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Dallas Willard – Divine Conspiracy 12: Prayer


Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount Now, I won’t be able to finish the discussion
of the Sermon on the Mount, but I do hope that we will be able to convey the basic spirit
and idea of what Jesus is doing here. And let me try reading a few verses in the way
I think he might have actually – what they might have meant to the people who heard what
he was saying. For example, verse 38 of Matthew 5. Perhaps
what he was saying is, well… He said, Look. “You’ve heard that it was said, An eye for
an eye and a tooth for a tooth. ” Now, do you think that is right? – he might have said.
He might have asked people to… A manner of teaching He’s getting them to think about it. You know
he didn’t just rattle on. He wasn’t trying to keep people from going to sleep. And he
was conversing. He was teaching by a way of speaking and interacting with people. That’s
the natural way of interacting, and teaching, is to do it in a conversational style. And
pretty clearly he didn’t preach sermons as we would understand them, although he did
have unified discourses. So, now you see, could that possibly be right
– an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? Well, he says, think about it. Maybe sometimes
you shouldn’t resist evil. You shouldn’t say now, you’ve taken my eye. I’m going to take
your eye. Because after all, what do you gain if you take his eye? What if you said, look,
you’ve taken my eye, and I’m not going to take your eye because you need it. And actually,
I care about you. Suppose, see… A push out of the ordinary See, Jesus’ teachings are designed to draw
you off your familiar ground. They push you out of the ordinary human actions, and put
you in a different basis. So if you slap me, and I slap you, we know where to go from there.
Right? We think we do. If you slap me, and I don’t slap you, then what do we do? Now
we have to rethink the whole situation, don’t we? Very often when people come to you and ask
you for something they need, they will give you a song and dance. They will try to cook
up something that supposedly will hook you in, and get you to answer their request. Well
suppose you said, no no, you don’t need to do that. You ask for it, you need it, I have
it, I can give it to you. Here it is. No song and dance. A new understanding See, you’re rewriting all of the scripts that
human beings have worked up for managing their way, and getting what they want. And now you
step outside of that; you say well no, there’s a bigger thing going on here. There’s something
bigger than you just getting what you want. And you introduce them to that by the way
you respond to them. And again, if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let
him have your coat. Well, again, you see that’s going to shift
the ground away from the way we’ve ordinarily understood things, where, well I’ve sued you
and I took away your overcoat as I said, shirt it says here. But I took away one of your
garments by process of law. Now here you are. You need some clothing.
What do I say? Well, the human way is to say, I’m not going to give you anything, right?
That’s the human way. But no. You’re not standing on human ground. You’re standing somewhere
else. You have a garment; a person needs the garment. You give it to them. A specific context Now, I hope you see that it’s not saying that
if he doesn’t need it you force it on him anyway because Jesus said that. Right? You’re
not going to come and say, well, you sued me and took away my jacket, now, and I have
to give you my coat because Jesus said that. See, you have to supply the context. The context
is one where there is a need on the part of someone who has sued you and taken something
away from you by process of law; you can meet that need, and you don’t stand there and say,
I’m not going to give you anything! Right? Because you’re operating out of the Kingdom
of love, and if it is an appropriate thing to do, then you would give it to them, even
though they had sued you and taken away your other garment. A fundamental shift Now, once again, am I making any sense to
you? See you have to understand that this is a large shift here, this isn’t a matter
of picking over a bunch of little laws. For one thing, the laws given wouldn’t begin to
cover the expanse of real life. There are all kinds of situations that you have to deal
with that aren’t on this list. But there is not a single situation that you have to deal
with that isn’t affected by this shift into the Kingdom. OK? You with me? Reading the Sermon on the Mount Now you have to learn to read this rightly,
or it will just drive you nuts. You’ll just go crazy trying to keep these laws. They’re
not laws. They’re expressions of a kind of a life. You get that kind of life, then these
are characteristic kinds of things that you’ll see happening. And they will all have the
mark of not obeying the usual human way of manipulating and controlling kingdoms. They’ll
all have that mark. Because the old ways that he’s talking about here are all ways that
human beings have had of manipulating. Of controlling. Now that’s what you’re stepping
out of. And if you have a question about that, be
sure and write it down, so when we come back to the question session we can go into that.
Because this is the heart of the matter. This is the heart of the matter. Becoming Kingdom people And as I’ve said, Jesus starts with these
more fundamental things about anger, and cultivated lust, and so on. But it all comes down to
these day to day little things, where we have to make decisions, and the choice is, who
are we going to be? Our kingdom people? Or God’s Kingdom people? Well, let’s look briefly at chapter 6 now,
and I’m not going to go in as great detail here as I have in the previous ones. I think
the points are little most – a little simpler – though much, just as important. The Sermon and Human Performance And I said earlier when I was outlining all
of this that in chapter 6 verses 1 through 15, sorry, 18, you have teaching about not
performing for human consumption. Not trying to do things because it will impress people. I didn’t say much about this last night, but
that’s one of the biggest problems in our churches, is performing to impress people. Church performance And often it’s done for what is regarded as
good ends. We want to keep people coming back, so we want to have a good service. And a good
service normally means one that they will enjoy. And now, you know there’s nothing wrong with
enjoying a good service. There’s much that’s right and good about enjoying a good service.
But the object of the service is not to have people enjoy it. See, the object of the service
is to bring them closer to Christ, and more fulfilled in the kind of life that is Christ.
