Dallas Willard: Taking Theology and Spiritual Disciplines into the Marketplace

Dallas Willard: Taking Theology and Spiritual Disciplines into the Marketplace

– Thank you so much, Nick.
(applause) Thank you. Thank you for those kind words. Now, if you know a great deal
about the Missouri farm boys, especially from the south, you may know that in some places,
there’s not much there. I was raised in an area
where the land was very poor, so poor that they said you had to sit on a sack of fertilizer
to raise an umbrella. (laughter) You had to think about that. (chuckles) But actually, that was about the truth. Now, I’m really thankful to be here. Talbot is taking on a very serious and important issue that has deep theological issues involved in it. You may see that the topic given to me, and I’m glad for it, is Taking Theology And Spiritual Disciplines
Into the Workplace. Now, there’s a handout. And if you didn’t get it, maybe you should hold up
your hand or something, and someone might bring it to you, because the discussion
will be a little thick, and it may help to have
a few notes to guide you. I have some text at the top of the page, and I will read a couple
of those, not all of them. But the most striking one
is one we’ve already heard, and that is Colossians 3:17. “Whatsoever you do in word or deed, “do all in the name of
the lord Jesus Christ, “giving thanks to God
the Father through him.” Now, that text has got a lot in it, and we could spend our time
just spelling that out. But the basic idea is very simple. “Whatever you do in world and deed” pretty well covers it, doesn’t it? There’s not a lot left out. So the song about having Jesus
and take everything else, you see, that verse is a way
of saying how that works, because how that works is not just having lovely states of mind. Lovely states of mind are fine, but it’s an action first. It’s saying, do everything you do in the name, now the name is kind of like power of attorney. To act in the name of Jesus
means to do it on his behalf and from his resources. And that’s how you can spend your time with him, and he will be personally
present to guide you. The remainder of Colossians 3:17 is also extremely important
for our understanding. Paul goes ahead to give advice to wives and children and fathers,
and then, in verse 22 of chapter three, he says,
“Slaves, in all things “obey those who are your masters on Earth, “not with external
service,” and the lovely old word there is “eye
service,” serving eyes, “as those who merely please men, “but with sincerity of
heart, fearing the Lord. “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, “from your soul, as from the Lrd “rather than for men,” that’s for the Lord rather than for men,
“knowing from the Lord “you shall receive the
reward of the inheritance. “It is the lord Christ whom we serve.” That transforms everything. As we do that, I’ll
just look at Romans 5:17 of the remaining verses there. This is talking about the contrast in life when sin reigns and when grace reigns. And verse 17 says, “For if by
the transgression of the one, “death reigned through the one, much more “those who receive the abundance of grace, “and the gift of righteousness
will reign in life “through the one, Jesus Christ.” Now, I don’t know what
you think about reigning, but it’s worth thinking about, because not a lot of people
think they’re reigning in life. Reigning means to have supreme supervision over what is going on. To reign is to have
things at your disposal, and your actions, and
to be able in your life to have things that are going your way. Now, the trick here, of course, is, this is under the abundance of grace, because you can’t do that on your own. The problem for human beings is, they want to reign without God. They want to reign without grace. And it’s simply a no-go from the start, because we’re made to live under grace. Grace is God acting in your life to accomplish what you can’t
accomplish on your own. And I encourage you to think about that. Grace is God acting in your life. Is it unmerited favor? Yes, it’s unmerited favor,
but if all you know is, it’s unmerited favor, you don’t
know very much about grace. The unmerited favor takes
the form of God acting in your life to accomplish what you can’t accomplish on your own. Now, then, you’re ready to reign. Of course, forgiveness of sins will be a part of that. You’ll no longer be under the dominion of the dead hand of the past
because you will be forgiven and given new life that leaves you free of the
burden of guilt and failure. So now, with those verses in mind, and I’ll just leave the rest
of them that’s on the page for you to think about. You probably are familiar
with them already. Let’s look at this topic, Taking Theology and Spiritual Disciplines
into the Workplace. I’m gonna divide that in
good theological terminology, under three headings. The first is theology, and that’s our understanding of God. The second is anthropology, and that’s our understanding
of human beings. Who are we? What are we here for? And then soteriology, which is the understanding of salvation or deliverance. Let me say something
just on that point now, and we will try to develop it
better in the time we have. When you’re thinking about
whole life discipleship, you’re problem is likely to be what you take salvation to be. The greatest barrier to
whole life discipleship in our world, the world
of folks like you and me, is a theory of salvation
that does not include it. That make any sense? Because if you have a theory of salvation that does not include discipleship, much less whole life discipleship, you may just decide to
enjoy the ride to heaven and not worry about anything else. And we have a lot of people
who have been preached the Gospel, and they’ve
accepted that Gospel, and basically they have
said, “Thank you, Jesus. “I’ll see you in heaven later. “I must get on with my life.”
