Talk 3 of 6 at a Renovare conference on "Living in the Kingdom of God" by Dallas Willard. April 2003, Oak Hills Church, Folsom, California. Transcript by Ray Cowan, Nov. 30, 2008. Revised December 11, 2008. This is an hour-long talk. This conference is available on CD from http://www.renovare.org. Editorial comments are in "[…]".
Thank you. Please be seated.
Well, good morning, and I hope you had a restful evening, and a time to do some thinking and praying about what we're dealing with in these hours that we have together. And if you'll take your notebook and turn to page nine, this is more-or-less where we will take up this morning.
Now this text that you have referred to here from Luke 12 is one of the beautiful and profound things that Jesus gave us. He says:
"Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap. They have no storeroom nor barn. And yet God feeds them. How much more valuable you are than the birds!"And this is undoubtedly said with some humor. I don't know if you've ever tried to price anyone in birds. But you might try that as an exercise. Maybe someone's worth two cockatoos, a crow and three sparrows, or something like that.
Jesus is referring here to the fact that God is in charge of the world. That he makes provision for every thing of its kind. And now he says:
"Which of you, by being anxious, can add a single cubit to his life's span? If you cannot do even a very little thing, why are you anxious about other matters? Look at the lilies, they grow; they don't toil, and they don't spin…"That is to say, they don't make their clothing, so the lilies don't toil, they don't make their clothing.
"…but I am telling you that Solomon, in his best outfit, did not clothe himself like one of these."Now you need to take time there to be reflective, and look at a tiny flower that grows wild in the fields, and ask yourself, "Who's in charge of that?" See, nature is a primary expression of the kingdom of God, and Jesus refers to that. So verse 29:
"Don't seek what you shall eat, what you shall drink. Do not keep worrying, for all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek, but your father knows that you need these things. But seek for his kingdom, and all of these things shall be added. Don't be afraid, little flock, for your father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom."God has chosen to give you the kingdom. You were made for this, and that's his choice, it's not your choice.
Now in the context of the teaching, he tells them:
"Sell your possessions, and give to charity. Make yourselves purses which will not wear out, an unfailing treasure in the heavens (plural) where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys, because where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."Ok, now this is a deep teaching about the kingdoms that are in this world. If you'll notice, the topic for today is "Kingdoms in Cooperation". So we need to be aware of the plurality of kingdoms. And we need to know that and respect it. And we need to understand that every individual person, and you in particular, were created with a kingdom in mind.
And I pause just to allow you to think about that. See, you have a kingdom in virtue of what you are. There's no such thing as a person without a kingdom. And of course, I'm saying "kingdom", but if you'd like, "queendom", you can use that. "Persondom". You have a persondom.
There's no such thing as a person without a realm over which they rule. God has made that sure for you. And now the intention is that you would come into the world, and back to the little child, the child by being here automatically has a domain of influence. And again, that's built-in to the situation. And you have to really have been corrupted not to be influenced by the presence of a baby. Just the presence of a baby. And of course when you're young and eager, you don't notice that, but grandparents really notice it, see. They know that; they feel. And what they really feel is the dynamic presence of that little baby. You know, just being there is enough. And that's intentional. That's God's view.
Now, as you grow, God's intention is that your kingdom should expand. So the rule is:
"Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that in due season, he would exalt you." [1 Peter 5:6]You know that language? You understand that that's talking about you? That it is God's intent that you should be exalted. Now, that only is a problem when someone is into exalting themselves. And that's why, the wording there that I've quoted, from 1 Peter, is "Submit yourself to the mighty hand of God." You're taking your kingdom, now, and you're bringing it into God's kingdom.
Now, you don't become passive. You don't say, "I am nothing, nothing." No, no, you were meant to be something, something. And God made you to be that way. And you should have a sense of the significance of your life. See, you were brought into this time, this place. You were brought into a family. You were brought into a culture, a language, a time in history. And you should be should be filled with the sense of the dignity that God has bestowed upon you as his creation. And understand that he wants his creativity to flow through you.
