The “Renovaré” Vision of the “With God” Life (2 Cor. 4:6-18)

Dallas Willard Part 12 of 22

Dallas agreed to teach two separate weeks for the Renovaré Institute in Atlanta, 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 the group he is able to be more comprehensive than usual.


Gary: It is a privilege to be in the same room with Dallas and his teaching. One last thing, this is—Regina is not in the room so she could tell you how out of character this is, in fact—I don’t think I have ever played this card before in my life but it almost feels like a battle this time getting started. I am assuming from my charismatic roots at least that that’s very important. I know I’ve heard from maybe ten of you as far as just everything from physical pain to stress and pressures in life—this is the 9th time we’ve done this and I haven’t felt one like this yet.

I also know—and Dallas may be upset with me for mentioning it to you [I AM!] You are? [Laughter] But it does come into play in some important ways. I’ll be very brief with it.

Dallas is—I’ll just say this—is exercising some Herculean efforts to be here himself and so, if you don’t mind, I would like to have just a couple of volunteers just to pray for Dallas for health and stamina and then Dallas, if you don’t mind—before you start—blessing us with a prayer because I do feel like we are walking through mud in a spiritual sense and that we need to get through that. So, if a couple people don’t mind praying for Dallas? [1:42]

Randy: “Lord, we do thank you and praise you for the privilege of having Dallas here and we pray that your power and your grace will be with him and upon him, in him and surround him. We pray that your love would be coursing through him and strengthening him and we pray that your Holy Spirit would be enlightening every part of his body and his mind and his soul as he is here and teaching us. We pray for his rest at night and we pray that he would be able to, even as he is teaching, to ‘dwell’ in the rest that Christ brings.”

Beth: “Gracious God, we come against those forces of confusion and any kind of disarray, in the name of Jesus. We pray that you will lift from Dallas any burdens that he carries. Renew his strength as the eagles. Speak through him to us today and throughout this conference the words that you want us to hear through Dallas. Bless him in every way, spirit, soul, mind and body in Jesus Name. Amen. [3:31]

Dallas: “Now Lord, by the power of your blood that was shed on Calvary and the life that was given into the earth through that blood, now surround every person here and everything that concerns them. We ask that you would cover us in that divine life that came to earth and poured out through the blood of Calvary—every person here that that would cover them—and we ask that your spirit would now move within us—each one—and everything that concerns each one and that whatever is going on would take its place within the work of your blood and your spirit. This is how it has been with your people and now we have a few days to be here—to be together—make those times, those days, those hours, those fellowships profitable and substantial in our walk through this time, through this world and into eternity. We take some time just to see that power at work now in every one, in every way. Now, we are asking this in the name of Jesus Christ. That is to say, we are asking it for the benefit of what He desires in us and you have said, ‘that if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.’ So, now we look forward to amazing responses to this request in each of our lives and say, ‘let it be done, Lord Jesus. Let it be done—even now.’ Amen” [Amen] [6:29]

Well, I am delighted to see you again. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since our last time together expecting that during that time, things will have happened in your life—things you may want to talk about and I hope that our sharing will be deep and rich.


I asked Gary to ask you to study Bonheoffer’s book, Life Together, because I want that to help you approach your time together and the richness of the fellowship of the Saints and so, I hope that it will enable you to be especially observant about the contacts and the presence with one another and realize the power of the transforming fellowship that Bonheoffer speaks of like no other I have ever read. [7:42]

So, I am looking forward to our time together. Just a few words here—preliminary, I guess—and that is, please don’t be easy on me. I am doing fine and I appreciate Gary’s concern and all of that but I am here to be with you and to talk and to work and to pray and please don’t be easy on me. OK?

We will conduct our sessions more or less conversationally. That will mean that I will say a bunch of stuff but I want to hear from you also and so if you have something you want to “get in on” as we go along, just let me know and if I am in the middle of a sentence or a paragraph, I may go on for a moment but I will come to you. So, let’s do it that way.  I think that our ordinary way of just having some guy that’s been talking forever come and show up and talk forever isn’t really all that helpful.

So, I want to try to respond because our aim is to enable everyone to be able to walk in the fullness of the life that God has given to us and to do it now. That means, among other things, we don’t look at passages in the Scripture that hold up a form of life—like the Sermon on the Mount or 1 Corinthians 13–and say, “Well, I can’t do that.” You can do that! That’s for real! We have a terrible habit of reading it and not doing it because our faith does not rise to the idea that that’s for me. See? And actually, it’s all for us and walking in it is a great simplicity and that’s what, if I can do anything, I hope to help you with is to see the simplicity of all that you read about in the Scriptures and you catch glimpses of now in this bright follower of Christ or that whoever it may be that when we read about the Practice of the Presence of God, for example. That’s for us! That’s for us!


So, we need to take ourselves out of a mode of thinking and experiencing basically locates us outside of all the wonderful stuff, you know and says, “I am just a worm crawling along here.” Well, you may be a worm but you glow! [Laughter] That’s what you want to remember. That’s all for us. Everything that is there; that’s for us! We learn how to step into it and that’s really what we want to do in these hours that we have together. [11:18]

So now also I need to say if you feel comfortable, just call me Dallas, not Dr. or Professor or whatever unless you just feel compelled. In which case, do it. But, I’m just Dallas or call me whatever you want to. [Laughter] But that’s done fairly well for some time. And I will want to meet with as many people as I can and particularly there were some that last fall when we came to the end and I just didn’t get you in and if you are in that category especially, please let me know. I hope to start meeting with people late this afternoon and each day after that through Thursday, but I especially wish to speak with those who we didn’t get a change to talk with last time and also people who really have what they think of as a special prayer need that they think I might be able to minster to. So, please keep that in mind. OK?

