the Trinity because we’re going to be talking in today’s work mainly about how all of this relates to the parts of the human being, and your belief is not just your thoughts, it is your dispositions to behave. You believe what you’re ready to act on.
[10:20] Like in these kinds of contexts the obvious illustration is your faith in the chair you’re sitting on. Right? You really believe it will hold you up, and if you didn’t believe that you wouldn’t be sitting there like you are. If you only professed faith in your chair, you’d probably be standing up somewhere, right?
So it’s really important, now, and we need to say things like knowledge and belief don’t necessarily go together. You can reject in belief what you know. You don’t necessarily believe everything you really do know, and I’m not just talking about head knowledge. Because belief involves your will, and your will may be set in a direction that rejects the knowledge you have. When that comes to a fever pitch, that’s what we call conviction. [11:27]
You know, the first part of the word conviction is “convict,” you know? And you can become a convict of your knowledge. And that is what happens when key people, as we used to say, “come under conviction” for their sins. They know what their will is set against, and in the fallen condition of humanity, belief will triumph knowledge. Now, we have to try to make clear how that goes; we’ll become quite analytic here in a moment, but it’s important to understand that your belief and your knowledge can be set against one another.
And we’ll see how that works in Romans 1. People reject knowledge; that’s what’s happening in the well-known passage in Hosea where it is said, “My people perish for a lack of knowledge.” The knowledge they lacked was provided to them; they rejected it, as you will see in that passage. What is that, 4:6 or 6:4? I’m getting dyslexic in my old age. But that’s a tremendously important passage to study. It doesn’t say my people perish for lack of faith—they perish for lack of knowledge.
And now in the context of this institute, it is extremely important for us to put the weight on knowledge. But you know, some people are trying to live in terms of commitment, which isn’t even belief. Commitment is setting your will in a certain direction, and it may not involve knowledge, and it may not involve belief. If you’re lost in the woods, you might commit yourself to a direction, even though you didn’t have any belief or knowledge about whether it was the right one, but you say, “I’ve got to do something.”
Faith Environed in Knowledge
So, here we go. And one of the things that undercuts the power of the gospel in our world today is the illusion in the society around us that what we’re talking about is commitment. And that’s where this idea of a “leap of faith” comes in. And if you ever here that phrase flying by, swat it. Ok? A “leap of faith.” That is not the path of the disciple. The disciple is not making a leap of faith. And actually, what is called a leap of faith is a leap without faith; that’s what it’s actually talking about. And of course if you’re going to have faith, you need knowledge as a foundation. And knowledge will make your faith solid. And the picture of faith in the scripture is always faith environed in knowledge. Abraham went out, as the Scripture says, not knowing where he went. But he knew who was with him.
[15:17] See, that’s faith in the biblical sense. It’s environed in knowledge. And faith environed in knowledge will take care of commitment. See, commitment is invoked often in our circles when we have people who have no belief and they are free of knowledge, and we’re trying to get them to do things they don’t want to do. And instead of fixing it by bringing knowledge and faith based on knowledge, we find someone and appoint them as the preacher, and say, now, the preacher’s job is to motivate these people to do the things they should do without being motivated.
And the situation we are in today is very different from the main understanding and practice of the Church in the past, which treated the content of Christian teaching as knowledge to be believed. And of course that’s the best way to have your beliefs is on knowledge, as far as it goes. You may recall the old Stevie Wonder song that says if you believe in things you don’t understand, you will suffer. Right? And that’s what we see all around us. And often people don’t even believe, but they’re committed to a course of life and there they go.
Sort of the end of the line here now is profession. And profession is saying you believe things whether you believe it or not. And now, I’m going to leave it to you to think about where we stand in relation to those four things, right? And when we think about the spirit at work in our lives, we must think in terms of knowledge and belief based on knowledge and commitment based upon belief based on knowledge, and profession as the expression of the reality of the disciple’s life lived in growth of knowledge and faith and commitment. See?
