We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. Undoubtedly he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness.
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The revolution of Jesus is in the first place and continuously a revolution of the human heart or spirit...it is a revolution of character which proceeds by changing people from the inside through ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to one another. It is one that changes their ideas, beliefs, feelings, and habits of choice, as well as their bodily tendencies and social relations. It penetrates to the deepest layer of their soul. External, social arrangements may be used to this end, but they are not the end, nor are they a fundamental part of the means
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The disciple of Jesus is not the deluxe or heavy-duty model of the Christian-especially padded, textured, streamlined, and empowered for the fast lane on the straight and narrow way. He stands on the pages of the New Testament as the first level of basic transportation in the kingdom of God.
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You have been given a ministry and your ministry is not your job and your job and your ministry are two things and beyond that is your work in life which isn't the same as your ministry and then beyond that is your life. And this is what God is more interested in than your work or your ministry-what He gets out of your life is the person you become. And He has plans for you, and these are long-range plans.
In a world apart from God, the power of denial is absolutely essential if life is to proceed. The will or spirit cannot-psychologically cannot-sustain itself for any length of time in the face of what it clearly acknowledges to be the case. Therefore it must deny and evade and delude itself.
Does the Gospel I preach and teach have a natural tendency to cause people who hear it to become full-time students of Jesus? Would those who believe it become his apprentices as a natural 'next step'? What can we reasonably expect would result from people actually believing the substance of my message?
Many people have found prayer impossible because they thought they should only pray for wonderful but remote needs they actually had little or no interest in or even knowledge of. Prayer simply dies from efforts to pray about 'good things' that honestly do not matter to us. The way to get to meaningful prayer for those good things is to start by praying for what we are truly interested in. The circle of our interests will inevitably grow in the largeness of God's love.
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The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as 'Christians' will become disciples "" students, apprentices, practitioners "" of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence.
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Individually the disciple and friend of Jesus who has learned to work shoulder to shoulder with his or her Lord stands in this world as a point of contact between heaven and earth, a kind of Jacob's ladder by which the angels of God may ascend from and descend into human life. Thus the disciple stands as an envoy or a receiver by which the kingdom of God is conveyed into every quarter of human affairs.
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No one need worry about our getting the best of God in some bargain with him, or that we might somehow succeed in using him for our purposes. Anyone who thinks this is a problem has seriously underestimated the intelligence and agility of our Father in the heavens. He will not be tricked or cheated.
Consumer Christianity is now normative. The consumer Christian is one who utilizes the grace of God for forgiveness and the services of the church for special occasions, but does not give his or her life and innermost thoughts, feelings, and intentions over to the kingdom of the heavens. Such Christians are not inwardly transformed and not committed to it.
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So when Jesus directs us to pray, "Thy kingdom come," he does not mean we should pray for it to come into existence. Rather, we pray for it to take over at all points in the personal, social, and political order where it is now excluded: "On earth as it is in heaven." With this prayer we are invoking it, as in faith we are acting it, into the real world of our daily existence
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In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus not only teaches us to help people in need; more deeply, he teaches us that we cannot identify who "has it", who is "in" with God, who is "blessed", by looking at exteriors of any sort. That is a matter of the heart. There alone the kingdom of the heavens and human kingdoms great and small are knit together. Draw any cultural or social line you wish, and God will find his way beyond it.
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What you present as the gospel will determine what you present as discipleship. If you present as the gospel what is essentially a theory of the atonement, and you say, If you accept this theory of the atonement, your sins are forgiven, and when you die you will be received into heaven, there is no basis for discipleship.
Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand' (Matt 3:2, 4:17, 10:7). This is a call for us to reconsider how we have been approaching our life, in light of the fact that we now, in the presence of Jesus, have the option of living within the surrounding movements of God's eternal purposes, of taking our life into his life.
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Jesus offers himself as God's doorway into the life that is truly life. Confidence in him leads us today, as in other times, to become his apprentices in eternal living. "Those who come though me will be safe," he said. "They will go in and out and find all they need. I have come into their world that they may have life, and life to the fullest.
Dallas Willard warns us too of the "cost of non-discipleship." We may be able to live with some pain, but when our whole self becomes more and more rotten, the cost is far greater than dealing with the problem as soon as possible. This is why I think following Jesus, though challenging, is much easier than following anything else. The world has nothing better to offer me. Jesus has come to right my wrongs and to make me refreshingly new.
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The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians, and business leaders. They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes- a time for men and women to be heroic in their faith and in spiritual character and power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low.
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Jesus never expected us simply to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, bless those who persecute us, give unto them that ask, and so forth. These responses, generally and rightly understood to be characteristic of Christlikeness, were put forth by him as illustrative of what might be expected of a new kind of person - one who intelligently and steadfastly seeks, above all else, to live within the rule of God and be possessed by the kind of righteousness that God himself has, as Matthew 6:33 portrays. Instead, Jesus did invite people to follow him into that sort of life from which behavior such as loving one's enemies will seem like the only sensible and happy thing to do. For a person living that life, the hard thing to do would be to hate the enemy, to turn the supplicant away, or to curse the curser... True Christlikeness, true companionship with Christ, comes at the point where it is hard not to respond as he would.
