The Power of “the Word of the Kingdom”

Dallas Willard Part 7 of 9

This is one of Dallas’s most famous series on the kingdom of God, at Hollywood Presbyterian Church. He works historically but eventually works through the Sermon on the Mount and eventually speaks on themes of ministry, discipleship and disciplines.

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Dallas: The lesson this morning, I want to ask you to write down two questions. The questions that we have are often more important than the answers that we have. They help us get deeper into things and the first question is this: What will my life be like when I find the Kingdom of Heaven? What will my life be like when I find the Kingdom of Heaven? What will I be doing? How will I do it? Will you see Jesus teaching us to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven? And it’s the kind of righteousness that God has. Now, what’s going to happen when we find it?

Will we, for example be faithful church members and study the Bible all the time? Will we just enjoy the sense of being forgiven and look forward to going to Heaven when we die?[1:16[1]]

So, the question is: What will our lives be like when we find the Kingdom of Heaven? We need to reduce that to very concrete practicalities. It’s very easy to just spend our lives in a kind of cloud of gentle speaking. What’s it going to be like? Are we going to find it? Do we intend to find it? And if so, what will it be like?

Now, let me lead into the second question by answering the first one briefly. Then we are going to come back to that and spend our time spelling it out. Your life will be a life of participation in the Kingdom. You will be living under the authority and by the power of the Kingdom of Heaven. That is to say, you will be acting. You will be acting from the Kingdom of God. So, you will be restored to the intent that God had in creating human beings. [2:24]

Look up Genesis 1 for just a moment. [I won’t forget the other question. Don’t give up on me now.] Genesis 1—when God finished making all of the other critters, He came down to the last one in verse 26. Genesis 1:26 (KJV): “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them . . .” go to church once a week and have endless Bible studies and contemplate the beauty of the Trinity and worship me and think wonderful, beautiful thoughts all the time. It doesn’t say that, does it? [3:18]

It says, “ . . . let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, over the cattle…” Nowadays, we should perhaps read that “over the foul air.” “. . . and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” And He repeated it in verse 28, “Be fruitful, and multiply, replenish the earth, subdue it: have dominions over the fish of the sea, and over the foul of the air . . . “ and so on. (Genesis 1:28, KJV) We were intended to have this dominion in the power of God.

Second Question—Adam, before he fell was a gardener, wasn’t he? Do we have any gardeners here? Anyone here? Yes, a gardener here. Yes! Now, there is something funny about Adam before he fell. He didn’t sweat. Now, my question is: Why didn’t Adam sweat before he fell? That’s the second question. You see why I didn’t forget it? Why didn’t Adam sweat before he fell? You who garden, do you sweat when you garden? [4:58]

Jesus was a gardener. Did you know that? Look with me at Mark 11. This is after the triumphant entry into Jerusalem and He returned at eventide: verse 11 says that He returned at eventide to Bethany, which is sort of over the hill and to the east of Jerusalem. Verse 12: “And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: and he saw a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came on the chance that he might find some figs on it but when he came, he found nothing but leaves for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus said, ‘James and John run back to the barn and bring the axe.’ “ (Mark 11:12–13, paraphrased[2]) Isn’t that what a gardener does when he gets ready to do in a tree? Go back and get the chainsaw. What did Jesus do? Someone tell me. What did He do?

Comment: He spoke to the tree. [6:23]

Dallas: He spoke to the tree. Before Adam fell, he didn’t have to get the chainsaw because he lived in the same power that Jesus lived in. I can see you don’t believe a word of this. All right, but I can also see you are thinking. I can see the wheels are turning and that’s a good thing. That’s a real good thing?

Let’s follow Jesus along here a little bit because just like you, this was very surprising and probably you know, Peter said, “He’s started talking to trees now.” What’s—where’s this going to lead to? Oh! Jesus just said to the tree, “No man eat fruit from you henceforth forever.” (Mark 11:14) Pretty well covers it, doesn’t it? “And His disciples heard it.” When you read the Bible, you have to understand that what it says in there is there for a purpose. Why does it say, “and his disciples heard it?” The story is to be continued. [7:57]

His disciples heard it and they probably sort of didn’t know what to do about that so you can bet the next day when they came by the tree, the disciples checked it out, didn’t they? Looky here! “In the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from its roots.” (Mark 11:20, KJV) Now, where was the fig tree from the path? Look back at verse 13—where was the fig tree from the path? “Afar off.” So, they were looking. Man, they were walking down the path, looking. Check that fig tree out. Let’s see what happened to that fig tree.