And one of the things you may do as a leader at that point, you may decide to stop trying to get people to do things. And I encourage you to experiment with that, and to bring before the Lord in your devotions and your studies the idea that that’s not your job. Your job is not to get people to do things. It is to bring knowledge, to bring knowledge of God. To present it as such. Don’t stand in your community unless you are sure that you bring knowledge.
Now, that may mean some adjustment and work on your part, but the world hungers for knowledge of God, and a life based on that knowledge. And the only hope they have, even if they don’t know it, is that someone will bring them knowledge of God. Knowledge of God. You remember the verse we started with in 2 Corinthians 4, talking about the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? God who spoke out of darkness, “Let there be light,” has spoken in our hearts to bring us the knowledge. Are you ok with that, that you bring knowledge?
Now, you don’t have to make people know, but you present knowledge. And then they can respond to it as such. And God will move in and give them the reality that goes with the knowledge. Now, thanks be to the mercy of God, that is what happens often, even when we are not clear in the message that we are giving. And so we are very thankful that we don’t have to be right about everything for God to work. Right?
The Parts of the Person Leading to Transformation
[20:35] But then, spiritual transformation follows only as each essential dimension of the human being is transformed into Christlikeness. Now you see, you’re thinking about that in terms of understanding—what are the parts of the person that leads to transformation? How do you work on those parts?
And that’s our topic for this morning, really, and we will eventually get to it. But we have to understand this. But the direction, our will is turned over to God, the regenerate will interacting with constant overtures of grace from God in many forms. Such transformation is not the result of mere human effort and cannot be accomplished by putting pressure on the will. Will power alone will fail you. And if people get into that dead end, they will be defeated.
And so that’s where we want to keep this emphasis; it’s not will power alone, but grace now begins to come in, and we understand that grace is not opposed to effort. Attitude: no earning allowed, but all kinds of effort. Diligent effort, seeking to know, seeking to do the will of God.
And perhaps the greatest mistake in this area is to think that spiritual growth is achieved by trying harder. We really have three options here. One is to say you grow spiritually by trying harder. And if you have a gong that’s where you hit the gong: nope, not it! The other is to give up, and that is often called brokenness today. And brokenness is presented as the way you live in Christ instead of being a stage you pass through. Right? So you just live in brokenness and you celebrate grace because that says brokenness is ok.
Now, brokenness is actually necessary at a certain point, but that’s only to teach us that we in ourselves cannot do this. And if you just try harder and don’t have brokenness and turn to grace, your life will be impossible and you will make the lives of other people impossible, because you just get into a “try harder, try harder, try harder.”
The Commandment That Covers Everything
So, those two options have to give way to the path of indirection, and indirection is where instead of trying to make something happen, you deal with the factors that will produce it. So instead of trying to be Christ-like, for short, you turn to the things that enable you to be Christ-like. So intelligent effort is the key. Now, intelligent effort means that it is effort informed by knowledge, knowledge of how the human being is built, how they work. And that comes from, guess who? Can you say Jesus? Give me a J! Dr. Jesus.
[25:24] In Mark 12, he’s being put through an examination, a doctoral examination if you wish, by a lawyer. And the lawyer is asking a standard question for doctoral examinations. This was not a new question, it was a question that was debated constantly among the scholars of Israel, so in verse 28 of Mark 12 one of the scribes, one of the professors, came and heard him arguing, and recognizing that he had answered them well, asked him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”
Now, that doesn’t just mean what is first, it means what is the commandment that covers everything? What is the commandment that covers everything? And Jesus answered, the foremost is, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” Now in terms of our VIM, that’s vision. “The Lord our God is one Lord.” See, that’s the first of the Ten Commandments. “I am the Lord Your God that delivered you,” and I acted, and you saw my action. I am the Lord your God. Now what is the response to that fact? “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and the second is, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Now, if you think about what we’ve said about the second and third of the great questions, who is really well off and who is a really good person, you will see that the answer is packed into those words. But now, you want to ask yourself, what’s that really telling us? I mean, what is our response to that? Is it one that says, ok, I’ll do that, I’ll do that, and then goes into the parts and says, well, it says here, love the Lord your God with all your heart? Now what is that? Suppose you had to stand on one foot and tell someone what it was to love the Lord with all your heart, what would you say? What would you say before the other foot came down? You think we ought to be able to do that, if this is that important? What is your heart?
