The Kingdom of God Teaching Series - A Series on What Jesus Believed and Taught—and Lived

January 14 - April 1, 1990
Hollywood Presbyterian Church

This eight-part series was the first compilation of the teaching content in The Divine Conspiracy. Dallas gives the title as "A Series on What Jesus Believed and Taught—and Lived." It is also known as "The Kingdom of God Teaching Series." The teaching sessions include the following:

  1. The Meaning of “the Rule of Heaven”: Jesus’ Gospel and Ours
  2. The Rule of Heaven in the Old Testament, in Israel
  3. The Beatitudes as Gospel: The Manner of Jesus’ Teaching
  4. Beyond “the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” – Part 1
  5. Beyond “the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” – Part 2
  6. The Power of “the Word of the Kingdom”
  7. How to Become a Disciple
  8. Discipleship and the Disciplines for the Spiritual Life 

 

Hollywood Presbyterian Church is located in Hollywood, California.
 

Resources

1: The Meaning of “the Rule of Heaven”: Jesus’ Gospel and Ours

Explore the transformative journey into the Kingdom of God with Dallas Willard. Unpack the true Gospel Jesus preached, emphasizing the immediate availability of God's rule in our lives. Reconsider your life's direction, discover the inclusivity of Jesus' message, and embrace living under the direct, benevolent governance of Heaven. Open your heart to a life redefined by divine grace.

2: The Rule of Heaven in the Old Testament - in Israel

Dallas Willard sheds light on the essence of the Kingdom of God, illustrating its immediate availability and transformative power through the lens of the Old Testament, the life of Jesus, and the early Church. Discover the call to a life of trust, grace, and divine empowerment in "The Rule of Heaven in the Old Testament, in Israel."

3: The Beatitudes as Gospel: The Manner of Jesus’ Teaching

Join Dallas in an exploration of Jesus' life-altering teachings, where the radical concepts of repentance, the immediate availability of God's kingdom, and the counter-cultural message of the Beatitudes come to life. Investigate Jesus’ manner of teaching, including his use of parables and real-life circumstances to contradict prevailing assumptions.  

4: Beyond “the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” – Part 1

Dallas Willard explores the profound teachings of Jesus, focusing on the revolutionary inversion of "blesseds" and "curseds" that starkly contrasted with the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees. This challenge not only confronted the religious authorities but also the deeply-held beliefs of the common people, offering a transformative insight into the Kingdom of God's true nature.

5: Beyond “the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” – Part 2

Dallas explores living beyond traditional righteousness, as he unveils the essence of the Kingdom of Heaven. “I believe that the whole point of the Christian Gospel of the Kingdom is an invitation to step into the reality of the most glorious community conceivable with God at its head.”

6: The Power of "The Word of the Kingdom"

Embark on a transformative journey with Dallas Willard as he explores the profound impact of living under the Kingdom of Heaven. Through a blend of biblical insights and practical wisdom, Dallas challenges us to question deeply, embrace the actionable power of God's Word, and embody the Kingdom's authority in our daily lives. This talk is an invitation to discover the reality of God’s Kingdom through dedicated discipleship and divine participation.

7: How to Become a Disciple. Disciples and Christians.

Dallas Willard examines what it means to truly follow Jesus, offering a compelling vision of discipleship in the Kingdom of Heaven. He unpacks the costs and joys of choosing a life dedicated to walking with Christ, emphasizing the transformative power of prayer, fasting, and forgiveness. Listeners are challenged to reassess their priorities, inviting them into a deeper, more authentic relationship with God.

8: Discipleship and Disciplines for the Spiritual Life

Dallas sheds light on the transformative power of Jesus' teachings, urging us to embrace discipleship and spiritual disciplines. He reveals how these practices can lead to profound changes in our lives. He challenges us to compare the cost of discipleship with the cost of non-discipleship.

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The Meaning of “the Rule of Heaven”: Jesus’ Gospel and Ours

Highlights:

