"To ‘know Christ’ is to live interactively with him right where you are in your daily activities. This is the spiritual life in Christ.”
~ Knowing Christ Today, by Dallas Willard (p139)
What follows are simply the notes I took in studying the Dallas Willard's book, Knowing Christ Today. Because there are so many wise insights, I've split my notes over five posts; this post highlights chapter six: "Knowledge of Christ in the Spiritual Life." For the most part, I've included page numbers and quotations as reference, but you should know that all of this is from the book. None of it is mine. Now let's dive in!
You can’t sustain kingdom life without interaction with the King.
"This is not a religion of mere facts; it is a dynamic religion of interactive fellowship in which Christ plays a huge role…"
"It is possible for religious people, and Christians in particular, to follow Jesus into the kingdom of God and come to know Christ in the modern world. All that is necessary is that they come to realize that they have not ‘arrived’ by means of their particular identification as ‘Christians’ or otherwise, and that they be willing to make knowing the kingdom their first priority....
...Then their confidence in Jesus – if it really is confidence in him, not just in something he did or said – can lead them into increasing knowledge of him." (p148)
The Christ Focus (p150-154)
1: Humility – only the humble person will let God be God.
“We must humble ourselves and become like little children (Matt. 18:3-5). That means we must be turned around from the normal human attitude, the attitude that says we are in charge of our life and that we are quite competent and capable of managing it on our own. Little children on the other hand, come to others for guidance and help and simply presume upon them for it.” (p151) Proverbs 3:5-6
2: Intention of Inward Transformation / Rightness
“The decision and the settled intention, carried into practice, to become good, ‘righteous,’ on the inside – in the hidden dimensions of self that make up human character – not just in action or outward behavior. This is what Jesus called going beyond the ‘goodness’ of the scribes and Pharisees... (Matt. 5:20)
...to know Christ in the kingdom of God we must abandon ourselves to a total transformation of who we are on the inside, to taking on the character of Christ through living with him day by day and hour by hour. Only that is trust in Christ.” (p152)
3. Practice of Christ’s Constant Presence
“Constant expectation of Christ-with-us in the place where we are, wherever that may be. ‘The sacrament of the present moment,’ as it is sometimes called, is from the human side nothing but the invocation, expectation, and receptivity of God’s presence and activity where we are and in what we are doing at any given time.” (p153)
“This fundamental truth about life in God is given its full meaning by Paul: 'If you confess with your lips that Jesus as Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Rom. 10:9). (p154)
...but that is not a thing you say to get you into heaven after death. It is what you do to live in Christ’s kingdom now. What is saved is our life, and of course we along with it.”
4. Progressive Overall Obedience
“Once you have received God into the place where you are at any and all times, you are ready, next, to do what pleases God on every occasion. Without him with you, you could never do that. The “with God” grounds the “do God.” …
...from the human side, once again, it is a matter of deciding to do the things Jesus said -really a matter of deciding, by God’s grace, to become the kind of person who does what he said. That immediately draws us into the context of his action where we know the eternal life flowing in us and around us. This is the spiritual life in Christ.” (p154)
In summary, the Christ Focus…
2. Intent of Inward Transformation
3. Practice of Christ’s Constant Presence
4. Progressive, Unqualified, Overall Obedience to Jesus
“Growing in the ‘Christ focus’ through specific practices is absolutely crucial to knowing Christ in the contemporary world…The ‘Christ focus’ is sustained and developed by shaping our lives, with his help, around definite and time-proven practices that enable us to be kingdom people: to live in the ‘Presence’ and to obey his teachings from the inside out.” (p159)
Note Willard’s definition of kingdom people: people who live in Christ’s presence and obey his teachings from the inside out.
“In practice we will have to learn to lead an ordered life centered on these four things. We have to learn to do the things that eliminate distractions and keep our whole being focused on constant companionship with Christ in our ‘nows.’” (p156)
Silence and Solitude
The purpose of silence and solitude is “to break the grip of a God-alienated world over us at the level of our constant habits and preoccupations.” (p157)
Solitude (being alone and doing nothing for extended periods of time) and silence (elimination of noise including that from our own mouth) frees us to move into the life that is eternal. They must be practiced intensely and extensively.
“…irritability and anger, loneliness and busyness, are signs that (silence and solitude) need renewal.” (p157)
“Fellowship with other disciples, living and dead, is another practice essential to the “Christ focus.” Some with whom we must have fellowship have been long dead, but they live on and are available to us through writings. Of course, many of these are in the Bible. Others are nearer to us in time, and some are our contemporaries. We need to devote much time to knowing them well. We must above all master the masters. Spiritual reading is one of the major sources of light and strength for the disciple of Jesus. But as valuable as it is, it cannot take the place of fellowship with other disciples living and walking beside us.” (p157)
“When we gather ‘in the name’ of Jesus, we gather to love one another and to be loved, and to serve one another and to be served. That is why we ‘go to church.’ The one sure mark of being his disciple was said by Jesus to be that we love one another in the way he loves us.” John 13:34-35 (p157)
“The most important thing about our fellowship with other disciples is that Jesus, the trinitarian presence, should be in our midst. For that, we must ‘meet in his name’ (Matt. 18:19); that is, we meet for his purposes, with his resources, and in his presence.” (p158)
“The simple program of Christ for winning the whole world is to make each person magnetic enough with love to draw others.” – Frank Laubach
“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink…unless you give him a salt block...
“You are the salt of the earth.” – Jesus, Matthew 5:13
We’re supposed to be salt – that makes people thirsty, for...Living Water! (John 7)
And before we jump into what the spiritual life in Christ looks like, Willard reminds us: There's no formula, only a life (p160-162). Kingdom life is a personal relationship.
What’s It Really Like? Those ‘living the life’ will:
Discover remarkable changes in their beliefs, fundamental attitudes, and emotional conditions.
Remember, belief is readiness to act as if it were so.
Living the life, people find that they’re ready to act as if Jesus actually is Lord, master of the universe.
Hopefulness, joy, peace; Romans 15:13 and Romans 14:17
Receive ‘communications’ from God
They will learn to identify a characteristic kind of thought or experience that comes from God.
Discover the reality of ‘the light burden and the easy yoke.’ Matt. 11:28-30
“Someone” is acting with them
The outcomes of their efforts far exceed anything that could be humanly anticipated…on a regular occasion.
Notes Regarding Critics of God (p163-165)
They are simply ignorant of what we’ve been talking about in this chapter: the spiritual life in Christ. They literally do not know what they are talking about when it comes to knowing Christ as a life that some people actually live….
But it is clear they do not long for there to be a biblical type of God or to be a part of his life. It is not something they would welcome. They do not know what they are talking about and they do not want to know…
”Let it be done to them according to their faith.” God is not going to prove himself by running over them. (p163-164)
Their case is strengthened by those who self-identify as Christians but know no more about the interactive life with Christ in the kingdom of God than the atheists do, and don’t manifest that life to the public. (p165)
To know Christ in the contemporary world our opponents must see people and communities in which he lives today…We must embody the character (intelligent love) and power of lie in union with Christ in all aspects of human existence. (p165-166)
Be Salt. Make them thirsty. Live a life that begs the question.
This was from Chapter Six. Don't Miss the Other Knowing Christ Today Notes:
Chapter One: Can Faith Ever Be Knowledge?
Chapter Two: How We Perish for Lack of Knowledge
Chapter Three and Four: How Knowledge Disappeared & Can We Know God Exists?
Chapter Eight: Pastors as Teachers of the Nations
You may also enjoy listening to Willard teach these concepts in "Knowledge of Christ in Today's World" - his video teaching, here.