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Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Spirit of the Disciplines : Understanding How God Changes Lives

The Spirit of the Disciplines : Understanding How God Changes LivesThe Spirit of the Disciplines : Understanding How God Changes Lives by Dallas Willard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is written by a college Philosophy Professor. Therefore, I little warning, it is a deep book and takes time to read and ponder. I'm glad I read this book, but do not think I will reread it at least not anytime soon. I trust the quotes from the book listed below will give you not only a flavor of the book but will challenge you to take a stronger stand for Christ!

The Sermon on the Mount is not a set of principles to be obeyed apart from identification with Jesus Christ. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is getting his way with us.  ~Oswald Chambers

Asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” when suddenly in the face of an important situation simply is not an adequate discipline or preparation to enable one to live as He lived. It no doubt will do some good and is certainly better than nothing at all, but that act alone is not sufficient to see us boldly and confidently through a crisis, and we could easily find ourselves driven to despair over the powerless tension it will put us through.  The secret of the easy yoke, then, is to learn from Christ how to live our total lives, how to invest all our time and our energies of mind and body as He did. We must learn how to follow His preparations, the disciplines for life in God’s rule that enabled Him to receive His Father’s constant and effective support while doing His will. We have to discover how to enter into His disciplines from where we stand today – and no doubt, how to extend and amplify them to suit our needy cases.  ~Dallas Willard

Many Christians were suddenly prepared to look at traditional methods of spiritual formation. They could not help but see that spiritual growth and vitality stem from what we actually do with our lives, from the habits we form, and from the character that results.  ~Dallas Willard

Where is our Christ, who is alive and lives in power? In the preaching of our churches, He has become a beautiful ideal. He has been turned into a myth, embodying a theological concept. The witness to His objective reality has largely been lost. Most liberal Protestant churches have never even heard of the prayer of power in His name. The church has become an organization of well-meaning idealists, working for Christ but far from His presence and power.  ~Flora Wuellner

When we think of “taking Christ into the workplace” or “keeping Christ in the home,” we are making our faith into a set of special acts. The “specialness” of such acts just underscores the point – that being a Christian, being Christ’s isn’t thought of as a normal part of life.  ~Dallas Willard

Proceed in your career of cruelty, but do not suppose that you will thus accomplish your purpose of extinguishing the hated sect [the Christians]. We are like the grass, which grows the more luxuriantly the oftener it is mown. The blood of Christians is the seed of Christianity. Your philosophers taught men to despise pain and death by words; but how few their converts compared with those of the Christians, who teach by example! The very obstinacy for which you upbraid us is the great propagator of our doctrines. For who can behold it, and not inquire into the nature of that faith which inspires such supernatural courage? Who can inquire into faith, and not embrace it, and not desire himself to undergo the same sufferings in order that he may thus secure a participation in the fullness of divine favour?  ~Tertullian

We who are saved are to have a different order of life from that of the unsaved. We are to live in a different world.  ~Colossians 1:13

O, this faith is a living, busy, active, powerful thing! It is impossible that it should not be ceaselessly doing that which is good. It does not even ask whether good works should be done; but before the question can be asked, it has done them, and it is constantly engaged in doing them. But he who does not do such works, is a man without faith. He gropes and casts about him to find faith and good works, not knowing what either of them is, and yet prattles and idly multiplies words about faith and good works.  ~ Martin Luther

[Faith] is a living well-founded confidence in the grace of God, so perfectly certain that it would die a thousand times rather than surrender its conviction. Such confidence and personal knowledge of divine grace makes its possessor joyful, bold, and full of warm affection toward God and all created things – all of which the Holy Spirit works in faith. Hence, such a man becomes without constraint willing and eager to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer all manner of ills, in order to please and glorify God, who has shown toward him such grace.  ~ Martin Luther

He [Peter after the resurrection] now understood that he and the church were to exercise a transcendent power that did not depend upon having a kingdom or government in any human sense, for it was literally a “God government” in which they were participants (Acts 1:6-8).   ~Dallas Willard

It is also to be noted that one of the characteristics of true spirituality is that it supersedes lesser desires and issues. The Biblical, as well as practical, cure for “worldliness” among Christians is so to fill the heart and life with the eternal blessings of God that there will be a joyous preoccupation and absentmindedness to unspiritual things. … A dead leaf cannot remain where a new bud is springing, nor can worldliness remain where the blessings of the Spirit are flowing.  Lewis Sperry Chafer

The Spirit, we are told, led Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Was this not to put Jesus in the weakest possible position before Satan, starving and alone in the wilds? Most to whom I have spoken about this matter are shocked at the suggestion that the “wilderness,” the place of solitude and deprivation, was actually the place of strength and strengthening for our Lord and that the Spirit led Him there – as He would lead us there – to ensure that Christ was in the best possible condition for the trial.
In that desert solitude, Jesus fasted for more than a month. Then, and not before, Satan was allowed to approach Him with his glittering proposals of bread, notoriety, and power. Only then was Jesus at the height of His strength. The desert was His fortress, His place of power. Throughout His life He sought the solitary place as an indirect submission of His own physical body to righteousness (e.g. Mark 1:35, 3:13, 6:31, 46). That is, He sought it not as an activity done for its on sake, but one done to give Him power for good. All of those who followed Jesus knew of His practice of solitude, and it was greatly imitated in the centuries after His death.   ~Dallas Willard