Loving God With All Your Parts
Now, I’m going to try to give answers to all these questions, but I want to get you thinking. What is your heart, after all? Now today, you’re apt to think of it in terms of your emotions. Where is your heart? And you might answer in terms of emotion. I want to suggest to you that that is a mistake, and it’s a mistake caused by the close association of the heart with emotion, that the heart is actually the will or the executive center of the self, but the will doesn’t work independently of your emotions.
But today we have come to the point to where many people in our churches and in our world do not know the difference between their feelings and their will. And that is a fatal mistake. Because it will always eventuate in the person trying to do what their emotions dictate. Can you see, already they’re in trouble.
[30:13] And we’ll have to talk about desire, and desire really doesn’t fit into any of these categories, because desire is like what comes out of the whole person. But now what do you think your heart is? And then how would you love God with your heart? What would that mean? How would you identify a person and love God with all their heart? Now, think of the will, how would you love God with all your will?
Now, we have to break this down, and I’m just trying to get you into the room on it. So we have to break all this down very carefully, but what I want to urge upon you now is that this law, not only was it something Jesus understood as the great blessing that comes to human beings from God, but that that is the way the law was understood in the Old Testament tradition. Now, it certainly by itself was not succeeding. Something else was needed. But if you don’t understand that the law is a beautiful, good gift of God, then if you go back and read Psalm 119 for example, or Psalm 1, and you say, “Blessed is the man that doesn’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of God.” Delight in the law of God? Well, I thought the law was something bad. And Paul even says in opening 1 Timothy, you may recall, the law is not for a righteous man, but for the unrighteous.
Now, if you understand the law in the way it came to be understood, as an external kind of command that stands over your life and points out where you’re wrong, which is what happened and gave rise to the righteousness of the scribe and the Pharisee, according to which to be righteous, you didn’t kill anybody, you didn’t actually commit adultery—you always gave the pink slip when you divorced your wife, and all that—then you can see how one wouldn’t particularly find that a delightful thing. Right? But the law fundamentally is an expression of the ways of God, and that’s how you come to know the delight that is in the law. “But his delight is in the law of God, and in that he meditates day and night,” not because he has to but because he loves it. The law is an expression of the ways of God, and that is an appropriate kind of thing to delight in, right?
Then you come back to this, and you look at it, and say what was Jesus doing? Trying to finally give us one that would just obliterate us? Good night, we gotta do that? So you want to rethink, now, what the law is about, and you want to understand that what he is doing here is giving you the secret of the blessed life. This is the pathway; this is the secret of the blessed life. He is telling you where to orient the various essential parts of the human being in such a way that they walk into the fullness of life in the kingdom of God.
And you know, the second command really had a pretty hard life in the old covenant. You have to look hard to find it. You know where it shows up? In one of the least-read books of the Bible: Leviticus. And in Leviticus 18, I think it is, you find some fascinating statements here about relationship. Relationship to your neighbor. And then a surprising extension of that to those who are not your kind of people. I’m sorry, Leviticus 19, verse 18 first of all: “You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people.” You ever hear of discrimination? Of Cultural barriers? In other words, another Jew, you shall not have any grudges against another Jew. You will not take vengeance.
[36:18] So now you have the contrast, this is what you’re not to do, and what are you to do? “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And the reason given is, “I am the Lord.” I am the Lord. That’s why you do that. Now, if you don’t have a reason, you’re going to be able to do very little in this direction. So it’s important to do the first part of the commandment first, isn’t it—love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and then you can actually love your neighbor as yourself, because you will have the wherewithal to do that coming from your relationship to God.
But now, wait a moment: look at verse 34. Verse 34 is one of the clearest evidences of divine inspiration you’ll find anywhere in the Bible. It is totally beyond any human understanding at the time. Listen to what it says: “The stranger”—you can read that the undocumented worker, or the person who doesn’t look like you, or so forth and so on—“who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you. And you shall love him as yourself.” And then you get the reason: “You were aliens in the land of Egypt.” You know what it’s like to be on the outside of everything. You know what it’s like. “I am the Lord your God.” So now Jesus, and it was not unique to him, again, because this was something that was discussed, understands that you cannot love God without loving your neighbor, and you can’t love your neighbor without loving God.