And that's what this life, and grace, and kingdom, that we talked about last night, I was trying to give you those three basic concepts and see how they come together. See, that's what that life means. Life in you that comes from being renewed by the birth from above. And that life is supposed to expand, and grow, and so now listen to what Jesus said:
"Let your light so shine before men (it's your light)…Let your light so shine before men that they would see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven. [Matthew 5:16]"Now what does that mean, "glorify your father in heaven"? It means that they will be thankful to God that you exist. They'll be thankful to God that you exist. So as you grow, and your kingdom grows in God's kingdom, people will be thankful to God. I don't want to wear George [Skramstaad] out, but see, when I watch and hear George, what he does with music, and we really just get a very limited aspect of it in the few moments we have together in a meeting like this…I love George, and I honor God.
Now suppose you are working in a corporation of some sort. And whatever it is you do, perhaps you oversee computers in the payroll department or something.
Now suppose you do that in such a way that people say "Thank God!". "Thank God!" That's what human community should be: is everyone in that community is supposed to be so living in the goodness and power of God that everyone else is constantly thankful for them, see.
And now then we can put that with Colossians 3:17 to kind of help us nail down the big thought for the moment before we get into the details. And you may recall that in Colossians 3:17 after a wonderful passage there, maybe we'll have some time to go into part of it, that Paul says, "Whatsoever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
"Whatever you do," now, how much does that leave out? Doesn't leave any out, does it? "Whatever you do…" Now, what does it mean to do it in the name of Jesus? It means to do it on his behalf, and from his resources. Do it on his behalf, and from his resources. See, he makes them available. Now this afternoon I want to talk about the Great Commission. You see, he stands, after his death, after his resurrection, he stands there as he gets ready to send his people out, and says:
"All power has been given to me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore…[Matt. 28:18–20]"Now see, when I, when I get up in the morning, and go out to work or whatever I am doing, then I should go in that spirit. All power has been given to him. Now go, to whatever it is I go to. And that is a great adventure, that I am set free, into. And now my life is a constant progression of finding more and more about the greatness of God, in union with my life.
And all the failures of my past, mine or others' in relationship to me, I simply set those aside, those are in God's hands. Whatever may have seemed to be a limitation in my family, or my body, or my education, or the opportunities that have or have not occurred to me as I've gone on through life, see I lay those down in God's hands.
And I take the thing I do today, and I say now, "Jesus said, don't be afraid, little flock." I'm glad he said little flock. It was a little flock! My goodness, compared to what they were going to do. He's got these twelve guys later on the hillside and says:
"Go to all the world and make disciples…"Well, God doesn't want us to be misled about who is making it happen. Now, you remember the story of Gideon in Judges 6 and 7? You remember how Gideon was going to go against the Amalekites? And the problem was, he had too many people. Had too many soldiers. And so they had to send waves of them home, until they got down to 300. This is an important lesson for us as most of us here are concerned about church and church life—and that's a wonderful thing—but we want to remember that our problem is never we don't have enough people. It's never that. If we have a problem, it's never that we don't have enough people. The problem is always with the quality of the people who are there.
And we raise that up, and things move. So Jesus said, "Where two or three of you are gathered"—now again, "in my name." That is to say, on my [Jesus] behalf, and with my resources—"…there I am in the midst." Remember that?
So now when you gather in his name and you're going to do the good that he has put you in the world to do, you have his resources. And that is the secret of "kingdoms in cooperation". Do you see the title of the talk? That's what I'm supposed to be talking about [audience laughter]: is kingdoms in cooperation. It's your kingdom, God's kingdom. Then, when you take your kingdom into God's kingdom, and your friend over here takes their kingdom into God's kingdom, then your kingdom and their kingdom are wonderfully together.
See, that's why, when we really enter into the community of Christ, then we never deal directly with another person. Never deal directly with another person. I always deal with them with Christ in the midst. Always. Never any other way. That means among other things, I never try to force people to do things.
And one of the great secrets of rest, and peace, and power in ministry is to stop trying to get people to do things. That's something we have to watch in our families. You see, if we think we're in charge, we will invariably try to get people to do things. If we think God is in charge, we will release them into his direction and care. And an ironic way of saying it is to say then they're really in trouble!
See, God wants us to release, 'cause he knows how to take care of them. See, that's God's kingdom. "'Vengeance is mine, I will repay', thus saith the Lord." [Rom 12:19] Thank God for that!
See, that's the secret of laying down "paying back". So we don't have to pay back. God pays back better than we do. He knows what he's doing.
