Recently, I enjoyed hearing John Ortberg (along with Dallas Willard) at the “Knowing Christ” Conference sponsored by the Martin Institute/Dallas Willard Center at Westmont College. His title was, “Who Are the Experts on Life Transformation?” As always, these are my notes of his presentation. At some points, I may or may not have completely captured exactly what he said, or I may have put something in my own words. John gets credit for the goodies. I’ll take responsibility for anything amiss. Here is part one of three of my edited notes:
(Read Part One)
If you are part of or help lead a church, you are stewards of the way of Jesus. He has the best knowledge/information about how to live that is available to the human race. He still has the best info about what is a good person and how to become one that has ever been given to the human race.
Dallas’s four key questions:
- What is reality?
- What’s the “good life”?
- Who is a good person?
- How do you become a good person?
Advertisers say that the people who are living the good life are those with fresh breath, white teeth, new cars, etc. It’s a pretty thin and unsatisfying definition.
On the other hand, in the workplace, complaints tend to be about how a person wasn’t good.
We tend to wait until a funeral to say good things about people. Obituaries read very differently than advertisements. We’ve lost the connection between being a good person and living a good life.
What is the gospel that Jesus preached? Dallas asked this years ago: “What is the gospel that Jesus preached?” How do you respond to this? What do the gospels say? Here are a few passages to consider:
- Mark 1:14-15, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke have an identical summary of this basic gospel message.
- Lk 8, Jesus was “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.”
- Lk 9, kingdom of God.
- The 72 proclaim the kingdom of God.
- Acts 1: Jesus appeared and taught the disciples about “the kingdom of God.”
Jesus didn’t simply proclaim that the kingdom of God exists, but that it had become available for human beings to enter and live in it. You are welcome to come in. What’s tragic is that the gospel of Jesus has been substituted for a gospel of minimal entrance requirements for getting into heaven when you die. In what way do we find this in the gospel Jesus proclaims?
Do I see heaven as the pleasure factory and hell as the torture chamber? Do I actually want God, or just some poorly defined eternal pleasure forever without much reference to God’s presence?
Life in the presence and power of God has come to earth. This is his kingdom…in Jesus…in his body. Heaven is literally on earth in Him. Jesus essentially says, “If you want this, just come to me, be with me, watch me, learn from me, do what I do. And then you, too, can live.”
Kingdom: This gospel of Jesus, of course, includes life as eternal and forgiveness of sins. It is individual as well as corporate. But, it is more than these things. The cross is not the only reason Jesus came. He came to bring God’s kingdom among us. This was his message. This was how he lived. Americans aren’t obviously much into kings, so “kingdom” seems foreign to us. But it’s not foreign to Jesus.
Dallas defines kingdom as the range of your effective will. It’s the sphere in which things happen just because you want them to happen. Being made in God’s image, in part, is to exercise dominion. This is kingdom language. My will is actually effective. It can make things happen. Notice how two-year-olds say “no” and “mine.” They are exploring the boundaries of their kingdom.
It’s very hard to lead people without violating their kingdom. We, as pastors, do this in churches all the time. You’ll see that Dallas works hard not to violate kingdoms. It would be like taking spiritual steroids. Build a church that way and it simply won’t last. People must offer their will to God’s reign freely and willingly. If we are forced or manipulated, change of this sort cannot last.
And one of our basic problems is that our kingdoms have been junked up by sin. This has happened in our our minds, our bodies, our emotions, etc.
Dallas once said, “The will is transformed by experience, not information.” We tremendously over-estimate the power of mere information to transform.
Our individual kingdoms merge in marriages, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, nations, etc. That whole conglomeration might be called, ‘The kingdom of earth…of this world.” How are things in that kingdom? Not so hot. Jesus comes and says that there is another kingdom. It’s real…more real that you real-ize. This is the kingdom of God. Jesus is often trying to help people see their distortions of what God’s kingdom really is. Dallas helps us see the kingdom of God differently—more truly.
Jesus uses the image of hidden treasure to say that if we realize what the kingdom is like, it will awaken tremendous desire within us. We will be willing to go to great effort to acquire such a treasure.
Romans 14:17, Kingdom of God isn’t eating/drinking rules, but about righteousness, peace and joy. It’s a measurelessly beautiful kingdom. This is what Jesus has brought to us.
The Lord’s prayer is all about this. Father in heaven (the range of God’s effective will). Hallowed be your name (you’re so good). Your kingdom come/will be done on earth as in heaven. Do you believe that can happen?
We tempted to make “Star Trek” prayers, a sort of, “Beam me up, Jesus.” Jesus suggest such a prayer. He says, “Make ‘up there’ come ‘down here.’” In my body. How does that happen? What does that look like? This is what we are stewards of. Best info on life transformation ever given to the human race!
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