Paul followed Jesus by living as He lived. And how did he do that? Through activities and ways of living that would train his whole personality to depend upon the risen Christ as Christ trained Himself to depend upon the Father.  ~Dallas Willard

The question of forming habits on the basis of the grace of God is a very vital one. To ignore it is to fall into the snare of the Pharisee – the grace of God is praised, Jesus Christ is praised, the Redemption is praised, but the practical everyday life evades working it out. If we refuse to practice, it is not God’s grace that fails when a crisis comes, but our own nature. When the crisis comes, we ask God to help us, but He cannot if we have not made our nature our ally. The practicing is ours, not God’s. God regenerates us and puts us in contact with all His divine resources, but He cannot make us walk according to His will.  ~Oswald Chambers

I submit my tongue as an instrument of righteousness when I make it bless them that curse me and pray for them who persecute me, even though it “automatically” tends to strike and wound those who have wounded me. I submit my legs to God as instruments of righteousness when I engage them in physical labor as service, perhaps carrying a burden the “second mile” for someone whom I would rather let my legs kick. I submit my body to righteousness when I do my good deeds without letting them be known, though my whole frame cries out to strut and crow.    ~Dallas Willard

Of course, we do the righteous deed because of our redemption, not for our redemption.  ~Dallas Willard

Discipline, strictly speaking, is activity carried on to prepare us indirectly for some activity other than itself. We do not practice the piano to practice the piano well, but to play it well.  ~Dallas Willard

Almost everything worth doing in human life is very difficult in its early stages and the good we are aiming at is never available at first, to strengthen us when we seem to need it most.  ~Dallas Willard

If we feel that any habit or pursuit, harmless in itself, is keeping us from God and sinking us deeper in the things of earth; if we find that things which others can do with impunity are for us the occasion of falling, then abstinence is our only course. Abstinence alone can recover for us the real value of what should have been for our help but which has been an occasion of falling. … It is necessary that we should steadily resolve to give up anything that comes between ourselves and God.  ~W.R. Inge

Those who deny themselves will be sure to find their strength increased, their affections raised, and their inward peace continually augmented.  ~Bishop Wilson of the Isle of Man

Some of those who stop in inns are given beds, while others having no beds stretch themselves on the floor and sleep as soundly as those in beds. In the morning, when night is over, all alike get up and leave the inn, carrying away with them only their own belongings. It is the same with those who tread the path of this life: both those who have lived in the modest circumstances, and those who had wealth and fame, leave this life like an inn, taking with them no worldly comforts or riches, but only what they have done in this life, whether it be good or bad.  ~St. Antony

The organized churches must become schools of spiritual discipline where Christians are taught how to own without treasuring (Matt. 6:21); how to possess without, like the “rich young ruler,” being possessed (Mark 10:22); how to live simply, even frugally, though controlling great wealth and power.  ~Dallas Willard

Ministers pay far too much attention to people who do not  came 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 (Eph. 4:12), and history and the God of history waits for him to do this job. It is so easy for the leader today to get caught up in illusory goals, pursuing the marks of success which come from our training as Christians leaders or which are simply imposed by the world. It is big, Big, always BIG, and BIGGER STILL! That is the contemporary imperative. Thus we fail to take seriously the nurture and training of those, however few, who stand constantly by us.  ~Dallas Willard

Churches are filled with “undiscipled disciples,” as Jess Moody has called them. Most problems in contemporary churches can be explained by the fact that members have not yet decided to follow Christ.  ~Dallas Willard

Leo Tolstoy claimed that “Man’s whole life is a continual contradiction of what he knows to be his duty. In every department of life he acts in defiant opposition to the dictates of his conscience and his common sense.” In our age of bumper-sticker communications some clever entrepreneur has devised a frame for the rear license plate that advises: “Don’t follow me. I’m lost.” It has had amazingly wide use, possibly because it touches with humor upon the universal failure referred to by Tolstoy. This failure causes a pervasive and profound hopelessness and sense of worthlessness: a sense that I could never stand in my world as a salty, light-giving example, showing people The Way of Life. Jesus’ description of savorless salt sadly serves well to characterize how we feel about ourselves: “Good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matt. 5:13), and not even fit to mollify a manure pile (Luke 14:35).  ~Dallas Willard

The Christian stands, not under the dictatorship of a legalistic “You ought,” but in the magnetic field of Christian freedom, under the empowering of the “You may.”   ~Helmut Thielicke


I recommend this book for those who enjoy a deep book and desire to grow in their Christian life!


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