And so, for example, you see this in the case of Jesus with Peter. You remember the case where Jesus is saying to Peter, "Now, you're going to deny…"; "Oh no, I'm not going to deny you". Now Jesus, "Oh yes, you will." And then he says something very interesting (this is Luke 22 [31–62], as I recall). He says, "Peter, Satan has really desired to sift you like wheat." Now what he's referring, you know, you sift grain: you get the rocks out, and the dirt out, and you just have the pure grain when you're done sifting.
That's what he's referring to. "Peter, Satan is really going to put you through the sieve." Now he says, "Nevertheless, I have prayed for you." I wonder if it strikes you as strange that he said, "I have prayed for you"? I want to give you that verse so that you can effectively think about it. That's Luke 22:32.
'Cause now this illustrates what I'm saying about how, when the kingdoms come together, then we deal with one another through God. And Jesus even did this. Now, if all that Jesus had wanted was to keep Peter from denying him, do you think he could have arranged that? Yeah, he could have. He could've arranged it. He could've just had an angel there to whack him on the head when he got ready to deny him, see? "Pfft…ow!"
But Jesus wanted something deeper, and so he says there, that "I have prayed for you." Now when we pray for people, what we're doing is, we're handling them through God. And you want to interpret praying here broadly. Speaking in other ways than we normally think with your eyes closed and your head bowed can be praying. To speak under God, to say something to someone, but not to trust your cleverness and your authority, and whatever you are, to make it happen. But to say it, release it to God, and allow God to make happen what he wants to happen.
See, that's acting in God's kingdom. It's very important, of course, to understand that. And Jesus released Peter. See, prayer is, prayer is a kind of causation. But it's through God. And each of us has been given a domain where we just act.
See, like if you have weeds in your flower bed, you should pull them, and not pray about them. That's because pulling weeds is something you can do, right? God can trust you with that. And, of course, if you let them grow long enough, you may need to pray over them. [audience laughter] So, that's a deep lesson too.
But for example, if you have a loved one who is dealing with employment issues, or family issues, probably you'd better not try to fix that, like you would pull the weeds in your garden. And that's because you're dealing with something that's too big for you. And the depth of the working that needs to go on is something that has to be done in, with God's kingdom. See, that's kingdoms in cooperation.
So it isn't just prayer, it's everything we do. Normally we would start with prayer, and an understanding of prayer is a good way to begin. And frankly we ought to be constantly bathing everything we do in prayer. Invoking God constantly into everything we do. Right.
But it also concerns our acting. So, for example, when we're acting, and when we're going about our daily business, see, go back to that verse, "Whatsoever you do, in word or deed…" [Col 3:17] Well, that's acting. But when you act, you want to act with God.
Some wonderful person was telling me yesterday about how they had learned to enter into apprenticeship [to Jesus] and this person was very independent and creative person and they were saying, "Well, I didn't know how to do this, so what I decided to do was just sort of pretend that Jesus was right by my side as I went through the day. And I would talk to him as I went about what I was doing." And that's a good way of doing it, see, because now you take all of your actions, and you recognize that you have a kingdom that's God's appointed place for you, and you want to take that with joy and with gratitude, and say, "Thank God! I'm alive, I have the abilities that I have."
Because, see, God creates creators. You are creators. That's the image of God in you is your creative will. It is your capacity to have dominion. You go back to Genesis 1, it says, "Let us make man in our image…"—and what's the next word?—"…and let him have dominion…" See, dominion is the image of God in you.
And that's a good thing. It's only bad when it's torn loose, and now you're going to run your kingdom on your own. And then the next thing you do, is you meet someone else who is doing the same thing, and you're already in trouble. And that's why God had to take the reins of creation out of the hand of Adam and Eve to begin with, after they fell, because otherwise, you know, they would use the power of creation against one another.
That's what we do, isn't it? That's the meaning, one of the meanings of scientific progress and technological change is increasing power in the hands of human beings. Now that would be ok if these human beings were themselves fully, intelligently, lovingly in subjection to the kingdom of God. But when that is not true, then people use the knowledge of creation to hurt one another to secure themselves.
So, a major part of the meaning of human history is the progressive understanding of how to use the powers that are in creation. But you see, human beings want to use that for their own kingdoms. And now that's the secret of Babel. [Genesis 11:1-9] And that's the meaning of Babel for today: is for human beings to take charge of creation. And the limitation that is placed upon that by God in history is to divide human beings so that they will restrict one another and limit one another until the time comes when Christ makes a kingdom in which they can all rest. Right? And that's what's happening in human history.