Now, I’m going to have to move on from that, but I want you to understand that Mark 12:29-31 is Dr. Jesus’s analysis of the essential parts of the human being. And in the application of indirection, you work with the parts. You work with the parts. You don’t just say, well, humph! I love the Lord! You come to know what is in your heart, and you learn with him how to love the Lord with all your heart. That would mean, now, that your will was perfectly surrendered to doing the things that are good for God in the eyes of God. That’s what it would mean.
And now let’s put the whole thing before us, the diagram, and you don’t need to worry about this; it’s in Renovation of the Heart, and I think all of you have been working on that.
The Whole Person
[40:02] So this is the whole story. And now we need to, I think it’s on page 42 or 41 in Renovation of the Heart if you’re looking for it, this is Mark 12. This is the whole system, all of which is to love God. And when this is moving towards God in the appropriate way, then the person loves God, and the person—see, what we’re talking about here, the unit of analysis is the person. These are not separate things that you work on independently of one another, and I’m going to talk about each of them independently, but I remind you again that we do this as a way of teaching, and we pull things out that are not separable. These are not separable. They make up the person, and then the person is the one that lives before God, and lives in relationship to another, and lives forever. Right?
When you die or when you get saved, you don’t just save your soul. Your soul doesn’t go to God. You go to God. But we need to talk about each of these separately, and that is what we have to do. And if we do that, then verses like Psalm 37:4, I think it is: “Delight thyself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Now, you have to understand that what you desire when you don’t delight yourself in the Lord is very different from what you desire when you do delight yourself in the Lord. So that isn’t saying to a person who does not delight themselves in the Lord, “Here’s a little trick that’ll get you what you want! Just delight yourself in the Lord, and all the things you want, you’ll get!” No. When you delight yourself in the Lord, first thing that happens is that your desires begin to change. And the person who delights themselves in the Lord has a different set of desires than the one who doesn’t.
You know, when people first hear the gospel—this was true in Jesus’ day—they think, “Wow, God is so good, he’ll give me what I want.” No, he’ll give you good wants. And so in Jesus’ day there were a lot of people that he recognized really did like his cooking, did you know. And he spread some meals out for them, and boy, they said, “Let’s stay with this guy. He’s a good cook!” And Jesus was a cook, by the way, did you know? One of the last scenes, he’s cooking in his earthly life. A good cook. There’s an old song, “Come and dine, the master calls us, come and dine.” Wonderful old song.
But you know, he would turn to them from time to time and put something in their lap that made them mostly run. Like Luke 14, where he says if you would be my disciple, you have to hate your mother and your father. Some people have found that a good verse. But then also “and your own life also,” but they leave that one off. See, this issue of desire is so fundamental that I have to now just stop and talk about it a little bit, because actually desire doesn’t show up in any one of these, because desire is an orientation of the whole person. And the problem that comes to the individual whose mind and will and body and all that who’s turned away from God is that they live for their desires.
Some of you will know a play by Tennessee Williams called A Streetcar Named Desire. And actually, if you don’t know it, you might consider getting it, going to it, watching it. It’s a story about how desire festers and grows and twists and turns and ruins lives. Not told from a particularly Christian point of view, but then a lot of things that Christians know, other people know as well. And artists are people who have to look closely at life; sometimes they can give a better presentation of something than those of us who have only been drinking theology. And so we need to understand that idea. A Streetcar Named Desire. The idea is desire is going to take you someplace. It’s going to take you someplace.
[45:58] Now, what we know as those who are informed by Dr. Jesus and Dr. Paul and others like that, it doesn’t have to be that way. You do not have to live for your desires. There is something better to live for, and that’s what is good. And your will is meant to be driven and directed by what is good, not by what you want. And desire becomes a huge force in the life of people; that’s what the Tennessee Williams play is about. It becomes an obsessive force. Desire, if you give way to it and don’t have alternative sources of life, will trap you.