That’s the object of the service. It’s to bring people to God. It’s to honor God. It’s
to worship God. And so those are legitimate means, legitimate
ends for us to be doing. But they don’t always coincide with pleasing people. Consumer theater And it shocks people sometimes to hear it
said, but when you watch how people get in to consuming services and judging them as
to whether they’re good or bad, you suddenly realize that very often the mode of being
that church services have is theater. That what is actually happening is a performance
is being put on. That becomes very grinding to the people who
have to do it, when they realize that, and they realize they’re just having to put on
a performance. And I think one of the things that we have to do, if we’re going to use
our times together as disciples of Jesus in a way that’s really profitable, is to reject
that idea that we’re performing. In chapter 6, you have three main areas where
there’s apt to be performance. Practicing Public Righteousnesses And the first of those is, well, here it’s
called doing your alms. Practicing your righteousnesses, and Jesus says beware of practicing your righteousness
before men to be noticed of them. Otherwise you’ll have no reward with your Father which
is in heaven. Now notice the problem is not being noticed
by people. That’s OK. That’s not a problem. It isn’t a problem that people notice you
doing things. Being noticed What is a problem is doing things to be noticed.
To be noticed. So this is a strategy that someone has more or less adopted, a plan of
action, and what they’re concerned about when they give and when they pray and when they
fast and so on, is that people should be noticed. And see that’s human kingdom stuff. When I
do that I’m running my show. I’m saying, I have…I’m taking control of things here.
I’m going to do this, and I’m going to get that result. And so, in those days there were really pathetic
lengths to which people went to get noticed. And sometimes having people who would blow
a trumpet and call attention to the fact that I’m about to do something wonderful. Public giving But Jesus – that’s what’s talked about in
verse two here, “When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you.” (Matthew
6:2) People actually did that! Imagine you’re walking along the street and here someone
needs some money, and you have someone standing there with a trumpet. Everyone notice! Dallas
is about to give some money to this person. Well, maybe we will…we don’t do that, but
there is a great temptation to make sure we get noticed. The Discipline of Secrecy Now, on the list of disciplines that I put
up you may have seen the discipline I call secrecy. And secrecy is actually the practice
of doing things in ways that they are not noticed. And why is that? That’s to break
anyone of the habit of needing to be noticed. It isn’t because of something good about being
secret, or something inherently bad about being noticed. But the discipline of secrecy, and if you
care to follow out more on that you’ll find it discussed in, The Spirit of the Disciplines,
but you don’t need it because I can just tell you what it is. It is the practice of doing
things in ways that people do not notice. And the purpose of it is to free you up from
being dependent upon the approval and disapproval of other people. So you practice not being
observed. And that helps break the habit of needing to be observed. Praying and Fasting to Be Seen Now, Jesus goes on to talk about prayer, praying
to be seen of men, and fasting to be seen of men. We’re…we really have a problem here
with fasting. Many people when they start to fast do think that others need to know.
Well, if it’s your wife who’s cooking a meal, or your husband who’s bringing home food or
maybe cooking a meal himself, they need to know, because you don’t want to – they get
the food on the table and you say, well, you know, I’m fasting. Not a good thing. Righteousness versus wisdom And indeed you know the old Desert Fathers
and Mothers, they had it all worked out, that if you were in a fast, and a person came to
visit you, you would break your fast. And you’d prepare food. And you wouldn’t prepare
food for them and sit down and say, well you know I’m fasting, so I can’t eat. No, you
would eat with them. Even though you were fasting. See that, that’s…they understood
very well that disciplines are not righteousness. They’re not law. They’re wisdom. And so they
understood that it was more important to be hospitable and loving than it was to carry
on with your disc… You can start again. You can start again. Problem of pride And actually if you go too far with it, you
may have…you may need something to help you with your pride. I don’t know how many
people I’ve known who have set out say to have a 21-day fast. I’m not sure why that
number seems attractive. And they’re just about to get there, and then suddenly Aunt
Mabel arrives from Cleveland on the eighteenth day, and they have to break their fast. I
think that’s actually probably a mercy from God, to help them be humble. The Discipline of Fasting But the thing is that fasting isn’t something
that we present to God or others as a big deal. It’s something we might do before the
Lord, and we fast unto him, not unto people. And then when we do that, he interacts with
us in a different way. I haven’t talked too much about fasting. The
primary function of fasting is to align ourselves with the Kingdom of God. It isn’t to convince
God he ought to do what we want. It isn’t to put him into a corner, or drive him by
the glowing merit we achieve by fasting and denying ourselves. The purpose of fasting
is to align ourselves with what God is doing. And you see that if you read, if you study
the Bible about fasting. See, I mean, Jesus in responding to Satan in Matthew 4 says that
man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth
of God. (Matthew 4:4) Receiving from God See, when you are fasting you are receiving
from God. You’re not just doing without food; you’re receiving from God. You remember in
John 4 Jesus was waiting out there at the well, and talking with this lady, and as he
waits, the guys go into town to get food and bring it out because they’re going to eat.
And they urge him to eat and he says, look, I have meat to eat that you don’t know anything
about. My meat is to do the will of the Father. (John 4:34) And that’s one of those things in Jesus’ teachings
where you have to figure out whether or not you think he’s saying something that’s realistic,
or is it just pretty words. And I suggest that you should think that he was telling
the truth. That he did have meat to eat that they did not know of. Feasting on reality And so fasting actually turns out to be feasting.
It’s feasting on another world. And fasting affirms the reality of that world, and draws
upon it to nourish one’s body and give one strength. I don’t have time to talk at length
about this, but I hope you will again do your inductive studies of fasting, look at important
passages like Deuteronomy 8 and others, and try to understand what it is. So it has a
real function in aligning us with God. Its function is not to impress people. Trusting People And so here are three things that Jesus pulls
out to help with this teaching, because they’re things that everyone knows about. And the
people of his day was very conscious. You remember he said – we were talking about the
righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees in Matthew 23 ? And you remember he said they
do all that they do to be seen of men. And that’s what we’re not to do. Well, if the men are the one who are supporting
you, that’s going to be a problem isn’t it. If human beings are the ones that are making
your work go, and they’re always going to be involved, aren’t they. And we need them. Trust God instead But the point is, they’re not what we trust.