And lo and behold, they saw the fig tree dried up from the root. Now, if you had cut that fig tree down and laid it by the path, would it have been dried? No, it wouldn’t have been dry. If you want to get rid of a fig tree, there is a better way than chopping it down. Now, you think, boy I’m glad I’m left out of this. Well, wait a moment. We are not done yet. [9:19]

Peter calling to remembrance said unto Him—to the Master, Peter’s bringing the news as if Jesus would be surprised possibly. “Master, behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto him, “Have faith in God.” Have faith in God. “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever…” (Mark 11:21-23, KJV). Whosoever. Who is that? It’s at the point of when it gets embarrassing. “Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea and shall not doubt in his heart, . . .” Did you notice it said, “Say unto?” It did not say, “Pray about.” Now, we are going to get to praying in a moment here too.

“ . . . but shall believe those things which he saith shall come to pass. He shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, what things soever you desire, when ye pray.” (Mark 11:23–24, KJV)

One of the things we have to go over today—you will see on your sheet; much of the material which is on the sheet I can’t get over because of lack of time—we are going to try to talk about this is the relation between saying and praying. [11:00]

Jesus is not changing the subject here. Let me just jump ahead. He’s not changing the subject when He moves from saying to praying; and it’s important for us to try to understand why He’s not changing the subject. Are you with me? Because I’m sort of heaping up the questions here at the outset today and maybe we will get through a few of them.

Curiously enough, in verse 25, it looks like He changes the subject again and He gets back to forgiving. “When you stand praying, forgive, if you have ought against any, that your Father also which in heaven”—is in Heaven—“may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25, NIV) You see living in forgiveness is a primary, indispensable condition of interacting with the Kingdom of God. [12:06]

So you got the two questions and I’ve given you preliminary answers. I’ve probably just sort of made all of you feel like things have come unhooked and unhinged. So now, I have to do the best I can to restore a little sanity to all of this. But I’m not going to let you off the hook and I’m not going to let me off the hook because you see, if you accept the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, that means you are going to live on the hook the rest of your life. And if you get off the hook, that just means you just sort of slipped back into the old thing now. You’ve laid down in the middle of the mess and you are just gonna wait. You are sitting on the highway of life with your hood up, waiting for the Heavenly AAA to come by and lift you out.

Tension is the name, and we can call it a battle, but it’s the name of the game. To live in faith is to live in tension, to live in tension between the two realms. It is to feel a constant pull and drive upon us. It is, of course, to experience great hope and great power. But we have to accept the fact that we know the reality of the Kingdom. We find the reality of the Kingdom, and this of course is a progressive thing, but Lloyd[3] was saying this morning in his message about the need for constant repentance. Every day. Every day we rethink it. Every day we turn. We turn. We turn to the Kingdom. [14:03]

Now, let’s try then to begin at the top of the sheet there with point 1. Let’s remember that creation—and by that, we refer to the natural order of things—creation is by the Word of God. That chair you are sitting on, your body, your social system, the planetary system of which the earth is a part exist because God spoke them into existence. It came into existence as the result of a word. [14:48]

We have to do a little work on words, because it’s so easy to not understand the power of words. Of course, words come with thoughts. Words are the expression of will, so when God speaks, His being is put into action to produce something. That is not uncommon for you. You do that all the time. You bring about things by your words constantly—both in your own self and to others. We all talk to ourselves constantly, don’t we? We don’t always do it out loud, but we talk to ourselves. We give ourselves direction and we follow this direction. And frankly without them, we simply couldn’t manage to do what we do.

All of our behavior and all of our action is interwoven with a pattern of language, and that language is sort of our map. It is an expression of our will, but it is also a reflection of our decision about how things will be. So for example, the clothing you have on—why are they on your body today? They are on your body because you said, “Now, I think I’ll wear that dress.” That was a decision. Actually, that dress wouldn’t have come into existence unless an awful lot of people had said an awful lot of things to themselves and to others, would it? This building—same way, right? [16:22]

In the human world, we are constantly surrounded by things that are there as the result of words. Words are powerful. Now, we have a very small amount of energy at our disposal to make things happen, so I take you back to the first lesson where we talked about God and energy and matter and things of that sort.