Gary: Dallas, can we pause just to get a hand count for how many are in that first category that did not get to see you last time? How many? OK. [Will you keep those up for just a second.]? [That will keep you busy!]

Dallas: OK, I’ll begin and we will have a break at 10:15 I think and I have a tablet here and we will begin to sign people up. [13:07]

Now, I want to begin with a reading of Psalms 46 so if you would look at that with me. Psalms 46—“God is our refuge and strength. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountain slip into the heart of the sea.”

I have to visualize that a little bit. These folks live in earthquake country and they knew what that was for the earth to give way and not be something you could rely on and the sea always stood for a mysterious kind of depth. They were amazed that the sea remained where it was and didn’t just come over everything, you know? And that God had set boundaries to it and all sorts of things were going in there and the sea might just swallow up the land and then would you be in a mess. [14:46]

“Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam; though the mountains quake at it’s swelling pride. There is a river. The streams whereof make glad the city of God. There is a river.”

Strange that you would be talking about the sea and turn to a river but you see, the scene has shifted now from earthly realities to Heavenly realities. “There is a river. That river is the likes of God and it has streams and these streams make glad the city of God.”

This is where Augustine gets his title for his great work, The City of God—The City of God. The city of God is a dwelling place. It is a different order of things and it is available to us now. “The streams of life that come from God make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved, even if the earth is thrown into the midst of the sea.” The city is not moved and that is our dwelling place. It is here now. It is not later. “God will help her.” I like the old language “and that right early.”

And now, “the nations made an uproar.” Now, we are back and out of the city of God, “the nations made an uproar.” The Kingdoms tottered—isn’t that what you see all the time? Tottering Kingdoms–and now, increasingly for some time, the USA is tottering. It’s tottering. We thought it wasn’t going to totter but here it is. It’s joined the nations “tottering. “He raised his voice and the earth melted”—once again, you shift the scene-now, the earth with the tottering Kingdoms, at the voice of God really disappears and you have a dwelling place no matter what happens to the Kingdoms. That’s what we really want to make real in these times together this week is the reality of that city. Hebrews talks about Abraham and other people of faith—“They sought a city with foundations made by God.” That’s Hebrews 11 & 12 and all the way into 13, it’s talking about that same thing—“finding a city that isn’t of this world but we dwell in it even in this world.” [18:51]

“The Lord of hosts is with us.” What’s the host, by the way? [Armies!] Armies of? [Angels!] How many?  [More than people] More than you can count. Right? The Lord of hosts is with us. That’s the “with God” life that we talk about so much in Renovare sources and this is what this Psalm is about. It is about the “with God” life.

There is a river. That river is flowing. It’s flowing here. It’s accessible to us here. God dwells with us! That is the story of the Bible and you look as you go through from the old to the end of the story and it’s always “with.” With—God with—God was with Isaac, for example to such an extent that his neighbors were frightened of him because they couldn’t account for what went on around him. He would sow in times of drought and famine and reap. Where does that come from? The river! The river! The river gives affects for which there is no accounting in natural terms and that is what makes God our stronghold. [20:51]

What’s a stronghold? Well, a stronghold is a place you go that is safe, no matter what’s happening. Recently, in some of our cities, people have built houses in which they’ve had a stronghold and they could go in there supposedly and escape whatever was happening around them. [21:19]

That is the secret place of the most high. The secret place of the most high is where we dwell. Why is it a secret? It can’t be seen by people who only think in terms of the visible world. Right? The secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty—the shallow of the Almighty. God is with us. He casts a shadow. We dwell in that shadow—the Presence of God. [22:03]


Well, he goes on to talk about the “works of the Lord” that go on in the earth. A lot of it we are obviously still waiting on. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot fire”—but, what remains for now is verse 10—“cease striving, be still and know that I am God.” You don’t get to know that He is God until you give up. [22:43]

One of the great powers of the disciplines and we will have time to talk about some of those is that it allows us to stop striving. When you begin to talk about solitude to people, it usually is so foreign because the simple meaning of solitude is—you don’t do anything and that is one of the hardest things for people to learn but it’s one of the most necessary things for them to learn. It is a practice that we can engage in that helps us cease striving. Be still and know. You can’t know without being still. [23:36]

Now, after you have gotten in the habit, you can know without being still but you have to establish that in your body and in your social relationships and in your mind and all the aspects of the person that we will review some here in a moment just to catch us up from where we went last time.

“The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our stronghold.” The great thing about the Palms to me is that they are simply a record of human experience with God. They are a record. IF you live in the Palms awhile, you come to understand how realistic they are and how they record the tough spots as well as the sweet spots in our relationship to God and how they deal with pain and suffering and threats as well as with victories and you learn so much about how that comes and how it doesn’t come just by reading the Psalms. That’s one of the very greatest of Psalms. It helps us get a vision of what our life is like “with God” and as we move into that, then the realism of all the other things that you read in the Scriptures. [25:23]

I mentioned 1 Corinthians 13 and other passages where he seemed to be holding up ideals that many people frankly just can’t identify with. They think they don’t live there and of course many people don’t live there but the person who comes to Christ has an open door to living there and that is what He brings and that is what He gives to us and teaches us how to live in the reality of that. [26:04]

So, we have to come to terms with all of the things that are already in us that are not that life that we see so well—the trauma, the wounds, the feelings—and actually, I think people have more trouble dealing with their feelings that anything else. So, we’ve got to spend some time dealing with feelings and talking about feelings and how they fit into the life “with God.”