(audience chuckles) That’s something to worry
about, because you know the only issue is not,
will you make it in, but, will you enjoy it if you do? (audience chuckles) It’s hard to imagine that you would if you didn’t enjoy the
company of Jesus now. I’ve heard someone say the other day that, if you don’t like worship,
you better not go to heaven, ’cause you’re gonna be in real trouble, if you don’t like worship. So our relationship to God requires an understanding that goes deep into life. So let’s just begin with a few words here about the theology. We are going to take our
theology into the workplace. The only question is, which
theology are we going to take? An atheist has a theology. He has an understanding of God. And he takes that understanding
into the workplace, and he winds up basically trying to be in the position of God. A deist, someone who says,
“Well, there is a God, “but he doesn’t have
anything to do with us,” will take that theology
into the workplace. And actually, you see many people who are practical deists. Because, if you observe
them in their lives, they do not assume that
God is living interactively with them in their lives. And a lot of our Christian
teaching and religion has fed into that. Now then, the most
devout disciple of Jesus will also take that
theology into the workplace. And they will be constantly
paying attention to Jesus and what Jesus wants,
they’ll be learning from him how to do what they do, because they are his apprentice. A disciple of Jesus is someone who is apprenticed to
Jesus to learn how to live in the kingdom of God like he does. I will talk a little more
about that in a moment. But that means that all
of the tasks that I face in my work are tasks which I undertake with Jesus at my elbow. God is present in my life through Jesus the son. And he is my teacher. He is the one that I’m
learning from constantly as I go through life. Now, how we think about God is the most important thing in our lives. Nearly all of the troubles
that human beings get into, and I use the word
“nearly,” I actually think all of them come from
thinking wrongly about God, the nature of God, His spiritual nature. When Moses was dealing
with God in Exodus 3, he wants to know who He is. He says, “If I’m gonna go down into Egypt “and do this thing
you’re telling me to do, “I need to tell them who you are.” And there’s a phrase there
that translators struggle with. I think the right translation
is the old standard one, where God says, “I am that I am.” Not, “I am who I am,” some
translations put it that way. But even Popeye is who he is. (laughter) Everyone is who they am. (chuckles) What God is doing here is saying something extremely important about
God and about God only, and that is, He is the only being that is totally independent
of everything else. “I am that I am,” my being is predicated on my being,
and on nothing else. There isn’t anything else
in the universe like that. That’s a primary feature
of spirit, and God, as we know from John,
chapter four, is spirit. And that means, among other things, as Jesus is explaining
to the woman at the well, that means that God is not in a place, or rather, He’s in every place, and that there is no
place where He is not. So, you don’t have to
worship in the mountain there in Sumeria, as the Sumeritans did, or you don’t have to worship in Jerusalem. Actually, a location
like that in Jerusalem wasn’t particularly God’s idea, anyway, but he did it to help people out who needed to be able to think about Him in a way that they could work with Him. God’s nature is love, infinitely empowered, because this being is always set on doing what is good. And that’s the character of love. You love something if you
will what is good for it. You hear people say things
like they love chocolate cake, but they don’t, they want to eat it. (audience chuckles) That’s not love, (laughter) at least from the cake’s point of view. (laughter) You might imagine someone who loves chocolate cake
and just took care of it and saw to it. That’s not what people mean. Love is will to good. Someone has already
mentioned how many times “good” shows up in Genesis 1. It’s a beautiful expression of what God is like. And this infinitely powerful love, now, is present where we are. It is God at work where we are, God at work in nature, God at work in history
and in social processes. That’s really important to remember when you hear people getting so upset about what’s going on with the wars or the economy and all of that. Okay, God is there. And people say things
like, “Well, where was God “when the Twin Towers went down?” God was there. God is always there. And God is there in our personal life. The realities all around us are places where God is at work. It’s really important to think this if you’re gonna go to take
Him into the workplace. The first thing you want
to do, if you decide to take Him is recognize