Now you're a part of that, you see, because there was a time when you were born. And at that point God said—here's Joel here: Joel, when were you born? 1977. In 1977, God said, "Now it's Joel's turn." Now, I want you to take a moment now, just very quietly, to think about you in that context. Sometimes that's… sometimes the past is very tender. And perhaps there's a lot of hurt in your family. And you're not, maybe you're not, able to go back, and, in your mind, think that time when God said, "Now, it's your turn." You see.
And God has prepared a kingdom for you from the foundation of the world. That is, before there was a world, God had you in mind. I hope, see, I'm hoping that as think these things and going back to Jim's [James Bryan Smith] talk last night, you're going to understand the dignity of the kingdom that God has given you. And that you're going to begin to think, "Well, there's more to life than not being wrong." That there is a great world, and there is a great God, and his kingdom is all around. And you're a part of that in nature, and now your opportunity is to come alive in spirit to God and his kingdom, and live in that kingdom now, and go forward into eternity as a part of his kingdom.
Again, "Fear not, little flock." See, some of us, as I say, really do have issues with our background. And so perhaps we came into the world and it wasn't a good situation, and we've had to defend ourselves, and perhaps the way we looked, or the way we were treated as children, and so on, has made us obsessed with what the Bible calls "flesh". That is, our natural abilities. And you see some things here on page 9 [of the conference handout] about this. Flesh. Flesh is, flesh is the unaided human abilities. It's, it's what you can do on your own.
See, flesh is not bad. Flesh is good. And, indeed in this matter of what we're going to trust, what we have to be wary of above all, is "nice" flesh. Nice flesh. "Qualified" flesh. Human abilities that are good. Really being smart. Being good-looking. Having good, natural health and strength. See, the problem, the problem is not just the bad stuff. Paul goes over this in Philippians 3 if you remember. He talks about what he was after the flesh. And he lists his birth (the tribe of Benjamin). He lists his education—he had one of the best for his day. I mean, what he went to was like going to Harvard, or Jim here going to Yale. No, the best schools: Berkeley, Stanford, the ones that are on the top. Paul had that.
And you know what he called it? Dung. Now, we can't say that other word in church. So, "dung". Said he counts it as dung that he might obtain Christ. Now that means that he might step out of his kingdom and move over into that other one.
See, when we put the flesh first (see, at the bottom of page 9 [of the conference handout]), things line up: body first, will next, mind next, social relations next, soul next, and God last. See, that's the form of idolatry. Idolatry always takes whatever that God is, and tries to use it for my purposes. And that's the order of life when we live in a fallen world.
There's a wonderful statement by John Calvin that I wanted to read to you. Calvin says, "The surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves." He says, "So blindly do we all rush in the direction of self-love that everyone thinks that he has a good reason for exalting himself and despising all others in comparison.
Bonhoeffer captures this same thought. He says, "Whereas the primal relationship of man to man is a giving one, in the state of sin, it is a purely demanding one. Every man exists in a state of complete, voluntary isolation. Each man lives his own life, instead of all living the same God-life." Well, you see, that's the way it has to be when each of us is a god to him- or herself. That is to say, we put ourselves as the point of ultimate reference for our whole lives.
See, that's what the flesh does. And the corporate flesh is, of course, how we all come together, and that's how we build our Babels. If you want to go on to your next page there, you'll see why is sex and violence such a big thing in our lives, our media, our entertainment. I often, I can't, I can't sympathetically watch most of what is made as movies, because of the emptiness that's involved in it. I can't see why I should drag myself through that one more time. 'Cause I know how it's going to go anyway. See, they're all scripted, in little things of ups and downs, and you're supposed to say "Ooh" and "Aah" and then it's all over, and you go out of the movie house. And so what have you got?
See, it's, I certainly don't mean to downplay valid art, because that's one of the great areas of creativity. And a good script or a good movie, whatever. See, we don't normally get that; we just get a play of the flesh. And when you've lived through that enough times, you say, "What's the point?" Right?
But the point is that we have to feel. That's one of the dimensions of our being. It's essential. And that's why I've described peace the way I did last night: restful fruitfulness. See, the opposite of peace is not war; it's really deadness. It's deadness. It's not having a drama in which we're living. And the goodness of life coming to us through the kingdom.
