Monday, December 04, 2006

Going Deeper with Jesus

I've been reading 'The Divine Conspiracy' by Dallas Willard; a book where (200 pages in at least) he has been covering the Sermon on the Mount. Willard's writing on this passage has been refreshing and challenging. I can't begin to do him justice, so I will quote him directly.

By no means, however, is he simply giving here three more things not to do, three more points on a 'list' of things to be avoided. Certainly we are not to do them, but that is not the point. ....

So here as elsewhere in his lovely Discourse on the Hillside, we need to put the idea of laws entirely out of our minds. Jesus is working, as already indicated, at the much deeper level of the source of actions, good and bad. He is taking us deeper into the kind of beings we are, the kind of love God has for us, and the kind of love that, as we share it, brings us into harmony with his life. No one can be 'right' in the kingdom sense who is not transformed at this level. And then, of course, the issue of not being wrongly angry, not expressing contempt, not calling people "stupid bastards," and so on is automatically taken care of.

When I go to New York City, I do not have to think about not going to London or Atlanta. People do not meet me at the airport or station and exclaim over what a great thing I did in not going somewhere else. I took the steps to go to New York City, and that took care of everything.

Likewise, when I treasure those around me and see them as God's creatures designed for his eternal purposes, I do not make an additional point of not hating them or calling them twerps or fools. Not doing those things is simply part of the package. "He that loves has fulfilled the law," Paul said (Rom. 13:8). Really.

On the other hand, not going to London or Atlanta is a poor plan for going to New York. And not being wrongly angry and so on is a poor plan for treating people with love. It will not work. And, of course, Jesus never intended it to be such a plan. For all their necessity, goodness, and beauty, laws that deal only with actions, such as the Ten Commandments, simply cannot reach the human heart, the source of actions. "If a law had been given capable of bringing people to life," Paul said, " then righteousness would have come from that law" (Gal. 3:21). But law, for all its magnificence, cannot do that. Graceful relationship sustained with the masterful Christ certainly can.

We learn this in our discipleship to Christ.

The Divine Conspiracy - p. 154-155

All I can say is wow. Did you see the key to a transformed heart? If you missed it here it is again: "He is taking us deeper into the kind of beings we are, the kind of love God has for us, and the kind of love that, as we share it, brings us into harmony with his life." Just as Paul said, "He that loves has fulfilled the law."


Two Chix Apologetics said...

Hey Rick!

This is good stuff. Dallas Willard also has a basic outline of how we get to the point where we are like the person described in your post. He calls it, intention, and means.

He describes vision as having a clear understanding of the "good" that comes from a deeper knowledge of the Lord. I am speaking of a knowledge in which our inner-being is conformed to the likeness of Christ. We have to obtain a vision of how this spiritual conformity in the Lord will be profitable (for lack of a better word) to us. Once we have this vision, we are then able to intend to become like Him.

Willard says (generally) that one reason people never become the Christians that are effective in the Kingdom work, is that they never really intend to. There is a spiritual impoverishment inherent in merely knowing about Jesus. Knowing the truths and trusting the truths are not the same. Believers who merely “know the Truth” do not have to intend to follow Him and conform themselves to Him. Those believers who trust the Truth, not only intend to follow Him, but are able to do so.

Those who have a vision and intend to conform their inner being to Christ will seek the means of accomplishing spiritual transformation. Willard suggests several means in the spiritual disciplines. Here are a few that I like: solitude, silence, study, and worship.

He points out that silence is the type where you are not praying or asking or are just silent. You are in the presence of God as "you." You are not there as mother, father, son, daughter, worker, spouse, church-goer. You are who you are stripped of all your outer layers. (Like Shrek!) This is a time to find the 'peace' described in Romans 8:6, which in Greek is "eirene" and is defined: that of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is. (There are other definitions, but this was the most pertinent to the passage of scripture.)

Willard also points out how study or worship without each other can be dangerous to a Christian. He has seen the 'worship' become centered around issues it should not and the 'study' callous the believer from experiencing true worship. These are to be used together to worship the Lord in "spirit and truth." But you KNOW I'm not dissing studying! I love yourself approved...always be prepared. :-)

Okay, back to finishing my paper. Oh...I'm soooooo busted! Four pages to go.


Two Chix Apologetics said...

In the 3rd paragraph, the line "Believers who merely "know the Truth" should read "Believers who merely "know about the Truth." Possibly an important distinction there.


Kent said...

Rick and two chix apologetics, that's some good stuff there. Rick, I came over here from the God Journey.

Kent Burgess