(This is Part 1 in a new series I have decided to write … everyone who found Literature such as Shakespeare a bit tedious at times remembers “Cole’s Notes” versions. Well, I’ve decided to write “Bri’s Notes” for a few books that have been especially meaningful in my life, starting with The Diving Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. Given the content and length of this book, I’ve realized not many people are going to take the time to read it – and since I think everyone should … welcome to the “Bri’s Notes” version. And because I’ve received feedback that asking for 5 minutes of reading time is a bit much, I will try to make it about 2 minutes.)
“My hope is to gain a fresh hearing for Jesus, especially among those who believe they already understand him … Very few people today find Jesus interesting as a person or of vital relevance to the course of their actual lives … my hope with this book is to provide an understanding of the gospel that will open the way for the people of Christ actually to do what their acknowledged Maestro said to do.”
As will become clear throughout the book, Willard is attempting to show us that the gospel — the good news — is not about affirming a series of beliefs, but rather a matter of discipleship; or learning to act like Jesus and do the things He said were best.
On with the show …
Chapter 1: Entering the Eternal Kind of Life Now
The book opens with a metaphor; the story of a fighter pilot training who, in the course of her training, turned the controls for what she though was a steep ascent — and flew straight into the ground. She was unaware she had been flying upside down.
The point, which will be made continually throughout the book, is we are living our lives thinking reality is a certain way, but in actuality we are flying upside-down. Jesus came to show us how life is meant to be lived, to show us what really matters, and to invite us to join Him in a new way of living that is eternal rather than fleeting.
Our mis-understanding of life is most firmly shown in how we envision and handle Jesus.
Most people don’t believe Jesus has anything practical to say about daily living — how we live our lives in the daily grind — in the ordinary world of jobs, family and relationships. His teachings may sound nice, but they are completely impractical and definitely should not be put into practice.
Because we see Jesus’s teachings as irrelevant to our real, lived, lives, we have turned to the cute and clever teachings of our times. This leaves us feeling completely confused and pulled forward by ideas such as the myth of progress. We are given a lot of simple sayings (“Follow your dreams”) and thoughts (“Things are getting better”) that may have a grain of truth, but in no way form the basis for living a fulfilled life.
In contrast to this, the call of Jesus continues to invite us into a different way of living; we are invited to be His apprentices and learn the good news about the Kingdom of God. His arrival on the scene in history signalled that his way of living is available and accessible to everyone. Jesus asks us to reconsider our approach to life in light of the fact we can now join Him in His eternal plans; His purpose for creation.
Jesus announces and showcases what His kingdom looks like. The gospels are full of stories showing responses to the “striking availability of God to meet present human need through the actions of Jesus”.
God’s kingdom is the place where His will is done.
We all have things over which we have control or influence. This is our own personal kingdom. God’s invitation is for us to submit this area of influence to Him — to expand the area over which God’s kingdom has sway. This is how the Kingdom of God grows. And this is eternal life — when the little we “rule” is caught up in God’s rule.
This invitation to a new way of living — to eternal life; life in God’s kingdom — introduces us to what reality really looks like. We are able to see from God’s perspective and suddenly Jesus’s teaching is no longer an impossible ideal; it is what life in God’s kingdom looks like. We are finally shown that our world is upside-down and His ways are actually right-side up.
… And we have the opportunity to start living in this eternal fashion NOW!
My favourite quote:
“The “gospels” that predominate … speak only of preparing to die or else of correcting social practices and conditions. These are both, obviously, matters of great importance [but] … Does Jesus only enable me to “make the cut” when I die? Or to know what to protest, or how to vote or agitate and organize? It is good to know that when I die all will be well, but is there any good news for life? If I had to choose, I would rather have a car that runs than good insurance on one that doesn’t.”
Coming Soon — Chapter 2: Gospels of Sin Management