Dallas Willard

By Rev. Jeff Gannon, Senior Pastor

We are rapidly approaching the one year anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Dallas Willard. He “went to be with the Lord” as the Scripture says on May 8, 2013. When Dallas was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late summer 2012, he said, “I think that when I die, it might be some time until I know it.” He is simply quoting the truth of John 11:25.

Dallas was a person with a brilliant mind, a sensitive heart, and a deeply cross-formed will. Somebody once asked Dallas if he believed that human beings are totally depraved and unable to really do anything good. He said with typical profundity….”I believe that every human being is sufficiently depraved that when we get to heaven, no one will be able to say, ‘I merited this.’”

I shared with Fr. Terry that I was going to spend 2014 immersing myself in the writings of Dr. Willard because he always leads me to Jesus in one way or another.

I am deeply grateful to Dallas for his willingness to profoundly answer the questions every human being, sooner or later, will ask….

  1. What is reality?
  2. What is the good life?
  3. Who is a good person?
  4. How do you become a good person?

Dallas had this uncanny ability to think very quickly on his feet…for example, when asked….

What is beauty? He said, “goodness made manifest to the senses.”

What is a disciple? He said, “anyone whose ultimate goal is to live as Jesus would live if he were in their place.”

What is spiritual maturity? He said, “The mature disciple is one who effortlessly does what Jesus would do in her or his place.” “One sign of maturity,” Willard said, “are the thoughts that no longer occur to us.”

What does it mean to glorify God?  He said, “To glorify God means to think and act in such a way that the goodness, greatness, and beauty of God are constantly obvious to ourselves and all those around us. It means to live in such a way that when people see us they think, Thank God for God, if God would create such a life.”

Hard to beat, huh?

When John Ortberg went through a personal valley in his life, he called Dallas and said, “my heart is breaking. I cannot fix this. I don’t understand it. I am sadder than I’ve ever been.” Ortberg says there was a long pause and then a single sentence….”This will be a test of your joyful confidence in God.”

What is death? He said, “Jesus made a special point of saying those who rely on him and have received the kind of life that flows in him and in God will never experience death….Jesus shows his apprentices how to live in the light of the fact that they will never stop living.”

Dallas used to say often, “God will certainly let everyone into heaven that can possibly stand it.”

God is good.

God is grace.

God is….

In the words of the Westminster Catechism….”may we love God and enjoy God forever!”

– Jeff

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