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Discipline brings freedom

I read this article on Dallas Willard's site today in the midst of caring for one child recovering from the flu and the other living his rambunctious two-year-old life. "The keys to the keys to the kingdom" gets at what most of us want: to experience the abundant life God promises. Willard, once again, reoriented me where that comes from and what my part is in experiencing it.

First, he reminds that us that:
Having the keys is not a matter of controlling access to the kingdom, as is often thought. Keys do not first mean the right to control access, but the enjoyment of access. Imagine a man who carefully kept his doors locked and his keys in hand, but never went into his house! Having access to the kingdom, living in it, is what matters.
How do we live in it? How do we experience the abundant life God has for us?
There is, of course, no question of doing this purely on our own. But we must act. Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort. And it is well-directed, decisive and sustained effort that is the key to the keys of the kingdom and to the life of restful power in ministry that those keys can open to us.

What are some practices that will make "the keys" given in response to our faith in Jesus as Messiah effective in our lives . . . ? We strongly need to see the manifest hand of God in what we are and what we do. We need to be sure He is pulling the load, bearing the burden--which we are all too ready to assume is up to us alone. We must understand that He is in charge of the outcome of our efforts, and that the outcome will be good, right.
Willard goes onto encapsulate all of this in the practice of Sabbath, which he expands on:
Sabbath is a way of life. (Heb. 4:3 & 9-11) It sets us free from bondage to our own efforts. Only in this way can we come to the power and joy of a radiant life in ministry, a blessing to all we touch. And yet Sabbath is almost totally absent from the existence of contemporary Christians and their ministers.

Very practically, Sabbath is simply "casting your cares upon Him," to find that in actual fact "He cares for you." (I Peter 5:7) It is using of the keys to the kingdom to receive the resources for abundant living and ministering.
Willard goes onto to discuss solitude, silence and fasting, though which God "will meet with us . . . to stablize his love, joy and peace in us." Willard quotes one person's experience with experiencing the freedom that comes from doing our part with the disciplines:
"Oddly, through intentional times of practicing spiritual disciplines my walk with Jesus has become more spontaneous. He is present in more of my day. I have loved others better, and seen progress made in overcoming anger and the desire to have things my way. In a nutshell, Jesus has greater access to and control over my life. I'm more in tune to the still small voice of the Spirit."
Amen. Now, I'm off to my backyard and a bit of solitude. Blessings.

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