Beyond Belief

May 1-2, 1998
Grace Fellowship - Baltimore, MD

This 2-day conference was held at Grace Fellowship in Maryland on May 1-2, 1998. In titling the conference "Beyond Belief," Dallas was referring to the fact that we can live a life that encompasses what we read in the Bible and hear in our Christian teaching - a life that is beyond belief!

There are six audio-only sessions from the conference that we have published here as videos with slides. The first 4 sessions are divided into 2 parts.

This series is ideal for a small groups and we have included some fill-in-the-blank study notes.

Resources

1: Who You Are (session 1A)

This life is the one that is beyond belief! Dallas starts session one with an overview of the conference, and by minute eight gets into the heart of this video's teaching:  We can't understand our lives and what God's called us to unless we're able to come to a true picture of who we are. 

2: Why You're Here and What's the Problem? (session 1B)

After recognizing who we are, we must next understand why we're here. What is our purpose? What is God up to with us and how does this bring Him glory? In this video Dallas leads us into understanding of these key concepts by teaching about kingdoms, the many aspects of the whole person including the spirit and body, proper subordination of the parts of the person, and the five stages of eternal living. He covers a lot, so get your pencil ready!

3: Getting the Gospel Right (Session 2A)

In this short video that kicks off session two, Dallas revisits the key concepts from session one, ensuring we have solid understanding of who we are, why we're here, and what's the problem. It leaves us in a good place to recognize the importance of getting the gospel right, when the session continues in the next video.

4: Getting the Gospel Right (session 2B)

"The reason for the weakened condition of the church is we do not preach the gospel that Jesus preached." A bold statement that Dallas explains in detail in this session, where we discover that the gospel Jesus preached is a gospel that naturally leads to discipleship and personal transformation - which brings such hope and freedom! 

5: Apprentices of Jesus (session 3A)

Dallas begins the third teaching session with a dive into the Kingdom of God, becoming a disciple in the Kingdom, and then introduces the Sermon on the Mount and two key questions every good teacher must answer. This session will continue with videos 3B and 3C.  

6: Who Is Really Well Off? The Beatitudes (session 3B)

Session three continues with a look at the Beatitudes where Dallas helps us understand the nature and reality of the Kingdom of God, who is truly blessed...and why they're blessed. It very well may not be what you think, so don't miss this teaching!  We must learn to see blessedness in the light of the Kingdom, and to share Jesus' vision of people in a way that enables us to go to anyone at all and say, "blessed." 


This teaching will help you better understand what Dallas wrote about the Beatitudes in The Divine Conspiracy.

7: Who Is Truly a Good Person (session 3c)

Dallas takes us through the rest of the Sermon on the Mount to help us understand Jesus' teaching on who is truly a good person, and how we can have the hope of righteousness that is beyond the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees...a transformed heart of love.

8: What Are Spiritual Disciplines? (session 4A)

In this first half of the fourth session Dallas helps us understand our part in spiritual formation, and practical steps we can take to enter into the teachings of Jesus and make them a part of our lives in the way that God intended them to be, not as external legalisms but rather as expressions of the kind of person that we have become.

9: What Are Spiritual Disciplines? (session 4B)

Dallas concludes this session on spiritual disciplines by helping us understand why, when, and how we can incorporate disciplines to help us do the things we want to do, thus partnering with God to become the person He wants us to be. As always, Dallas is careful to point out that disciplines are "means of grace," meaning they don't set grace aside but are an acknowledgement that these are things we can do to help us receive grace. 

“We can become like Christ in character and in power and thus realize our highest ideals of well-being and well-doing… Widespread transformation of character through wisely disciplined discipleship to Christ can transform our world.” ~ The Spirit of the Disciplines 

The "Looking Like Jesus" article Dallas mentions, and the "How to Get the Urgent Off Your Back" handout are both available on our website.

10: Spending One Day with Jesus (session 5)

The secret of the blessed life is God-with-us. In this session, Dallas shows us how we might approach one day in a special attitude and practice that will help us walk with Jesus through the moments and hours of the day - ordinary days, not days of retreat or special devotion. This talk preceded the 2018 publication of Life Without Lack and is part of the source material chapter 8, which you might enjoy reading for further study and application.