  • Engagement with Scripture: Dallas Willard introduces his series on the Kingdom of God, emphasizing the importance of bringing Bibles to sessions, engaging in personal study, and reflecting on the material presented. This method encourages an interactive and personal exploration of Scripture.
  • Ideas vs. Beliefs: Dallas discusses the significant impact of ideas over beliefs in shaping our lives, highlighting the need to scrutinize and update our mental maps to align with Scriptural truths, emphasizing the transformative role of grace in this process.
  • Biblical Reliability: The reliability and divine inspiration of the Bible are key points for Dallas. He asserts the authors were intellectually sound and divinely guided, making the Bible a trustworthy guide for understanding truth, advocating for a questioning and open approach to Scripture.
  • The True Gospel: Dallas asserts that the Gospel preached by Jesus fundamentally concerns the immediate availability of God's Kingdom, contrasting with more commonly held views and inviting listeners to reconsider their life strategies in light of this reality.
  • Inclusivity of Jesus' Message: Dallas explores the inclusivity of Jesus' Gospel, highlighting that the Kingdom of God is open to all, challenging societal and religious norms of the time and underscoring the grace-filled nature of the Gospel.
  • Faith as Trust: The concept of faith, or trust in God, is discussed as relational trust that transforms one's understanding and interaction with the divine. Dallas encourages a faith that is active and confident in God's goodness and authority.
  • Present Reality of the Kingdom: Dallas emphasizes the Kingdom of Heaven as a present, accessible reality, challenging notions of it as only a future state or post-death experience, and invites believers to live under God's rule in the here and now.
  • Living in the Kingdom Now: Dallas underscores the practical implications of living in the Kingdom of God, encouraging listeners to lean into the reality of God's care and sovereignty, cultivating a life of trust and freedom from fear according to Jesus' teachings.

The Rule of Heaven in the Old Testament - in Israel

Highlights:

  • Kingdom of God as Immediate and Direct: Dallas Willard emphasizes that Jesus' portrayal of the Kingdom of God as the Kingdom of Heaven reflects a direct, immediate availability of God's action to individuals, bypassing traditional Jewish institutions. This concept underscores God's direct care and provision for His creation, as illustrated by Jesus' teachings on worrying and the care of birds and flowers.
  • Preparation Through Jewish Covenant: Dallas highlights how the Jewish experience and covenant with God prepared a people to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. This preparation underscores the significance of Jesus' arrival and His proclamation of the fulfillment of time, signaling the direct availability of the Kingdom of God.
  • Message of the Kingdom in Early Church: Dallas points out that the early Church's preaching focused on the Kingdom of God, particularly emphasizing the Resurrection of Jesus as the ultimate demonstration of God's sovereign power. This message underscored the continuity of Jesus' teachings through the apostles and early Christians.
  • Kingdom Life as a Challenge: Discussing the Gospel of the Kingdom, Dallas addresses the misconception that following Jesus exempts one from challenges or suffering. Instead, he clarifies that entering the Kingdom of God involves engaging in spiritual warfare and recognizing the coexistence of other kingdoms that challenge believers.
  • Nicodemus and the Need for Rebirth: Dallas uses the interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus to underscore the necessity of being born again to perceive and enter the Kingdom of God. This narrative illustrates the misunderstanding of spiritual realities when interpreted solely through natural perspectives.
  • Israel's Role and Covenant with God: Dallas delves into the significance of Israel's covenant relationship with God, portraying it as an ongoing narrative of trust, faith, and sometimes failure, which highlights the complex human response to God's call. The renaming of Jacob to Israel ("Prince with God") serves as a pivotal moment, symbolizing a life lived by the power of God and the promise of being part of a divine narrative that transcends personal and national history.
  • Power and Presence of God in Covenant: Dallas discusses Abraham's covenant with God, where Abraham's act of shooing away buzzards from the sacrifice demonstrates his expectation and trust in God's promise. The miraculous appearance of fire, consuming the sacrifice, signifies God's active presence and reaffirms His covenant, illustrating the tangible reality of God's power in the lives of those who trust Him.
  • Grace as Divine Power in Action: Dallas reframes the concept of grace, not as a mere theological abstraction or a passive acceptance by God, but as the active, empowering presence of God in the life of a believer. Grace is presented as God's enabling power that allows believers to live lives that are impossible by natural means alone, highlighting the transformative and dynamic nature of living under the rule of God's Kingdom.

The Beatitudes as Gospel: The Manner of Jesus’ Teaching

Highlights:

  • Central Theme of Repentance: Dallas emphasizes the radical call of Jesus to "repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," highlighting this as a call not just to remorse but to a transformative rethinking of one’s life strategy in light of the immediate availability of God's kingdom. This presents a paradigm shift from traditional interpretations of repentance.
  • The Kingdom of Heaven's Availability: He elucidates the provocative nature of Jesus' message that entry into the kingdom of heaven requires no prerequisites; it's a matter of acceptance and trust in its reality, challenging conventional religious controls and expectations.
  • Inversion of Expectations: Dallas discusses the historical and ongoing challenge of human attempts to control the divine, contrasting the humble, open access Jesus offers to the kingdom of heaven with the violent, forceful attempts to claim it as depicted in various misinterpretations of scripture.
  • Jesus' Relational Teaching Style: Highlighting Jesus' method of teaching through parables and actions, Dallas stresses the importance of understanding Jesus' teachings not as prescriptive laws but as illustrations of life in the kingdom of God, aimed at engaging the mind and heart on a relational level.
  • Role of the Holy Spirit: The talk underscores the significance of the Holy Spirit's role in Jesus' ministry and for believers, advocating for a recognition of the Spirit as the personal presence and reality of God's rule, challenging both charismatic and non-charismatic distinctions within Christianity.
  • The Beatitudes' Radical Message: Dallas interprets the Beatitudes as a declaration of who is truly blessed in the kingdom of heaven, upending worldly assumptions about well-being and status. This section reveals Jesus' counter-cultural message that the kingdom belongs to the poor in spirit, mourners, the meek, and those who hunger for righteousness.
  • Jesus as the Model of Spiritual Poverty: Through the Beatitudes, Dallas points to Jesus Himself as embodying spiritual poverty, showing how Jesus' life and teachings exemplify the upside-down values of the kingdom of heaven, where the last shall be first.
  • Encouragement to Embrace Kingdom Values: Finally, Dallas challenges listeners to reflect on their own "Beatitudes" in light of Jesus' teachings, encouraging a personal application of kingdom values that recognize the blessedness of those society might overlook or marginalize.