But, I want to just keep us in mind that the Kingdom of God is there. It is open to us and as we bring everything we are to that Kingdom, then the process of change toward the fullness of life in God takes over and that process then is the thing that the disciple of Jesus lives in and because they live there, the Kingdom of God increasingly possesses their life.

Now, I want to review some of the concepts from last time and the most important is the Kingdom of God but we already have a question or a comment. Yes?

Q: Before you move on, I wondered if you could just describe one aspect of the Psalm for me? I didn’t get the river and the transitions from the nations to the city of God. What is that?

Dallas: The river is God’s life. You want to put that with John 4 and the others discussions of water but John 4 is the parallel New Testament passage to Psalms 46. You remember that Jesus talks about “the water that you can take and you will never thirst again” and that is the presence of God in your life. “Never thirst again,” means you will never again be dominated by desire. You will be able to live for what is good and your desires will be satisfied when you don’t live for those desires. You live for what is good and that is above all, your fellowship with God.

So, Jesus said to this thirsty woman addressing thirst that she could not identify for herself. He said, “Those who drink of the water that I shall give them will never thirst again but the water that I will give them will be a swell of water springing up to everlasting life.” The river is God. [29:24]

Now, we want to just remind us of the Kingdom of God and what the Kingdom of God is. That’s tremendously important for us because the opponent of our souls works on confusing ideas and the more important the idea is, the more he will work on confusing it. [29:52]

The Kingdom of God is God in action. It’s the range of God’s effective will. You may recall that in order to help us understand it, I talked about your Kingdom or Queen-dom or Person-dom—whatever you want to call it.  A person must have a range of will. If you take that away from them, you destroy their personality and we have taken our Kingdom to ourselves and it was not meant to work that way. It was meant to work under the Kingdom of God but how that works—how that works is a mystery to the person who is devoted to living their own Kingdom, their own way.

And so the story of the fall or I prefer to say, “the jump” just to put the responsibility for where it was. They did not fall; they jumped. Since then, human beings have been devoted to running their own Kingdom and that means that you have constant conflict between persons so the natural consequence of taking the Kingdom to ourselves is murder. That’s the next step after the jump and so Cain killed his brother. Why did he kill his brother? Well, I mean, that’s a complicated story. I don’t even know if he understood what killing was but he sure was angry and anger pushes people to do things that will hurt others. [32:08]

So the conflict of Kingdoms then becomes the dominating feature of human life. Now the Gospel of Jesus is that life in the Kingdom is available to us now—that we can experience the Kingdom and live in it by placing our confidence in Jesus for everything and by being His constant students precisely because we have confidence in Him.

Faith in Jesus is confidence in Jesus. That’s why we are Christians and not just believers in God, right? Our confidence is in Jesus and through Him, as 1 Peter 1 says, “We believe in God.” If you don’t go through Him, you won’t get God right? Of course again, the history of humanities that so—the only saving advice is simply, “trust Jesus”—not just something He did or something He said, but Him. That means that we rely on Him. [33:24]

Relying upon Him brings a reality of Him into our lives. Now, you can wonder off into theological patches on that and worry about how that comes to past but the important thing is, no matter how you think about it, to trust Him. Count on Him. That’s how you deal with reality. You identify it. You count on it. It reacts and then you are living in a world where that reality affirms itself and becomes a part of your life and that is what we call eternal life. Eternal life is eternal living.

Now, when we step into that, just to continue our review here for a little while, then the system of the human personality begins to change. This is where all the work is done. The transformation of the personality besieged by changing in those aspects of our lives. [34:46]

We don’t just put the pressure on the will. That’s the mistake of the legalist and the Pharisee is that they just said, “Now, just do it.” And you can’t do it, you know? You can’t. The stuff that is in all of these circles will keep you from doing it. It will block your mind. It will have you acting in terms of your body and your social context before you know what is happening. It will grab you by your circumstances and you will be in the position that Peter exemplifies and that Paul talks about in Romans 7. “I don’t do what I want to do or what I intend to do; I do what I don’t want to do. “ That is the classical problem of human reality through the ages. All of the ethesis that have arisen in humanity, east and west, have tried to come to grips with it and they all try to provide you with a reason for doing what you don’t want to do and for not doing what you do want to do. See, that’s the trap and if you just discuss it plain like I often do. In teaching ethics, I will discuss that with the students. They immediately identify with it because they struggle with it every day and they wind up doing things that they didn’t want to do and not doing what they wanted to do or well, they sorta wanted to do and well, they wind up not doing the things that are good. [36:33]

So now this is—Pam, bless her heart has—in your last notebook, put all of these diagrams so you don’t have to struggle to get them down. If you just want to make a note, you can go back to the notebook from last time that has all of these in it. [36:51]

This is very important for us to understand this because in human transformation, there has through the ages, among the followers of Christ been these two elements—gratuition of character rand growth in power. Those two things. That shows up in kind of funny ways—like you don’t get to be a saint, according to the Catholic Church unless you’ve had two or three authenticated miracles.  That’s a recognition that there has got to be power flowing there but the hold up is never with the power. The holdup is with the character.

So, most of what we are going to be talking about has to do with character but we don’t want to forget power and as the transformation proceeds in these parts, then we can stand to have more power. See, the problem with power is you have to be ready to sustain it, to live with it. Yes? [38:07]

Q: Dallas, one time you defined character as a person’s relatively constant will? Is that still a way to define it?