You have to understand that the material universe, not only came into existence, but as I have indicated under point 1, it is sustained and it is constantly ordered by the will of God. What we call natural laws are nothing but God’s constant decisions as to how things should be. And if God decides five minutes from now that water will suddenly start running uphill, it will start running uphill.

In physics we look for, we keep looking for the simpler and simpler and simpler principles. We have a few particles and maybe four laws, which we’d like to get down to as few as possible. When we get them down to as few as possible, what will we have? A brute, unexplained fact and the explanation of that fact from the viewpoint of the Scripture is God has willed that it should be that way. [17:58]

Now, as a scientist or philosopher, I can launch out into that and set my teeth on it and flounder around all over the place if I want to, but natural reality is the sort of thing that is not self-subsistent. It always depends on something else. That’s just the simple fact about it. If you can come up with something in natural reality that doesn’t depend on something else, I hope you’ll let us know. We’ll want to get the word on this into the main scientific journals and conferences because they would sure be glad to hear about it. And what it depends on ultimately is God’s Will.

Now, if you don’t believe this, you are never going to believe that stuff I told you. By the way, I didn’t make that up. Jesus said that. Jesus said that. You are never going to believe that stuff I told you about trees and gardens. [18:59]

In Luke 17, Jesus said again, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you might say to the sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root; and planted in the sea.” (Luke 17:6, KJV) And it would be that way.

You can’t believe that if you have this idea that there’s all this stuff out here—sycamine trees and fig trees and all of this—it’s just there. Like your body—you think your body is just this thing that is there. It’s running on its own and there is nothing anybody can do about it. There are the laws of nature . . . and that’s that. [19:42]

I have a chemist friend who likes to talk about the amount of heat that would have been generated in those water pots where Jesus turned them into wine. Because, the transformation of matter requires some energy, doesn’t it? And the extent of energy usually amounts to a release of heat. So he likes to talk about that. Well, he’s just not thinking far enough back. Heat is also under God’s control! [20:24]

Now, we have to just pause about that and think about it. Right? God didn’t create it and turn it loose. God sustains it. [I don’t have time to look at those verses. I’m going to have to leave you to look at those verses.] God sustains it. He upholds all things by the word of his power. That’s some of the language that is there. So, God is constantly upholding things. Things not only were created the way they are by the Word of God, they continue to be the way they are by the Word of God.

And they are ordered—the order they have is due to the Word of God. Now you have to have that down thoroughly in your thinking. I’m certainly not suggesting you should just accept that dogmatically. You need to think about it until the reality of that truth becomes a part of your mental furniture. That’s what faith is—when you really believe it. What faith is. When you read those verses about having faith and such and such, you’re apt to think of trying to have faith that that sycamine tree is just gonna lift up and go root itself in the Mediterranean Ocean. [21:42]

It’s not trying. It’s when you really believe it—when you believe things happen in response to that belief. And that’s what Jesus is talking about. In order to have that, you have to have a right view of creation in relationship to the Word of God. The Word of God then is substance. It is power. It brings life from above. We are born again by the new birth. We are nourished by the Word of God.

You remember a few Sunday or so ago—I guess it was last Sunday—we went quickly over the passage where Jesus gave us a teaching about fasting and He said, “When you fast, don’t put on a mournful face. Don’t look sad. Fix yourself up. Take a shower. Go get a hairdo or whatever you get and look good.” Why do you think Jesus said that in view of the fact that you were going to be utterly miserable as you fasted?

