Presented in San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A., June 11, 2016
You’ve got to know this Jesus well
You’ve got to know this Jesus well,
You got to study and pray and walk in his way
You’ve got to know this Jesus well
Coming from Northeast Ohio, I can tell you that one thing that gives me genuine satisfaction is when LeBron James gets an assist for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He passes the ball excellently to his team member who is in position—and goes on to make a basket.
It’s like that on the team working in Jesus’ gospel movement. We assist the Spirit of Truth as another human being is approaching, making, or confirming the most important decision that a person makes in this life.
By the end of this talk, I want everyone to know how to assist in Jesus’ gospel movement. I have some general principles to propose and some examples of how I do things. Don’t imitate me. Just use my personal stories to stimulate you to be a living prophet in your way.
When I visit different churches, my favorite question to ask people is, “What does it mean to you to be a son of God? A daughter of God?” I get the most wonderful variety of answers. If I go door-to-door, I simply say, “I’m your neighbor Jeff, encouraging you in the faith that you are a son of God.” And then I fall silent with a smile and let the other person respond. The conversation goes forward naturally from there. Sometimes at a toll plaza on a highway, I will ask the person who is taking my money, “Could you please give me directions to . . . heaven?” I usually get a nice smile and a sympathetic comment. Countless times I have said to people: “You are a divinely created, infinitely loved, spiritually indwelt, evolutionary, free-will, son or daughter of God.” If someone asks me about myself, I sometimes say, “My motto is that God is our Father and I am your brother.”
Jesus’ gospel is many-sided, and each side is a truth that ministers to some essential spiritual need. When you collect and study the dozens of statements of the gospel in The Urantia Book, you see that the gospel is a living reality that cannot be systematized. I once published a list of seven truths. A week ago I wrote down a dozen major themes, each of which is brimming with potentials for spiritual realization and teaching: the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, the spirit within, love, faith, eternal life, joy and liberty, the will of God, prayer, worship, and service. But each of these is just an idea in the mind until the spirit quickens it.
Our faith starts small. It starts with just believing. How do we come to believe? Often it goes like this. We hear someone expressing core spiritual truth; the spirit adds an emphasis to it, and our mind recognizes it as intuitively true. Truth is a gift; our intuition is a gift. And faith is a gift. It is living, and it grows. What we receive as a gift, we exercise in action. Later we find our own way to give voice to truth. With practice we become comfortable and skilled.
How shall we do this work? I’m going to give you two methods. They both involve study and experience.
The First Method
The first method has three essentials. The first is to study Jesus’ many-sided gospel experientially in order to find the Spirit of Truth in the gospel.
Here’s one experiential method for finding the Spirit of Truth. Select a quote in which Jesus says what the gospel is or what the kingdom is. Ponder it at length. Let it sink into your mind and heart and soul. Reflect on it intellectually; you may find added meaning in its key words, by associating them with other teachings in The Urantia Book. Take time in silence to allow the spirit to bring home to you the truth of this teaching. The experiential part also involves putting this truth into practice in your daily life. If you have a study group that is willing to do this with you, commit to reporting your experience back to them, and see how teamwork can multiply your effectiveness. Then repeat the process with other teachings that highlight different sides of the gospel.
Let’s take the truth of the fatherhood of God. Maybe when we read this or hear it, it seems a little flat. We’ve heard it a million times and we’ve become inoculated to it. But we know that there’s something more there. Jesus said,
“In the gospel of the kingdom there resides the mighty Spirit of Truth… ” [Paper 178:1.6, page 1930:3];
and he said that the Spirit of Truth is
“…just like me except for this material body.” [Paper 180:4.5, page 1949:1]
So we know that with some spiritual digging we can break through to that power and conviction. Let’s begin our experiential study. Here’s a quote that we can use. Jesus says,
“Simply go forth proclaiming: This is the kingdom of heaven—God is your Father and you are his sons, and this good news, if you wholeheartedly believe it, is your eternal salvation.” [Paper 141:6.4, page 1592:6]
Doesn’t sound flat any more, does it?
First of all, if we want to know God as our Father, we have to relate to him as a son or daughter… So there we are, caught up in contemplation, in relation, in the awe and wonder of God… We can hardly speak or think because we are moved out of the mind and into the soul, which craves and initiates worship. When I want to refresh my relation with the Father, I often recall the first paragraphs in Paper 1. “The Universal Father is the God of all creation, the First, Source and Center of all things and beings.
Then I go to the first lesson on thinking.
“First think of God as a creator, next as a controller, and lastly as an infinite upholder.” [Paper 1:0.1, page 21:1]
The Creator controls his creation by ordering it according to inherent laws of matter, mind, and spirit; but these are not just laws that we can run into like a physical brick wall; there are laws of duty; and the Father rules
“…a universe of universes by the compelling power of his love.” [Paper 143:1.4, page 1608.1]
Our failure to live in accord with these laws could be the end of us, but the love and mercy of the infinite upholder guide and rehabilitate imperfect creatures for the eternal adventure.
