The Psychology of Redemption 12

Dallas Willard Part 12 of 12

This rare, important series from Dallas Willard is on how sin came into the world and how sinful people change through the action of the Holy Spirit and a practice of the disciplines. In the middle, it focuses on Romans 5-8 and one can see that it is the raw material for Dallas’s book The Spirit of the Disciplines. But in early form it is a Sunday school class for Woodlake Avenue Friends Church with his pastor, Richard Foster, in the audience. [Editor’s note: The audio is missing, though we’d love to find the cassettes. This is a transcript which somebody did of those cassettes long ago.]

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We are talking about the kinds of celebrations which were written into the old law for the Jewish people. I will make a few comments further on that, but I want to mainly move on into the New Testament particularly in the book of Philippians.

Three times in the year the old law commanded a celebration in Jerusalem. The ladies were left out, but it was a command that all the men had to go to Jerusalem and celebrate God’s goodness. It is very hard to know how to emphasize that sufficiently. We are so dried up, we are so oppressed and depressed, and concerned and devoted, and so many other supposedly good things, that the joy of simply praising God for His goodness is lost.

The 150th Psalm is a Psalm which is really very hard to appreciate out of our ordinary kind of existence where we are concerned about so many things. In order to appreciate it, you need the attitude of Paul, where he says, “Be careful for nothing . . .” Christians should be careless. Those who live in God’s will, in his Kingdom, should be careless. It is awful to be careless, isn’t it? Since you were two years old your mommy and daddy have been telling you not to be careless, but be careful!—be full of care. We wonder why the kids are ready to go out of their heads by the time they are 15 or 16. Be full of care, we tell them. I catch myself doing that. I can’t let my boy go out with the car, without saying, be careful! It would help me to say: Now be full of care son, be burdened down, be worried, be anxious. The 150th Psalms says:

“Praise ye the Lord. Pray God in His sanctuary. Praise Him in the firmament of his power . . .” (verse 1)

What is the firmament? Where else does that occur in the Bible? In Genesis. It speaks about a firmament dividing the waters. Some of you may be shocked to hear that these people believed that blue thing up there was something that was firm, and above it was water, and above the water further still was the heavens. “Praise Him in the firmament of his power” means praise him for what holds the heavenly order in place.

“Praise Him for His mighty acts. Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.” (verse 2)

You see you haven’t begun to praise God until you get to the point of delight that He is what He is.

“Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet . . .” (verse 3)

Now we have stopped talking about what we praise Him for, and start talking about how we praise Him. It’s a problem. How do you praise God? After you have sat around for a half an hour saying “Praise God, praise God, praise God, etc.” You get bored, so what else are you going to do to praise God? Well it says here, “Praise Him with the sound of the trumpets.” Do different things, and in them have the attitude of praise towards God.

“Praise God with the trumpet . . . Praise Him with the Psaltery, and harp. Praise Him with the tumbrel and dance.” (verses 3-4)

Hmmm, Mama don’t allow none of that dancing around here, does she? “We don’t dance in our churches, thank you.” We are told to praise God in the dance.

You see, one of the tricks of the devil is to take good sober church people and get them to teach everybody that everything is bad. Trumpets? That’s not good, and those harps, and especially that dancing. You can’t do that. That’s bad! You can’t use that to praise God. What do you do to praise God? Why you sit around looking painful.

“Praise Him with the stringed instruments . . .” (verse 4)

Well, we might allow a guitar, or an organ. Now, an organ; that’s good. That’s holy.

“Praise Him with loud cymbals . . .” (verse 5)

Now if someone came in and started banging a pair of cymbals together in church, you would think he was nuts.

“Praise Him with the high sounding cymbals. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord!” (verse 5)

That is celebration. What do kids do when they celebrate? They make noise. They bang on things. They celebrate God and His creation. Again everything that hath breath, praise ye the Lord.

You see this is the expression of the person who believes in his viscera (not to say guts) who believes: “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. The world, and all they that dwell therein, for He founded it upon the sea, and established it upon the flood.”