Comment: Indistinguishable

Dallas: That’s right. But you mean—am I supposed to show off the other way and pretend to be happy when I am just suffering terribly? Another question. Could Jesus have possibly commanded us to deceive people? Have you fasted? Don’t you feel miserable? No, you see, Jesus understood that fasting was feasting. He understood that the Word of God is a substance to our bodies. [23:40]

Remember, when Jesus was with the woman at the well in John 4. The disciples had gone into town to get something to eat. He’s out there ministering to this woman. They come back and what do they say? They say, “Eat, eat, eat!” “Eat!” A common thing we say, and He said, “I have meat to eat you know not of.” (John 4:32) Do you remember that? What are we to say? “Oh, another pretty word. Master, shall we put that one to music, too?” Another pretty word! Or possibly did He mean what He said, that in doing the will of God, He was being nourished from the reality of God. You think that’s a possibility?

See, manna is a word, which really means, “What is it?” That’s what it means. Go back and look it up. Manna means, “What is it?” Go out and get another bucket of what is it. And the reason it was called what is it was because it wasn’t anything that came from any natural source that anyone had ever seen before. It was congealed Word of God. It was congealed Word of God. The Word of God is substance. It is reality. It is pause. [25:34]

Time is getting away from us so rapidly here. [I’m going to have to jump ahead and just sort of go over some of these points very rapidly to come to the point that we need to practically consider.] I hope you will understand now that when Jesus comes, and He says to a fig tree, “This is it,” He’s not doing anything unnatural. That’s the most natural thing that could be done.

When He says to a raging sea, “Peace, be still!” (Mark 4:39) Remember that scene? All the disciples were just having a fit; they were going to be drowned. They knew it, and Jesus is over there sleeping. Sleeping! And finally, they get up the nerve to go to Him and wake Him up and say, “Don’t you care that we are about to die?” (Mark 4:38) I mean, what’s Jesus supposed to do? Get up and say, “Oh, I didn’t know that. I didn’t now you were about to die. Thanks for telling me, guys!” [26:56]

Now, you see, one of the things that the church does is retreats into blatant naturalism as it is understood, because it’s running from the realities that I am talking to you about this morning. And so, you have over and over, because of the tension in which this sort of thing places us, and because of the way it puts us in opposition to what many wise people with PhDs, paid great salaries to hang around universities and other places would say— “Well, this is the way it is. This is the way it is.”

[We do this] because of our fear of those authorities, because of our dread of the tension, because where does it leave us? Jesus comes down and says “Well, you know if you had faith like that—the grain of a mustard seeds. Apparently, if you look at that passage that I read from Luke there a moment ago, you don’t even need that much faith to be able to forgive your brothers and your sisters because that’s what provoked the question, you remember. The question was provoked by the statement that seven times in a day you should forgive someone who offends you. You should forgive them. They said, “Increase our faith?” and Jesus said, “Well, if you had faith the grain of a mustard seed, you’d be able to do that funny gardening sort of stuff.” [28:36]

Our problem is we just don’t believe in the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. We don’t believe it. And the great faith chapter in Hebrews 11, if you look at these great heroes of faith, you see people who actually believed it. They actually believed it. And the writer there simply says, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, KJV) He’s a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

Now, you see, this really gets us down here now where we’re facing a decision. How do we spend our time? What do we really invest in? Are we really seeking the Kingdom of Heaven? Or are we like the people who when they were invited to a dinner said, “Well, I can’t come. I’ve bought some oxen and I need to go look at them.” You mean he didn’t look at them before he bought them? Well, maybe he did but he just needed to go look at them. Nothing like looking at your oxen! Just hard to beat—you’ve got some oxen to look at. Another one said, “I’ve married a wife.” So, it’s just excuses—just excuses. Now, we have to come to grips with ourselves. What excuses are we making? Or not with all diligence, seeking Him. [30:29]

[Okay! The last two sessions will deal with becoming a disciple and with disciplines for disciples. That’s just a preview of coming attractions.]

But today, we have to spend the rest of our time talking about what it would be like, what it will be as we find the rule of God, the rule of Heaven. I’ve said already, it means to participate in the power of the Kingdom. [31:02]

Would you look at Luke 9:1 for me? Luke 9:1. In a sense, what I am saying to you today is a little bit—well, I can’t give you the whole story on it, because what we are talking about here is something we learn to do. We learn to do. And you mustn’t have the idea that you’ll go try to root up a tree and plant it in Santa Monica Bay. If it doesn’t work, you’ll say, “Well, that didn’t work. Another failure!” No, it isn’t like that. You grow into it. [31:43]

Now, these people that Jesus is speaking to here in Luke 9:1 had been around for awhile. They had been around for awhile. They had been following Him. They had been watching Him. They had been with Him. They had watched Him do what He did. They had heard Him teach what He taught.