We trust God. We count on his Kingdom to be present with us, and of course that has the
wonderful benefit of freeing us up from the need to please human beings. The Proverbs
says, the fear of man brings a snare. (Proverbs 29:25) If one is living in dependence on human
beings, then there’s a natural fear and concern that they will desert you and leave you. The
person who is living from the Kingdom of God is consciously in a position of saying, I
love those who support me. I appreciate them, I thank them. But I do not depend on them.
And that’s important in things like giving to the church. We don’t give to the church,
because the church needs it. We give to the church in order to be a part of what God is
doing. Should I say that again? Help people engage Or, a ministry. Someone with a ministry, and
some of you probably raise funds. Well the people who give you funds, the reason they
do that is not because you need it. You have to remember that. The reason they do that
is so that they can participate in the work of the Kingdom, that you are engaged with. Now do you have needs? Yes you do. But in
your needs you do not look to them. You look to God. And the Kingdom then steps in, and
takes care of you, and you know who you’re depending on, and who you’re to be thankful
for, and then in that context others will share the blessing that you have as a servant
of the Lord. And if you read Paul’s letters, for example, you’ll see all of that laid out. Trusting Money OK, so now the last half of the sixth chapter
of Matthew is about trusting money. First is about trusting people, and the second is
about trusting money. And often they’re connected, because if we think our support, the money
that we get, depends on the people, we will think that we have to have a good appearance
before people to get the money that we need. It’s very challenging, I know, to deal with
this, but Jesus just simply says that you should not trust in treasures that you might
lay up. Treasures in Heaven Verse 20 and following. Don’t lay up… Verse
18, 19 it is. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroys,
and where thieves break through and steal. In other words, any treasures you have on
earth are subject to the vicissitudes on earth. The treasures you have in heaven are not.
So lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and
where thieves do not break through and steal.” Discovering heaven’s treasures Now I ask you, how would you lay up a treasure
in heaven? What kind of treasures can you lay up in heaven? Even the Internet doesn’t
run to heaven, does it? So you can’t wire money. UPS doesn’t go there. Post office.
Only thing that goes to heaven is people. The treasure in heaven that you lay up is
God. You let your treasures be God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, those things that belong
to the Kingdom of God. Now, go back to our thing we’ve quoted over
and over, Colossians 3, “If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things that are above.”
(Colossians 3:1) What’s above? God. God and his Kingdom. Investing in God So, when you talk about laying up treasures
here, in heaven, you’re talking about investing in God. And perhaps in other people, who are
going there, and actually the only way you can get any money there is invested in people
and in God. And then it will go there. So you make your treasure God, and then he takes
care of you. He provides the money. And if you put your treasure in money, then
that’s where your heart will be, and the vision you have of life will be split and divided.
You’ll be looking at money, and you’ll be looking at God, and not knowing which ones
to trust. Laying down dependence And so, we have to lay down our dependence
upon money. We need money. Sure we do. God knows we need money. Do we have to have money for various kinds
of… Certainly we do. But we do not trust the sources of money that lie outside of God.
We don’t put ourselves in charge of that, and make…have to make it work. And there
are many many illustrations, many of which you probably know from Christian history that
help us do that. Escaping Anxiety Now the irony of it all is, is this is the
way to escape anxiety. You can’t escape anxiety in any other way than what Jesus says about
not performing, and not trying to amass resources that will enable you to survive. The only
way you can stop being anxious is to lay that down. You recognize the care of God, you experience
it as you go along. Now sometimes you need to look back and see how it has happened,
because it’s easy to forget. The Discipline of Celebration Now this is where we need to… What I call
the discipline of celebration is enjoying things in memory of the good that God has
done for us. Once again, here, I’ll just have to refer you to this discussion of celebration
in The Spirit of the Disciplines, and give you some scriptural passages to look at. And
understand what this means. Celebration is basically, in old-fashioned language, it’s
counting your blessings. And counting your blessings enables you to know that God has
actually provided. And that knowledge then helps you look at the future without anxiety. Trust the presence of God Jeremy Taylor, somewhere in his book Holy
Living, has this line to the effect that the person who really trusts God is no more worried
about the future than he is about the past. Probably none of us sit up at night worrying
about what’s going to happen yesterday. We might have some regrets about it, but we’re
certainly not worrying about what’s going to happen. And Taylor says when you learn to live in
the presence of God, you don’t worry about the future any more than you do the past.
Because, why? Because you know that you’re in the presence of the God who has provided
in the past, and you look at that, and you realize, I don’t have a thing to worry about.
And you look at the abundant care of God for others; you don’t have a thing to worry about. Ask but don’t worry Now you still act. Do you need money? You
may ask someone. You may work. But you don’t worry about it, because you’re not trusting
yourself of the money. You’re trusting the God who provides. And of course the story
of the church is the story of that provision over and over and over again. So that’s the basis upon which he says in
verse 25, “For this reason,” that is, God is in charge of money and reputation too for
that matter, “For this reason, don’t be anxious.” (Matthew 6:25) Don’t be anxious for your life. Don’t be anxious
for what you’re going to have to live on. It will come. In the Lord’s Prayer, you’ll
remember Jesus taught us to pray, Give us today bread for today. Not bread for tomorrow.