And that's why sex and violence is such a big thing in entertainment, and of course news now is 90% entertainment. If you ask yourself why they bring the stories on they do, and especially the ones they bring on first, in the newspaper or the news programs, you'll see that it's basically to grab unfeeling people and make them feel. They'll go for the thing that makes us feel.
'Cause you see, feeling is when we know we're alive. And I'm not downplaying this; feeling is extremely important. Our feeling should be at its height in worship. See. And in love. Loving others. And in creating, by using the world that God has made. Creativity. I was in a meeting sometime back with a group of men, and one of them, after listening to me talk, said "Is it a sin to love wood?" Now I think some of you will know what he was talking about. Because truthfully, wood is such a wonderful thing. You can come to adore it. I mean, all of the material things that God has made like that, they're just so beautiful and so wonderful, that, that you feel deeply as you engage with them. Dirt, flowers, music, paint. The texture of a family relationship. See, you can just praise God in that.
Feeling is so wonderful, so important. And when it goes dead because we have cut ourselves off from the drama of God's kingdom and living in it, and engaging with good and evil in our world from the depth of the kingdom. And watching the power of God move. And celebrating what he's done in the past, and what he's going to do in the future. See, that's when we have to go back to something that will give us a kick, because we need it. And that's what drives.
Now, I've referred here [in the conference handout] to Romans 1. And I think I'm talking to a group that basically knows what Romans 1 is about: it's the declension of human beings into a condition of almost unmitigated evil. And if you'll look at that passage, you're going to see that it comes from turning to the body. Turning to the body. First, turning to the body, away from God, to worship idols. To worship things that look like animals, or human beings, or some mixture of them, see.
But then, that's not enough. It always degenerates into sex and violence. See, Paul knew this. He saw it around him. And he had a very analytic mind and eye. And so he goes just right down the line and analyzes it. See, that all comes from turning in on our kingdom, and when we turn to our kingdom, the body becomes the focus.
And the flesh, then, as the natural powers of the body becomes everything that we have. So now, our kingdoms are no longer in cooperation. Our kingdoms are in opposition. And the way that primarily affects us is we are not able to love and know one another. We're defensive. We distance ourselves. We isolate ourselves. And then we become hungry, and we have to do things to bring us back to life. And make us, assure us, that we are alive. Because the normal relationships which we should have with human beings around us—under God—are not there.
And thank God some redemptive elements nearly always remain, and we can be very thankful to that. And again, children are a primary way of renewing a jaded, old world. And animals, also, did you ever notice? Dogs are the same in every culture. Chickens are the same in every culture. You know? You go to Indonesia and look at a chicken, a chicken is a chicken, you know. A dog is a dog. Thank God! There are some things that we can't override. These little creatures that come into our midst, young people, children.
Now I'm old enough that where my students at USC walk in the room, they look like children to me. And actually, that's a great blessing, because I see the renewal. But even in their lives, though unfortunately sometimes they're pretty jaded by the time they get there.
So now, on page 10 there, talking about the mind of the flesh and the mind of the spirit. See, Paul says that they that are according to the flesh ("kata", the Greek term is I think best translated as "according to" the flesh). They live in terms of the flesh. See, they "mind" the things of the flesh. In other words, their mind is set on those things; that's where their expectation is, that's where their thought is. They that are according to the spirit do "mind" the things of the spirit. God, his kingdom, the Holy Spirit, the power of the Word. The power of a godly life.
When we sing our songs, often I wonder (like last night we sang "Holiness Is What I Long For"). I wonder how that would cash out, see? What do we think of as "holiness" that we]re longing for? Well really, holiness is fullness of life. It is fullness of life. See, obedience always comes out of abundance.
Now, the mind of the flesh is headed for starvation and death. That's what happens with the flesh. The mind of the spirit is life, because it ties us into that life we talked about—that is in God—last night. See, God has life in himself. Everything that is living receives its life from him.
And spiritual life comes when the word comes under the anointing of the Spirit, into the heart, and ignites confidence in God. I've tried to depict that in the little diagram on page 7 [of the conference handout], you'll see. See, the word and Spirit of Christ enters, see, from the left here, it enters, and then out of that, faith in Christ, which re-establishes communion with God.