Back down in the hills where I was raised, they used to trap raccoons by drilling a hole in a log and dropping a button in it, and then driving nails in the sides of the hole in such a way that the raccoon could push his hand down and get the button, but when he tried to pull his hand out, the nails would seize him. And strangely enough the raccoon does not have enough sense to turn the button loose. And so there he is. And if you haven’t seen people in that condition, you haven’t been watching. See, they’re trapped by their desires. That’s the path of destruction.
Now, without the knowledge of God that is inevitably going to happen, so now I have to take you to Romans 1 and we have to spend some time there. Romans 1 is a story about what happens when people reject the knowledge of God. Paul says here in verse 18, “For the wrath of God is a revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” See, the truth is suppressed; it isn’t that you can’t find it, it’s that you don’t want it. Right? That’s the problem.
The bitterness of truth is it cares not a whit for your desires. You can desire all you want and the truth just stands there. So now, if you want what you want when you want it, as the song goes, you’re going to suppress the truth, because the truth stands there and says no. No. you want to run your life? No. You can’t do it. You try; it’s just a question of time, something else will take over.
Accepting or Rejecting the Knowledge of God
And you will say in the words of the poet Stevenson, reflecting back on living in a certain way, “Thus hath fleeting beauty led/To the doorway of the dead/Life is over, life was gay/We have come the primrose way.” Or Byron, “My days are in the yellow leaf/the flower and fragrance of love is gone, the worm, the canker and the grief are mine alone.” See, now that’s the picture of the world when it turns away from God. What does it turn to? It rejects the knowledge of God. Men knew about God; it was evident to them: His eternal power and divine nature clearly seen.
[50:11] Now you know, you have to decide whether Paul was wrong or right about this. Do people have—is the knowledge of God available? Yes, but you can reject it. You don’t have to take it. It does not jump down your throat. That’s one thing about knowledge, is you have to seek it. And that’s true of every kind of knowledge. And if you don’t want it to be true, you can reject it.
But look what happens, verse 21 of Romans 1:
For even though they knew God, they did not honor him or glorify him as God, or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing themselves wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man…
And then it’s all downhill from there. You try to put man in first place, it’s clear he won’t work, and so you try out a snake or a cow, and you say, “How stupid.” That’s the point. That’s the point. And you watch what people worship in place of God, and eventually you reach out to the things that can please you. So verse 24, “Therefore God gave them over in the lust of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored, the truth of God is exchanged for a lie.” Verse 26, “For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions,” and so on. See, that’s the inevitable path of human ruin. That’s how we get to where we find ourselves, when we begin, hopefully, to turn back to God and seek the knowledge of God.
So now this why we are spoken to over and over about lusts. 1 Peter talking about the knowledge of God and how we are delivered from lust. He says when he is laying out the path that we go, and he says, “Grace and peace”—this is 2 Peter 1—“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God.” Well, how about that? That’s how grace and peace is multiplied, in the knowledge of God.
Seeing that his divine power, back to the life theme, his divine power has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness. How much does that leave out? Nothing. Everything is provided for. Again, through the true knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence, for by these he has granted to us his precious and magnificent promises in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Divine nature through the knowledge of God on one hand, and then escape from the corruption that is in the world through epithumia. Now, the whole person here has to be turned away from following their desires. That cannot be their course of life. And they turn back to following God, and that is why Jesus says you come to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself.
That is, everything is oriented toward God. And God is working in us in response. As you see, the spirit or will here is dead to God by being turned away from him. And the word of Christ, then, comes into the will through the mind and through all of these other things, and it fights its way through and it reaches the will, and by the power of the word and the spirit, the will becomes alive to God.
[55:12] And that, the arrow comes out, brings us back to God, faith in Christ, we who—as 1 Peter says there—we who believe through him do believe in God. Through him we believe in God. And that reestablishes the connection back to God. And now, we have divine life working in us. As Paul says, grace, faith, we achieve peace with God. We’re at peace with God.