that He’s already there. God is already there. Right away, over there, he is. And it’s so important to have the right idea of God. William Law says in one passage, “Think magnificently of God.” How we think about God, A. W. Tozer has these words: “That our idea of God “corresponds as nearly as possible “to the true being of God “is of immense importance to us. “Compared with our actual
thoughts about Him,” that’s what matters,
“our cradle statements “are of little consequence. “Our real idea of God may lie buried “under the rubbish of
conventional religious notions “and may require an
intelligent and vigorous search “before it is finally unearthed
and exposed for what it is. “Only after an ordeal
of painful self-probing “are we likely to
discover what we actually “believe about God.” And what you see people
doing, professing Christians and others, what you see people doing is a real indication of their idea of God. And it’s so important
for us to understand that and take an idea of God with us that enables us to think
magnificently of Him, so that we can bring Him wherever we are, and our expectation will be that He will act with us. Waiting up on the Lord is
a fundamental principle of human life. If we don’t do it, we
have to carry the burden. But that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, and they will mount up
with wings as the eagle. Now, I don’t know how where you work is, where I work, I need that. So I have to train myself
to expect His action with me wherever I am, even in very discouraging times, or when it seems like I’m
faced with an impossibility. To wait on the Lord
means, among other things, not taking things into my own hands. And that’s where disciplines
are going to come in, and we’ll be talking
about those in a moment. So we need the right idea of God if we’re going to take our
theology into the workplace. The second division of
theology that I’ve listed here, under number three on your
page, is anthropology. That’s an important
division, old fashioned books in theology often will have
a heading of anthropology. This is an understanding of who we are and what we are to do, as well as what our resources are. So now, what are we? Well, we are limited will, intellect and energy. We have just enough, not very much, just enough to relate us to the great source of all will, intellect and energy. We are meant to function
under larger powers. And that is the basic truth
about the human being. The human being has a vast horizon, but it cannot realize
that and move into it except in subjection to God. And we’ve heard, I think, Wayne and others have talked about Genesis 1. Genesis 1:26 tells us
what human beings are. They are created in God’s likeness. That means they are
created to have dominion. Now, in case you don’t
notice the connection, dominion and reigning go together. Dominion and reigning are exercises of the power that comes to us under God. So God says, “Let us make
human beings in our likeness.” You look back down the history of theology and the church, and you see
all kinds of discussions about what the likeness is. I think, as far as that
verse is concerned, it is simply dominion,
let them have dominion. And in particular, let them have dominion over the created world, the world of life. If you’re looking at
that verse, you’ll see that the first thing on the list is fish. That’s very big in Missouri. And the fish have to run and hide, because of people who are trying
to have dominion over them. I don’t think that’s exactly
what He’s had in mind here in verse 26. And you get, of course,
other things listed, living things of all kinds, down to creeping things. At least on this story, you have dominion over lizards and spiders, as well. And God made human beings to have that kind of governance for His good over His creation. Psalm 8, you made a step up, because now we don’t start with fish. We’ve come to the place to
where domesticated animals, “What is man, that you
take thought of him, “even pay any attention to him, “the son of man, that you visit him?” See, that’s recognizing
that what we are doing is done in companionship with God. That’s how we were meant to rule. And when we broke that companionship, of course, then we have trouble because we don’t have
the power to carry out the calling that even
still falls on people, even though they may be quite far from human beings who know how to rule, they still have that call to rule. Verse six, “Thou hast made him to rule “over the work of your hands.” Now, that is, the
calling upon human beings is to fit into creation in such a way that all of it is ruled
over by human beings. And again, if you think about
the history of technology and all the other developments
that you might see, including the oil and
things that Wayne mentioned the other evening, we don’t even know what’s built into it, but
God has put powers into that, that we are to unlock and use to develop our lives and the life of other who are around us. Now, there’s a problem. And that is, what we are