Because God’s going to be there tomorrow like he is today, and the provision will come. It’s hard to move into this, I know, because
so many of us have had very little experience with it. I think maybe many of you have had
more experience than most have had. The experience of actually not having the resources, and
then coming to the time when you really have to have them, and there they are. And sometimes
you don’t know how they come about. Count on God’s goodness But we trust God day by day for the things
we need, and we go ahead doing the things that we believe he wants us to do, and the
things that he wants us to be. We count on him for the provision, and that’s what Jesus
is talking about here. And he’s really saying that this is serious business. I mean you
look at the length of the material in his discussion of these things. And you realize
this must be very serious, and it is. Because this is really the only way that you can live
in faith, in the goodness of God. You have to turn loose how you appear, and turn loose
gathering resources to depend upon, where you’re the one that’s in charge. Living in the Community of Prayer Well, let’s now move on to the seventh chapter
of Matthew, and look at this very crucial passage from verse 1 through verse 12. And
I call this living in the non-condemning community of prayer. “Do not judge, lest you be judged. For in
the way you judge, you will be judged, and by your standard of measure it will be measured
to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye but not notice the
log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, let me take the speck
out of your eye, and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite. First take the
log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your
brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before
swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” This is one of the most challenging passages
I think in the Sermon, as it’s been given to us. And it’s challenging partly because
it just kind of looks like a list of things and we don’t know what they are about. Judgment and Condemnation Now, so let me suggest to you what they’re
about. They’re about trying to get people to do things. They’re about trying to get
people to do things. What is the typical case when someone comes in judgment in another
in a family or in a church? Well, what is typical is they’re trying to get them to do
something different. And they do that by condemnation. They believe condemnation is a very powerful
thing, in moving people and so they come with condemnation. So, just try that on, OK? That’s
what’s going on in these passages. Attempt to force change We’re talking about how people try to get
others to do things. And it’s nearly always trying to get them to do good things. And
so condemnation is a kind of heavy hammer that you might come on to people, especially
if they’re your relatives, and especially if you feel very responsible for them, you
might come on to people trying to get them to do the right thing. One of the greatest
temptations that human beings have. And they just lay on the condemnation like they might
lay on a whip, trying to drive people into doing the right kind of thing. Feel like distance and contempt Everyone I think knows that it just doesn’t
work. I mean, imagine a person who receives a good healthy dose of condemnation, and says,
oh, well then, I’ll stop drinking. Not very likely. Condemnation is a way of distancing
people, and putting them down. It is a way of distancing people from you, and putting
them down. It really is a form of disrespect. It is a form of contempt. And now, again, as always, I mean, you have
to think this thing through to see whether or not you believe what I’m saying, and that
would mean you would test it against the facts. Have you ever been condemned?
And isn’t it true that you felt that you were being put down, and that people were regarding
you as something less than perhaps you thought you were? Are separate from discernment See condemnation and judging is not the same
thing as discernment. A dentist might look at your teeth, and say, you know that molar
back there has really decayed. And we need to do something about it. What would you like
to do? Now that would be discernment. That would be discernment. Nothing wrong with that. But if the dentist is outraged at you, and
starts slapping you and cursing you, say who do you think you are to mistreat your teeth
this way! Right. That’s not discernment. That’s something more. And you’re bound to take it
personally as we say. You, probably you’re not going to take it personally if he says
you have a tooth there that’s decayed and we need to fix it. See, discernment is essential to human life.
You cannot get by without it. It has to… And above all in the church we have to be
able to discern and distinguish, say what things are not as they should be, and how
they might be fixed. That’s not judgment. Judgment is where there is expressed a condemnation,
an element of superiority, and even contempt. That’s where what Jesus is talking about occurs. Create counter-condemnation Now, notice how he puts it. Judge not that
you be not judged. If the dentist says to you, you know that you have a decayed molar
there. You’re not likely to say back to him, well you have one too! Are you?
But see, Jesus understood when you come with condemnation you’re gonna get it right back. And you watch how that works in families.
In fact, we’ve had in the last fifty or so years a whole intergenerational thing that
is basically predicated on what Jesus is talking about here. In the Sixties there was a generation
that discerned and condemned the establishment. The older generation. And the effect of that
was counter-condemnation. We’re actually not out of that one yet. We’re in a little better
place than we were, but still it’s a very serious problem. Intergenerational conflict
based on judging. Break into anger But see what Jesus is talking about here is
something where you have an attitude, a harmful attitude, that is addressed towards an another.
And often it does break over into anger. Very often when you see people in families or churches
or other social groups, or politics, mercy just listen to how the politicians go after
one another. They judge, and they’re judged in return, aren’t they. How could one break that cycle? Well, you
might try not judging. Could you still discern? Of course you could. And we need that… We
need politicians who have discernment. They need to know how to lead, and see what’s wrong
and what’s right with various policies. That isn’t judgment. That’s discernment. And if discernment is experienced as judgment
it may very well be, and often that is common today for example in our discussions about
sexuality and so on. Where, if you say that something, sexual practice is wrong, then
that’s branded as hate speech. Well, it may not be hate speech. It often has been, in
the past, but now if you are confused about this you get into a position where you cannot
discern because it will be treated as judgment. And so we can’t say such things as I really
love you, and I want to help you, but you’re wrong. Because saying that you’re wrong amounts
to saying, I don’t love you. I condemn you. And you see what kind of confusion that we
get into here. Living Without Condemnation But what Jesus is actually saying here is
that we really need to lay aside that attitude of condemnation. We don’t need it. Don’t need
it. That’s like anger. You… Anything you can do with it you can do much better without
it. What is the log he’s talking about? Well I
suggest to you that the log he’s talking about precisely is the attitude of condemnation.
And here you’re trying to take a little speck out of someone’s eye, and you have this huge
log in your eye, and you can’t even see their eye.
You have to get that log out. And then he actually goes ahead and says,
does he not, if you get the log out then you can see to remove the speck. See that’s the
move from condemnation to discernment. Now then, specks aren’t good things. If you’ve
ever had a cinder in your eye or a speck in your eye, you know it’s not a good thing!