As human beings, we can know God, receive the divine affection, and love him in return. This is the primary circuit of love. We need to take time to allow the Father’s love to come in. And we love him back. By this time, the truth of the fatherhood of God is beginning to shine brightly. It is no longer simply a fact for us; we have found the Spirit of Truth in it.
Then we are ready for our first lesson on feeling.
“God-knowing creatures have only one supreme ambition, just one consuming desire, and that is to become, as they are in their spheres, like him as he is in his Paradise perfection of personality and in his universal sphere of righteous supremacy.” [Paper 1:0.3, page 21:3]
God loves everyone. If we are to become like him, we allow ourselves to be filled with an overarching attitude of love, and then we undertake the evolutionary adventure of getting to know people and learning to love them.
The Second Essential of this Method is:
Get to know your people well, and discover their spiritual difficulties, and learn to love them. This is one of the privileges of the brotherhood of man. As a master teacher, Jesus did an awesome job of getting to know people. And he blazes the trail for every one of us. If we give teaching in answer to a question that our hearers are not asking, we are wasting our breath. We have to get to know what questions they are asking, what their concerns are, what difficulties they are coping with. I quote:
Now that [Jesus] has personally left the world, he sends in his place his Spirit of Truth, who is designed to live in man and, for each new generation, to restate the Jesus message so that every new group of mortals to appear upon the face of the earth shall have a new and up-to-date version of the gospel, just such personal enlightenment and group guidance as will prove to be an effective solvent for man’s ever-new and varied spiritual difficulties. [Paper194:2.1, page 2060:6]
The more our minds and souls are filled with the truths of the many-sided gospel, and the more we know the individuals and groups we speak with, the easier it will be for Jesus’ Spirit of Truth to bring forth particular gospel truths to bless them.
The third essential of this method is: Make an effective connection between appropriate gospel truths and others’ spiritual difficulties, according to their capacity of receptivity. Here’s the quote from Jesus.
“Be wise in your choice of methods for presenting the good news to the different races and tribes of mankind.” [Paper 191:4.4, page 2042:1]
All the apostles taught the same truth, but each of them did it in his own way. Find your way, your language. Jesus told them not to quote the prophets of old, nor to teach about him or about his teachings, but to be a living prophet.
How did Jesus Accomplish These Essentials?
Jesus, the master teacher, was the truth that he taught, and how he taught was perfectly unified with what he taught. How did he achieve this? He grew up in a balanced way. We learn how in Papers 123-29, from Jesus’ early childhood to his later adult life. If we engage in the experiential study of these Papers, we can do what I call growing up with Jesus.
Everyone can do this. I quote:
“Although the average mortal of Urantia cannot hope to attain the high perfection of character which Jesus of Nazareth acquired while sojourning in the flesh, it is altogether possible for every mortal believer to develop a strong and unified personality along the perfected lines of the Jesus personality. The unique feature of the Master’s personality was not so much its perfection as its symmetry, its exquisite and balanced unification.” [Paper100:7.1, page 1101:5]
“Jesus unifies life, ennobles character, and simplifies experience. He enters the human mind to elevate, transform, and transfigure it. It is literally true: “If any man has Christ Jesus within him, he is a new creature; old things are passing away; behold, all things are becoming new.” [Paper 100:7.18, page 1103.6]
Here’s how we grow up with Jesus. As we read one of these key papers, we observe Jesus’ development. We notice aspects of his character that we would like to strengthen in ourselves. So we design an experiential project to do so, finding activities that enable that growth to take place in ourselves.
It is very helpful to do this with a study group, as I discovered this year with the Urantia Young Adult International study group initially hosted by Antonio Schefer and now hosted by Samantha Nior. I was ready for a transformative experience, and this was it. After years of study, I realized for the first time that Jesus’ gospel was the truth that he naturally realized just by growing up in a beautifully balanced way. His gospel is the deep truth of life. And I saw the principle of receptivity that he later gave taught the apostles emerging naturally out of his earlier life. More on that later.
I have selected nine principles to mention this morning.
Number one. In the paper on Jesus’ early childhood, the first developmental thing we read about was about Jesus’ socializing. I need growth in this area, so I made a project of it, went for it totally, made a number of quick breakthroughs, and continue my growth.
Number two. A little later in the same paper, we see a reference to Jesus’ first personal and wholehearted moral decision. I thought to myself, how many of my moral decisions have that personal and wholehearted quality to them? I thought of the functions of cosmic mind, causation, duty, and worship, and realized that a personal and wholehearted moral decision is rooted in an adequate understanding of the factual, material, causal, evolutionary setting, and also illuminated by the spiritual value that the will of God is ready to actualize by my decision. I started making new personal and wholehearted moral decisions, and also refreshed old decisions that needed an upgrade.