Beyond “the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” – Part 1

Highlights:

  • The Kingdom's Inward Righteousness vs. Pharisaical Externalism: Dallas Willard highlights the critical distinction between the superficial righteousness of the Pharisees and the deep, transformative righteousness of those living under God's rule, emphasizing that true adherence to Jesus' teachings requires a heart change, not mere rule-following.
  • Blessings of the Kingdom Revealed in the Beatitudes: Dallas explores the Beatitudes, showcasing how they overturn worldly values by declaring the marginalized and suffering as blessed, thus presenting a kingdom that values spiritual realities over material success.
  • Accessibility and Transformation Through the Kingdom: Discussing Luke 6, Dallas points out the immediate and transformative nature of the Kingdom of God, accessible especially to those marginalized by society, offering a radical inversion of worldly values and expectations.
  • Critique of Pharisaical Righteousness: Dallas criticizes the focus on external appearances and legalistic adherence to law characteristic of Pharisaical righteousness, advocating instead for a righteousness that reflects God's desires for justice, mercy, and faithfulness through genuine love and humility.
  • Danger of Legalism in Christianity: Dallas warns against reducing Christianity to a set of rules, emphasizing that Jesus’ call is for a transformation that involves the heart and character, surpassing mere external compliance.
  • Ethics of Love, Forgiveness, and Peacemaking: Highlighting Jesus' radical teachings on love, forgiveness, and reconciliation, Dallas encourages followers to embody the distinctive ethics of the Kingdom of God, even towards enemies and those who wrong them.
  • Being Salt and Light in the World: Reflecting on Jesus' metaphors, Dallas urges believers to understand their role as agents of God's transformative presence, emphasizing the importance of bringing God's love and truth to a world in need through their lives and actions.
  • Pursuit of God's Kingdom and Righteousness: Dallas concludes with a call to prioritize seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, stressing that this pursuit requires a deep trust in God and a life lived in reflection of His character and priorities.

Beyond “the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” – Part 2

Highlights:

  • The Kingdom of Heaven is Already Present: Dallas emphasizes that the Kingdom of Heaven is not something to be built; it already exists, is doing well, and is invitational, encouraging individuals to step into a glorious community with God at its head.
  • Principle of Inversion: Dallas discusses the inversion principle found throughout the Scriptures, where the teachings of Jesus, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount, show the way to live under the abundant hand of God, contrasting it with worldly expectations.
  • Life as the Central Message: The core message of the Kingdom of Heaven, according to Dallas, is about offering life that is accessible to anyone, regardless of their condition, emphasizing the transformative and life-giving nature of Jesus' teachings.
  • Redefinition of Righteousness: Through the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus redefines righteousness, not as adherence to laws, but as living in alignment with the Kingdom's values, including love, mercy, and humility.
  • Role of the Community and Individual in Faith: While acknowledging the importance of community, Dallas points out that the gospel of the Kingdom is more individualistic in his view, focusing on personal transformation and entry into God’s Kingdom.
  • Importance of Understanding Scripture in Context: Dallas stresses the need to interpret the teachings of Jesus within the broader context of God's Kingdom, rather than applying them as rigid rules, to truly grasp their meaning and application.
  • Engagement with the World Through the Lens of the Kingdom: Dallas concludes by encouraging believers to live out the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven in their daily lives, which includes loving enemies, practicing humility, and engaging with others in a manner that reflects God's love and righteousness.