The whole working order of things is a constant miracle of God’s provision. Let me add this one thing that you must never forget: When we talk about disciplines, you must always include celebration. All the rest of it will not work unless you have that; it will not go. If you cannot celebrate you can pray and grown, and you can give, and you can work, and you can submit, and you can keep your mouth shut . . . maybe. I doubt that you can do any of those, to tell you the truth, unless you can celebrate. It is out of celebration that the strength comes to do the thing that needs to be done when it needs to be done. You see a lot of people go about with the attitude that the earth is the devil’s and the fullness thereof, or the earth is somebody else’s that is giving me trouble, and the fullness thereof. Celebration—that is what is needed.

Let’s look at Philippians for a moment. I want you to see that this is not only in the Old Testament. You might think that this was something which was part of the old law which passed away with redemption, and now we can be completely dreary with a good conscience. This is Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and I believe that it was written from a jailhouse. He was on the inside looking out.  Let us look at chapter 4.

In this chapter, Paul is telling people how they should live. He was always doing that, you know,, and after having preached some very valuable truths to them in the previous parts of the letter, he now begins to speak in a more practical vein. He says then in the first verse of the fourth chapter:

“Therefore my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy, and crown.” (Philippians 4:1)

Paul had unusual attitudes towards other people that he had ministered to.

“ . . . Stand fast in the Lord . . .” (Philippians 4:1)

How are you going to do that? Are you going to grit your teeth, clench your jaws and get your muscles all tense? That is standing fast, isn’t it? You are out in a war. Well of course you are in a war, and don’t forget it, but don’t forget whose war it is. It isn’t your war, and it isn’t my war. “Stand fast in the Lord,” it is his war.

Paul speaks a word or two to some particular people, and then in the 4th verse he says:

“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!” (verse 4)

How are you going to do that? Remember, it is rejoicing in the Lord. He tells you in what follows:

“Let your moderation be known unto all men . . .” (verse 5)

That is your steadiness, your temperance, your control. It is the fact that you are not carried away, and cannot be manipulated.

“ . . . The Lord is at hand. (verse 5)

Be careful for nothing . . . “ (verse 6)

Now he is telling us how to rejoice in the Lord: be full of care about nothing. That’s negative. What’s positive? Watch how this develops through the next few verses. Philippians 4:6-7:

“ . . . in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding . . .

You will not understand how it works, but if you do this it will.

“ . . . keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

We are not done yet.

“Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (verse 8)

That is how to rejoice always. God has appointed an order, a creation full of excellent and good things, and it is in the nature of the case that if you dwell upon those things, you will be happy. If you are happy, you will be strong. If you are strong, you can stand fast in the Lord. It is in the nature of the case.

If you do not take the way appointed by your nature, by God, you will not rejoice. If you think you will be made happy by praying and singing songs alone, you won’t be. Paul said, “those things which ye have learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me do; and the God of peace will be with you.”

Those are the things he did.  He dwelt in those things; he lived in those things. And he says to them, you do what I do. Fill your life with good things, and praise God for them constantly. How then will you be thankful? Well, you will have so many things to be thankful for that your problems will be lost. You will know how to be thankful simply because you will be dwelling on the things that are good. If you are real hungry and you sit down for food, you are grateful for it. And if your mind is directed towards God, you are grateful to (for) God for the food. One of the many practices that we have that almost destroy the child is being grateful when we are not grateful; saying thanks when we are not thankful; and saying blessings when we don’t bless. I am not coming out against saying a blessing. I am against saying blessings which are not blessings, and “thankings” which aren’t “thankings.” This is the place where the person thanks god for the food, and then spends a hour griping about it. The child picks up the lesson.

In thankfulness for all of the good things that God has provided we can rejoice. I see so many people, in the circles I go in and speak in, who think the joy of the Lord is something which comes by daily infusions somehow, or even a momentary infusion; that somehow it all happens. He just keeps pumping it to you. You get this joy, and maybe a little kindness with it, and love, indeed all of the fruit of the spirit.

Let me say two things on that. That does happen. Just like the peace of God which passes understanding sometimes comes directly from God, but if you watch Jesus and Paul and all the important people in the Bible you will see I think, that that is the abnormal circumstance. The normal circumstance is that the redemption of God should so work through our ordinary affairs of family and work and personal life that we would dwell richly in all the things which god has given and made, and that from these would come our joy.