See, the fundamental function of the human spirit is to trust God. And the way the human spirit does that is by turning the mind back to God, giving the mind up to God. They that are in terms of (those that live in terms of) the Spirit do mind the things of the Spirit. And that is how you sow to the Spirit. I've also referenced here Galations 6:7–10. It talks about sowing to the flesh, and sowing to the spirit.
Think of sowing here as investing, giving. You give your time, you give your energy, to what is merely in the domain of natural abilities. Now, you know, that can be a hauntingly beautiful thing. I want to say again, the flesh is good. God made it. It is not safe unless it is harbored in the spirit. And then it's perfectly safe, and perfectly wonderful.
That's the way God meant it to be. Our bodies are meant primarily to be a spiritual expression of God, and of our soul, and of the kingdom. I would like you to think perhaps that the highest manifestation of the nature of the body was the body of Christ on the mount of transfiguration. Right. And then, of course, in resurrection we see that same thing. But you'll remember that Jesus, on the mount of transfiguration, it says, "As he prayed, his face and his clothing became white as lightning."
You know the Biblical name for that is "glory"? Glory. See, glory is always a manifestation of energy, of power and goodness. Some people wonder why Adam and Eve didn't wear clothes before they sinned. Have you ever laid awake at night wondering about that? They didn't wear clothes because they glowed. They didn't need clothing. When you look at a light bulb that's turned on, you can't see the light bulb, can you, for the light? Why were they ashamed? They lost their glow. It wasn't just, "Yeck, you're naked!", you know. It was they had lost the natural—see, that's the way we should be, like this. That's what God intends for us. And you've seen that on some people; I'm sure you have. Not necessarily bright enough that they didn't need clothing. Alright. But you have seen the presence of that glow in people. People saw it in Jesus Christ. And so when we take our kingom into God's kingdom, and find his goodness, then we understand the power of God in our lives.
Well, there's much more that we could talk about here, and I hope you will have time to sort of go through the remaining part of the outline, but we'll just conclude with a thought and then Jim's going to come up, and we're going to have a little time of questions, I think.
Where do we start? And, the answer is, we really start with where we are. You can just think of it this way: it is impossible to begin anything otherwise than where you are. God has yet to bless anyone in a place where they aren't. And that's one of the distinctiveness of human existence, is it is specific as to time and to place. And so what we want to do, if we can just use the notes at the bottom of 11 there, is to understand the pattern of change, the universal pattern of change.
Now what Jim and I have sort of been trying to give to you in these first meetings is the "V". The "V" is the vision. And we have that wonderful song that George led us in, "Be Thou My Vision". See? The vision is the controlling thing. The vision of the kingdom of God. The vision of you as having a kingdom, intended by God from the foundation of the world. The capacity to see your situation, to see who you are, a man, a woman, a child, black, white, wherever you're from. To see that as God's place to know his kingdom. And to then say, "It's good that I am who I am."
Now let me tell you, probably of all the things one might…that's one of the biggest challenges to your vision. Is to say, "It is good that I am who I am." And usually that goes to the whole life, but for example if you're becoming older, and perhaps you're becoming infirm. Is that good? The real point of the Beatitudes of Jesus is to say that there is no situation that is not blessed for those who are in the kingdom of God.
Now see, you can ask yourself, why is there such a thing as aging anyway? What does that mean in kingdom terms? I don't think I'm going to say anything about that, but I'd like you to think about it. I mean, God could have arranged it where you didn't age, couldn't he? How does that fit in? Now no matter what it may be, see, to be able to say blessed is to have the vision of the kingdom. And if you can go to the person, especially those who in human terms are thought to be beyond blessing, and put them in the context of the kingdom, and say blessed, then you've got the vision.
And perhaps you can put yourself in that. A real test is, can you say—stand before the mirror and look at yourself and say—it is good that I am who I am. Can you say that? See, that will depend on your vision. And there's nothing that glows like a person who is approaching death in the glory of God. And that's the way it's meant to be. A person who's growing old in the glory of God. I used to hear a preacher who said, "The devil has no happy old people." See, the vision of the kingdom is one that enables us to take all of the things that come to us, and say, "Everything that comes to me will be turned to good because I am alive in God's kingdom as a friend of Jesus Christ."
So when we say all things work together for good—not for everyone—a publishing house in Holland that I have to do with has this slogan "Alles komt zu recht." Not on your life! Not on your life, unless you are called into the purposes of God, and you love God. All things work together for good to those who love God and are called into his purposes, see. [Romans 8:28] That's true! And you and I can rejoice in that. And we're perfectly safe, that's the vision, see.
