Some of you have already heard of the death this past Wednesday of this past Wednesday of influential Christian author and philosopher Dallas Willard, who left this mortal life at the age of 77, as a result of cancer. Dallas was personally known to many of the long-timers at BFC, through his having led at least one retreat for us in the mid-70s, and then later when he spoke at conferences that various of us attended. Dallas was an important leader in the Renovare Christian formation movement, which he helped to shape along with the movement’s founder, Friend Richard Foster. Renovare has an appreciation of Dallas’s life, with links to others, here.
For those of us, like me, who never had the privilege of meeting him, there are his books. Several years ago we used his Renovation of the Heart as the text for a retreat. Perhaps his best-known work is The Divine Conspiracy, a masterful meditation on the Sermon on the Mount, the Spirit by which was given, and the life that proceeds from it.
I would like to share with you a few brief quotations from The Divine Conspiracy that will figure into my message this Sunday. Please take the time to read through them, and consider the New Testament passages they relate to. If you have a copy of the book, the chapters from which these passages come–and no less the rest of the book–are worth however much time you can put into them.
[Jesus’] bold and slyly humorous assurance about all the basic elements of our existence—food and drink and clothing and other needs of life—can only be supported on a clear-eyed vision that a totally good and competent God is right here with us to look after us. And his presence is precisely what the word heaven or, more accurately, the heavens in plural, conveys in the biblical record as well through much of Christian history… Nothing—no human being or institution, no time, no space, no spiritual being, no event—stands between God and those who trust him. The “heavens” are always there with you no matter what, and the “first heaven,” in biblical terms, is precisely the atmosphere or air that surrounds your body.
Commenting on Acts 1:1–11 in The Divine Conspiracy, pp. 277–278
[The Acts 1 account] is absolutely central for our understanding of how [Jesus] is with his people now. It clearly indicates that during the period in question he alternated between communicating with them without being visibly present and communicating with them while being visibly present… The Master teacher takes every step required to make sure the students get the message about how he will be with them… Jesus as teacher… is an arrangement which must stand up for the entire period of the church’s existence, which means at least up to today.
Commenting on Matthew 6:25–34 in The Divine Conspiracy, p. 67
Giving thanks to God for the life of a faithful disciple,