Number three. Jesus participated in the religious life of his people. In the Judaism of his day, he found truth to inspire him, and he emphasized the gems; but he also found teachings and practices that he would ignore, or learn to tolerate, modify, or challenge when the time was right. When he taught the first six apostles, he did not just teach them the new gospel of the kingdom; he also led them in the study of the scriptures. I thought, “How often do students of The Urantia Book study the writings that are most spiritually important to the people that we work with?” I began looking for scriptural gems in the church bulletins that I would get from week to week, and I underlined the gems, tore them out of the bulletins after the service, and keep them by my computer.
Number 4. Jesus was an outstanding student. Even in his later adult life, when he was working in Capernaum, he found a lot of books that were new to him in the library at the synagogue, and spent five nights a week at intense study.
Number 5. Jesus went to extraordinary lengths to get to know people well. He was a master teacher by the end of his adolescent years. Pay special attention to this quote.
Born into the world a babe of the realm, he has lived his childhood life and passed through the successive stages of youth and young manhood; he now stands on the threshold of full manhood, rich in the experience of human living, replete in the understanding of human nature, and full of sympathy for the frailties of human nature. He is becoming expert in the divine art of revealing his Paradise Father to all ages and stages of mortal creatures. [Paper 127:6.15, page 1405:7]
Notice this phrase all ages and stages. The stages are early and later childhood:
The in-between years, adolescence, early manhood, and later adult life. Note that the term adolescence does refer to the in-between years. Adolescence literally means becoming an adult. It involves settling down to acquiring the knowledge, skill, and character achievements necessary to function as a responsible man or woman in the society. And notice that ages and stages do not necessarily correlate. People can be fifty, sixty, and seventy, and still not attain the maturity of an adult.
We speak differently to people at different ages; and we speak differently to people in different stages; and Jesus, the master teacher, could reveal the Father in a way that was simultaneously responsive to both variables. We should not be overwhelmed by his achievement, but simply start being more attentive, perhaps studying a bit more, and spend a little while thinking about these different groups. Notice that in his later adult life, again during that first year in Capernaum, Jesus spent one evening a week with the younger ones and one evening with the older ones.
Number six. The most important principles of teaching, in my opinion, are to whet appetites and promote discovery. Jesus did that partly by giving his teaching in small doses.
Number seven. Jesus grew up gaining experience in personal ministry before beginning his public ministry to larger audiences, and he had his apostles follow the same sequence. In other words, we are to learn the kinds of things that the first six apostles learned one-to-one, face-to-face, person-to-person, before we shift into mass communication.
Number eight. Jesus said,
“All believers in the kingdom should pray sincerely for the extension of the kingdom of heaven.” [Paper 146:2.13, page 1640.2]
Number nine. Jesus also whetted appetites so that people came to him with their questions by his truth-coordinated life, integrating scientific living and spiritual living in his beautiful wholeness of righteousness.
Here’s the quote, with major implications for how we are to attract new readers.
“In all that you do, become not one-sided and overspecialized. The Pharisees who seek our destruction verily think they are doing God’s service. They have become so narrowed by tradition that they are blinded by prejudice and hardened by fear. Consider the Greeks, who have a science without religion, while the Jews have a religion without science. And when men become thus misled into accepting a narrow and confused disintegration of truth, their only hope of salvation is to become truth-co-ordinated — converted.
“Let me emphatically state this eternal truth: If you, by truth co-ordination, learn to exemplify in your lives this beautiful wholeness of righteousness, your fellow men will then seek after you that they may gain what you have so acquired. The measure wherewith truth seekers are drawn to you represents the measure of your truth endowment, your righteousness. The extent to which you have to go with your message to the people is, in a way, the measure of your failure to live the whole or righteous life, the truth-co-ordinated life.” [Paper 155:1.4-5, page 1726.1-2]
I have additional resources for participating in the gospel movement.
First there is my book, Living in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, designed to help you develop truth-co-ordinated living and the beautiful wholeness of righteousness. By August you will be able to order it by going to Cascade Books. 6-8 weeks after publication, the book will be available at amazon.com.
Second, there is my new website for blogging, http://UniversalFamily.org
Third, there is my website for students of The Urantia Book: https://sites.google.com/site/ubquestionsandstudies. I have materials for my Internet Gospel School there, plus a newly expanded section on how to share The Urantia Book wisely.