Now then, the battle breaks out within us, because in all of these parts we are habitually set against God, and coming to life in God means now that we are in the process of subduing all of this with God so that the whole person is turned back to God. Isn’t it interesting that when the children of Israel came into the Promised Land, the first city that they approached, the walls fell down? Now tell me, what was the next city where the walls fell down? And that’s very emblematic of the process that we go through.
And why do you suppose that is? It is because God is after character, and character is not formed by miracles. It is not formed by outside events, it’s formed by the will taking shape, and then investing itself in all of the parts of the person. So this is the deep lesson now, theologically, psychologically, that lies back of discipleship. Discipleship is the process by which all of the aspects of the person are brought to love God. So, I’ve given you various ways of talking about it, let’s try that one more. Discipleship is the process through which all of the dimensions of personality come to the love of God.
Now, I want just concluding this session to go over each of these and say what they are, and then we have to come back and go over it in more detail. So now, again, all of this is in Renovation of the Heart, but sometimes it helps to put it together in this way, and you can perhaps see it better.
So let’s start with the spirit here, which I am identifying with the will or the heart, and let me just say by the way there really is no systematic presentation of this in the scripture. So if you don’t like this one, do it your way. But you do have to come to grips with all of these somehow, because Dr. Jesus said, right?
So think about it this way. Your spirit or heart or will is the executive center of the self. It’s where decisions are made, and that’s the part of you that God has created and put in you so that you could be creative. The will initiates, radically initiates. It is in this respect that part of
us which most resembles God, but we have to handle that very carefully, or we’re apt to think of separating the will from the rest of this arrangement. You can’t do that.
[1:00:05] So your will is to be creative. It is where you are to exercise dominion. It initiates events and processes that wouldn’t happen otherwise, and you invest yourself in things through your will in a way that you do not in any other way. What you create is especially you. Now, if you create chaos, that’s especially your chaos. If you create evil, that’s especially yours. Create good, that’s yours. Right? You contribute that. That’s why you matter, and that’s why the will is so important. And I hope I don’t offend your theology, and it’s a long story, but God never simply overrides the human will. That’s why some of your most difficult prayer projects will be for your loved ones and those who are close to you.
Now, your mind includes both your thoughts and your feelings. You never have thoughts without feelings, and you never have feelings without thoughts. They come together. And your will works in terms of what is in your thoughts and in your feelings. Your feelings are basically impulses toward something, and they can be hunger—that’s a level of feeling—or a desire for praise, or honor. See? Those are feelings. Your feelings are an impulse directed toward something, and they become obsessive if you aren’t careful, and you’ll wind up with that raccoon, with your fist stuck on something and trapped.
Your thoughts are your ways of representing things, and of course your feelings and your thoughts are related, because if you have feelings, they’re normally about something, and what they’re about is represented to you by your thoughts. Your mind, and that dimension. And now you can see right away there’s going to be an interesting interplay between the will and the mind, isn’t there? And jumping ahead, and I jump around because you can’t really do things thoroughly and systematically in a talk like this, but you can see immediately why Paul would talk about transformation through the renewing of your mind. And you see, now, oh, well I can work on that! I can do something about that. And that’s the key to what we’re doing here.
How you think about things; what’s the most important thing you think about? God and you. How do you think about yourself, how do you think about God? That’s why having an appropriate image, mental grasp of God, is absolutely basic to everything. Remember I said earlier, how you think about God, how we think about God, is the foundation of all human troubles. Thinking wrongly about God, everything is ruined. Satan came to Eve and got her to think wrongly about God. That’s the basic thought. “Listen, Eve, you can’t trust God. You’ve got to look out. You’re going to miss out on something.” Hey, little thought there. Hmm. I know that thought.
That’s the basic issue: how you think about God. That’s why when Jesus comes, he does give us the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. What is the gospel? News about God! Where is God? He’s right here. That’s news. God is here. Not far away. You are not alone.