supposed to be able to do is not yet something we can do. I want to just call your
attention to Hebrews, chapter two, verse five, “He did not subject
to angels the world to come, “concerning which we are speaking.” And then he goes right
back to quote Psalm 8: “What is man, that you remember him, “or the son of man, that
you’re concerned with him? “You’ve made him a little
lower than the angels, “you have crowned him
with glory and honor, “and has appointed him over
the work of your hands.” See, that’s dominion, that’s reigning, that’s what we’re called to do. And when we go to work, whatever our field of work may be, our vocation or our occupation, what are we doing, from the point of view of an appropriate anthropology? We are acting under God. We are exercising our
kingdom under His kingdom. Every person has a kingdom, or queendom, as the case may be, and every person has that built into their personality. Your kingdom is the range
of your effective will. It’s what you have say over. And God has made us, all of us, to have a domain like that. And how far that extends depends on how it has developed. For example, your kingdom
is extended greatly by credit cards. The range of your effective will, money, all of that is built into our kingdom. But of course, our main source of power is still our relationship to God. Human work is intended to be an extension of God’s loving creativity. And we develop that through community in which there is division of labor. Human beings are made interdependent by their need to cooperate with others to fulfill the God-appointed dominion that they have been given. Now, the professions and the common good are things that come up in this heading. Professions are areas of occupation that require a special
degree of preparation and a special opportunity
to serve with others, professions are always communal, they’re not individualistic, and they fall under the guidance and direction of others in the profession. That’s just a few of the things that go into the idea of a profession. A profession is a
manifestation of God’s purpose for human beings to have dominion. That develops, for example,
in the field of medicine, or law, or some of the other areas that are more recent
vintage in human history. Ministry, law and medicine are the three great classic professions. That extends to other professions as human history develops. This idea of your kingdom and my kingdom is built into our kingdom. And that’s why the Lord taught us to pray, “Our Father which art in heaven.” So my calling and my
vocation that I carry out is carried out in community. And that community is meant
to function under God. Now, when that connection is broken, then we lose our way. Professions can go
wrong, and human efforts at military or other devices in government and social
relations will go wrong, things will go bad. We have technology now
that allows terrorism in the form that we now know it. The technology was
developed by human beings following the call of
God to reign and to rule, but when the connection
with God is broken, then we devote it to blowing others up. And we’re very good at that. What happened? The creativity and dominion
that God appointed to us has not developed with the character of the people who are
exercising that dominion. And because they cannot depend upon God, that connection is broken. They start depending on themselves, and on working with one
another to accomplish things that generally are harmful, and sometimes terribly so. When you look around you in the world, you might think, “Where is God?” Now, He has left that kind of space to us because of His purposes for us in making us as free human beings with a responsibility
for the kinds of persons that we become. Jacob running from the results of his bad behavior, winds up in a ditch, sleeping with a stone as his pillow. And in the night, he dreams. He dreams of a connection
between heaven and Earth, Jacob’s ladder, you’ll remember. Jesus himself invokes that picture in describing what was going to happen as he restores the connection. You see the angels
ascending and descending on the son of man. See, that’s God’s intention. And God is still here. He didn’t leave. He hides Himself from
us because He’s so big that, if He didn’t hide Himself from us, we couldn’t hide from Him, and our project as fallen
beings is to hide from God, to live on our own. I’ve given you here those words of Jacob I find so striking, from Genesis 28, “Surely the Lord is in this place, “and I did not know it.” That’s the condition in which human beings find themselves, “Surely
the Lord was in this place, “and I did not know it.” Now, if you want to know God, He’s available. And yet, this is a very
tender sort of thing that may puzzle you sometimes. There’s a passage in which Jesus explains why he uses parables. He talks about how “I
speak in parables so that, “unless they should
hear and be converted.” Now, when you look at that, you think, “Well, doesn’t he