The teaching in this session is included with the teaching about how to spend an ordinary day with Jesus in the Life Without Lack teaching series in chapter 8 of a Life Without Lack.

If you want to go even deeper, check out Dallas Willard Ministries' School of Kingdom Living.

#LifeWithoutLack #FrankLaubach

11: Prayer - What it is and How it Works (Plus Q&A)

In the closing session of this conference, Dallas shares valuable insights into prayer, bookending the session with Philippians 4:6-7 and the promise of peace that surpasses human understanding. He touches on a wide range of topics including what prayer is, how it works, why there's such an arrangement as prayer, when we might pray and when we might act, and more. Don't miss the part where he discusses if God really knows everything already! Throughout, Dallas dives into many Scriptures and wraps up tying it back to where we started, showing how prayer relates to who we are becoming and our destiny to reign with God forever and ever. Although a longer session, it's worth every minute. May you know God smiling upon you as you walk and talk with Him in a life that is, today, beyond belief.

Who You Are (session 1A)

Highlights:

  • Vital Connection Between Belief and Real Life: Dallas emphasizes that the Christian faith is not meant to be an abstract set of beliefs disconnected from the practicalities of daily life. He argues that true faith should manifest itself in how one navigates personal, professional, and emotional challenges. This highlights the necessity for faith to be lived out in actions, transforming abstract beliefs into concrete realities that positively impact every aspect of one's life.
  • Redefining Discipleship and Its Ultimate Value: Dallas challenges the contemporary Christian understanding that one can identify as a Christian without truly being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He presents discipleship not just as an option but as the greatest opportunity any human could have.
  • Spiritual Disciplines as a Path to Experiencing God's Kingdom: The talk delves into the practical aspects of spiritual growth through disciplines that draw individuals closer to experiencing the reality of God's kingdom here and now. Dallas suggests that these practices are not just ritualistic obligations but are means to integrate the spiritual realities of God's kingdom into daily living, thereby making the promises of a life in communion with God a tangible experience.
  • Understanding Our True Nature as Spiritual Beings: Central to Dallas's message is the concept that humans are fundamentally spiritual beings with an eternal destiny. This understanding challenges the prevailing materialistic and temporal perspectives of human existence, offering a broader and more profound vision of life that transcends the physical and temporal limitations.

Why You're Here and What's the Problem? (session 1B)

Highlights:

  • We Are Spiritual Beings Experiencing Humanity: Dallas begins with a powerful reminder from Teilhard de Chardin that we are not merely human beings having a spiritual experience, but rather, spiritual beings undergoing a human experience. This perspective shifts the emphasis from the material to the spiritual, underscoring our inherent connection to something beyond the physical realm. It frames life as an opportunity to engage with the divine, suggesting that our true essence and purpose are rooted in spirituality.
  • The Kingdom of God and Personal Kingdoms: He eloquently describes the Kingdom of God as the domain where God's will prevails, where what is done aligns with what God desires. This is contrasted with individual "kingdoms" or "queendoms," personal spaces of influence and control unique to each person. The violation of these personal domains through acts such as disrespect or abuse is depicted as an infringement upon one's spiritual being. This analogy deepens the understanding of personal boundaries and respect from a spiritual viewpoint, highlighting the divine intention behind personal sovereignty.
  • Integration into the Kingdom of God: Dallas emphasizes the completion of our personal kingdoms through integration into the Kingdom of God. This process involves aligning our will with God's, leading to a transformation that extends beyond mere obedience to a transformation of character. 
  • The Eternal Destiny of Humanity: In the concluding segments, Dallas casts a vision of humanity's role in the universe as a testimony to God's greatness and goodness. He challenges common misconceptions about the afterlife and proposes that our eternal destiny involves active co-reigning with God, utilizing our creative will in harmony with the divine. This perspective not only redefines our understanding of eternity but also invites us to live lives of purpose, reflecting God's glory through our existence.

