This was definitely my favorite session.
Dallas Willard starts off by summarizing the last few sessions by discussion of the distance that God leaves, at the same time the nearness. The distance is a matter of how He leaves us room to decide, to feel, to experience the consequences of events and to learn how to look to God in everything without expecting to be told what to do. It is not about what to do, but about how things are, and that is a major part of our relationship with Him.
Then Dallas teaches from one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, John 17. It is a favorite because it talks about family and belonging. It talks about God’s desire for us to join into the love the Trinity has for one another. To really meditate on this realitywill change your life. It will forever change how you view God, how you view your place in the grand scheme of things and how you view other people as part of God’s master plan.
Before I share the video session notes and notes from the book, I will share this excerpt from my favorite sermon of my husbands. It is from his Life of Jesus series.
“Love in love with love. This is what the relationship looks like when true humility and love are operating between God and man. I said this was an important passage for us because what God has with Jesus He wants with us. He wants to give us His authority to speak in His name, to do His deeds. He wants to honor us with His love and His trust in us to act in His name. He wants to bring us into the intimate place of showing us His agenda, what He wants done in our lives and through us. But Jesus would say, “Give it all back in total dependence upon hearing His voice. Wait on Him to know what He calls you to. When you act try to find some way to divert the attention for the deed back to him. Be pleased when someone else gets the honor that maybe you deserved”. Mark Cowper-Smith
John Ortberg – Think about the best relationship you know. Consider that this is a small fore-shadowing of what you are invited to join. “Life with God: life with the Trinity.
In this session, Dallas talks about the idea of the Trinity and how it is so foundational. That God experiences the beauty and wonder of community – relationship within Himself – Father, Son and Holy Spirit throughout eternity. In the fellowship of the Trinity there is no unresolved conflict; there is joy, there is mutual submission, there is a dance of servant hood and delight that never ends. And here is where it gets so very personal. Think about the best relationship you know; and then the fullest, richest and most satisfying moment in that relationship. That is a tiny echo, a tiny fore-shadowing of the fellowship to which we have been invited to. This great dance and the continuingly increasing joy of relationship, Father, Son, Spirit and you. This is the richness that lies before us and Dallas helps us understand how it actually begins right here, right now.
“Obviously God must guide us in a way that will develop spontaneity in us. The development of character, rather than direction in this or that must be the primary purpose of the Father. He will guide us, but He won’t override us. That fact should make us cautious of the method of sitting down with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper to write down the instructions dictated by God for the day. Suppose a parent would dictate to the child minutely everything he is to do during the day. The child would be stunted under that regime. The parent must guide in such a manner and to the degree, that autonomous character, capable of making right decisions for itself, is produced. God does the same.” E. Stanley Jones from his book, Victorious Living
If a parent dictated to a child everything he is to do – the child would be stunted – autonomous character capable of making right decisions for himself will be produced – we are talking how we emphasize the distance that God leaves, at the same time we emphasize the nearness. The distance is a matter of how He leaves us room to decide, to feel, to experience the consequences of events and to learn how to look to God in everything without expecting to be told what to do. That is in the context of His constant teaching, and our constant speaking. It is not about what to do – but about how things are, and that is a major part of our relationship with Him.
From blog – http://www.thelydiagroup.com/TheLydiaGroup/E-ponderings/Entries/2013/5/26_Hearing_God.html Within this ever-deepening conversational relationship, God is more interested in developing our character than in giving us specific directions. Our relationship should be seen as that between mature adults who are working towards a common goal. God wants to guide us toward making autonomous decisions, rather than treating us as robots or puppets.
Today I am going to talk about where it all begin and that is the Trinity. The Trinity is the model of the life with God. John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: – pencil in this is eternal living, to make it active as it is supposed to be that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. What was the glory that Jesus had with the Father before the world was?
The Trinity were enjoying one another, their fellowship with one another. They were enjoying one another in the dimensions of personal reality that makes the created universe look like a pin point. The greatness of the Persons that make up the Trinity is the ultimate and eternal reality. It is the Kingdom of God before there was an earth and it is a matter of the Persons that make up the Trinity being in love with one another and adoring one another (Dallas tells about the joy of his grand-daughter) Helps us realize in a small way what is truly of value. The only thing of value in the universe is the experiences of a person.
We see that in many ways, that is why you treasure experiences. Persons are made up of experiences. That is what people are made of. Not material but spiritual substance. When you have an experience you expand your substance. That is why you take pictures, they help you with your experiences. Experiences are what make up persons and persons are the only things of value in the universe. Pause and think about that.
Experiences are not physical realities they are spiritual realities. That is where you met God in your experiences. The Trinity consists of inexhaustible experiences. It is very difficult to think about this (partly because we don’t try) but if you imagine some person as you may have felt at a moment when you were in love with that person – that there was no plumbing the depths of that person, but endless stretches of possible experiences. Intimacy is a matter of shared experiences. That is what intimate is.