If you have a joyous relationship with your family, that’s a gift of God. The primary place where redemption has to come is in just such places as those. Let me turn that around, and tell you what I have observed on many occasions. I have seen on many occasions, very holy people, who by their way of life are making it impossible for themselves to have any kind of happiness in their homes. They may go to church and sing songs for God to make them happy, or they pray that God will give them an infusion of joy to get through the day. I don’t blame them. I would pray for it too, and would sing songs to make me happy, but what I am saying is that we overlook the meaning of the incarnation when we say, in effect, all of this is abandoned to the world, the flesh and the devil. God is going to run me a pipeline, a special pipeline in which He will constantly make up for all the deficiencies.

But Paul says whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely . . . think on these things. That is the way. When God appointed the feasts for the Hebrews, he did not say, you all go down to the temple and sit in the lotus position and God will inject some joy into you. He said rather, you make provision, you plan on this, you set aside what you are going to use, and then you go down there and get the means of joy and grace, and you use them. You do that three times a year.

Where we want to see and know the goodness of God is in the daily circumstances of our ordinary lives with other people. It is through them, and that it is the ordinance of God that joy should come to us, and that peace should come to us, and love should be shown. It is through them, and until they are redeemed, we are not redeemed.

Now, of course, I am ready to split hairs and say things like, I am sure there are lots of people who are going to heaven when they die, that’s not negligible, that’s a big thing. But let me say, that if you look at the gospel in the New Testament, you will see that that redemption which is being spoken of in the Kingdom of Heaven is something which is to take over in the ordinary life. We are to celebrate in that ordinary life. Why? Because God has made it good, God has redeemed it. We can’t celebrate it as it often is, because it is full of bitterness and hate, it’s full of lies and cheating, it’s full of all kinds of meanness that needs redeeming. That is what is intended; that that should be redeemed. Then that we should draw our strength; that we should find our joy, we should find our beauty, our liveliness, our purity in those things, and that we should be ecstatic with the goodness which we have found by the grace of God in those places.

Now I want to say a few things on a point on that original page which I handed out to you. The heading that we are interested in is “The Community of Disciplined Grace.” In a very important sense, this is nothing more than a continuation of what I have just been talking about. You will see the main thing, the symptom if you wish, of this community, is the happiness of the people who are in it. Let’s first read some passages: Acts 2:41 and on. These are people who have been through a very rough time, and they had experienced something which they didn’t understand, but they knew that, at least. They knew that they were delivered from things which had been making their lives miserable ad making everyone else miserable too.

“Then they that gladly received his word (Peter’s word) were baptized, 20 souls that day.”

There was a small group already of a few hundred, and so you can get some appreciation of the size of the group. Think of this as a group of people living in an urban area. If you have seen pictures of what a Middle Eastern city looks like, you might visualize a few blocks of it. It would be a relatively small area as compared to Los Angeles. It is quite hard for us to have an impression of what the city was like, if we think in terms of the San Fernando Valley. These were people living in much closer quarters. Around the temple area there were large buildings. The streets were very narrow. These people lived together automatically because they were already in such close spaces with each other. When you think about them coming together, you must remember that it was not a matter of them driving 50 miles to get here, or 30 miles, or even 2 miles. They were brought together simply by their living conditions.

“These then continued steadfastly in the Apostles teaching . . .” That is the Apostles were teaching constantly.

“ . . . and in fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayer.” (Acts 2:41-42)

You have a list there of four things: teaching, fellowship (which is being together – talking – sharing in whatever came up to share) breaking of bread (that is eating together), and prayers. Four things . . . now,

“as this happened, fear came upon every soul.” (Acts 2:43)

That is the people in the area knew that something big had been turned loose. Awe – fear – reverence came upon every soul. They didn’t have to try to get people to come to the meetings. They didn’t have to mount a public relations campaign to get the word out that something was happening.

It always troubles me a bit when I see people breaking their necks as they try to impress a community that there is something happening at their church. There is something ironic about that, if you get what I mean. If anything like this was happening at their church, they wouldn’t be needing to tell people about it. Usually all that is happening is that the church is making an effort to impress people that there is something happening at their church.