Now the intention here is, "I'm going to do that, I'm going to live in that." I'm going to live in that kingdom. I'm going to take everything that I have and I'm going to live in that kingdom." Now that's where it's important for us to understand that it is about all of life and not about a few little religious things. The intention is to take my whole life. So when I'm standing in line to go through the airport with 85,000 other people trying to get through the security check, see, that, that's that too. So I take that. So instead of fretting, I begin to look at the people around me. I begin to pray blessing upon them. Right? I begin to see if there's some way I could be helpful. Not to be officious, and nosy, but just sensible. But see, now I'm in a different kingdom. I have to intend that. You do not drift into this. You choose it. You choose it. You don't drift into discipleship. You choose it, see.
But see your vision is what supports you in that. The vision supports you. And you can now intend, if you have the vision, you can intend to live in it. "Fear not, little flock. It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." So, turn loose! Is what the rest of that—turn loose! Nothing wrong with having a purse and some money in it, unless you're hanging on to it. See? Then you're in the kingdom of your money, and all you can say is lotsa luck. There're not an awful lot of people in that kingdom that are blessed. And that's why Jesus said, "Cursed are you rich." Not because of the money, but because of what you're trusting, see.
And you trust doctors, that's—doctors are wonderful. But you'd better have your health in God's hands. And that's true of everything, so intention—
Now then, see finally, is means. And this we'll talk a little more later on today. But the means are primarily any of the things that would help you fulfil the intention to realize the vision. And means are the area of wisdom. They're not the area of righteousness. That's going back to some of the things that Jim so effectively talked on last night, see. I mean, if you're coming to church to do righteous, stay away! It'll be a blessing to everyone. You don't come to church to do righteous stuff. You come to church to do good stuff. Right?
And so, again, we're going to talk about church this afternoon, what we can do in the way of spiritual formation, and realization of the kingdom. You, you do things that are wise, to help you, like Scripture memorization. You don't do Scripture memorization to be righteous. You do it because it's good for you. "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." [Psalms 119:11] See, that's means. You see the connection in that verse? "That I might not sin against thee." Now see, if you have the vision and the intention, but you don't implement the means, it'll come to nothing.
But in the area of means, there's great freedom, because it is the area of interaction with the Spirit. Right. So now, if Kent and Mike show up here to preach Sunday, and there's three people here, that's a stage you have to go through. They'll be back. And when they come back, they'll be here, because they think it's wonderful to be here. And they love the people. So that's, that's the kind of shift that we're talking about here, see. We're, we're talking about things that we do if we don't have to do them. And that especially applies in the area of means, so that would cover church attendance, because church is good for you. That's why you should come. And, then everyone who's arranging the services, and serving the Lord as leaders, they want to approach it in the same way: doing what is good for people, and not what is merely ritualistically righteous. Because that will bring you back into bondage, the deadness of the law.
So, with that kind of pattern, then you take the, the small things ("Faithful in little, faithful in much" [Luke 16:10]), that, the last section here, section 11 on page 12. I give the verse from Colossians, because this is often thought to be so little: "Letting your speech always be with grace." Oh, what a wonderful thing that is. Now, what does that mean? "Let your speech be with grace." Well, it means, now go back to what we said about grace last night, when you speak, you're always looking to God to intervene. See, remember, I said grace is God intervening in our lives to accomplish what we cannot do on our own. Ever have someone go at you with their words, trying to manage you? You like that? No, you don't. Why? Because they are violating God's appointed kingdom for you. That's why Jesus said, "Let your 'yes' be a yes, and your 'no' be a no, because more that this comes from evil." [Matt. 5:37]
The function of words is not to manipulate people. The function of words is to be a site, a repository, of grace. So when you speak, now you have the mind of the Spirit, and you're expecting grace to come into that relationship. So then that, that takes you out of control, you know, you—ever watch someone bowl? And they turn the ball loose, and then they stand there and go, "Unhh…Uunnhh…Unnhh", right? It's body English. See, a lot of—if we're in the business of controlling things, that's what we do when we talk. Instead of it being freeing, and loving, and grace-filled, seasoned with salt, it'll just be us trying to make something happen again. "…that you may know how you should respond to each person." [Col. 4:6]
And then, see, in these lowly places, that's where—now go back to this verse, which I quoted to you earlier, "Humble yourselves therefore, under the mighty hand of God" [1 Peter 5:6] What does that mean? That means assume that God is in action. When you humble yourself in the hand of God, you acknowledge God. You acknowledge God's presence in what you're doing. Now, you take that and any area of your life, and you will begin to see God's kingdom working with your kingdom. And you'll see it. And see I can tell you that, because I know that if you do it, you will find God there. It always works.