You have to remember, folks, that you can’t just sort of hit this and get it at one shot. No one has ever done it. No one has ever done it. These people He’s talking to are people who had left their businesses for a period of years to be with Him and learn how to do it. No one who doesn’t think that it’s at least that important—whatever arrangements you make for your business—no one who thinks it’s not that important will ever find it. [32:44]

I have to set that aside. We will come back to it a little bit, the week after next. [By the way, I’m not here next week, so you are welcome to come. Laughter. I can’t be here because I have a previous appointment that I have to keep.] The week after next, we are going to be talking about this business of discipleship. But I have to say to you now, the biggest issue facing you from the side of your will is whether or not you want this.

I want to just ask you. If you could do what Jesus said, to trees and mountains, would you want to do it? Think about it a moment. Would you want to do it? You realize that if you did that, your life would never be the same. Your oxen would just be out there. You’d never get to see them.

We are not talking about life as usual when we talk about life in the Kingdom of Heaven. It isn’t life as usual. And there comes a point where, as Christians, we have to talk about being a really different kind of person. We are really changed and start actually entering into it. When we come to that, then suddenly, we feel the cold winds of another world blowing on us and we ask ourselves, do I really want to step into that? Do I really want to step into it? [34:26]

But that’s not the only question. I mean there’s questions like, Can I? Am I? But the main question you have to think now, when you look at these disciples is, do I want to? These people, when Jesus came by and taught, wanted what He had badly enough to give up some time and invest in being with Him. That’s what a disciple is. A disciple is someone who has decided to be with Jesus, to learn to be like Him. That’s a disciple. A disciple is not someone who is perfect, but a disciple is someone who has decided that the most important thing in their lives is to be with Jesus in order to learn to be like Him.

Now, these people had been with Him and they were making progress. I want someone to read to me, Luke 9:1 real loud. [35:34]

Comment: “When Jesus called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out demons and cure diseases.”[4] (NIV)

Dallas: Great! He gave them two things. He gave them power and He gave them authority. Two different words. Two different words, and they are not easy to track through the New Testament because they are not always translated the same. The Greek word translated power is dunamis. It means ability to do something—ability to do something. He gave them power. [36:12]

In Matthew 9:20–22 and Luke 8:43–48, you’ll remember the story of the woman who came in the crowd. She had been sick for a long time and she said, “If I can just get to where I can touch him, I shall be healed.” (Matthew 9:21)

You have to put yourself in that woman’s place. Think what it would mean to you to have to work your way through a crowd and crawl perhaps part of the way. She touched the hem of his garment. Why do you think she touched the hem? I think it was because she was down there, where she could touch it. She had to get down there to get to Him. People had to tear the roofs off of houses and do all sorts of things to get to Him. But she said, “If I could touch Him.” [37:06]

Now, you see that woman, and you are looking at someone who is giving all diligence. And the promise of the Scripture is when you, with all diligence, seek it, you will find it. At least, when you can stand it, you will find it. God may have to prepare you a little bit before you can stand it, but you will find it. This woman sought it with all her heart, and here she is pushing and squirming and clamoring to get through there. And she reached out and touched the hem of his garment. Do you remember what Jesus said? “Who touched me?” (Luke 8:45) And they all said to Him, “Are you nuts? Everybody touched you.” Here we are in the middle of this crowd. I mean we can say it in nicer language—“Master”—but that’s what they meant was, “Are you crazy? Who touched you? Everybody is touching you.” [38:02]

Ahhh, but you see, there are touches and then there are “touches.” In our churches, we have multitudes of people who are crowding around Jesus, but they are not touching. They are not touching Him, because they are not desperate. They are not desperate. You have to be desperate. And when you get desperate, all of a sudden you get God’s attention.

