The Spirit of the Disciplines

Spirit of the Disciplinesby Dallas Willard, 1988
The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives

“Few books have challenged me like this one. I would urge every serious minded Christian to read it … at your own risk.” (Bill Hybels)

Most books on spiritual disciplines tell us what to do and what to expect while practicing them. Dallas tells us Why to practice them and In What Manner, so that we can better engage God in life-giving ways, instead of driving our disciplines into the ground. There are two major keys to his treatment of spiritual disciplines:

1. An understanding of grace that goes beyond most traditional thinking about grace being opposed to works. “Grace is not opposed to effort … it is only opposed to earning.” God wants our participation in the work that he is doing in our lives (Eph.2:10). Grace is God doing what we cannot, which is just about everything that it takes to make the changes in our hearts and minds that we cannot. But unless we are active participants in this process, it will not happen.

2. Spiritual disciplines have no meritorious value in and of themselves. We are not better Christians because we practice them. A spiritual discipline is simply a way to make space for God to do what he alone can do. They are a way in which we can deliberately participate with God in our own transformation.

Of course, there is much more to the book and Dallas’ ideas of why and how spiritual disciplines do what they do. I personally believe that everyone who undertakes spiritual disciplines as a way of engaging with God needs to understand these principles in order make use of them wisely. And anyone who has dismissed or put off using spiritual disciplines as a means of spiritual growth needs to read this book in order to better understand the tremendous value of these practices.

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