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Multitudes are now turning to Christ in all parts of the world. How unbearably tragic it would be, though, if the millions of Asia, South America and Africa were led to believe that the best we can hope for from the Way of Christ is the level of Christianity visible in Europe and America today, a level that has left us tottering on the edge of world destruction. The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians, and business leaders. They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes-a time for men and women to be heroic in faith and in spiritual character and power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message TOO LOW.
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He is not just nice, he is brilliant. He is the smartest man who ever lived. He is now supervising the entire course of world history (Rev. 1:5) while simultaneously preparing the rest of the universe for our future role in it (John 14:2). He always has the best information on everything and certainly also on the things that matter most in human life. Let us now hear his teachings on who has the good life, on who is among the truly blessed.
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The first fruit of love is the musing of the mind on God. He who is in love, his thoughts are ever upon the object. He who loves God is ravished and transported with the contemplation of God. "When I awake, I am still with thee" (Psalm 139:18). The thoughts are as travelers in the mind. David's thoughts kept heaven-road. "I am still with Thee." God is the treasure, and where the treasure is, there is the heart. By this we may test our love to God. What are our thoughts most upon? Can we say we are ravished with delight when we think on God? Have our thoughts got wings? Are they fled aloft? Do we contemplate Christ and glory?... A sinner crowds God out of his thoughts. He never thinks of God, unless with horror, as the prisoner thinks of the judge.
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(God's) nature, identity, and overarching purposes are no doubt unchanging. But his intentions with regard to many particular matters that concern individual human beings are not. This does not diminish him. Far from it. He would be a lesser God if he could not change his intentions when he thinks it is appropriate.
Many people have found prayer impossible because they thought they should only pray for wonderful but remote needs they actually had little or no interest in or even knowledge of. Prayer simply dies from efforts to pray about 'good things' that honestly do not matter to us. The way to get to meaningful prayer for those good things is to start by praying for what we are truly interested in. The circle of our interests will inevitably grow in the largeness of God's love.' -Dallas Willard
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We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than the one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. The fashion of the age has identified mental sharpness with a pose, not with genuine intellectual method and character.
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The union Christ had with the Father was the greatest that we can conceive of in this life-if indeed we can conceive of it. Yet we have no indication that even Jesus was constantly awash with revelations as to what he should do. His union with the Father was so great that he was at all times obedient. This obedience was something that rested in his mature will and understanding of his life before God, not on always being told 'Now do this' and 'Now do that' with regard to every details of his life or work.
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There is no question of doing is purely on our own. But we must act. Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort. And it is well-directed, decisive, and sustained effort that is the key to the keys of the kingdom and to the life of restful power in ministry and life that those keys open to us.
We must understand that God does not "love" us without liking us - through gritted teeth - as "Christian" love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core - which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word "love".
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There is knowledge of God and the spiritual nature of man, as well as other types of reality..., that are not reducible to the world dealt with by the so-called "natural" sciences. The idea that knowledge - and, of course, reality - is limited to that world is the single most destructive idea on the stage of life today.
Imagine that you had discovered gold or oil on a certain property, and no one else knew about it. Can you see yourself being sad and feeling deprived for having to gather all your resources and sacrifice them in order to buy that property? Hardly. Now you know what it is like to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.
I submit my tongue as an instrument of righteousness when I make it bless them that curse me and pray for them who persecute me, even though it "automatically" tends to strike and wound those who have wounded me. I submit my legs to God as instruments of righteousness when I engage them in physical labor as service, perhaps carrying a burden the "second mile" for someone whom I would rather let my legs kick. I submit my body to righteousness when I do my good deeds without letting them be known, though my whole frame cries out to strut and crow.
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Everyone receives spiritual formation, just as everyone gets an education. The only question is whether it is a good one or a bad one. We need to take a conscious, intentional hand in the developmental process. We need to understand what the formation of the human spirit is, and how it can best be done as Christ would have it done. This is an indispensable aspect of developing a psychology that is adequate to human life.
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God is the treasure, and where the treasure is, there is the heart. By this we may test our love to God. What are our thoughts most upon? Can we say we are ravished with delight when we think on God? Have our thoughts got wings? Are they fled aloft? Do we contemplate Christ and glory? A sinner crowds God out of his thoughts. He never thinks of God, unless with horror, as the prisoner thinks of the judge.
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The core of the person is what he or she loves, and that is bound up with what they worship - that insight recalibrates the radar for cultural analysis. The rituals and practices that form our loves spill out well beyond the sanctuary. Many secular liturgies are trying to get us to love some other kingdom and some other gods.
The real issue relating to exclusiveness is whether or not the Christian actually has a relationship with God, a presence of God, which non-Christians do not have. Apart from Christian spiritual formation as described here, I believe there is little value in claiming exclusiveness for the Christian way.
Contemporary American churches in particular do not require following Christ in his example, spirit, and teachings as a condition of membership-either of entering into or continuing in fellowship of a denomination or a local church.... Most problems in contemporary churches can be explained by the fact that members have not yet decided to follow Christ.
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The greatest need you and I have-the greatest need of collective humanity-is renovation of our heart. That spiritual place with in us from which outlook, choices, and actions come has been formed by a world away from God. Now it must be transformed. Indeed, the only hope of humanity lies in the fact that, as our spiritual dimension has been formed, so it also can be transformed.