want them to be converted?” Certainly he does, but they
don’t want to be converted. And what they want is something that God makes the provision for by, among other things,
presenting the truth in such a way that, if you don’t want it, you won’t get it. That’s why He says, “Be
careful how you hear. “To him that hath, more shall be given. “And to him that hath
not, shall be taken away “even what he has.” All of that is to try
to help us understand how gentle the approach of God to us in salvation is. So when we come to
think about soteriology, we want to understand that it is an approach of God that gives us the opportunity to live in
the kingdom with Jesus now, and that is the basic Gospel. That is why Jesus, when he comes, his message is, “Repent, for the kingdom “of the heavens is available to you now.” The Lord is near. That’s repeated in Philippians 4. “Let your moderation be known “or your gentleness be known of all man “because the Lord is at hand.” Practically the same language as in Matthew 4:17. “The Lord is at hand.” Being saved is a matter of hearing the good news that Jesus is available,
with his kingdgom, and it is now possible
for anyone who wishes to come to him and trust him and learn his redemptive
presence in all that we do. Faith in Christ means confidence that he is the one who
is totally in charge. He is the maestro of the universe. As you see the Gospels opening up, you see him coming in
gentle forms, little baby, the son of the carpenter,
the carpenter, and so on. It’s hard to discern,
why didn’t Jesus come in a big Huey helicopter and land in the middle of Jerusalem
and blow people away? Why didn’t that happen? Because that does not
accomplish the purposes of God for human beings. We are meant to freely accept Him. Now, we can’t do that without grace. I don’t want to get off into that. Grace is required, but that
doesn’t eliminate freedom. And what we want, and what we choose now, is the matter that we
have to pay attention to. We become disciples of Jesus by hearing the Gospel of life now in the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Being a disciple is the natural
response to that message. The master of life has come to town to give life and to take us in. The natural response is to say, “I want to be His disciple. “I want to be His apprentice.” One of the deepest things I believe we need to ask ourselves
in dealing with the topic of this conference and
the concerns of Talbot in bringing this conference together in the Kern family, is, are we preaching a Gospel that has a natural tendency
to produce disciples? I’m going to say that again, because that is really
the heart of the matter. Are we preaching a Gospel that has a natural tendency to produce disciples? Or do we simply preach a Gospel that generates consumers of
religious goods and services? A Gospel of mere forgiveness does not produce disciples. No. Look, you’re gonna have
a chance to mow me down on these things later. You know, if you disagree with me, I mean, Lord knows I’ve been wrong
about lots of things. My wife assures me of that. (laughter) And she’s in a position to know. That’s a stunning statement. If you were to pursue that, it would cause you trouble, because we are now wedded to a Gospel that does not produce disciples, in any regular connection. And that’s how we get
a culture of Christians who are not disciples. And that’s where we are today. If we’re gonna deal
seriously with this issue of taking theology and
spiritual disciplines into the workplace, we have to recognize where the problem is. And the problem is, what we get by grace through the Gospel does not extend to the workplace. There’s no conceptual connection between being saved, as
that is commonly understood, and taking our workplace for Christ. Put it another way. You can go to heaven and not do that. I don’t know of anyone
who’s prepared to say that, if you don’t do this,
you can’t go to heaven. Now, there’s three hours of discussion on that alone. I’m hoping that you will think, “Well, “do I have to be a disciple
to go to heaven when I die?” What is taught about that? That’s the great issue. As Jesus’s disciple, I’m learning from him how to lead my life, that’s point eight on your sheet, I’m learning from him how to lead my life in the kingdom of God
as he would lead my life if he were I. Now, you may say, “I don’t
like that definition.” I’d say, “Okay, but for
goodness’ sakes, have one.” Because if we’re going to make disciples, we need to have a clear
idea of what it is. I just suggest you try that out. And if you can improve
on it, praise the Lord. Now, spiritual formation is the process that happens to those who are
in the status of a disciple. As a disciple, I am being transformed in all dimensions of my personality toward the goal of loving God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, with all my strength and my neighbor as myself. That’s the goal of spiritual formation. Now, you don’t have to be there to receive grace and forgiveness. I’m sure of that. We’re not talking about perfection. But we are talking about