Dallas: Yes, and it needs more spelling out but it means basically what you do without thinking about it but it includes also what you do after you think about it; especially if it was wrong. So, Judas had a different character than Peter. Peter went out and wept bitterly. Judas went out and killed himself. See, that’s a different response so it includes what you do after you think about it. But, normally it’s just what you do without thinking. [38:48]

That’s why Jesus talks about a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. If you’ve got a good tree, you get good fruit. If you’ve got a bad tree, you get bad fruit. See, that’s the natural expression of who we have become.

For example, steadiness in goodness is not just a matter of an alert will. It’s a matter of what you know. Steadiness in goodness comes from knowledge based on the mind. The body is trained in it. The social relationships are trained in it.  So, character comes out of all of that and especially the role of the soul in integrating the various parts of personality. [39:44]

So, if your soul is broken, exhausted, wounded and so on, things won’t come together. You will constantly wind up with one part of your mind running in one direction and your habits running in another. So, the soul is the part that integrates all of these. It has to be restored and it has to be healed and that’s’ a very deep operation. It comes to the surface in, for example, respect and study of the law. The law of God is God’s way of acting. It’s His Kingdom and so Psalms 19 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul, but then also, Psalms 23, “He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name sake.” See how all of that fits together? We will be working on come aspects of this as we go along through our time together. [41:00]

Well, we do want to recognize that what we are talking about here in terms of adopted practices is discipleship. See, that’s where we begin In the process of change—is discipleship. That’s important in our culture to say that because many people have been in the church for decade and never been given an opportunity to become a disciple of Jesus. They have been converted. They have joined the church but they have never become disciples. Transforming all those aspects of the personality by living in the Kingdom of God is the process that goes on for the disciple.

So, when Jesus says to His, giving them His last word in the Gospel of Matthew, “I have been given say over everything in Heaven and earth”—that’s Kingdom. That’s the Kingdom. So, really, as you go, “make apprentices to me among people of every kind, submerge them in the reality of the Trinitarian God and lead them into doing everything I have told you to do.”

Everything that gets most talked about as problems for the church comes out of not doing this. [Laughter and Agreement] Not doing this ultimately backs up to not thinking rightly about God and building one’s life on a

misperception of God—who He is and what He is doing.  By any account, this is the best church growth program that ever hit the earth. If you don’t do this, instead of your church growing, you have to spend most of your time apologizing for the church which is what goes on constantly, constantly, constantly, and you find the critics and observers of the church constantly beating the church with it’s own stick and exercising lofty judgments about what’s good and right as it applies they think to the church they want. Well, you know, they are right and if you don’t do this, there will just be problem after problem after problem. Now, if you do “do” this, there will be different problems. You will still have problems but they won’t be the ones you have if you don’t do this [Laughter] because this is the program of what we call now often—spiritual formation. [44:45]

Spiritual formation is the process that goes on in the life of a disciple. Disciple is status. You become a disciple and then you are a disciple. It is a status. It’s like being a student at whatever school comes to mind—university, seminary or whatever. That’s a status. You are either a student at that school or you are not and I come to a decision.

Now, a disciple is not an advanced spiritual condition. You have to understand that. Disciples are often very “green” spiritually and you see this of course above all in watching Jesus and His disciples. Well, they were just wondering all over the place and what He did was, He took them on a two and a half year spiritual formation retreat and it did them some good. It got them in a position where things could move on in His absence. They would know what they were supposed to be doing. They would be receptive to the guidance of the spirit. They would have begun to get the idea of the river and they would be in a position to grow.

So, just one more review sheet here. This one is a little more colorful. I don’t know why it is so—and it doesn’t clear up there but—Spiritual formation is not about spiritual formation. That’s the first thing you have to say nowadays about spiritual formation because there are a lot of folks that are just into spiritual formation and they are doing all these strange things and having a great time with it but spiritual formation is not about spiritual formation. It is about practices of various kinds but only in the first instance. It’s not about the practices and you want to get beyond—thank you very much; you must be a techie—thank you: that helped a lot. [Laughter] If you aren’t careful when you undertake spiritual formation in the present context, you will wind up some kind of legalist and you will wind up attaching righteousness to practices and that’s “sure death.” So, there are practices that we can engage in and they can be helpful but the reality of spiritual formation is about shaping the inner person in such a way that the whole person is engaged in the routine, easy, obedience to Christ and that of course shows up better than any place else in what we call The Sermon on the Mount. [48:42]

The Sermon on the Mount is a teaching that introduces us into the blessing of life in the Kingdom of God and into the righteousness that is deeper than action, which is the change in all of those aspects of the self.

All right, how are we doing there? I felt I needed really to review those basic points there. Do you have questions or comments about anything? You had a—I know many of you of course have been on the path a long time but you’ve had a chance to work with these some perhaps in the last months. What is your experience and how is it going? Yes sir and then yes sir.

Q: When you say, being a disciple is a status and spiritual formation is for disciples–could you just speak to that in terms of discipleship and is there a difference between spiritual formation and discipleship?

Dallas: Well, “ship” is an interesting part of our language and it’s like wor-ship. Ship comes form the old German root “to create.” Chafen—to creative, to produce, so discipleship is “making like a disciple,” I guess you would say but you don’t drift into discipleship. I suppose it would be possible in the abstract but normally, just like you don’t drift into a course in French. [You might.] Well, unless you get shipwrecked in France or something. [Laughter] [50:41]

So, disciple-ship, I think doesn’t refer to the process and the outcome of that would be formation of the spirit but that is a process primarily and you don’t come to a place where you say, “Well, I am spiritually formed or I decided to be spiritually formed.” You see that as you go. You recognize it. It’s a manifestation of the power of God and of your choices in relationship to that and you see the after effects of the training usually, in the rear view mirror and you say, for example, you might realize “You know, I don’t get angry like I used to.” See, that’s something that would be a natural response to that. [51:47]

Keith: Dallas, whenever I talk about some of your teaching, I would say this is the most unbelievable piece for most people—what you are talking about here—is the shaping of a person in a way that they are engaged in easy, routine obedience. People do not believe that. That is an extremely revolutionary idea that it results in routine and easy obedience to Jesus.

