Dallas Willard on “What a Disciple Is”

Dallas Willard is without a doubt one of the most important thinkers and writers of recent time on the Sermon on the Mount and the nature of discipleship. When working on my most recent message, “Real Response: receiving the invitation of Jesus,” as well as the entire series, “Becoming Real: The Sermon on the Mount,” Willard’s writing was incredibly helpful.

His book The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God is in my top ten books of all time on the Christian life. The following excerpt from that book is taken from chapter 8, “On Being a Disciple, or Student, of Jesus.”

Here, Willard summarizes what a disciple is.

Following up on what has already been said, then, a disciple, or apprentice, is simply someone who has decided to be with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is.

How does this apply to discipleship to Jesus? What is it, exactly, that he, the incarnate Lord, does? What, if you wish, is he “good at”? The answer is found in the Gospels: he lives in the kingdom of God, and he applies that kingdom for the good of others and even makes it possible for them to enter it for themselves. The deeper theological truths about his person and his work do not detract from this simple point. It is what he calls us to be saying, “Follow me.”

The description Peter gives in the first “official” presentation of the Gospel to the gentiles provides a sharp picture of the Master under whom we serve as apprentices. “You know,” he says to Cornelius, “of Jesus, the one from Nazareth. And you know how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and curing all those under oppression by the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

And as a disciple of Jesus I am with him, by choice and by grace, learning from him how to live in the kingdom of God. This is the crucial idea. That means, we recall, how I live within the range of God’s effective will, his life flowing through mine. Another important way of putting this is to say that I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live my life if he were I. I am not necessarily learning to do everything he did, but I am learning how to do everything I do in the manner that he did all that he did.

My main role in life, for example, is that of a professor in what is called a “research” university. As Jesus’ apprentice, then, I constantly have before me the question of how he would deal with students and colleagues in the specific connections involved in such a role. How would he design a course, and why? How would he compose a test, administer it, and grade it? What would his research projects be, and why? How would he teach this course or that?

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1998), 282-283.

Real Response: receiving the invitation of Jesus

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we concluded our series on the Sermon on the Mount, “Becoming Real,” as I explored the final section in Matthew 7:13-29.

Most Bible scholars agree that the bulk of the teaching by Jesus ends with the golden rule in Matthew 7:12. What remains is Jesus’ call for response to His teaching framed by four images of the stark difference between those who are His and those who are not. This section is so memorable that many of Jesus’ references have become stock phrases in our vocabulary, such as “walking the straight and narrow” or “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” But more than simply offering powerful teaching or insights, Jesus really aims at inviting those “with ears to hear” into disciple-life with Him.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire “Becoming Real” series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching.”
(Matthew 7:28)

Two Ways: The narrow and wide gates (Matthew 7:13-14)

  • The gate and the road to two different ways of life
  • Beware!: the eternal outcome is the result of the way we choose
  • Hear and respond to Jesus’ invitation to His way

Two Trees: True and false messengers (Matthew 7:15-20)

  • Messengers can be true or false prophets
  • Beware!: appearance versus reality in those outside the disciple community; watch for wolves
  • Pay attention to the fruit of messenger’s lives

Two Verdicts: The final judgment on true and false disciples (Matthew 7:21-23)

  • Two types of disciples: the known and the not-known; the obedient and the not obedient
  • Beware!: appearance versus reality in those inside the disciple community

Pay attention to what’s beneath the surface

Two Foundations: Those who do and don’t put Jesus’ words into practice (Matthew 7:24-27)

  • Two approaches to building our lives: hearing Jesus’ teaching or living Jesus’ teaching
  • Beware: the outcome of building our lives will reveal our foundation
  • Respond to Jesus’ teaching by building upon it

Invitation to the Disciple Life

  • Hearing Jesus’ call
  • Considering what Jesus’ call means for our life
  • Responding to Jesus’ call personally and decisively
  • Pursuing the disciple-life with Jesus in every area of life

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ teaching on our response to Him in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 7:13-14 or 7:21 or 7:24 this week.
  • Set aside some time this week to read Matthew 7:13-29 again. Then write, draw, paint, or pray aloud your own response to Jesus’ teaching. You may even want to portray visually the four contrasts in this passage.
  • Read back through the Sermon on the Mount in one sitting, either by yourself or with others. Prayerfully consider your response to Jesus’ teaching on discipleship and the good life in God’s kingdom. Write a letter to Jesus expressing your response to Him.
  • Consider reading Jonathan Pennington’s article, “3 Things You Didn’t Know About the Sermon on the Mount”

Eastbrook at Home – May 2, 2021

Eastbrook-At-Home-Series-GFX_16x9-Title

Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM. This weekend we conclude our preaching series, “Becoming Real,” as I walk through the final section of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:13-29.

This continues our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which began with “Family Tree” and “Power in Preparation.”

Join in with the Eastbrook 365 daily devotional for this series here.

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, but you do need to RSVP ahead of time. Find out more info here.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in your tithes and offerings to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.

Real Love: the golden rule

This past weekend at Eastbrook, as we continued our series “Becoming Real” on the Sermon on the Mount, we looked at the one verse that summarizes the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the Law and the Prophets:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

This one little verse, known as the golden rule, is perhaps one of the most famous statements of Jesus, even if many do not attribute it to Him.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire “Becoming Real” series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

The Summary Statement

  • Summarizing the Law and the Prophets
  • Summarizing the Sermon on the Mount

Living with Love for Others

  • Echoes in the Gospel of Matthew
  • Echoes in the Scriptures
  • Echoes in other sources
  • The resounding positivity of Jesus’ command

In Everything

  • Our actions
  • Our words
  • Our thoughts
  • Our non-thoughts

Living in Love as Jesus’ Disciples

  1. We need to live in God’s love for us.
  2. We need to cultivate God’s love for others.
  3. We need to let God change us more and more through His love.

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ teaching on real love in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 7:12 this week.
  • Take time to pray through your relationships (e.g., friends, spouse, family members, coworkers, neighbors, classmates), asking God to help you love them more fully. Then consider people you find it difficult to love, whether in these relationships or not. Ask God to change your heart and help you put love into action.
  • Put love into action this week by spending time with or serving someone in a practical way: make a meal, stop by to visit, make a phone call, listen, help with a project, or some other way.
  • Consider reading an article with background on this passage by John J. Collins, “Love Your Neighbor: How It Became the Golden Rule”

Eastbrook at Home – April 25, 2021

Eastbrook-At-Home-Series-GFX_16x9-Title

Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM. This weekend we continue our preaching series on the Sermon on the Mount, “Becoming Real” as I explore one simple, yet profound, verse:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

This continues our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which began with “Family Tree” and “Power in Preparation.”

Join in with the Eastbrook 365 daily devotional for this series here.

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, but you do need to RSVP ahead of time. Find out more info here.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in your tithes and offerings to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.