Getting the Gospel Right (Session 2A)

Highlights:

  • Eternal Identity and Purpose: Dallas emphasizes that we are "unceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in God's universe," underscoring the importance of recognizing our spiritual nature and eternal purpose beyond mere earthly existence. He illustrates this point by exploring biblical passages, particularly from Ephesians, to remind listeners of their inherent worth and divine calling. 
  • Transformative Power of Grace: Central to Dallas's message is the transformative power of grace through Jesus Christ. He explores the concept of being saved by grace and the ongoing self-revelation of God through Christ's people across ages. Dallas discusses the importance of developing a character capable of reigning with Christ, highlighting the dangers of self-idolatry and the refusal of grace.
  • Problem of Sin and the Solution of Spirit-Led Living: Dallas addresses the human condition's complexity, marked by the struggle with sin residing in our bodies, and offers a solution through living by the Spirit. By referencing Galatians, he elucidates the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, advocating for a life guided by the Spirit to overcome the desires of the flesh. This discussion extends into practical advice on cultivating kindness, demonstrating how spiritual transformation can lead to a natural embodiment of godly virtues in our actions and interactions.

Getting the Gospel Right (session 2B)

Highlights:

  • Transformational Gospel of John Wesley: Dallas begins by drawing attention to John Wesley's approach to the gospel, highlighting its transformative impact on individual character and societal values. Wesley's message centered on the availability of Christ to everyone, advocating for a whole life gospel that integrates every aspect of life into the kingdom of God. 
  • Kingdom of the Heavens: Dallas elaborates on Jesus' message of the kingdom of God, clarifying the Jewish understanding of "the kingdom of the heavens" and its significance. He explains that the kingdom is not a future promise but a present reality accessible through repentance and faith in Jesus. This kingdom encompasses God's effective will, indicating that engaging with God's work brings about righteousness and fulfills one's needs. The emphasis is on the immediate availability of God's kingdom, accessible through a personal relationship with Jesus.
  • Discipleship and Transformation: A significant portion of the talk addresses the issue of discipleship and its critical role in the Christian faith. Dallas criticizes the prevalent "sin management" gospel, which focuses narrowly on atonement and justification without fostering genuine transformation or discipleship. He contrasts this with Jesus' comprehensive message, which invites believers to a life of discipleship, learning from Jesus how to live their lives with trust and confidence in him. 
  •  Faith as Integration with Reality: Dallas concludes by redefining faith not as mere belief or psychological comfort but as a means of integrating our lives with the reality of Jesus' lordship and the kingdom of God. This integration manifests in a life lived in obedience to Jesus' teachings, characterized by love, righteousness, and the pursuit of God's will. 
     

Apprentices of Jesus (session 3A)

Dallas begins the third teaching session with a dive into the Kingdom of God, becoming a disciple in the Kingdom, and then introduces the Sermon on the Mount and two key questions every good teacher must answer. This session will continue with videos 3B and 3C.  

Highlights:

  • Misconceptions of the Kingdom of God: Dallas discusses the common misunderstanding among people, including Jesus' own followers, who often conceive of the Kingdom of God in political terms, expecting a restoration of earthly kingdoms like Israel. He clarifies that the Kingdom of God is fundamentally different, not another human government but God's effective will manifesting on earth, destined to displace all human governance with divine governance—a governance characterized by true goodness and justice, unlike any human system.
  •  Living Safely in God's Kingdom: Emphasizing the safety and assurance found in living within the Kingdom of God, Dallas reassures that in this kingdom, nothing can ultimately harm us. This confidence stems from the resurrection of Christ, which stands as a testament to God's ultimate triumph over death and all forms of dread. This assurance allows believers to face life's challenges and pains with hope, knowing that everything, even the most bitter experiences, will be woven by God into a good outcome for those who love Him and align with His purposes.
  • Process of Becoming Disciples: Being a disciple of Jesus means learning from Him how to lead our lives in the Kingdom of God as He would lead them if He were us. This involves a transformation that turns our values and practices upside down compared to the world's standards, aligning our will with God's will. Discipleship is about bringing our entire lives—our failures, our work, our relationships—under the lordship of Christ, learning to live out our daily activities with love, integrity, and in alignment with the principles of the Kingdom.