Dallas: I agree with that and it also goes on with the idea that if you actually obey Christ, He will certainly ruin your life. See, that’s the barrier that’s built up in our minds about God’s Kingdom and our Kingdom and things like, you know “Give unto Him that asks of thee.” Well, man alive, I am ruined. Right? Well, that’s talking about a way of acting in the Kingdom of God but then you have to learn that.

So, undoubtedly, the most important thing for us, even at these sessions, is to work on that and to think about how that might actually come to pass where the easy thing to do would be the right thing to do. Yes sir? [53:14]

Q: Speak a little bit more about the reshaping of the inner man because that seems to be the real critical point and so much of discipleship as I’ve known it in my tradition is all about shaping the outer man—getting behaviors in line and getting a lot of information in your mind….

Dallas: Well it is extremely important to cross that bridge because what we are talking about is not behavior modification. See, as human beings, we have great concerns with this because we know how badly others can hurt us and hurt themselves, and the problem that presents itself to us is to control behavior.  This is one of the points where it is useful to contrast this with twelve step programs. I hesitate to talk about them because usually in any group, there are people who been tremendously benefited from a twelve step program and maybe are alive because they got into one but twelve step programs, though they touch on the inner person, they really deal with behavior and our churches are like that partly because of the human desire to control behavior. This is where the great teachings about grace that you find, for example, in Galatians “for freedom, He has set us free.” What does that mean? “You going to turn these people free?” [Laughter] See, that is unfathomable to most people and it was unfathomable to people in Paul’s day. That’s why silly things, like well, “Let’s sin so that grace can abound,” right? [55:21]

Now, of course, Paul knew that the saying, “Let’s sin” was like saying, “Let’s stick our head in the latrine.” Whoopee! Let me invite you. But see, he understood what sin was and he knew that once you saw it, it was not attractive. People have this idea that somehow sin is not bad at all if God didn’t “have a thing” about it. He’s hung up on stuff and it’s shocking to people that say, “Well, you know God doesn’t really care that much about me.” He cares about hearts. Now, it wasn’t that He didn’t care about behavior but he understood there was only one solution to behavior and that is the heart and that is the rest of the person that goes with it. As long as you think that your thoughts are set in terms of how good it would be if you could just do what you wanted, you’re dead in the water. It’s the turning point where you say, “My desires are not my friends.” See, that’s a thought which, especially in American culture is almost totally incomprehensible but the scripture constantly refers to this issue of desire and how you have to bring desire under what is good and then its good. Desire is fine; there is nothing wrong with it as long as it is subordinated to what is good but if it is allowed to run your life, it will simply destroy you and there is simply no way around it. Well, we may want to talk more about that later. You had your hand up?

Q: I do. I’ve been having lots of conversations with non churched people or newly coming to Christ people and generations that seem to be absent from the churches that I oversee and discipleship seems like sort of a church word to them and it seems to be a turn off. I am wondering if we can recover that in this way or is it time to find new language? I mean, I have some pastors who say I can’t talk about discipleship because these young, new Christian just won’t go there. So, part of them is how do we help teach this? Do we keep using language that may not work? [58:22]

Dallas: No. It doesn’t work well even among us. [Laughter] It’s been ruined. It’s been gutted. So, what I do is systematically is I try to work in words like “student” and now, immediately you are talking to people, in our culture everyone’s going to school for something. So you talk about student or apprentice. I like that word because of it’s applied connotation because we are learning how to do something, not just what to write down on a test. You see, even with “student “ you have to be careful with it because people now have gone to school so much and been students in that sense that they don’t think it makes much difference. See? Students today do not think of themselves as involved in a formation of life process. They think it’s you are dong something to get credits. We give credits in America. That’s how we get degrees and then we try to build on that and it’s a very unhappy situation. Well, we have to change the language and move to the level of learning and formation and seminars at the Hilton that you pay a lot of money for so that you can be a success in business. Right? So, we really need to find an absolutely essential to thinking about church today because it isn’t thought of as associated with anything that has to do with life transformation. That’ goes back to things about the Gospel. We talked about that in the fall. You may want to talk more about it now but among other things, people think, “well, I’m already busy. I don’t or can’t take on this other job.” [1:00:34]

So, now, all of this goes back to the Gospel that is preached. What is the Gospel? What’s the good news? If you don’t start with real good news, you will never get to discipleship, no matter what you call it but the burden of how things have formed in the world where everyone thinks they know what is being said when you start talking about Christ and so on, is really hard to lift that burden and get out from under it and changing the language is a major part of what you have to do. It’s the same way with spiritual formation. You have to help people understand that everyone gets one—at last one, maybe more. Maybe self-contradictory ones and that’s why their life is such a mess. For example, living for your desires is one spiritual formation and if that’s yours then you’re in real trouble because your desires will mess you up if you don’t have anything else to go by and so, to say to people, “You know, Hitler had spiritual formation.” See, that’s essential to help people understand that everyone gets a spiritual formation and it runs their lives and if they don’t like their lives, they need to back up and look at their spiritual formation. You were going to say something? [1:02:14]

Q: I may be premature because hopefully we are going to talk about Hearing God, but the thing that I keep seeing in all of this is where do we connect discipleship/apprenticeship with churches leading people in hearing God because I don’t see it happening in my church. Have you had a church that’s pioneered in this? Helping people as part of their discipleship to hear God?