[1:05:11] When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark, and so forth. You know the song? That’s an appropriate cry of the human heart—you’ll never walk alone. Unless you decide to, and then God will give you a little space. Maybe that’s hell, walking alone forever. What a way of thinking about that. And being the kind of person who would choose that over being with God—now you’re stuck with that. That’s your character. Bad news.
Good news—God so loved the world. Good news. See, how our mind is directed—now does that affect your feelings? Yes, it affects your feelings. Your feelings before and apart from the fact that they settle into habits of your body and your social relations, which they do. See, your feelings are largely determined by your thoughts. That’s why good news can make you jump up and down with joy. You just won the lottery! Oh, you say, I don’t play. Ok. You got something better to do. But that’s why people jump up and down, and then very often their winnings ruin their life. Right? And that’s because their feelings were one thing, their character was something else. Their character is what then will run their life, and that’s built into their body and their social setting and the habits of their mind and the habits of their will; that’s what is governing their life.
So the feelings come, and maybe an idea presents itself, and we want to jump up and down, and that’s the second category in the parable of the sower. You remember that? The word of the kingdom comes; these are the ones on the path, by the wayside, shallow ground. They receive it with joy, but they have no root. And when trouble comes…see how all that works?
Now, your body is the place where you live in your social context. Your body is given to you to serve as a way of living without thinking. And that’s a good thing; it’s not a bad thing. That’s what enables you to have a range of your effective will, because if you had to deal with everything in that range, you’d be paralyzed. And so what you do is you train—I say you do, or your body is trained—in such a way that it acts, and for the most part that’s good, it’s just that it also takes on a lot of habits that are wrong.
So, for example, we talked about blessing those who curse you. Now if you’ve got cursing in your body, that’s what’ll come out. If you have blessing in your body, that’ll come out; you won’t think about it. It’ll just—whoosh! There it is. And if cursing is in there, whoosh! And if blessing is in there, same way. Now you have to go through a process to change that, but that’s the body in the social setting that is functioning there. And now, in the second hour we have to come back and look at all this more closely. I’m just trying to get the big picture in front of you.
So you begin to see how they interact. And the social realm is the realm where we relate to other people. And human beings are not little atoms, they are relational. They’re deeply relational, and their bodies are keyed to act from their social context more than from their choices. Right?
Now, some things I give to you in capsule form because you already know them. Like you know the story of Peter’s denial, right? And if you study that in the light of this, then you begin to see how that all worked. Because Peter thought he could live from his will. “I will never deny you.” Jesus didn’t say to Peter, “Oh, now, you don’t mean that!” He did mean it. But Peter did not know what was in his body. And he didn’t understand how a social context would trigger stuff that was in his body that was exactly opposite of his will.
[1:10:37] Am I making any sense? Ok. Well, just one more thing, and then we have questions. The soul. The soul is that part of you that weaves all the other parts together to make one life. And our souls are broken, and that’s why the things that are in these other areas often do not match up. And in Romans 7, Paul gives us the classic expression of the broken soul: “The things that I would do, I don’t do.” That’s a broken soul. And the things I would not, I wind up doing. A broken soul.
Now you see it all around you, in our habits, in our ways of eating and doing things. Broken soul. The sign is always the mismatch between intentions—always tied to ways of thinking about things. You can imagine people would do the terrible things they do if their minds were not messed up. You think about these dreadful things, like let’s say a grandfather sodomizing a grandchild. I hate even to mention such things, but there it is. And you ask yourself how could that possibly happen? Broken soul.
I mean, you take a person like that, back them up, and say, “Do you believe that’s a good thing?” They’re not going to say it’s a good thing. They know it’s not. But the connection between what’s in their body and what’s in their mind and feelings is so messed up that they will take the parts of themselves that are against the deed in question and just shut that down, and they’ll go with their desire. Remember that raccoon, ok? If you keep that little image in mind, it’ll help you understand a lot about human life. And in these areas, the soul that is whole will say, ha! I’ll just turn the button loose and pull my hand out. But the broken soul will say, I’m not going to turn loose that button. And so the little fist can’t be taken out. Ok?
All right, now that’s an initial sketch, and we’re going to come back to some parts of it and deal with it at greater length when we come back.