Kingdom Life Now and Forever

The assault by the IRS on organizations concerned about the nation is a mere example of the attack that will come on churches, pastors, and leaders who are concerned about our direction and who believe we are violating biblical principles. The only way we will stop this is to come together in supernatural unity.

In September 2010 and June 2011, I was blessed to host two national Leadership Summits attended by leaders who understand the importance of faith, family, and freedom, recognize that God and truth are under assault, and believe we must boldly proclaim liberty throughout the land. In these two gatherings I witnessed an example of the spiritual unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17. It was as though the entire group was overwhelmed by waves of liquid love. We all agreed that believers must become visible demonstrations of the faith and actively influence national direction by standing together in love and truth. Our trust must be in God and we desperately need guidance from Divine Providence.

At the 2011 Summit, my friend Dr. Dallas Willard came and shared a very important message “Where Righteous People Come From.”  There had been much discussion in the group about policies and founding principles. Dallas charged us to remember that without PERSONS – believers committed to God’s Kingdom purpose – nothing works, neither policies nor principles! Please allow me to share some of the highlights of his message:

WHERE RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE COME FROM

It is the task of Christ’s people to produce righteous people spread throughout the population of the earth: “As you go, make disciples of all kinds of people, submerge them in Trinitarian reality, and instruct them in such a way that they do everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Righteous people must be made; they are not born. Righteous people are people who routinely act in the character and power of Jesus Christ, because of transformation of all dimensions of their personality – heart, soul, mind, strength and social relations. What is in them comes out! (Mark 12:29-31)

They do not work by human force, but by divine influence working all around them through who they are, what they do, and what they say. They are bearers of the Kingdom of God to their surroundings. (Luke 10:9-11)

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If My people, over whom My name is called, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Humbling yourself is the crucial first step.

Humbling themselves is not a “day” but a “way.” It is not an episode but a life. It is a matter of an identifiable group of people living in dependence upon God, constantly calling out to and listening to Him, making it a point to live before His manifest presence, and doing what they know to be right and good before God. These are the ”righteous.” They are the ones who build their house upon the “Rock.” (Matt 7:24-25) They “hear and do.”

But this life must be taught and learned. And today our standard is “Christians” who are not disciples (students, apprentices) of Jesus. Hence our congregations and groups are not centers for the production of righteous people who live their lives in the Kingdom of God. The essential message they now present is about escaping punishment from sin, not about escaping sin.

Is forgiveness good news? Indeed it is, and guilt must be dealt with. But Jesus is and brings good news about life, not primarily about death and hereafter. The New Testament Gospel is about life NOW in the Kingdom of God. That is what He preached and practiced. That is what the “birth from above” (John 3) is about. That is what Paul preached and taught. Those who are Christ’s have been “delivered [by God] from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son.” (Col. 1:13)

What is the Kingdom of God? It is God in action, God “reigning,” it is where what God wants done is done – the range of God’s effective will. The “good news” is that Jesus the Door and the Way has opened this domain to all who trust Him – not just trust something He did or said. And trusting Him naturally leads to becoming His apprentice in Kingdom living. As Jesus’ apprentice I am learning from Him how to lead my life in the Kingdom of God as He would lead my life if He were I. The outcome is that “those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).

Where do righteous people come from? From gatherings of disciples in Trinitarian presence, undergoing transformation of every dimension of their being so that they routinely and easily do the things that Jesus commanded. The point of reference is obedience to Christ. Invite people to become disciples.

The people thus formed are, of course, already in “the public square.” That is where they live – “Oaks of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:3) There they stand in the character and power of Christ doing what is right and good in every domain, private and public. Transformed people can lead our nation!

No one has had a more profound influence on my life in recent years than Dallas. I consider The Divine Conspiracy as important as any book I have ever read. It gave me far greater understanding of the Sermon on the Mount, and a much clearer understanding concerning the importance of the Kingdom of God right here, right now, not just the one to come. He taught continually, “The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons with God himself at the very heart of this community as its prime Sustainer and most glorious Inhabitant.” The Kingdom of God is God in action – Here! Now!

So immersed was he in Kingdom living, that when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the summer of 2012, he reflected: “I think that, when I die, it might be some time until I know it.” Dallas was living so close to Jesus in Kingdom power and presence, he might not even notice passing from life here to life there.

In The Divine Conspiracy he shared these thoughts about death:

So as we think of our life and make plans for it, we should not be anticipating going through some terrible event called “death,” to be avoided at all costs even though it can’t be avoided. That is the usual attitude for human beings, no doubt. But, immersed in Christ in action, we may be sure that our life – yes, that familiar one we are each so well acquainted with – will never stop. We should be anticipating what we will be doing three hundred or a thousand or ten thousand years from now in this marvelous universe.

The hymn “Amazing Grace” was found in a recent USA Today poll to be America’s favorite hymn. It is sung at Boston Pops concerts and played at military and police funerals. It is now a solid part of American if not Western culture, and it accurately presents the future of redeemed humanity:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun.

Could this be the actual truth about our case? Jesus’ word to us would most certainly be, “Believe it!” We are never-ceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in the full world of God.

Early on the morning of May 8, 2013, my friend Dallas awakened to a full experience of the reality of the Kingdom of the Heavens he described so beautifully. Fittingly, his last two words were, “Thank you.” During my call to Jane Willard offering comfort and praying with her, she informed me that in lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be sent to Water for LIFE. She said she and Dallas watched LIFE Today every day and he particularly loved the water well ministry.  The Memorial Service will be held Saturday, May 25, at Church on the Way in California. Please keep Jane and the Willard family in your prayers. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones…”

From The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. Copyright © 1998 by Dallas Willard. Reprinted with permission from HarperOne, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.

 

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4 comments

  1. Dear Bro James and Sister Betty, I have just heard about the death of your daughter. I met you in 1967, in Pleasant Hill, LA at our small school and a revival at 1st Baptist, with Bro. Salley. I have seen you many times over the years, most recently , last year at a taping of Life today, and your autographed an early album with precious family pictures. I remember the details of why Robin was a miracle baby, who came after Betty was healed. I know that she was always precious, and cannot imagine the pain of being apart from her. I am so very sorry that this has happened. I feel that in a way, that I know your family, and have thought many times how great it will be to really spend time in fellowship with you all in Heaven. May God continue to strengthen and comfort you, as only He can. I hope to see you soon. Congrats on 50 years of ministry! Thanks for your example of integrity. You have been such a good role model in family and in ministry to my son, Clayton, that you met and prayed for years ago. Few stand up for morals and true Christianity as you do.Love in Christ, Vera Flores Dyess

  2. Charlotte Hundermark

    I have just heard of the very sad loss of your precious daughter, Robin, and my heart breaks for you both, her husband, and children. Its only when people who have lost loved ones, that they understand the depth of heartache you have been going through. But we are assured that we will see our loved ones, in the not too distant future, who are waiting to welcome us. What great rejoicing there is going to be. Thank You our loving Father God, for this blessed assurance, because of Your beloved only Son, Jesus.

  3. I couldn’t agree more we as Christians must take a stand for righteousness, not compromising our beliefs in Christ. We are the salt of the earth. Thank God for your ministry. And may God continue to bless it all the more.

  4. great article

    it is just right on.

    Amen and Amen.