Remember old blind Bartimaeus sitting down here by the road begging, and he hears a clamor. Jesus is coming by, and he begins to shout and holler, “Jesus, have mercy on me!” “Shhh…..all things should be done peaceably and in order.” And you remember what His response to that was? He hollered louder. Right? And Jesus turned around and said, “Bring him.” And it says, “He pulled to his feet and came.” (Mark 10:46–50) [39:21]

We have multitudes of people who are spectators. They are connoisseurs of opinions. They love to think nice thoughts and to test the truth with those thoughts. They are doctrinally correct. There is not a hair out of place, but they have never touched Jesus. And Jesus said, “Who touched me?” And He said, “I felt dunamis go out of me.” He knew that the finger of faith had touched Him.

I want to tell you something about bodies? We don’t have much time to talk about body, but God’s device for reaching the world is the human body. That’s it! That’s God’s device for reaching the world. [40:30] That’s why He chose Abraham.

Abraham—just an ordinary old guy down here in the Ur of Chaldea’s, right? But he heard a Voice, and Abraham was prepared to go out without knowing where he was going. And that’s one of the marks of a person who puts their faith in the Kingdom of Heaven. They don’t know where they are going. When you sign on for this one, you have abandon. You are not the captain of the ship and you are not the pilot. See, you don’t know where you are going. That’s why you have to be desperate, see? Because if you think you are not desperate—if you are not desperate—you’ll think, I don’t want to run this show. I’m going to run the show.

You may have been a church member for a long time, but that won’t help you a bit when you come down to this basic issue of who’s in control. If you are going to touch the Kingdom of Heaven and you are going to touch in the form of Jesus, you are going to touch it because you are desperate to touch it. And when you touch it, the power begins to flow. [41:41]

Now, the church at present is a set of bodies that all say—they would all say, “My body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.” Then they just sort of slip on down the road. What if someone came by and said, “You know, I have buried in my body a hydrogen bomb?” You think that would change their lives? It would change their neighbors’ lives, wouldn’t it? Well, let me tell you, the Holy Sprit makes the hydrogen bomb look like a firefly.

Now, Jesus came in an incarnate form. His body was the instrument of God’s redemption. He followed in the way of Abraham. He told the Jews of His day that they were not the children of Abraham because they didn’t have Abraham’s faith. It was the faith of Abraham that made him a Jew. Abraham was a Jew because of his faith in God, not because his parents were Jews, because they weren’t. In fact, Abraham wasn’t even a Jew when he was born. [42:58]

His body[5] was taken—a long tradition of incarnation in the people of Israel—a people coming out of that in response to the message of Jesus and the death and resurrection of Jesus, a re-incarnation in the church. And when He comes down to the end of His sojourn here and He’s going to go back to Heaven, He says, “Greater things than I have done, you will do because I am going to my Father.” (John 14:12) The position He was going to be in was one which He could help us more with than if he had stayed here bodily.

Now, He calls out a people whose bodies are invited at least to become living sacrifices unto God—to be temples in which the Holy Spirit dwells. They are to be drawn together by the unity of that Spirit. They are to be one people. He gives them power, but He also gave them, as that verse says, “authority.” And authority is not the same thing as power. [44:16]

I think probably one of the most important things that I have to say to you this morning is: “Are you now going to proclaim the nation of Israel and be its King?” And He says to them, “That’s not for you to know, the times and the seasons, they are placed in the ekklesia by the Father, but you shall have power.” (Acts 1:6–7) You shall have power. [44:41]

Not all authority is given to us. Some authority is reserved to the Father, even in relation to the Son. But the Son says, “All power, all authority in Heaven and in earth . . . ” (Matthew 28:18) Remember what Heaven and earth is now. Heaven and earth means something very definite in the Scripture. It starts with the first chapter of the Bible and goes to the end. “All authority in Heaven and earth is given unto me. I have a right to do whatever. Go ye therefore because I am transferring this authority to you.” (Matthew 28:19) “You bare my authority. You bare my authority.” [45:17]

Now, I want to say to you, you may not want it, but if you want it, God gives you the authority to use His power in the Kingdom of Heaven. And if you want to know that you’ve found the Kingdom of Heaven, it is at that point where you step forth in the authority and in the power of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. Then you’ll begin to live your life on that basis. That’s when you know you’ve found it. You say, “Didn’t I know it when I just heard it and believed it?” Well, in a way. You know about it at that point. You know about it. And perhaps you have experienced the power of the word of forgiveness and salvation coming to you and it has struck your heart and changed it. You know a little bit about that, don’t you? That’s the authority of the Word of the Kingdom. But you don’t really know it until you begin to live in it. [46:26]

And I realize that some of you are going to do some deep heart searching, not only about whether or not all of this you have heard today is true, but also about whether you would want it if it is true because I am telling you. We are not talking about life as usual. But when you step into this, and you believe that you have been given the ekklesia to act with the Kingdom of Heaven, you will begin to see the power manifested.