Acts 2:44-47

“And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.  Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

In Acts 4:31, there had been trouble from the authorities, and the church is gathered for a prayer meeting. The verse says:

“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken . . . “

Have you ever been in a shaking place? A place that shook when there was a prayer made? That is something we have to take seriously. When this community prays, things are shaken. There is a dimension of power in the redeemed community which flows out from Jesus which we are so used not to seeing that we find it hard to credit. Do you believe a place would actually shake?

Acts 4:31-33:

“ . . . the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul; neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”

It goes on to talk about how they handled the good which they possessed in caring for that community. One thing we must avoid is the idea that somehow this is a model, and that this is what everyone ought to rush right out and do. That is just like what people do when they hear about Pentecost. They say let’s get right up here in the room and we will pray for ten days, and it will happen to us. No, that is not the way of it. Neither is the Acts  community to be seen as a model of perfection. This group of people had so many things wrong with them, and this began to come out as things progressed. Yet this was a very special time which gives us a picture of something of what life could be in the redeemed community.

I want to add to it just to help us supplement the passages from Colossians, which I asked you to read. This is a different and more stable time. It is a different circumstance, and a different culture. Paul, who had gone out from the community which we see in Jerusalem, had gone across Asia Minor and many other places, and had established churches, but he is still talking about the same community here in the third chapter of Colossians. He is talking about a people who had been prepared by force of experience and brought into a situation in which their lives together could be of a certain kind. He speaks of them being risen with Christ, of having a new life. In the second verse of the third chapter, he tells them to set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. He is talking about the kind of preparation which goes into a life together which makes it good.

“For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)

So, that old life which we spoke of earlier, which is possessed by the motions of sin which governs our body and directs it in certain ways, has been suspended, and a new life has come in, with a new direction, and a new power. The principles of the law are now written on the heart. They no longer stand over me as judges of what I do and don’t do; they are rather principles, which I act upon, simply, spontaneously, as it were, naturally by the grace of God. I have learned my lesson, others have learned, we are now living together a new life. He talks about us putting off all of these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communications, don’t lie to one another. Ye have put off the old man. The old man with his needs, and you have put on a new man which is renewed in—How is he renewed?—in knowledge. The mind has grasped the truth and now controls the life. That’s the picture of the people he is talking about.

Now what happens when this mind is renewed? Watch the beautiful way this unfolds. O.K., now first of all. Colossians 3:11

“There is neither Greek nor Jew, neither circumcision nor un-circumcision.”

He really builds to a crescendo here.

“Barbarian, Scythian, servant . . . “

That is slave or slave owner. Now he starts with the Greek and Jew. He puts Greek first because he is talking to Greeks.

“There is neither Greek nor Jew . . .”

When he is talking to Jews, he would put Jews first. He always spoke to the condition of the people. But now notice how he builds up. Do you know what a Scythian is? You might think there could be nothing worse than a Barbarian. Actually Barbarian was the Greeks word for any other civilized person than a Greek. The Jews spoke of the Gentiles as the others. The Greeks spoke of the Barbarians as the others. But now the Scythian, he was worse than a Barbarian. Scythians were wild people that lived up in where western Russia is. Scythians were wild. He is your typical naked jumping savage, who comes leaping and bounding around and does all sorts of outlandish things. That’s a Scythian. We think today of Pygmies squatting around in trees, or Bushmen throwing their boomerangs or whatever they throw. That is what he said. He is saying that in this new person, we don’t even distinguish people who have culture of any kind, and those who don’t. We don’t even distinguish slaves from those who are not slaves. Christ is all in all. All of these people in Christ are the same. Someone may say, “Well, as long as they put on clothes, as long as they stop that outlandish jumping around, or whatever else it is that Scythians do, then they are all right.” No. They are O.K. as long as they are in Christ. Everything else will follow from that.

Verse 12 of Colossians 3:

“Put on therefore, as the called of God . . . “

Called isn’t strong enough, it says ‘elect’ in the old version; you might say elected. You have been elected, God elected you.

“Put on . . . bowels . . .”

The old version says bowels. Innards, we might say, or inwards. That is your whole interior self.

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering; Forbearing one another and forgiving one another . . .” (Colossians 3:12-13)

Now he is talking about a people who are living together in a redeemed community. And when you see this list you begin to understand why we so seldom make it, if ever, in our own times.

“ . . . Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another., if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

And above all these things put on divine love, which is the bond of perfection . . . “ (Colossians 3:14)

It finishes it off.