Right? So, you need help to get it out. And that’s not a bad thing. So Jesus is not saying
that we shouldn’t help people get specks out of their eyes. Condemnation doesn’t work What he’s saying is if you have the log of
judgmentalism and condemnation in your eye, you won’t be able to help people with what
they need help on. That’s really what this passage teaches, is ways that we try to help
people that don’t work. Should I just say that again, because I think
you need to get the basic ideas lined up here, and they’re fairly simple. They’re talking
about ways that people try to help people, that do not work. And in fact I think he’s
mainly addressing ways that involve taking a superior attitude, and so once you have
the condemnation out, then you can discern. And people will… It’s amazing. If people
are convinced that you are not condemning them, they will allow you to help them in
many cases where they wouldn’t even begin to allow it if they think you’re coming in
with an attitude of condemnation. The Dogs and the Hogs Well, keep that thought now, and let’s go
on down to the dogs and the hogs. Because this continues the same…the same idea. Look
at what he’s saying here. Do not give what is holy to dogs. (Matthew 7:6) Now, people who have read that tend to concentrate
on the dogs. And on someone being a dog, or a hog. And so, the suggestion here is that
there are certain categories of people that are unworthy of your help, and that you should
not waste your time on them. That might actually be true. But I would be very careful with
it. I would be very careful with it. What Jesus is saying And I don’t think Jesus here is classifying
people. He’s not trying to say, there’s some kind of people that just dogs. And you don’t
want to quote Scripture to them, or waste your prayers on them, or care for them, give
your goods to them to help them. They’re just dogs. Now I want to reiterate. I don’t think he’s
saying anything like that. What he’s talking about here is what people can profit from,
and what they cannot profit from. Now if you have a hungry dog, and you lay your Bible
down for it to eat, what will happen? Immediately someone says, well that’s a disgrace to the
Bible. They start thinking about this holy thing that’s going to be mistreated. But what’s going to happen to the dog? You
come in the next day, and say, here Shep, here’s another Bible. What’s the dog going
to do with it? Well at most maybe chew on it, play with it, and so on. But is the Bible
going to do the dog any good? No. The dog cannot eat the Bible. And that leaves the
dog the hungry. If you keep giving that dog Bibles, that dog
will die. It will starve. The way to truly help That’s the lesson that Jesus is teaching.
You want to help people? Don’t just give them good stuff. Give them stuff that will help
them. And sometimes our good stuff won’t help them. For whatever reason. In the case of
the dog, you don’t want to blame the dog. It’s just a dog! Dogs don’t eat Bibles. Now,
its digestive system isn’t set up to profit from a Bible. Same way with hogs. You might think Jews shouldn’t
be talking about hogs, but they had them. And they…there were uses for them. And Jesus
knows about hogs. And one of the things you know about hogs is, they cannot digest pearls.
You take your bucket of pearls, and you pour it in the trough, the hog looks at ’em – what’s
that? So, like the dog that can’t digest the Bible,
the pig can’t digest pearls. But you say, they’re very good pearls! Well, so what? That
doesn’t help. Still can’t digest ’em. Jesus actually carries that on, here; you’ll notice
he says, “lest they trample them under their foot, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew
7:6) Now, I’ll tell you something I know about
hogs. I was raised down in the Missouri Ozarks, and we have razorbacks down there. Hogs will
eat people. They will eat people. You get a hungry hog, and a human leg next to them,
and there will be some biting going on. What is truly needed And actually I think Jesus is teaching a very
poignant truth about human relations. If you keep pushing stuff that people can’t receive,
and can’t be helped with, they’re going to hurt you. They’re gonna hurt you. This is a passage about how to help people.
And how not to try to help people. And what we have to do if we want to help people is
we have to be close enough to them and love them enough to find out what can really benefit
them. See. It was a great load off of my back, as a young
person, to discover John 3, where it says, Jesus says, “I did not come into the world
to condemn the world. ” (John 3:17) Condemnation was such a standard part of the religion and
the life I knew. Even though I’ll be the first to tell you, these were good people; they
meant well. But they relied on condemnation. And they counted on condemnation to get people
to change. I don’t know why they did; I don’t think they’d ever seen it happen. And I honestly
can’t tell you that I’ve ever seen anyone helped by being condemned. See. But that’s
the way we’re trained. Using Unforgiveness Same way with unforgiveness. You talk to many
people about forgiveness, and they’ll be loath to give it up, because they think it’s a means
of hazing people into doing the right thing. And if I forgive you, you might just go ahead
and do the same thing over again. You might just never stop. But if I’m unforgiving, maybe
you’ll stop. Creates more anger Well once again, have you ever seen that work?
I’ve never seen it work. What I’ve seen is just more and more anger, coming out of that
kind of situation. I don’t think it works. I think Jesus knew that it didn’t work. And
of course he also knew that we…that we had to get out of the position of trying to make
things happen, and move into a different area, and we’re going to talk about that in a moment.
We take a different approach to things. It doesn’t mean that we let things that are wrong
go, or just ignore people that need help. This is not what Jesus is talking about. We’re
expected to be able to help people. We’re expected to deal with issues. Jesus’ Way of Helping People And again, this is a question of how you do
it. And what Jesus is teaching us here is that we can actually find a way of helping
people that is not judgmental, that does not keep giving them good stuff that does them
no good because they’re not in a position to digest it. There is a better way. So here’s what he says. He says, verse 7,
“Ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and it shall be
opened to you.” Seek persistently Now, here’s what happens with folks normally,
is they move to that and think, oh no we’re talking about prayer. And yes we are; we’re
talking about prayer. But not all prayer is to God. What he’s saying is, if you want to help people,
then ask them. Talk to them. Seek, but don’t go at it in a condemning way. Ask. Seek. Knock.
That’s progressive. You can be persistent. That’s allowed. You can be persistent. But
not condemning. And not persisting in using over and over things that the person you’re
dealing with simply cannot benefit from. “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds;
to him who knocks it shall be opened.” (Matthew 7:8) Now there we have to throw the brakes on immediately,
and remind ourselves that Jesus does not teach by giving us absolutely universal formulae
that always bring down the result. He doesn’t do that. He teaches by contradicting the practice.