faithful dependence on Christ in whole life. That’s what we’re talking about, isn’t it? That what our whole life discipleship, that what we need to understand is, where does that come from? Whole life discipleship comes from the recognition that Jesus is the one in charge of everything,
and I can trust him and learn from him, and then, in our work, the CEOs that have
spoken so eloquently here today and last night, you see, they are simply learning how to learn from Jesus how
to do everything they do as he would do them if he were they. Basically, there are three
things you’re learning. One is, how to do the things he said do. We have all the lists of things, both in the Gospels and
in the Old Testament. I mean, even the 10 commandment. I tell ya, 10 commandments
are really good. (audience chuckles) If you just try to do them, you’ll wind up trusting God for sure, ’cause you’re sure gonna
be in trouble with men. And God will come to your aid, because, you see, on this point, we’re not trying just to
do the 10 commandments or what Jesus said. We’re trying to become the kind of people who would routinely and easily do them. We’re trying to become the kind of person who would look at, for example, Jesus’s teaching, let your yes be a yes and your no be a no, is that
ever important in business? And we look at that and we say, “Well, “who would want to do anything else?” That’s the transformation
that we’re aiming at as disciples of Jesus. And then we’re not only learning that, we’re learning how to do the
ordinary affairs of life, running our Taco Bell or our bank or whatever it is, to do it with Jesus. The final thing I would just mention here, and these are not three separate things, they actually go together, is, we’re learning how to live and act in the power of God. That’s absolutely crucial because the world being what it is, we can’t do our business
the way Jesus would do it unless we’re acting in the power of God. That involves prayer, that involves a whole different way of embracing the tasks that are before us. Those three things. We’re becoming the kind of person who does what Jesus says. The kind of person who
looks at the 10 commandments and says, “Well, of course.” We’re becoming the kind of person who is able to face
the multitudes of tasks which are not in the Bible, ain’t no Taco Bells in the Bible, but I might be running one
and I need to know how Jesus, I’m learning that from him. His companionship helps me make decisions and learn wisdom. And then I learn also
that I can act in reliance upon the power of God acting with me. Those are not separable. I just break them open for
the purposes of analysis. Now, point nine there on your sheet, the problems caused by the idea of full-time Christian service, and the view that ordinary occupations are not full-time Christian service. This is one of the greatest
problems that we have. It’s a very old problem. Eusebius, who lived in the early 300s, codifies this, actually, in his Ecclesiastical History. He talks about how there
are two forms of life, “Two ways of life were given “by the law of Christ to his church.” It’s just a raging falsehood, but it becomes established. “The one is above nature and
beyond common human living. “It admits not marriage,
child bearing, property, “nor the possession of wealth.” Isn’t it astonishing how long
that stuff’s been around? “But holy and permanently
separate from the common, “customary life of
mankind, it devotes itself “to the service of God, alone, “in its wealth of heavenly love. “And they who enter on
this course appear to die “to the life of mortals, to bear with them “nothing earthly but their
body, and in mind and spirit “to have passed to heaven
like some celestial being, “as they gaze upon human
life, performing the duty “of a priesthood to Almighty
God for the whole race, “not with the sacrifices
of bulls and bloods, “nor with the libations and
unguents, nor with smoke “and consuming fire, but
with right principles “of true holiness, and of
soul purified in disposition. “Above all, with the
virtuous deeds and words, “with such, they propitiate the divinity, “and celebrate their
priestly rites for themselves “and their race. “Such, then, is the perfect
form of the Christian life. “Now, the other, more humble, more human, “permits men to join in pure nuptials “and to produce children,
to undertake government, “to give order to soldiers
fighting for right, “it allows them to have
minds for farming, for trade, “the other, more secular
interest, as well as for religion. “And it is for them that
the times of retreat “and instruction, and days
of hearing sacred things “are set apart.” And a kind of secondary grade of piety. Now, I wish I had time to talk about where all of this comes from, and how institutions, once they’re formed, begin to enforce their principles as superior to everything else. But I don’t really have time