Last, I want to draw your attention to the upcoming module of the study group I referred to earlier. Beginning July 2, we will undertake the experiential study of advanced teachings on prayer, worship, and service—all with an eye to gospelling. Although I am the primary teacher, Antonio Shefer is the host and the person to contact. His e-mail is also found at the same link: [email protected]
One more resource. If you are thinking of getting some education to prepare yourself to participate in the gospel movement, I definitely want to speak with you.
The Neuroscience Professor and the Enthusiast:
Jeff: Hi, how are you?
Mahtab: Fine, it was nice to see you in the cafeteria this morning before class.
Jeff: Yes, your Introduction to Neuroscience is a really great class.…Say, I’ve got something I want to share with you. A few words that you have dropped in class made me think that you might be open to it. It’s this awesome book.
Mahtab: Actually, I know that book.
Jeff: Cool, I just found it a few months ago.
Mahtab: How much have you read?
Jeff: A little bit from the beginning of Part I; then I pretty much skimmed until I got to Part IV, but with my Christian background, I was naturally interested in the stuff about Lucifer and Adam and Eve. It’s Part IV that really grabbed me. This gospel is what the world needs. I just want everyone to see this book.
Mahtab: Would you like to learn to express that gospel so well as to lead persons to seek further and perhaps eventually discover the book?
Jeff: I sure would. Can you help me?
Mahtab: The book has lots of teachings that help you to do that; but there’s one main thing I would like to emphasize with you to begin with.
Jeff: What’s that?
Mahtab: The receptivity principle.
Jeff: The receptivity principle? What’s that?
Mahtab: Let me give you a quick quote. “Always must the religion of revelation be limited by man’s capacity of receptivity.”
Jeff: Wow, you’ve got that memorized. Very impressive.
Mahtab: Not really, I’m reading a script.
Jeff: What about Jesus and receptivity?
Mahtab: We are told that by the end of his adolescence Jesus was “becoming expert in the divine art of revealing his Paradise Father to all ages and all stages of mortal creatures.” Think what that implies about how Jesus, the master teacher, would adjust his expression to different levels of receptivity.
In the ordination sermon, Jesus told the apostles not to cast their pearls before individuals with zero receptivity who might react aggressively against them.
Jeff: That’s right. Some people out there are very hostile to religion.
Mahtab: As the apostles were beginning their public work, Jesus expressed the principle of receptivity in these words. “When you enter the kingdom, you are reborn. You cannot teach the deep things of the spirit to those who have been born only of the flesh; first see that men are born of the spirit before you seek to instruct them in the advanced ways of the spirit. Do not undertake to show men the beauties of the temple until you have first taken them into the temple.”
Jeff: This is a vivid image, and it stood out to me when I first read it. This is a psychological truth that spiritual teachers need to recognize. It’s just like you have to know something about chemistry and biology before you can get very far with neuroscience.
Mahtab: You got it. The principle of receptivity is about balancing spiritual idealism with scientific realism. Spiritual teaching becomes more effective when guided by psychological, sociological, and personal understanding. Is the principle of receptivity beginning to become clear in its implications?
Jeff: Yes, professor. But this is all so new to me that, to be honest, I’m barely comprehending it. What you have said sounds wise, but the implications could make me change my approach. I’m going to need to pray about this.
Mahtab: Good. And it’s not just about other people’s receptivity; it’s also about your receptivity. If you are really going to pray deeply, then I have one more recommendation for you. Satisfy the challenging conditions of effective prayer at the end of Paper 91. As a neuroscientist, I wish to offer a word of caution. In the Thought Adjuster papers we are told that we mortals are “so largely electrically and chemically controlled, so highly animallike in our common behavior, so emotional in our ordinary reactions, that it becomes exceedingly difficult for the Monitors to guide and direct them.” We can pray quickly and feel good about the answer that we seem to get; we can interact and feel good about how things went. But the hormones that are typically involved in these positive emotions—the oxytocin, the dopamine, the serotonin—all make you feel good, and you might get the idea that your thinking, feeling, and doing are divine. I simply wish to remind you that there are various causes that can stimulate the production of those hormones. You are entitled to feel good when you are doing your wholehearted faith best to seek and find and choose and do the will of God. But remember not to take your positive emotions as a reliable guide to how well attuned you are with divine truth, beauty, and goodness. A full prayer process gives you a better chance to discern God’s answer.
Jeff: That is a sobering reminder. I had not expected neuroscience to help me become better at sharing truth.
Mahtab: If you become truth-coordinated, by integrating science and religion in your daily life, and if you learn to “exemplify in your life the beautiful wholeness of righteousness, then others will seek after you that they may gain what you have so acquired.”
Jeff: Gimme a break! My capacity of receptivity has been exceeded! Who wrote this script anyway?
Mahtab: Gimme a hug! My capacity for love is overflowing!
Jeff and Mahtab hug and then turn and gesture hugs to the audience.