Dallas: Not a church—groups! [Groups] But churches aren’t into that generally. [Laughter] That doesn’t mean they cannot be; it’s just that’s not where the teaching is.

Comment: How can you be disciples? It’s just amazing! [Well….]

Q: Can we hear the question again? [Yes, sorry!]

Q: What I was wondering—after reading Hearing God, it seems like to me this is an an absolute critical part of discipleship and so I feel like if anybody knew if churches were doing this, Dallas would know. So, I asked Dallas are there churches where they are incorporating hearing God as part of discipleship/apprenticeship?

Dallas: And my answer is, “I don’t know of a church that is doing that.” The problem is if you talk about it in a church, people find it interesting but the problem is not with hearing God, it’s with the lack of discipleship. If you are not a disciple, you don’t really have much use for it and you will wind up trying to know the will of God, which everyone wants to know because they think if they do the will of God, they will not be responsible. That’s why they want to know God’s Will. [Because they don’t want to be responsible?] Yes, God told me to do it! [1:04:01]

Whatever else you may say about discipleship, it is a way of responsibility. You have to be responsible and you have to get out of thinking about a conversation with God in terms of what does He want me to do? See, that’s a false picture of God. We must talk about that. If you hold seminars on the will of God, people will come in droves and then when you hold it the next time, the same people will come back. And they will not say, “Well, I have learned what you have been talking about and have been doing it. It works very well. Thank you.” See? So, that’s something we really must go into more. [1:04:48]

But see, if you are going to live in a conversational relationship with God, you have to do that on the basis of being surrendered to Him and loving Him and thinking then the best thing you could do is talk with Him and let Him talk with you and then you can learn that. So, we will be spending at least an hour or two on that.

Ok, so how are you doing? I wanted to just do the review here of these basic concepts and so, hang on to those and we can come back and talk about them as we go along. Indeed, at any point if you are thinking of something we talked about earlier or even last fall, that would be great and the hard questions are always the good ones. [1:05:47]

Ok, well, look at your sheet in your notebook with me for a moment because this is Day One of the outline and I want to review these basic concepts in picking up with what we are going to be dealing with in these sessions.

You will see right under Renovare Institute 2: Living in the Divine Conversation and Character. OK? That’s what we are going to be talking about. Session 1 is the Renovare vision of the “With God” Life. We start with 2 Corinthians 4 and Paul’s experience. These are the words of what the Apostle Paul had learned about living with God and there are many important parts to it but the part you don’t want to miss above all is verses 16-18 of 2 Corinthians 4. Now, if we had the time to go back to the end of chapter 2 and pick up with Paul’s expression of how his life is gone and how he learned to be a minister of Christ through the Spirit of God, that would be great. You may want to go back and just read from verse 14 of 2 Corinthians 2 all the way through to the end of the 5th chapter because this is really just one picture of what this is about. Let’s go to the heart of it now. [1:07:49]

Verse 16 of Chapter 4—“Therefore, we do not lose heart.” We do not lose heart. Life was not easy from the human point of view—it was not easy for Paul—it was hard and we will come back to that in a moment. But he said, “We don’t lose heart though our outer man is decaying.” You notice that when you look in the mirror? [Laughter] It’s called entimathy. “Our outer man is decaying; our inner man is getting renewed day by day.” Now, it says, ‘if you have two different ways of being—your physical being which is your body in the physical and social world and then you have another reality and that is a spiritual reality.’

That of course goes back to Psalms 46—the mountains are being thrown into the sea—that’s the outer. There is a river. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble so that’s the inner. You may look at all of the promises that “I am with you always” and you have to try to understand that. If you try to understand that in terms of the outer, it will never make sense. It is God’s arrangement and purpose that there should be an outer world but that outer world is always incomplete—however you approach it but especially in terms of personality and the human system tries to get you to thinking in terms of the outer person when you are dealing with other people and you must systematically reject that because they are not their body. The human system will try to get you to think in terms of their bodies, right? That’s an area of domination. “Dressing for success is an interesting idea isn’t it? [1:10:56] That’s part of the picture. Immediately thinking in terms of sexuality. That’s another part of that picture and if you stay in that area, it will go down hill constantly. But if you shift your perceptions, then Paul says in verse 17, “Our momentary light affliction that’s in the visible world—“is producing for us an eternal weight of Glory far beyond all comparison.” And then this great 18th verse, “While we look, not at the things which are seen but the things which are not seen.” And you rightly would say, “How do you look at things that are not seen?” Well, you have the ability to direct your mind—the outer world does not direct your mind unless you have surrendered your mind to it—but “at the things which are not seen for the things that are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal.” [1:12:23]

Now, what’s the first thing that is not seen? You! That’s the first thing you know that is not seen. You are not even visible to yourself. For example, you now probably are seeing me, and you know that you are seeing me. If I were to ask you, “Do you see me?” You would say, “Yeah, I see you.” But you don’t see you are seeing.

You are a spiritual being and the recognition of that is something that the highest levels of education now are devoted to suppressing. In academic and intellectual circles, self knowledge is treated, as something that is very mysterious but that’s what is closet to you—what you know more than anything else are your own experiences and your life consists of your experiences. You, by your nature are a citizen of the unseen realm. It doesn’t mean you don’t know it. It means you don’t see it. It’s not seen. It’s not visible. Faith is not contrasted with knowledge. It’s contrasted with sight. “For we live by faith and not by sight.”