to say anything about that. But I hope you get the picture. Now, Luther and his idea of
the priesthood of believers was entirely different. Actually, I think it’s
not well understood today, because, when I listen
to many people talk, I think they mean that Luther was saying that ordinary people could do
anything the priest can do. I think that’s a terrible
mistake in reading him. Rather, what he was saying was, in the ordinary duties of ordinary people, they are priests. And I’ve given you here, some of his best examples are the plough boy and the milkmaid. That was about, you know,
as humble an occupation as you could get. So you really need to
understand and set aside this idea that there are
two different categories. That is enforced in our time by the idea that preachers and teachers
are in charge of salvation. And so they are more important and uniquely placed before God. And since that is so important, it is important, I’m not
questioning that in the least, then the people who are in charge of that are the ones that have a
special place before God and the other occupations do not. Well, just quickly,
disciplines are for disciples. Here’s a very interesting
thing about human beings. They get to determine very largely the person they become. God has put discipline
in ordinary human life to allow people to achieve things that otherwise will simply go by them. We are able to improve our condition, both in the realm of nature, alone, like weight lifting, if you do discipline with weight lifting, you will be able to lift weights you couldn’t otherwise lift. You will become, perhaps,
a champion weight lifter. Now, whether or not you
do that is up to you, within broad limits, at least. If you wish to be a musician, you can, but only through discipline. If you wish to speak another
language, you can do that, if you discipline yourself well enough. See, that’s a basic part of the human equipment under God. That’s a part of what we have to gain dominion under grace. Grace will not impose
itself, but it’s available to those who will open themselves to it. I realize I’m hitting theology there. Forgive me. Maybe we can come back to it
later if there are questions. Human beings are given disciplines by God. They are a part of the good news. And if we don’t teach them,
we are depriving people of what they can be in the kingdom of God. And that, above all,
applies to whole life, everything that we do. Disciplines are activities in my power that allow me to do what I
cannot do by direct effort. So now, in the place of work and vocation, there are all sorts of stuff coming at us. There are many temptations
and many trials. How will we deal with them? Well, that depends on how we
have discipline ourselves. God has given us ways of
transforming ourselves in such a way that we can stand and do what we intend under God to do, no matter what the forces against us are. There’s not a single thing
that Jesus teaches us to do that we cannot do if we will discipline ourselves under grace. And when he tells us to go make disciples, and surround them in trinitarian reality, and teach them to do everything he said, see, that’s what he is presupposing, is that there will be a path of discipline and teaching that makes
us the kind of person who does the sorts of things that Jesus said to do. And the great mistake is to think that he’s teaching us rules and practices. That always fails. He does not teach us rules except to guide us into character. What he wants is not people who just don’t steal
because they have a rule, they don’t wanna steal. They don’t want to. The reason they don’t want to is because they understand
their place under God. The same thing with all
of the terrible things and sexuality and anger and so on that he talks about. Now, just a word or two about
particular practices. There are well-known practices. I give you disciplines of abstinence here, solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, sacrifice, and so on. I always put an “et cetera,” because there’s no complete
list of disciplines. Many, many things can be made disciplines if you choose to do it. For example, driving on the freeway or elsewhere in Southern California is a great place to practice disciplines. Great place to practice them. Watch for opportunities to love the other people who are driving. And you certainly find them. How to do that? Well, for example, if they want to get in
line in front of you, you say, “Praise the Lord. “Come right in.” You don’t try to crowd them off the road, because you say, “God loves them. “And I love them. “And they need help, probably. “And if I don’t behave
rightly, I can cause “a lot of grief for them and for me.” See, you can practice
things that enable you to love your neighbor on the freeway. Or in traffic. I’ve known Christians