Now, in our churches, we commonly restrict that to preaching and teaching the Word. We believe that the minster or the teacher has the authority. That is to say, they have a right to proclaim the Gospel. Isn’t that true?—at least, if they’ve been to seminary and if they’ve gotten the right credentials. We believe that. We may even believe they have a little power, or at least they should to preach the word. [47:40]

So, my friends, we can’t begin to understand what the word is all about, especially the message that Jesus taught and believed and lived, until we begin to step into it and do it.

This is not a spectator sport. It isn’t done vicariously. You don’t hire someone to do it, and then you sort of sit by and pat your feet and say, “That’s wonderful. They are doing just great.” Well, you can do that if you want to, but if you want to know the reality of Kingdom that comes through in such teachings of Jesus that we’ve quoted before about the abolition of death, about really understanding what life is to be like under God, then you have to enter into it. You have to accept the call to step out into it. [48:43]

In this particular chapter [Luke 9], we see really some very instructive things. The first thing is, you will notice that the apostles went out and did it. They went out and did it. He sent them to preach the Kingdom of God. This is Luke 9:2 and following, “He sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:2, KJV) The healing is not the Gospel. The Gospel is the availability of the Kingdom of God. Healing manifests the presence of the Kingdom, which we are talking about. [49:30]

“And he said unto them, don’t take anything with you. Go into the houses that you come to. Receive no support from them.” (Luke 9:3) And verse 6, “They departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.” (Luke 9:6, KJV) They did it.

Now, I’ll tell you something that if you will do it, it will happen around you too. It will. All you have to do is do it. Now, there aren’t many of you that will do it and it’s because you don’t believe it. You don’t believe it, because if you believed it, you would probably come around to saying, “Well, I’d better do it. I want to do it. Let’s try it.” And I hope all of you will. I hope all of you will do it. [50:22]

Now, the trouble here is that you have to think in terms of getting a tent and starting out across the country or something of that sort. No, I’m talking about tomorrow. I’m talking about today. I’m talking about right now where you sit, starting from there, stepping out into your life and exercising the power and authority of the Kingdom. That means simply to live like a child of God, to live as if it were really true, to deal with the issues that come up in that way.

Jesus and His followers had a special ministry, and there are many people today that will have a special ministry. You may be one of them. Are you ready and accepting of that possibility? [51:03]

Luke 9:10–11, “The apostles, when they returned, told him all they had done, and he took them aside privately and they rested and digested it but the people followed him and he had to keep ministering; he spake unto them of the Kingdom of God and healed them that had need of healing.” [51:21]

Another group, “other seventy also,” in Luke 10:1, was a less highly trained group, but having sent the first group out, he now sends the next group out. Undoubtedly, this other group had received great encouragement from seeing what the others had done. Because they probably figured they were just as good as the others anyway, right? That’s the way they are and there is nothing wrong with that.

So, He sends them out and does the same sort of thing. Look at Luke 10:17 (KJV). “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.” You think He could have convinced those people that the Kingdom of Heaven was not real? That’s why they came back with joy. They knew it was real. Now, their joy still had to grow because they didn’t know how real it was. But they knew it was real and they came back with joy. [52:33]

And Jesus at this point—there is an exclamation here—said, “I saw Satan as lightning fall from Heaven.” (Luke 10:18) Why do you think He said that at that point? Why didn’t He say that at the cross? Why didn’t He save that for after His resurrection? It is because the defeat of Satan in this world depends upon human beings actually stepping forth to use the Kingdom authority and power that is given to them. That’s why Satan fell.