“And let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom: teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father in him.” (Colossians 3:16-17)

That is a picture of a redeemed community. Most people who want community really don’t want this. They have something else in mind. That goes back to what I have said over and over in your presence, and that is when people come to religion usually they don’t want what God has to offer. It is like the man that came to Jesus and said, “I’ll follow you wherever you want me to go.” And the Lord looked at him and said in effect, “You have a different thing in mind than I have in mind.”—“The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but I don’t even have a place to put my head.” (Matthew 8:19-20) Jesus said to another, “Count the cost to see if you will be able to finish this undertaking.”

We come to the Lord, and we say, “I’ve got all of the lonesomeness.” For example, “Wouldn’t you fix me up a group of people to take care of this?” In a way that is a legitimate request, but the only answer that the Lord can give us is, “Now wait a moment. You know if you get together with a group of people to fix up your loneliness, you are just going to make it much worse. In your present condition, and they are in their present condition, you are going to try to use one another for your purposes. It is just going to get worse and worse and worse.”

You see before the day of Pentecost, there was a long period of teaching and being with the Lord. And the Lord was a person, who in himself there was no attempt to use anyone. He didn’t hurt people. It wasn’t just that he didn’t intend to hurt people, he knew how to keep from doing it. He knew how, not just at a head level. He had it settled into his principles. It was into His body language, if you wish. It was at that level.

That’s where redemption comes. You remember how we talked about the body before, and its place in the story of sin and redemption. And how the members are taken over by sin. You can have all these things in your head, even from the Bible, and you can just intend so well not to be full of hostility, and yet your eyes, your eyebrows, your tongue, your mouth, your chin, your hands, everything just oozes (ooze) it. I know these people, I watch them at work, for example. They just are the most well intentioned people, they think, but everyone else experiences them as hateful, threatening, as hostile and as greedy. But they don’t intend that, they don’t want that. But yet that is the way they are. That’s the way they are and when we come together with others, what we are is what comes out. We can talk a mile a minute trying to discount it, but what we are is simply expressed by everything we do. Remember that’s what I said about Jesus’ little word regarding the idle words we speak. We get on our guard, our intentions put us on our guard, and as long as we are on our guard, we are able to make things go right, but then, an idle word comes out. It is the idle word that tells what we are. Jesus, the master of understanding, just read this off of the course of ordinary life. People are revealed by their idle words. It’s their idle words that reveal. The heart is really seen and people immediately are on guard. He geos on to speak to wives and to husbands, to children, to servants and tells them how to live. He doesn’t lay down a plan, but rather, he tries to give something that will indicate a spirit in which they should live. I hope you will read through that.

He winds up the second verse of the fourth chapter by returning to a general statement:

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.

Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:

That I say make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:2-6)

You see this is a picture of a community of disciplined grace. And I would like to just make three remarks on it in closing. They will not be long remarks.

The first thing is: if you look at these people, what you see are happy people. They are happy. They are happy because they are reconciled to God’s order of life. You remember that when we start out some weeks ago, I said there are three things in God’s order of life. That is provision, place and personality.

Provision, place and personality—these people are reconciled to God’s order in these areas. They take their provision from the hand of God and see it as such. They know how to pray: give us this day our daily bread, or give us this day our daily gas, or transportation, or whatever it is we need. They know how to pray that and live in it, and see the answer coming. So they have much to be thankful for, they have much to be happy about.

Then they have a place. They accept a place. The places Paul lists: the place of the wife, the place of the husband, the place of the child, the place of the servant, the place of the master. They have accepted this. They accept them as God’s appointment. And beyond that, of course, they have a place in the church. One of the things which is bound more than anything else to destroy many folk in their spiritual quest is the way they try to handle church. Instead of trying to see a church as a people wherein God dwells, to whom God draws them, in which He puts people into different places, giving them different works, and therefore accepting that work and doing it. Instead of doing that, they go taste this church service, and they taste that one, and they try that preacher and the other, trying to find something that will suit their taste. Well, God help them if they do. God help them if they find what suits their taste simply. Their taste is the very thing that needs redeeming. Paul spoke of the time when people would not endure sound doctrine but would heap to themselves false teachers having itching ears, itching ears. So you go to the place where the man is who can scratch your itching ear best. And you say, “Wow, the Lord was here. Wonderful man, what a tremendous fellow, and he leaves you right where you are. Your only religious duty is coming and approving of what that man does, or what that group does. You come in and say, “Yes, everything is going fine. This is wonderful. I approve of it. My ear is scratched for the week. I will go home and perhaps by next week it will need a little more scratching. But if it doesn’t, well, I’m sure that things will be alright at the church any way.

