Since Thursday evening, I’ve enjoyed sitting under the teaching of Dallas Willard and John Ortberg at the Knowing Christ Conference sponsored by the Martin Institute/Dallas Willard Center at Westmont College. I have taken dozens of pages of notes. Over the next few posts, I want to share portions of Dallas’s opening night presentation, “How to Live Well: Eternal Life Begins Now.”
As I’ve said before when I share notes like these, these are insights that I gained from listening to Dallas. They are sometimes in my own words. So, don’t assume that every word here is straight from him. And these are lightly edited, so bear with possible typos or grammatical goofs. With that in mind, I pray these notes will help you in your own journey with Christ. (I’ll be sharing these over four posts. Thanks for your patience…)
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We are on the verge of a time when the church is going to be able to make some critical decisions. There have been too many seasons when important decisions haven’t been made. I try not to criticize the church because I know Who is in charge of it.
Many leaders and Christians will say, “It’s all about discipleship and transformation into Christ-likeness.” Yes, but how?
We’ve been through a season when everything seemed to be about proper belief and seeing to it that you avoided the bad place and made it into the good place. You could have the worst character possible and still make it into the good place. Discipleship was not central…not core. There seemed to be little difference between Christians and non-Christians.
The world likes to beat the church with its own stick—what Jesus said and taught. We ready for a change from that. It will make a startling difference in our world. Jesus’ intention for His people from the beginning has been world revolution. The great commission is about this…period. Have you seen it? It’s not about planting churches or evangelization, but a world-wide revolution. Promised through Abraham, coming through Jesus, living through to today in His people.
Knowing Christ Today. It’s my book title and this conference theme. Knowledge of Christ. It’s not about faith, except in as much as faith is a reflection of knowledge. Truly knowing Christ. In the last 100 years or more, society has very carefully taken Christ and his teaching, and set them outside the domain of knowledge and put them in an arena called “Faith.” That shift has deprived faith of its home (which is knowledge).
It’s knowledge for living, and it is a disaster when we separate knowledge from God. Is reality secular? Secular knowledge falls desperately short of helpful. We are spokespeople for Christ…for spiritual reality…for spiritual knowledge.
Everything seems up for grabs…and many are grabbing. What can we understand…know…of God’s nature, God’s way, God’s reality? Spokespeople for Christ are those who have the knowledge no one else has. This makes them the most important people in society. They know what time and eternity are about. Scripture, grace, work…and true, spiritual knowledge about these things that helps, that works.
Witnessing is not thought of as bringing knowledge. It is seen only as persuading people to do things rather than providing them a basis on which they can reasonably decide how to live their lives well. It seems just a way of bothering people.
I was a Southern Baptist pastor. I was good at inspiring guilt by talking about witnessing. Most weren’t doing it. I must confess my sin of guilting others back then. I felt that you moved people by making them feel badly (rather than providing them with true knowledge).
There has been a kind of conspiracy to take knowledge away from the people of Christ. We’re here to restore your dignity of being spokespeople of reality…of Christ. We want to raise up spokespeople who stand with confidence and courage with true knowledge about reality. There is a difference between faith and knowledge. We must understand that! They are both important, but different.
Spiritual formation is old language, though new in our circles. Old as the NT in the earliest years of the church. The Philokalia is an early collection of Christian writings illustrating just how important spiritual formation was for followers of Jesus in the first few centuries.
Spiritual formation is the process of transforming the person into Christlikeness through transforming the essential parts of a person (the mind, for example, but also the other parts of the human person. Body. Soul.) It isn’t behavior modification, but changing the source of behavior.
The spiritual life isn’t actually hard. It’s the easy way. Living a spiritually unreal life is actually the hard way. Transformation of the self leads to a life of blessing.
Two passages tonight:
Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me, you weary and burdened ones. Take my yoke and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble in heart. You’ll find rest in your soul. My yoke is easy. My burden is light.
The person with the easiest, best fitting life, is the one following Jesus—taking His yoke.
The yoke of Christ. A yoke usually referred to harnessed animals—oxen pulling a load. Pulling His load with Him. His load? To bring the reign of God into ordinary human life. That’s why he came, lived and died the way he did. Ordinary. He was pulling the load of bringing the kingdom of God into ordinary life. This is what he came for. Mt. 4:17 – Repent. Turn back and reconsider how you’re thinking. To whom is Jesus speaking his word about the yoke? Context? He was facing rejection and opposition. John the Baptist wonders about Jesus, because he doesn’t seem to be living up to what John expected. (“If you follow Jesus long enough, he will disappoint you.”)
Jesus was rejected in many of the small towns of Galilee because of a prevailing view of religion and God common then. This is the context. “Thank You, Father, you’ve hidden these things from the sophisticates and shown them to children.” Religion wears you out. The yoke of Jesus won’t.
When you come to spiritual formation, your religious position matters little—denomination, tradition, certain theologies. Jesus is saying, “Take my yoke. Take the yoke of official religion off. Take on my yoke. Learn from me how to live with me. Learn your ‘religion’ from me.”
There is nothing wrong with the church that discipleship wouldn’t solve! This leads to most of our problems!
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