And the practice is the practice that was studied above in the first verses of the chapter. Stop manipulating And now he says, stop trying to manipulate
people and go simply, directly to them and ask. You can ask, you can seek, you can stay
with them. You can knock; that is, you can do it in a way that they have to hear that
you’re there. You don’t have to become a nonentity in their life. You can be a real presence.
Because that is the way that human beings are built to work. He says in verse 9, he takes a particular
relationship of asking. The relationship between a parent and a child to illustrate. And what
he’s opening up here is this great theme, this cosmic theme of asking as a principle
of the world order under God. He says, “What man is there among you, when his son shall
ask him for a loaf, he will give him a stone?” Now once again, you probably could find someone
in world history who actually did that. Don’t you imagine? You imagine some mean father
somewhere in the world has done that. A little kid said, Daddy, I need a piece of bread.
I need a loaf. Here. There are people mean enough to do that. But that’s not the rule,
is it? Usually when a child asks, do they have to do anything more than ask? No, they
just ask. Ask directly Asking is a great power, and you have to understand…
I know people who will cross the street or walk around the block who will avoid someone
who’s going to beg from them. Did you ever see that? They don’t want to go by that person
and have them ask them. See, it goes right to the heart of who you are. You ever eat a sandwich in front of a dog?
What does the dog do? Sits there and looks at you. What’s he doing? Looking at you, like,
oh an interesting thing here on the landscape. No, that’s not what he’s doing. He’s asking.
That dog is asking. Now, how do you feel in the face of that? You’re going to do one of
two things. You’re going to get up and leave the room, or you’re going to give that dog
some of your sandwich. Isn’t that true? And see, Jesus turns to the simple relationship
between a man and his son. And of course, daughters are even more powerful. Right? On
men. Right? Daughter asks for a loaf, you give ’em a cake. That’s the way it works.
You guys, you’re just out of luck. Maybe you get a biscuit. See, it is so beautiful and
so wonderful to see Jesus just dip into the realities of human life as God has made them
and bring out the teaching. Relationship Between God and Humans “If you then being evil know how to give good
gifts to your children,” how to give good gifts to your children, “how much more shall
your Father who is in heaven, give what is good to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:11) Now then, did we suddenly change the orientation.
OK now think about this. What’s the continuum between human beings and God? When I go to
ask, seek, and knock of human beings, when I don’t condemn them, I don’t try to manipulate
them, I take God with me. And I bring him into the circuit of asking, seeking, and knocking.
So that when I come to request I am simultaneously involving God in that. Prayer and asking Prayer is asking. Generically, that’s what
it is. It is asking. And I know that there are many people especially towards the left
of Christian institutions bad movements that want to say oh no, you don’t ask anything
of God. But look at the teachings of Jesus; it’s all about asking. Now your relationship to God is not all about
asking. And that’s what confuses many people. Because I certainly have a relationship to
Jesus and to God that is greater than asking. But people who are, they really don’t understand
prayer, and they really don’t understand the Kingdom, they get into this area of prayer,
and they start suddenly… Oh, you don’t want anything for yourself, do you? Asking and receiving Well, imagine you had a child like that, that
didn’t want to ask you for what they needed, because, oh, I didn’t want to be thought selfish.
Well thank God children are spared from such crazy ideas of that. Not to mention dogs.
They don’t think about it at all. Well I wouldn’t ask anything bow wow for myself bow wow. No,
no. No. They just ask. And children just ask, don’t they? And that’s one of the greatest
things about kids. They ask. But of course they also curl up in your lap and say I love
you Daddy, and not to get something they want. It’s just because they love you. Well, see, our relationship to God is much
bigger than prayer. But prayer is fundamentally asking and receiving and living in a relationship
where that happens. So now, when I go to my friend, my neighbor,
my son or whatever, I don’t go to manipulate them. I go to ask, and as I ask I ask God,
and I bring God into that operation. Lessons in Prayer There’s so much I need to say about prayer,
I won’t have time to say about it, but you know we have two ways of getting things done.
And sometimes what we’re after is so big it can’t be left to us. One of the most stunning
passages to me as I study these things, you know – and I know you’re the same way. You
suddenly turn a page of the Bible, and you just see something that’s so big, and you
say why didn’t I see that before? Simon Peter and Jesus But there’s a wonderful statement here with
reference to Simon Peter, and a part of his job as being the first Pope if you like, or
Jesus’ righthand man if you like, was that he’s the illust…he’s the sort of, what’s
that thing? The visible man? Where you can sort of look in and see all the parts of the
human being? And Peter is kind of like the visible saint, because you get to look at
him, and you learn all the things that you need to know by illustration. And we talked
about Peter’s denial and all of that. But in chapter 22 of Luke, Jesus and Peter
are going over this thing. And Jesus is saying to Peter, in verse 31 of chapter 22 of Luke,
“Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat. ” And by the way one
of the things that teaches us is that Jesus and Satan were talking all along. They…
Wasn’t that Satan just went away. He left for a season after the temptation. He came
back; he’s always talking. “Satan has demanded permission, and permission has been given
to him to sift you. ” Prayer comes first But look at what verse 32 says. “I have prayed
for you that your faith may not fail, and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen
your brothers. ” (Luke 22:31) Now what’s so stunning here to me, when I
saw it, was Jesus prayed for him. He didn’t just stop him. He could have stopped him.
But he didn’t stop him. Now see, most of the things we are concerned
about in human relationships are too big for us to do on our own. They’re too big for us
to do on our own. That’s why there really is – that’s part of the reason why there’s
such an arrangement as prayer. It’s too big for us to do… Action is appropriate sometimes If you got weeds in your flowerbed, you’d
better not pray about that, unless you’ve left them there so long that now you can’t
pull them up. You got weeds in your flowerbed, that’s in your causation. You can go pull
those. That’s God’s arrangement. That’s one form of the causation that he’s given us.