I have been talking about the redeemed community, and its people. They are a happy people in a place with provision, whose personality has received the redemptive work which has made it possible for them to be happy, and they live in this order because of two things. One thing is they know how to use the disciplines.

As they go through their days, as they face ordinary and extra-ordinary circumstances, they know when to pray, they know when to serve, they know when to submit themselves, they know when to celebrate, they know when to read and study the word of God, they know when to see another person and to speak to them about things, and they do these things when it is needed. You see the mark of the disciplined person is that they are able to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Everything; cooking, singing, reading a book, anything, requires a discipline. It requires an order in the spiritual life. They are able to accept the disciplines as a work of grace. They are able to sow to the spirit through the disciplines, and they are able to say to themselves, in due season I shall reap, if I faint not. If I don’t participate in God’s order, I will not reap. If I don’t, if I go out and dig up the seeds everyday to see if they are growing, if I keep plowing the ground up, if I let the weeds take it, if I don’t participate in God’s order, I shall not reap.

The doctrine of instant satisfaction, which we are promised and threatened with on every hand is again the primary spiritual problem for people in our culture. “In due season ye shall reap if ye faint not.” In due season ye shall reap. You shall not reap out of due season. That’s the meaning. If you don’t wait God’s appointment, if you don’t find His place, His provision, and wait on it in His order, you won’t reap.

So they have settled that, and the second thing is they have, and you may find this exceedingly strange, but this is the most important thing probably I shall have to say, at least today: They have authoritative leaders who worked in their midst. That’s the primary problem today. The church has depended on seminaries, they’ve depended on Bible Schools, they have depended on everything to make ministers. The truth of the situation is we have come to a time in which we have lots of us who are pretty big windbags, but there is very little authority. I’ve spoken about what authority is. These are people with power. They create belief, they make things happen by their word. They don’t just come because they feel that God called them to preach and they went to a school and they learned Greek. These types of people are made by God, and they are made primarily in the church and in the world, but not in the schools. School has very little to do with it. School is basically a matter of getting approval from men. I hope you will think about that. If you want ministers of God, Jesus said, “Pray the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth laborers unto his harvest.” And when they come, they have authority. They preach the kingdom of God in such a way that people repent, that people turn into it. These are people whose words are so powerful that they have to be careful in speaking them, lest they destroy people. Paul was such a man. And it would be interesting if we had time to look at incidents in his life where the power of word was such that he had to be very careful lest he hurt people with the simple force that God had given him.

Read 1st and 2nd Corinthians and see he speaks about his. He does not hesitate to say to people who are involved in sin in the church that when he comes, he is not going to spare them. Some of you studied passages where Paul can simply remove others. I urge you to look at this carefully. Look at how Paul handled his power with the word. But not just for things like that, but also for good. The healing of the sick, the removal of obstructions in the minds and spirits of people, casting out of spirits. This is what Jesus commissioned his people to do.

“Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send forth people into this harvest.” (Matthew 9:38)

When the Lord sends them forth, they do the work. They do the work which He appointed, and which He clearly appointed in the Scriptures and which we clearly need and must have if we are going to have a community of disciplined grace. We must have men and women who are able to do these kinds of things. And if we don’t, we will have the people as sheep fainting, scattered abroad without a shepherd. That is what I think we have to say in the end. Steve is going to be leading a study in prayer. That is the place to begin. To pray that God would send forth laborers into the fields. And when He does, you will see the kind of community about which we have been reading>

Lord bless these words, and plant them in our minds in so far as they are true, and help them to do us good. Continue to dwell with us and be with us as we go through this service and the next, and as we grow and look forward into our coming life with you. Lead into the great things which are clearly set before us in these words we have studied. Prepare us for them and lead us into them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Listen to all parts in this The Psychology of Redemption series