You see, Satan fell because the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven was accepted and acted upon by human beings. You know, God could have gotten rid of Satan any way He wanted to. But among other things, human history is a demonstration of how wrong Satan was in his initial project. That’s why Satan falls at this point. [53:41]

[Well, just quickly—you are going to have to. . . . I hope you will have a chance to read over the rest of the study sheet.] Let’s just understand that speaking the word of the Kingdom and praying are on a continuum. They are basically the same sort of thing. Praying and speaking—when we pray, we speak to God about this; when we speak, we speak to this about God. [54:10]

It’s simply a different angle on the same basic fact. That’s why, by the way when you pray, you have to stay. Praying isn’t dive-bombing. Praying is not like putting some money in a coke machine and backing up and seeing what happens. When you pray, you stay. Jesus said, did He not, in Luke 18:1, “Men ought to keep on praying and not quit.” (Luke 18:1)

If you don’t, for one thing, if you can pray about something and quit, you are not really that bothered about it. It’s the point where you get to where you won’t quit. You know all sorts of silly things like, “Well you know, if you ask him twice, that will prove—He’ll find out—that you didn’t believe Him the first time. So you should never pray for the same thing twice.” Ugh! [55:18]

“No, He couldn’t figure it out, you know unless you ask twice. When you ask twice, He says, “Boy, I missed that.” That person didn’t believe me the first time. I overlooked that fact.” No! It’s easy to get real close to blasphemy here in the way we treat this. Praying is a personal relationship. When we want something, we get in there and we stay and we stay. And in that staying, we are working with God.

Prayer is a way of working with God for something. It’s not a way of signing off a job to God. It’s a way of working with God for something, and saying is a way of doing the same thing except it puts you further out on the limb. You are apt not to say because you would be so embarrassed. I know people who won’t pray for others because they are afraid of what will happen. Nothing will happen and then people will say, “Boy that was a fool.” That’s one reason why we don’t pray with people. We often say, “I’ll pray for you.” Didn’t Jesus tell us to go in the closet and pray? Listen, when we pray, we lay ourselves on the line for something with God. We stay there. We stay on the line. [56:49]

Now, there is so much that needs to be said here. There is a lot of ill-advised praying. There is so much—praying isn’t a solution for everything. Praying is work with God. Saying is work with God. And there is nothing magical about the saying. There is a lot of talk going around and I hate to talk on this topic because I get identified with a lot of folks I don’t agree with about things. There are a lot of people who treat this as if there is something magic about saying it. There is nothing magic about saying it. But I’ll tell you, if you get yourself to the point to where you say it aloud, you’re either going to have a considerable amount of faith or you are nutty enough that God might answer you anyway. [57:33]

Lord, help us to understand. Help us to understand. You know how needy we are of help to just understand. Help us to see that this is meant for us and to know the reality of your Kingdom. Help us to be gentle and trusting in our approaches to it—not wildly forcing and hysterical but dependent upon you as our Teacher to lead us into it. Thank you Jesus for being who you are. Amen.

[1] Numbers in brackets indicate the time index of the recorded lecture.

[2] Note: Many of Dallas Willard’s Scripture quotations were made from memory, so a majority of them were paraphrased (although some varied only slightly from the King James Version of the Bible). Except for this first one, these are not marked. Those from specific Bible versions are noted.

[3] Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie (1930–2019) was a renowned, former US Senate chaplain (1995–2003), and widely respected pastor, author, and speaker. At the time this series was recorded, he was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, California (1972–1995).

[4] Ed Dobson, Knowing Jesus Study Bible (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1999), 1371. New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

[5] Editorial Note: Unfortunately, Dallas does not make it clear concerning the antecedent to “His” in this paragraph. Our best assumption is that he is making reference to Abraham’s “Jewishness” not being a matter of his body or DNA. He was not a Jew because of his body, but because of the faith in God that became incarnate, in a sense, in his body. This is not the same incarnation as the Eternal Son becoming incarnate and eternally connected to the human body of Jesus of Nazareth. However, this faith in God becoming incarnate in Abraham may be Dallas’ reference to Abraham and pointing to the ultimate incarnation of Jesus Christ. And this incarnation is what makes it possible following the life, death and resurrection of Christ for him to be “in” us. Our further assumption is that in the second part of this sentence the reference moves to Jesus and away from Abraham.

Listen to all parts in this A Series on What Jesus Believed and Taught—And Lived series