You can pull the weeds in your flowerbed. No need to pray about it. Don’t need to ask
God to do it, or send an angel to do it, or don’t need to do spiritual warfare against
them. Just pull ’em! Right? Prayer involves God But if your sister, or brother, is addicted
to cocaine, you probably better not try to do that. That’s too complicated. That involves
too much. Better pray about that. Better get God involved in that one. He knows what’s
going on. He knows what might be done in the right way to help that person, and what can’t
be done. If you have someone who’s unsaved, it’s OK
to talk to them. Don’t try to manipulate them. Don’t try to grind them into the Kingdom of
God by condemnation and all sorts of pearls that you have found which they couldn’t possibly
use. And don’t keep just putting them pearls in, saying boy, this is a good one. This is
really a good one. Because they can’t use it. That’s where you go to God. You can speak
to them; that’s fine. You should ask, you should seek, you should knock. But you should
go to them with God. Not on your own. Prayer engages in action with God And that’s why there is such an arrangement
as prayer. What is prayer? Prayer is talking to God about
what we’re doing together. Prayer is talking to God about what we are doing together. Prayer
is a way of engaging with God in bringing something to pass. It’s not a way of putting
the coin in the Coke machine, and expecting it to kick out. That’s why prayer is very
much a matter of staying with something. Praying With People Though there’s wonderful pattern of praying;
I mentioned Wimber the other day, that he knew and taught to his people, about praying
with people. That you got with them. And you talked with them, and you let what is needed
come out, and take form, and then you begin to pray. And you don’t walk off; you stay
there. And you say, is anything happening? And maybe you talk about that. And then you
pray more, and you stay with it. That… The dive bomb is just, you come in, you swoop
down, you drop the prayer, and you’re out. That’s not prayer. Prayer is getting involved
in something. It’s staying in action with the Kingdom of God. It’s staying there. You
have a part. You can’t make it happen. But you have to do something. Power steering A mechanical illustration of it to me that
is very helpful is power steering. You have power steering in your car or your truck.
If you don’t touch the wheel, nothing’s gonna happen. Or you better hope nothing’s gonna
happen. You don’t want the thing to start steering itself down the road. Well, today
you know, we have to think about all these experimental cars where you do do that. Then
you do want it to steer itself. But you’re probably going to be in control anyway. See,
you touch the wheel, and the power takes over. You don’t touch it; nothing happens. Two Elements of Prayer Prayer is fundamentally important, and it
is important because of these two causal roles, one of which is placed in our power, and the
other which is done with God. These Benedictine words, laborare and aurare. And their slogan
is laborare est aurare. Oh folks on the left really love that, because that says when you’re
working you’re praying. Working and praying But anyone who’s worked and prayed knows that
it isn’t necessarily true. But they do go together. And praying is actually working,
and if you’ve ever done much of it you know the truth of that statement. So praying is getting involved with the Kingdom
of God, and staying there. And Jesus’ great teachings on prayer – in Matthew 6 we have
a teaching; in Luke 11 and Luke 18 – they are all statements about how prayer works
by bringing to bear the action of the one who is praying. Now, you can talk about this theoretically
and so on, but you probably know, and if you don’t I hope you will, you know how this works.
When you pray for something, you really get involved with it, and you stay there. You
pour out your energy in prayer. And as you do that, the normal thing that happens is
you will begin to see things happen. They won’t necessarily be just what you had in
mind. Sometimes they will. But if you ask for the stone, and what you really want is
bread, probably you’ll get bread. If you need something to eat. Because that’s where the
Kingdom of God takes over and directs the prayer. Jesus’ Parables on Prayer And Jesus’ teachings are always predicated
on this idea that praying is asking, and the idea is you get involved, and you stay there,
and as this great passage in Luke 18 says, Jesus told a parable that men ought always
to pray and not give up. They ought to keep praying. The Widow and the Judge And then he tells the story about the widow
and the unjust judge, and again if you look at that you’re going to see there’s one thing
present, and that is the power of asking. (Luke 18:1-8) He takes the widow and the unjust
judge because they’re the sort of the…opposite poles of social power. The widow is a nobody.
The unjust judge he describes him, this guy doesn’t fear God and doesn’t fear human beings.
He is one mean guy. But he’s a judge. And here comes the little lady, has no pull on
him. All she can do is come and ask. Persistence Do you remember what the unjust judge said?
I’m going to give this lady her request lest her…lest she will wear me out with her frequent
coming. Now again it just takes your breath away to
think that that might somehow apply to God, but it does. The Visitor at Midnight We stay involved, the same way with the story
in Luke 11. You’ll remember, this is the case of the guy who comes at midnight and says,
I need some bread. I’ve a friend who’s come to me, he was late on the road. Freeway was
blocked up. He’s hungry. I don’t have anything to feed him. Give me some bread. (Luke 11:5-8) Again, it’s simply the power of the request.
And the householder’s in the house; the door is shut, he’s in bed with his children. That’s
a story in itself, you know how they slept, I mean you get the kids down in a sleep. They
sleep with you. You wake up, they wake up. They didn’t have Schlaug locks on the doors;
they had bars, it was a real operation to shut the door. The door is shut; the children
are in bed with me. I can’t. But he did. Shamelessness And why did he do it? Well, it’s a very interesting
term to try to translate there. But really, it’s just shamelessness. That’s that dog again.