Who Is Really Well Off? The Beatitudes (session 3B)

Highlights:

  • Inversion of Human Values: Dallas emphasizes the revolutionary nature of Jesus's teachings, particularly the Beatitudes, by highlighting how they invert common human presumptions about blessedness. He illustrates this through the example of the Beatitudes, where those traditionally seen as lacking in spiritual or worldly wealth are deemed blessed in the eyes of God. This inversion challenges the listener to reconsider who is truly well-off and invites a radical reevaluation of values aligned with the kingdom of God.
  • Misinterpretation of Conditions for Blessedness: Dallas clarifies a widespread misunderstanding of the Beatitudes, stressing that the conditions listed (such as being poor in spirit or mourning) are not the reasons for blessedness. Instead, he points out that blessedness comes from belonging to the kingdom of heaven, regardless of one's earthly conditions. This perspective shifts the focus from achieving a specific state to embracing the kingdom's inclusivity and grace.
  • Teaching Method of Jesus: Dallas explores the profound and engaging teaching style of Jesus, noting that Jesus's parables and statements are designed not merely to impart knowledge but to provoke deep personal reflection and transformation. He illustrates how Jesus's teachings challenge deeply held beliefs and assumptions, thereby inviting listeners into a deeper engagement with the principles of the kingdom of God.
  • Universality of the Kingdom's Offer: Finally, Dallas underscores the message of universal access to the kingdom of God, conveyed through the Beatitudes. He points out that no one is too spiritually impoverished, mournful, or meek to be outside the reach of God's blessing. This universal offer of the kingdom challenges societal hierarchies and distinctions, presenting a vision of a community united in diversity and grace.

Additional Assets

Who Is Truly a Good Person (session 3c)

Highlights:

  • Understanding Righteousness Beyond Actions: Dallas emphasizes that true righteousness exceeds the superficial adherence to rules and laws exemplified by the scribes and Pharisees. He argues that righteousness involves a transformation of the heart, leading to a natural fulfillment of the law through love and inner change, rather than mere external compliance.
  • The Kingdom of God's Invitation: The talk presents the kingdom of God not just as a distant realm, but as a present reality that believers are invited to live in by faith in Jesus. This kingdom life challenges prevailing societal notions of who is blessed and what constitutes a good person, offering a vision of life centered on love, mercy, and a heart transformed by God's presence.
  • Dealing with Anger and Contempt: Dallas delves into the dangers of anger and contempt, suggesting that eliminating these from our hearts can significantly reduce evil in the world. He illustrates how Jesus's teachings in Matthew 5 aim to root out these attitudes, promoting a radical tenderness of heart as the foundation of true righteousness.
  • Redefining Success and Blessedness: Throughout his talk, Dallas challenges the listener to reconsider societal definitions of success, righteousness, and blessedness. By aligning with Jesus's beatitudes and teachings, believers are called to embrace a life that values humility, mercy, and a pure heart over worldly achievements and recognition.
  • Discipleship and Living in the Kingdom: The essence of Dallas's message is the call to discipleship and the practical living out of kingdom principles. He underscores the importance of being a disciple of Jesus to learn and embody the kind of life that truly reflects God's kingdom. This involves a journey of learning, transformation, and ultimately, a commitment to love as God loves, transcending legalistic righteousness for a deeper, more genuine relationship with God and others.

What Are Spiritual Disciplines? (session 4A)

Highlights:

  • Intention and Spiritual Formation: Dallas highlights the profound importance of intention in spiritual growth, emphasizing the transition from wishing and wanting to intending as the crucial step towards embodying the teachings of Jesus. He explains that becoming a disciple involves not just a desire but a steadfast intention to align one's life and actions with those teachings, continuously rearranging one's affairs to achieve this alignment. 
  • Role of Job in Discipleship: Dallas underscores the critical importance of integrating one's job or daily activities into the discipleship journey. He argues that if we cannot see our job as a part of our discipleship, we exclude a significant portion of our life from the realm of living in the Kingdom of God. 
  • Activity and Passivity in Spiritual Growth: Dallas delves into the complex interplay between activity and passivity in the context of spiritual growth, stressing that a genuine personal relationship with God involves both elements on both sides. He criticizes the reduction of spiritual growth to mere passivity or activity, highlighting the importance of our active participation in the process of spiritual formation while also acknowledging the indispensable role of God's grace and intervention.
  • Approaches to Spiritual Formation: In exploring various approaches to spiritual formation, Dallas critiques methods such as legalism, passive consumerism through church services, and New Age enlightenment, suggesting that they fall short in facilitating genuine character transformation. He advocates for a practice-oriented approach, drawing from John 8:31-32, where continuing in Jesus's word through active implementation of his teachings leads to true discipleship, character formation, and ultimately, freedom from sin. 