But what you know more than anything else is your own experience. That’s what you value. That’s what you value in other people. That’s what your life consists in and that, by the way if you want to have it that way, is where God is with you. He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” and “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”—nothing. Well, how does that work? That’s it terms of your experiences and what continues on when your body dies is your experiences. The continuity of experience is the continuity of the self. [1:14:52]

Now, in a world that is broken, that continuity can be in a hard time also because we will direct ourselves to things that are not eternal and we will not know ourselves for what we are and we will not understand God for what He is.

What is God? God is Spirit. Now, do you not remember the context of that discussion in John 4? There was a discussion about place. Oh! “You know, you are a prophet.” Oh, well,” so lets get into a discussion about where God is to be worshipped—in Jerusalem or here in Samaria?” Jesus just pushes it aside and says, “That’s not an issue.” God is Spirit. Where do you worship God? In Jerusalem? No, not necessarily. You could. Or Samaria? No, not necessarily, you could because God is present in both places and He is seeking people who will worship Him in Spirit—and that’s always in truth, by the way. If you want to lie, you have got to have a body and you’ve got to learn how to work it. [Laughter] One of the things that make little children so delightful is until they learn to lie, they are just right there.  Yes? [1:16:44]

Q: With regard to this notion of the self and its continuity with experiences—doesn’t there need to be some kind of discontinuity if we are going to put off the old self and put on the new?

Dallas: Discontinuity within the person?

Comment: Yeah!

Dallas: Yes, there does. I am certain. Now, if you don’t have that, you can’t even recognize the problem and you will think the old person is all there is. That’s, as Keith was saying, when people look at easy routine obedience—see, they are thinking that old guy is the one who is going to be doing it and he can’t. [1:17:43]

I have in your notes, I think but I just want to get this out here. What is Spirit? Un-bodily personal power. Now, you see, the danger is that we will not know about that and that’s why we have the first and second of the Ten Commandments. Anyone know them? What’s the first one? [You shall have no other God’s before me? Love the Lord your God?] “I am the Lord your God.” What did I do? Right? “And you will have no God’s before me.” Right?

Now, what’s the second one? Why is the second commandment necessary? What’s it say? “You shall not make any graven image.” See that’s the outer. See? “Don’t locate me there,” God says and the natural tendency of human beings, apart from God, because, as the poet says, “A man’s reach exceeds his grasp” is to project a God of some kind, and Romans 1 is Paul’s insightful look at how this works and so, the second commandment is very important.

The second commandment is about getting God right. God is not a physical reality. He is a spiritual reality and the great challenge is to accept that and if you don’t accept that, you will wind up misreading yourself and you will think you are a body, or more likely now, that you are a brain—that you are your brain and then that’s going to shut down entirely the whole prospect of seeing yourself in this world as Paul presents it where you are at the intersection of two realities and you have a choice to make. Now, that’s up to you where you are going to live? You can live in terms of your personality, which consists of your experiences or you can live in terms of physical realities of various kinds, which is where most people do live. [1:20:51]

So, that’s a big choice. Now, Paul himself had an experience of this. Let me back up a bit in chapter 4, verse 7, “We have this treasure of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” That’s what it is talking about. That’s what Paul is talking about—knowledge.

Knowledge is interactive relationship. We have this treasure of the interactive relationship with God through Christ—“the glory of God in the face of Christ—but we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” So, you don’t abandon the body. You don’t abandon the external world. You don’t deny its reality. It is real and your body is a part of it and that is what is called a vessel. [1:22:02]

We have this vessel. It’s a part of us. No matter if we are spiritual beings, we are each defined by the body we have. So, when we want to know who we are, we start out by talking about “when were we born?” What’s your birthday? That gives you a specific identity. Who are your parents? Right? Where are you from? See, those are essential things about every person and that is why there is to be a resurrection. I don’t want this one back but I want something that will retain my identity with this one. [He is writing on the board] And that will be given through my experiences in a new body.

So, I mean there is a lot of stuff to work through there and we can’t do it here unless you have questions and later we can talk about some of them maybe but the important point here is why do we have this treasure in an earthen vessel? And Paul explains that “the surpassing greatness of power may be of God and not from ourselves.” That’s why we have it. It’s a situation that is designed to help us understand where the power lies. [1:24:03]

So, in one version of our Lord’s Prayer, we conclude with “Yours is the Kingdom, yours is the power and yours is the Glory.” And the Lord’s Prayer is an absolutely ravishing study of how all this works. We cannot stand to have the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory on our own. We have to understand where it is and so when you get up in the morning and your bones are creaking, remember why that’s there. That’s there so you will understand that the Kingdom and the power and the glory is God’s.

So, Paul understands this intersection of the spiritual—the two landscapes—as I say in the notes there. The two landscapes are environments of the apprentice of Jesus. You live in two landscapes and you are in the situation of choosing, right? And, of course, the spiritual landscape is primarily God but it is His Kingdom and the Kingdom is the range of His active will. It’s where, “what He wants done is done.” When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come”, we are praying for it to come into those areas of our lives and the lives of human beings, which is the one place we probably are sure that it is not there. That’s by His arrangement and we are inviting it. That’s a very good word to keep in mind. We are inviting. We are invoking. We are welcoming. We are not fretting about the United Nations when we say, “Thy Kingdom come” though it certainly needs all the help it can get. We are asking that His order would become the order of our lives.”