The Power of "The Word of the Kingdom"

Highlights:

  • Importance of Questions: Dallas starts by emphasizing the value of questions in deepening our understanding, notably asking what life will be like when we find the Kingdom of Heaven. This frames the talk’s exploration of living under the authority and power of the Kingdom of Heaven, urging a move beyond theoretical knowledge to practical living under God's reign.
  • Living by the Kingdom's Power: He asserts that finding the Kingdom of Heaven leads to a life of participation, acting under its authority and power, restoring God's original intent for humanity to have dominion over the earth, as stated in Genesis.
  • Role of Faith and Action: Through the example of Jesus cursing the fig tree and His disciples’ reactions, Dallas illustrates the power of spoken faith and action, highlighting that true faith involves belief so strong that it results in miraculous actions.
  • Practical Outcomes of Kingdom Living: The talk delves into the tangible aspects of living in the Kingdom, suggesting it involves daily repentance, constant alignment with God's will, and engaging in a progressive realization of the Kingdom's reality.
  • Power of Words and Creation: Dallas discusses the creative and sustaining power of God's Word, encouraging a reflection on the nature of reality, the ongoing sustenance of creation by God’s will, and the substantial, life-giving essence of God's Word.
  • Authority and Power to Act: He expounds on the authority and power given to believers, highlighting the responsibility to act within the Kingdom's authority, which signifies finding and knowing the Kingdom truly.
  • Relationship Between Saying and Praying: Dallas clarifies the connection between speaking (saying) to circumstances and praying to God, proposing that both are forms of exercising faith and engaging with the Kingdom's power.
  • Living in the Reality of the Kingdom: The conclusion challenges listeners to deeply consider whether they truly desire to live in the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven, as this involves a fundamental transformation in how life is approached, moving from passive observation to active participation in God’s work on earth.

How to Become a Disciple. Disciples and Christians.

Highlights:

  • Discipleship and Kingdom Living: Dallas emphasizes the necessity of becoming a disciple of Jesus to truly live in the Kingdom of Heaven. He clarifies that there's no New Testament basis for being a Christian without also being a disciple, urging a commitment beyond mere belief to a life of following Jesus.
  • Role of Prayer and Fasting: He points out the crucial role of prayer and fasting in connecting with God's power and developing faith. Dallas stresses that these practices are not just about asking God for things but are integral to deepening one's faith and understanding of God's will.
  • Forgiveness as a Reflection of Faith: The talk underscores the interconnectedness of faith and forgiveness. Dallas discusses how forgiving others is not about forgetting their wrongs but choosing not to make them suffer for their actions, a choice that requires a strong foundation of faith.
  • Living Under Kingdom Authority: Dallas dives into the concept of living under the authority of God's Kingdom, highlighting how Jesus’ disciples were expected to wield this authority responsibly and faithfully, particularly in overcoming unbelief.
  • Cost of Discipleship: Reflecting on Luke 14, Dallas elaborates on Jesus' teachings about the cost of discipleship, including the need to prioritize following Jesus above all else, even familial relationships, to truly be His disciple.
  • Practicality of Kingdom Living: He makes a compelling case for the practicality of living in the Kingdom of Heaven here and now, detailing how discipleship involves learning from Jesus how to live out God’s will in everyday life.
  • Decision to Follow Jesus: Dallas concludes with a powerful call to action, urging listeners to make a conscious decision to follow Jesus and embrace discipleship.

Discipleship and Disciplines for the Spiritual Life

Highlights:

  • Relevance of Jesus' Teachings to Our Lives: Dallas Willard emphasizes the direct relevance of Jesus' words to our everyday life, urging us to revisit and deeply engage with the Gospels. 
  • Living as Disciples of Jesus Christ: Dallas highlights the importance of consciously choosing to live each day as a disciple of Jesus Christ. This decision involves a fundamental reorientation of our lives towards discipleship, recognizing it as the most important question we face daily.
  • Active Participation in the Kingdom of God: He stresses that being a follower of Jesus means actively participating in the Kingdom of God, rather than passively consuming religious experiences. 
  • Essential Role of Spiritual Disciplines: The talk underscores the significance of spiritual disciplines as means to foster a deeper relationship with God and to cultivate a life characterized by the fruits of the Spirit. These disciplines are not ends in themselves but pathways to living more fully in the presence of God.
  • The Practice of Presence and Solitude: Dallas advocates for the practices of solitude and silence as essential disciplines for spiritual growth. These practices allow us to disconnect from the distractions of the world and to connect more deeply with God, recognizing His voice and guidance in our lives.
  • Forgiveness and Healing in Relationships: He addresses the power of forgiveness and the healing it brings to family and personal relationships. By embracing forgiveness, we can overcome past hurts and enter into a space of love and reconciliation.
  • Misconception of the Hard Life Versus the Easy Life with Jesus: Dallas challenges the common belief that following Jesus is a harder path, arguing instead that life with Jesus is the easy life. The difficulties arise not from discipleship itself but from our resistance to surrendering fully to Jesus' way of life.
    • Ultimate Goal of Discipleship - Transformation into Christlikeness: The ultimate aim of discipleship is transformation into the likeness of Christ. This involves a comprehensive change in our beliefs, behaviors, and practices under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, leading to a life that reflects the love, joy, peace, and righteousness of the Kingdom of God.