It's just like old Abraham when he sent his son, his servant up to Syria to get a wife for his son Isaac. [Genesis 24] Now this guy had been hanging around Abraham for years, and didn't believe a bit of it, you know, he just said, "Well, you know that's just how Abraham is, he talks a lot about God." Like the man who ripped off a curse in front of his preacher, and caught himself, and said, "Oh, it's ok preacher, I curse a little, and you pray a little bit, but neither one of us means anything by it." And that's the way this guy felt about Abraham, now, he does his religious things, goes over in a tent and does that stuff. But he doesn't mean anything." And Abraham just said, "Yeah, go!" And the guy was standing there saying, "But…but…but…but…but…but…but…" and Abraham said, "Just go. God's angel will be with you. And he'll guide you." And you remember what happened? This old guy got up there in Syria and said, "How am I going to do this?" And so he made up this little routine: "Oh, well I'll try this. I'll say, 'Give me to drink.' And if she says, 'Sure, I'll give you to drink, and I'll water your camels also.', then that's the one." He just cooked that up. You see, the important thing was, he put himself on the line. And when you put yourself on the line, with God, he'll be there. He'll be there. We'll learn a lot as we go along, but he'll be there. You see, I know that this will happen with you. I know that if you do this, you will find God in everything you do. "Faithful in little, faithful in much."
Ok, Jim, come and answer the people's questions. Now, I think we have people running about with mics, and here's a hand up here, so let's just start with whatever comes to mind. [Jim:] "All the hard ones you get to answer." [Dallas:] "No, no, no."
Questioner: I have a question for Dallas Willard.
Q: In what ways does your and God's cooperative kingdoms interact in the world of a secular university, and I have sort of a second part, which is as we make decisions about our kids and our grandkids going to a Christian college vs. a secular college, do you have any wisdom that might shed light on that decision from your experience there?
DW: Boy, that's a long talk, but let me try to be very brief. It interacts in that context just like it would anywhere. You are someone who is a disciple of Jesus, of course that's open and obvious. You don't have to rub people's face in it. If it's not open and obvious, you shouldn't rub their face in it. So, this is the kind of area where we want to realize that, for a lot of things, if they have to be spoken, shouldn't be. So, now then, in my work as researching, writing, setting up courses, dealing with students, dealing with colleagues, then that's where I simply count on the presence of Christ in the midst. And I don't assume that he has nothing to do with unbelievers. Because I take them, I take him in their presence with me. And so I count on that. I do it very explicitly. Committee meetings are among the greatest challenges of the academic life. And sometimes life-and-death matters are decided in committee meetings. So, you know when you go into a committee meeting, now, if there's ever any place that you need to expect to see the glory of God, it's a committee meeting. But that's the way I approach it, and I just say, I look for the hand of God, is the way I often put it to others and to myself.
The other issue is really very complicated, and I have to be careful here, but I want to be frank, and to say you cannot count on a Christian college to save your grandson or your son or your daughter. Basically, the Christian schools are fighting much the same battles as the so-called non-Christian schools. A hundred and, a hundred years ago, actually much less than that, if you were to try to talk about secular universities, no one would understand it. There weren't any secular universities. Now you go back and look at the founding language of land-grant universities in this country, you will be impressed with how much God is in it. And, so, it's the kind of thing where you have to recognize that what is going to make a difference for a young person is what's on the ground when they get there. And the course content in Christian universities does not differ from the course content in so-called secular schools. In that sense, all learning today is secular. It is assumed that you can be the best-educated person in any field without any knowledge of God at all. That assumption is still true on the Christian university campuses. This is a part of a larger battle in which we have been losing for a hundred years, and we need to come back.
One of the things that is important for you to know, if you're sending your child to a university, is what is the religious life like on the campus? And sometimes its better at a secular school than it is at a Christian school. It depends on what's happening. So I guess what I would say is, look at the details."
[End of talk.]