Now then, through the ages, you have people who have been able to see this and they are called sometimes in the Bible, “see-ers”. And they are called see-ers because they see it.  [1:26:33]

Brother Lawrence, at one passage in his little book on Practicing the Presence of God talks about how in his life there has been a transition to where he says, “You know, it isn’t any longer like I believe. I see.” And what happens is that as one grows and lives in this, then the flesh opens up more and more as it is meant to, to God and the presence of God—the presence of the unseen world—becomes increasingly forceful in how it comes to mind so that you will hear people talk about this if you listen to those who are experienced in the way. It’s as “if God were just right here.” And now, again, they are not trying to work up something, They are describing their experience of presence and that is what is intended for us in God’s plan for us and so we have these statements in the Bible about Moses, for example in Hebrews 11, “He endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” So, he didn’t have to get up every morning and sort of whip himself into shape and say now, “God is here. Act like it.” [He thumps the desk.] He woke up, “Good morning, God, thank you for being here” and so on. So, “he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” That’s Hebrews 11:27. [1:28:36]

Ezekiel is an interesting case. “The Heavens opened.” That language is used frequently. The Heavens opened. It’s used of Jesus at His Baptism in Matthew 3:16—“the Heavens opened.” They never closed again for Jesus I think. What does it mean, “the Heavens opened?” It means that what is there all long become visible. That’s one of the things about spirit. It isn’t just un-bodily personal power. Spirit doesn’t automatically make itself present. You have to want it or it has to have some special purpose in the opening of the Heavens. [1:29:27]

In Ezekiel’s case, Ezekiel was in the middle of a major transition in Biblical history and that is the realization that God was present in Babylonia. And, so he is down here by the River Kebar and all of a sudden the Heavens opened, “God!! I thought you were in Jerusalem!” “No, I’m here!” That’s a major part of the progression of Revelation in the Bible of the Kingdom of God. Preparing for further events including the return to Jerusalem and developments from there that come to a head in Jesus and His followers.  [1:30:24]

So, this is huge thing for us to understand is that the Kingdom of God—God is there. He can be visible if He wishes to but He is dealing with people who are hiding from Him. [Amen.] And in order for us to hide from Him, He has to hide from us. So, the “deus absconditus” theme that comes out in Isaiah, “Verily, Thou art a God who hidest Himself.” Why does He hide? To cooperate with our project of hiding from Him because He is so big that if He didn’t hide from us, we couldn’t hide from Him. But still, He’s there! The Heavens are opened. John says in his letter, “Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world.”

Elisha’s experiment in 2 Kings 6 praying for the eyes of his butler to be opened so that he could see what was there and the mountainside was filled with chariots and horses of what? Of fire! Fire is emblematic of the power and presence of God and that’s an expression of energy. So, this all fits together now and I think I’ve come to the end of my first hour so let’s have a couple questions here now. [1:32:13]

Q: Dallas, I was wondering if you could explain the relationship between the Kingdom that has always been there and the Kingdom that’s the range of His effective will? I think I am starting to see a little bit that relationship. I think we try to do God honor by always talking about “His sovereignty is always there” but now I’m starting to see that, it’s something that He wants us to want [Yes] And it’s expressed when we want it. [1:32:47]

Dallas: That’s another aspect of Spirit—it wants to be wanted. You don’t like to go to a party without an invitation.

Comment: I guess for a long time I’ve had trouble with your definition of the Kingdom as being a range of His effective will because it seemed to limit Him whereas I always understood Kingdom and His sovereignty “as always there; always powerful.”

Dallas: And that’s true.

Comment: Could you talk a little bit more about the relationship between the two and then how we can talk about His sovereignty and power while also talking about …..[1:33:17]

Dallas: In His sovereignty and power, He has allowed human beings, and perhaps other spiritual agencies to go there own way. That’s His sovereignty. His sovereignty is not like human sovereignty. He will accomplish His purposes and human beings may choose to be a part of that and certainly if they choose, it will be because He helps them but that doesn’t mean that they are past it. That’s crucial to understand. Many people interpret the sovereignty of God as passivity on the human side. It is not. You don’t have to use force if you are sovereign. You can decide not to. [The lady here on the back row…] [1:34:20]

Q:  This business of seeing the other realm—it can be very uncomfortable in terms of hanging out with people who don’t see it! [Yes!] Encountering resistance and outright persecution even when you try to proclaim what you see. I think that we talk a lot about discipleship but there’s, as Bonheoffer would say, “there is a big priced to be paid” and I guess that that’s what this particular stuff I am really coming to be aware of that it’s not just enough to now it intellectually and to have it as William Law said, “What is your intention?” I keep coming back. “What do you intend?” As you talk about it more today, I am really—I am wanting you to talk about that whole intention of taking this on—that it’s going to cost us acceptance and all of those things that we want. [1:35:44]

Dallas: Right! When you talk of the cost of discipleship, you must always talk at the same time of the cost of non-discipleship and that’s what people periodically fail to do or regularly fail to do and Bonheoffer’s book is designed to address a situation about the teaching of grace that indicated that it didn’t cost you anything. There’s a whole lot involved in the misunderstanding of grace and he straightens a lot of it out basically.

What he says is grace doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything and you don’t have to pay a price. Right? That’s an important teaching and we need to bring that over into our world because there are similar confusions about grace here but we have a system that has taught that it’s all a matter of knowledge; that the real issue is getting into Heaven and getting into Heaven is like the driver’s test you have to pass—maybe you can miss a few but you can’t miss many and you are allowed into Heaven on the basis of your knowledge or at a minimum, your profession, which is really what it comes down to. So, we have to stress, as you are saying, the issue of intention and then concretely, what are we going to do about it? Even if we intend, some people think they intend but they don’t do anything about that so we have to walk through all of that.

Here again, the handouts for the things that Pam prepared in your last notebook at the end; if you just sort of thumb through those, it will help you a lot and we have to talk about that.  OK? Gary…..

Listen to all parts in this Renovaré Institute: Atlanta Cohort series