To be intimate with God is to share His experiences
Conversation is the first level of shared experience, it doesn’t have to be verbalized in the way we might think of it. Ordinarily if you watch a mother with a child, you see them sharing an experience and as the child grows and respond, so does the experiences and richness of that relationship. That creates intimacy.
1) Discuss what Dallas means by the distance (autonomy, “develop character, not to direct us in this, that or the other”) as well as the nearness (intimacy of shared experiences) that He invites us to join?
What was the glory of the Trinity before the creation of the world? It was this marvelous company of persons sharing one another and the exploration, the thoughts and feelings – dimensions we can’t identify or even imagine – v.21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me?
That is the future. That is where we are headed. Jesus has prayed for us, His apprentices in Kingdom Living, that we should know the same kind of mean to me intimacy that is known between Jesus and the Father. Are you ready for that? For the most part we are not about to go there because we are too scared. We know that intimacy makes us vulnerable. And as a consequence, we keep our distance. That is an interesting phrase, “to keep our distance.”We play our cards close to our chest, and we know somehow we better do that, because it is not safe to do otherwise.
What might the fellowship of apprentices be, other than progressively moving in the company of Jesus and the Trinity, more and more into the open where we able trust one another. Dallas encourages us to read Bonheoffer’s book, Life Together. He was a gifted man who came to understand what it is like for people to come together in Christ. And it is not safe to come together except in Christ because we have these conflicting kingdoms that are not subordinated to God and it causes alienation and that is the condition of human beings all of the evils that you see come from alienation that in turn comes from thinking wrongly about God.
It is not safe to come together unless you are in Christ because you have conflicting kingdoms that are not submitted to God and the result of that is alienation. That is the condition of human beings, which comes from thinking wrongly about God. Only when you come to know the complete safety, can begin to move towards people in the kind of shared life that is found in the Trinity.
John 17:22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—
How is this possible? It is because of the Trinity. Because they are one and invite us into this fellowship, disciples are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
John 17:23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (When people see this, there is no argument left – that is the way to present Christ.)
2) Dallas makes the astounding claim: “You are invited to practice intimate fellowship with the Trinity.” What does this mean to you? How does this affect your relationship with other followers of Christ?
John Ortberg introduced the writings of Brother Lawrence. To read some of this literature, visit http://www.ccel.org/ and enter “Brother Lawrence” in the search box.
John asks Dallas to say a word about what is an “experience.”
Dallas – Experience is a conscious event that becomes a part of your life. You live through experiences. They make up your life and since they are sharable they make up the basis for our experiences. It is like enjoying the scenery; we want others to join us.
Richard – Brother Lawrence showed us that work was not an obstacle but rather an asset.
3) Richard Foster stated that “we build a history with God through shared experience.” This goes along with the group discussion in the video about intimacy with God. What are some ways you are intentional (or would like to become more intentional) about building history with God?
Notes from the Book, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
Chapter 3: Never Alone
God’s presence is everywhere around us. God is able to penetrate intertwine himself within the fibers of the human self in such a way that those who are enveloped in his loving companionship will never be alone. P. 59
A corporate sensing of God is sometimes needed. “Experienced ministers and laypeople frequently find they have synchronized their activities unerringly in a meeting or other form of service through their sense of God’s presence and intent for the particular occasion. It is something they come to expect and rely upon.” P. 63
D.L. Moody had many years of successful ministry, when one day he had a powerful experience with God. Moody writes: “I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it, and it is almost too sacred an experience to name… I can only say God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths; and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world; it would be as small dust in the balance.” P. 65
Conversational relationship. As Brother Lawrence wrote in his classic, The Practice of the Presence of God: “I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a general fond regard to God, which I may call an actual presence of God; or, to speak better, a habitual, silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God.” P. 67
A wise lover regards not so much the gift of him who loves, as the love of him who gives. He esteems affection rather than valuables, and sets all gifts below the Beloved. A noble-minded lover rests not in the gift, but in Me (Christ) above every gift. Thomas a Kempis
Chapter 4: Our Communicating Cosmos
“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”― Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The role of Scripture and Scriptural interpretation is to provide us with a general understanding of God and to inspire us to cultivate a corresponding faith. P. 87
In my experience, the word given to me is actually spoken by me. It’s simply comes out with no preliminaries. P. 87
Truth #1 – God Would
(Psalm 94:9). And I ask, ‘He that made the tongue and gave us the power to communicate with one another, shall he not speak and communicate with us. Elaborating on this, E. Stanley Jones comments: “Does God guide? Strange if he didn’t. The Psalmist says: ‘He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eyes, shall he not see?’ P. 89
Truth #2 – God Does
Are we in tune? First of all the fact that we do not hear God does not mean that God is not speaking to us. Even at our human level it is common for us not to hear those who speak to us.
Are we ready vessels?
Are we ready to be in business with God?
Truth #3 – God Certainly Can
The material world in which we are placed by God permits him to be nearer to us, even than our own eyes, ears and brain are near. P. 96
Truth #4 – God Should
From the humility and generosity of his great heart, Moses said, I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!” Numbers 11:29.