that just become demons when they get back of a car wheel. That’s because that experience of power is not adjusted to their character. You know Lord Acton’s statement that power corrupts. I don’t think power corrupts. It makes corruption apparent. And if it’s absolute power, it will make it absolutely apparent. So what you deal with is character. John Wesley, wonderful,
brilliant follower of Christ, thought that, if you had money, the only thing you could do
to save your soul from hell was get rid of it. He says this. I don’t think he possibly could have actually believed that. But he says that. You see, he had a particular view that, if you had the money, you could not have the character to use it for the glory of God. because many people didn’t. Actually, he was talking
about the transformation of the people in his own movement, many of whom came out of great poverty, and because they became
sensible and frugal, they gained wealth. But they didn’t have the
character to deal with it. So they became backslid and cold. Disciplines of engagement, study, worship, celebration, service, prayer,
fellowship, confession. Those are ways, special
ways, that we engage God in the places that we have emptied by our disciplines of abstinence. You need both of those. I nearly hurt myself badly because I knew about the disciplines of engagement, but I didn’t know they were disciplines. I just thought they were engagement. I didn’t know about the
disciplines of abstinence. I didn’t know that I had to empty my life in order to fill it with good things. I said, told such things as well, It’s better to burn out than to rust out. It took me a long while to figure out, you didn’t have to do either one of them. Those aren’t the only options. But you have to learn how to live with practices that will enable you to be a very effective person, to work hard, to go fast without being in a hurry, and other kinds of things that you learn that allow you to rest in the Lord and give your very best to Him. Well, just a few comments here. Disciplines do not earn anything. They are not righteousness,
they are wisdom. They help us to live
righteously in God’s power and under His direction. A good Wesleyan term is “means of grace.” That’s what they are. They enable us to receive grace and to empower our lives
with the presence of God in such a way that we can
live to the glory of God. Wesley wrote a letter to a friend, I think he was 70 years old, and he says, “I am always in haste, “but I’m never in a hurry.” Haste and hurry are different things. Haste, for example, doesn’t have a tinge of guilt to it. But if you think about hurry, you realize it’s always tinged with guilt. If you are able to trust God, that drops off. And you can work and
accomplish just as much without hurry. Let me just jump to 16 here. Spiritual disciplines enable us to weave the presence of God throughout
the texture of our lives and carry out our work and our play in the name of the lord Jesus, giving thanks through
him to God the father. It enables us to do that. And we can reflect on questions like, for example, if the Christians that were involved in the Enron failure were disciples of Jesus, would there have been an Enron failure? Think about the blowout at the platform down in the Gulf of Mexico. Ask yourself, if this was something that was being supervised
by fully functioning disciples of Jesus,
would it have happened? Well, I don’t know all the details, but from what I do know, I think it wouldn’t have. And you watch the disasters that make it into the news, and ask yourself the question,
where were the disciples? Usually, there were Christians. But they didn’t associate discipleship with salvation, and didn’t associate discipleship with their work. Now, I don’t know the details on all these things. I’m just suggesting that, if you wanna see the world go right, you take God into all of the vocations and all of the workplaces. Just the final two points
here, just read them to you. The church is for discipleship, but discipleship is for the world, the world under God. Our world will not work without disciples. And then, finally, a way of thinking about salvation. Salvation is participating in the life Jesus is now living on Earth. Paul says in Colossians
3, “If you then be risen “with Christ, seek those
things that are above, “where Christ is seated
on the right hand of God. “Set your affections on things above, “not on things on the Earth.” That’s the secret, and we can do that. Thank you very much. (applause)

9 thoughts on “Dallas Willard: Taking Theology and Spiritual Disciplines into the Marketplace

  1. "Grace is God acting in your life to accomplish what you cannot do on your own." This is a huge step beyond "unmerited favor." Yes, it is unmerited favor, but it moves beyond this to action.

  2. The world had no idea of who it lost when Dallas Willard passed. Such a great teacher. Thankful his writings and perspective live on.

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