See the dog is utterly without shame. It just sits there and locks its eyes on you, no shame
whatsoever. It just says, I wanta, I wanta, I wanta, I wanta… That’s all it says. Utterly
shameless. Dogs don’t know any better. And this fellow that’s asking doesn’t know any
better. He’s just standing there. He’s thinking about that guy back at the house. Doesn’t
have anything to feed him. He doesn’t want to go back there and tell him that, he has
nothing to feed him, and so he just keeps on standing there, and pretty soon the man
inside gets up and gives him what he asks for. This is one of the deepest teachings
about the nature of the universe and of God. And prayer is the way that you enter into
it. Prayer and Community Now, when you do that, then you transform
everything in the community. It’s no longer a battle of will against will. It’s a process
of coming to grips with things that are needed, and things that need to be said. But we put
those requests in the context of our overall walk with God, and then our business is his
business, and his business is our business. And that’s the way we learn to stay in prayer
in the community of love. Welcomes presence In asking, I recognize and welcome God’s presence
with me. I make myself present to him, and that’s the nature of the asking. Just presence
of one person to another. Now that’s also, if I go to my brother or my sister, that I
want them to change. I ask. I just make myself present to them. Now what you’ll observe often is when you
do that they will not make themselves present to you because they’re hiding. But the pressure
is still there, and then you bring that under God, and you are waiting for God to move.
And that’s the context of change. That’s what prayer is really about. Prayer is a way of
allowing us to count. Prayer is something that God has worked out as a special arrangement.
Just so that human beings can be free, and also can be significant. Important Questions There’s a lot of theology here that’s very
harmful, and you have to work your way through it – if you want to call it openness or closedness
or whatever it may be, the basic practical issue is, does God ever do anything in answer
to prayer that he didn’t intend to do in the first place? Or does he not do things that
he intended to do in answer to prayer. Does prayer make a difference? And here you need to read your Bible, and
your biblical stories, but in the end it comes down to this: whether or not your praying
makes any difference. Or is it just mood adjustment like a cocktail hour? See that’s the way many
people present it. Is, oh, you feel so much better if you pray. And you do, and it will
adjust your moods. But the real issue is whether or not the universe is the kind of universe
in which there is more to be done as a result of our prayers, than just what would happen
anyway. Reasons for a Strange Arrangement Well, just a little comment here on why there
is this strange arrangement. And it is an arrangement that allows us to learn to begin
to be involved in what God is doing, and to make a difference. I said the other day that
giving and prayer are the two baby steps in learning to act in the Kingdom. And this is
really important to understand. Opportunities for involvement Prayer and giving are opportunities for the
smallest, the most, the youngest, the smallest, to make a contribution that God can then act
with. And acting with God is the secret of life in the Kingdom of God. This arrangement
is one which allows one to step right in and begin to work with that, without allowing
you to hurt yourself. And that’s what we do in teaching and growing and every aspect of
life with young people. We try to arrange things where they can begin to get involved
without being hurt, without hurting others. And they grow and they learn, and they become
more and more capable. Small contributions I mentioned here the case of the widow’s two
mites. (Luke 21:1-4) Now, I mean, think about that story. And if you remember Jesus is standing
over against the offering plate I guess you’d say. Watching people put in their gifts. And
people come by and putting in their big tax deductible checks. And here comes this little
widow again. Why do you think Jesus pulls out widows so often? Something to think about,
isn’t it? Well, widows again were the people who had the least going for them in human
terms. Blessed are the widows. Now here’s the teaching in this passage in
Luke 21. Jesus said, “This widow who has put in her…the mites,” mites were the two smallest
coins that were running. He said, “She has put in more than all the others.” Now see, that’s one of those statements that
you read in the Gospels from Jesus that you don’t really perhaps know quite know what
to do with. Well maybe we should make a song out of that one. The widow with her two mites,
and so on. But is it really true? Did she put in more? Or is it just flowery language,
you know. Jesus was given to flowery language. He’s a great poet. Right? He was that. See,
that’s like, “I have meat to eat you know not of.” Did he really? Did she really? God’s multiplication There used to be a slogan that Bob Pierce,
the founder of World Vision, used, “Little is much if God is in it.” See that’s the insight
that you need to understand the teaching of Jesus here. The widow actually did put in
more, because what she put in more was with God.
With God. And so the total of what came in for the Kingdom of God with her two mites
was greater than all of what came in with the others. The Prayer of the Kingdom We need to understand that, and we need to
take Jesus’s great prayer, and put it in Kingdom language. It’s beautiful the way it is; it
almost feels sinful not to say “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”
(Luke 11:1-4) But wait a minute. What do you mean, “…when
in heaven.” And most people mean way off and way later. But that’s not the Kingdom of God.
What that really means, our Father always near us. Our Father who art in heaven means
our Father always near us, because the heavens are accessible to everyone, and everyone is
accessible to the heavens. Our Father always near us, may your name be treasured and loved. Treasured name What does “hallowed be thy name” ? Most people
never heard the word hallowed unless it’s in the Gettysburg Address or the Lord’s Prayer.
What does it mean? Or, comes close in Halloween, doesn’t it? It means treasured and loved.
May your name be treasured and loved. May your rule be completed in us. Coming Kingdom What does it mean to say Thy Kingdom come?
Your will be done here on earth just the way it’s done in heaven. Give to us today the
things we need for today, and forgive us our sins and impositions on you. In the way we’re
forgiving anyone who offends us. Please don’t put us through trials, but deliver us from
anything bad. See, this is a child’s prayer. Deliver us. Lead us not into temptation. Don’t
let us walk into trials. Say but well, I thought trials…you’re supposed to be happy in your
trials. You are. But, you shouldn’t seek ’em. You should ask not to be put through trials.
That’s what Jesus is teaching. One with power Deliver us from everything that’s bad. Because
you’re the one in charge. Thy Kingdom come. Thine is the Kingdom, thy Kingdom come, thine
is the Kingdom. You’re the one in charge. You have all the power, and the glory too
is yours forever. And that’s just the way we want it. That’s what amen means. Means
that’s…let it be that way. Amen and whoopee Now, if you really got into it, you might
want to say whoopee instead of amen, and that would be OK. That would be permitted. You
see, prayer opens up the Kingdom and it makes it possible for us to be present to others,
and present to God in a way that creates a wonderful community of love and noncondemnation.
And that’s how we can live together under God in the Kingdom of God. That’s what Jesus
is talking about. All right?

Jerry Heath

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