What Are Spiritual Disciplines? (session 4B)

Highlights:

  • Spiritual Disciplines as a Means to Grace: Dallas emphasizes the importance of spiritual disciplines, not as direct efforts to achieve righteousness, but as means to engage in the process of spiritual formation. He describes spiritual disciplines as indirect efforts that enable believers to accomplish what they cannot do by direct effort. Dallas clarifies that disciplines should be seen as "means to grace," allowing individuals to position themselves to receive God's grace and empowerment.
  • Role of Solitude in Combatting Hurry: Dallas discusses the pervasive issue of hurry and its detrimental impact on spiritual life and relationships. He identifies solitude as the key discipline for breaking the grip of hurry, distinguishing between the concept of being in a hurry and acting quickly. Solitude is a deliberate withdrawal from the demands and expectations of the world to focus on the relationship with God and oneself.
  • Spiritual Transformation through Discipline and Practice: Dallas concludes with the assertion that spiritual disciplines are self-verifying and have been proven effective across generations. He shares a testimony to illustrate the transformative power of these practices when engaged with intentionality and faith. The emphasis on the personal walk with the Lord, exploring spiritual disciplines as wisdom rather than laws, and the encouragement to start with what is necessary for spiritual growth underscores the personalized and experiential nature of spiritual formation.

Spending One Day with Jesus (session 5)

Highlights:

  • Discipline of Presence: Dallas emphasizes the importance of walking with Jesus through the moments and hours of the day, using disciplines like the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as an illustration of how structured practices can facilitate a closer walk with God. He recommends Frank Laubach's "Game with Minutes" as a tool to practice constant mindfulness of God's presence, suggesting that such attentiveness can transform everyday experiences into spiritual exercises.
  • Preliminaries of a God-Focused Day: Dallas outlines essential preliminaries for living a day in constant companionship with Jesus. These include faith in Jesus' message, a genuine desire for His presence, and the decision to intentionally invite Jesus into every aspect of one's life. He stresses the importance of preparing the heart and mind the evening before, so that one wakes up in a receptive mood to God, ready to walk through the day with Him.
  • Practical Steps for Daily Walking with God: Dallas provides a series of practical steps to incorporate God's presence into every part of the day. This includes starting the day with praise, engaging in periodic concentrated prayer, practicing constant remembrance of God by training the mind to revert to Him regularly, and ending the day with a review that includes giving thanks for successes and seeking guidance for failures. 

Prayer - What it is and How it Works (Plus Q&A)

Highlights:

  • Fundamental Importance of Prayer: Dallas emphasizes the fundamental importance of prayer in dealing with anxiety and reinforcing our lives, akin to the steel in concrete. He cites Philippians 4:6 to showcase how prayer can lead to a peace beyond understanding, urging us to integrate prayer throughout our lives to combat anxiety effectively.
  • Power of Asking Through Prayer: He discusses the power of asking through prayer, referencing Luke 22:31-32 where Jesus prays for Simon Peter’s faith to not fail amidst trials. This demonstrates the concept that even Jesus chose prayer over direct intervention, highlighting the importance of praying for strength and faith in challenging times.
  • Transformative Effect of Prayer: Dallas explains the transformative effect of prayer using the example of Jesus praying on the mountain (Luke 9:28-29), where His appearance changes. This signifies that prayer connects us with the real world, deeply rooting us in the reality of God and potentially altering not just our spiritual state but also our physical appearance and actions.
  • Boldly Asking for God’s Blessings: Through the story of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9-10), Dallas illustrates the concept of boldly asking for God’s blessings and intervention. Jabez’s request for expanded territory and God's hand of protection exemplifies the personal and expansive nature of prayer, teaching us the importance of direct and personal requests to God.
  • Why Prayer Works: Dallas delves into why prayer works, using stories from Luke 11 and Luke 18 about persistent asking despite apparent reluctance. He highlights that prayer operates on the fundamental law of the universe—asking and receiving—demonstrating that persistence in prayer taps into a deep, cosmic principle of causality and influence beyond our immediate understanding.