The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives
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ISBN/ASIN : 0060694424
Manufacturer : HarperOne|
Release data : 05 May, 1999
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Spirit of Dicipline
a great source of spiritural disclipines, easy to understand and use in your daily life. great writing as ususal by Dallas Willard
A Prescription for the Anemic Church
In this book, Dallas Willard describes Christ's "easy yoke" of discipleship and corrects some erroneous beliefs as to what a life of discipleship entails. This does not replace the Gospel but is rather a fuller understanding of how to access the benefits available to us in our salvation.
Just as an athlete's entire life is devoted to the discipline of exercise, practice, diet, rest, etc. to result in the attainment of excellence that we see briefly during a sporting event, so a Christian's spiritual maturity and Christlikeness is not an accident but must be an ongoing intentional activity. Willard describes a series of "disciplines" which can be of value as we apply them to our lives:
The disciplines of abstinence:
These make way for the disciplines of engagement:
As we follow the Spirit's leading, we can utilize these disciplines to cultivate a deeper experience and awareness of Christ in our lives.
Willard also reviews how these disciplines have been abused and perverted over past centuries, resulting in the Protestant rejection of asceticism that has led to superficial contemporary churches that are devoid of spiritual depth and fruits of the Spirit.
There are also two very important chapters regarding poverty and wealth, and engagement with worldly power structures. Willard suggests that rather than "disengagement" with the world whereby we divest ourselves of our assets and worldly positions to become more "spiritual," instead we should steward these God-given responsibilities to work within our sphere of influence to advance the priorities of the Kingdom of Heaven.
As Willard says, "there truly is no division between sacred and secular except what we have created. And that is why the division of the legitimate roles and functions of human life into the sacred and the secular roles does incalculable damage to our individual life and to the cause of Christ. Holy people must stop going into 'church work' as their natural course of action and take up holy orders in farming, industry, law, education, banking and journalism with the same zeal previously given to evangelism or to pastoral and missionary work."
Willard says that the proper focus of the church is to cultivate disciples of Christ: "Ministers pay far too much attention to people who do NOT come to services. Those people should, generally, be given exactly that disregard by the pastor that they give to Christ. The Christian leader has something much more important to do than pursue the godless. The leader's task is to equip saints until they are like Christ, and history and the God of history waits for him to do this job."
As the church collectively and believers individually apply the "spirit of the disciplines" to cultivate Christ's nature within and among us, God's influence will be spread more effectively within the world. This book is a manual showing us how to go about it. As Willard says, we really have no other choice than to become disciples of Christ - or not. When we count the cost of each alternative, it is evident that the "easy yoke" is better than living according to the spirit of the world.
This book is an awakening. It is a call to return to the kinds of disciplines all but lost in history and lost to the modern world. It challenges us to take seriously the deepening that comes from spiritual practices that focus our lives on God.
If I can skip to the middle, the highlights of the book come after some preface and preparation. The strongest points begin in chapter seven, when Willard outlines a three-step approach to holiness that is founded in the teachings of Paul The process is:
1. Being "baptized into Christ." Willard offers the shocking description of a life in which sin has become something "still possible in the abstract...but we see it as the uninteresting or disgusting thing it is."
2. "Reckoning" ourselves dead to sin. This is the active pursuit of envisioning sinless life and striving for it.
3. "Submitting our members to righteousness." This is where virtue becomes habitual and irresistible.
Willard then treks into an explanation of how the most acetic trends of monastic Christianity have actually distracted the common Christian from taking this process seriously. Asceticism is a means to an end.
Chapter nine is then the meat of the book, walking us through a brief paragraph or two on fifteen disciplines that we (in most cases) should practice.
Chapter ten then departs a little bit to return to the subject of asceticism, only this time to emphasize that poverty itself is not spiritual, and that what counts is a nuanced use of money.
To return now to the beginning of the book, he says that his purpose is not so much practical as it is to elaborate on the idea that "Full participation in the life of God's Kingdom and in the vivid companionship of Christ comes to us only through the appropriate exercise in the disciplines for life in the spirit." He spends time explaining that life is not just doctrine but practice for perfection. He goes to great lengths to show that it is an affirmation rather than a rejection of the body. The first half of the book sets out to defend things that the eager reader has probably already agreed to. Nonetheless, the circumspection is important.
What I personally walk away with is still the surprise of the three steps he takes from Paul. They are so far removed from the content of most of the preaching I've heard and (I think) the mindset of most Christians that I know, that I almost walk away wondering if he's proposing the impossible. It makes me wish for something I don't even have a sense for how to attain.