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Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ Paperback – June 14, 2012
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From the Back Cover
Renovation of the Heart lays a biblical foundation for understanding what best-selling author Dallas Willard calls the “transformation of the spirit”––a divine process that “brings every element in our being, working from inside out, into harmony with the will of God.” This fresh approach to spiritual growth explains the biblical reasons why Christians need to undergo change in six aspects of life: thought, feeling, will, body, social context, and soul. Willard also outlines a general pattern of transformation in each area, not as a sterile formula but rather as a practical process that can be followed without the guilt or perfectionism so many Christians wrestle with.
Don’t settle for complacency. Accept the challenge Renovation of the Heart offers to become an intentional apprentice of Jesus Christ, changing daily as you walk with Him.
About the Author
the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern
California. He received his PhD from the University of
Wisconsin and is the best-selling author of more than
thirty publications, including The Divine Conspiracy,
The Spirit of the Disciplines,
and Hearing God.
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Dallas Willard (1935-2013) was a professor and former Director of the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where he taught since 1965. Willard lived out his personal philosophy within his teaching, writing and in his strategy for his life: "I know what good work is. I'm going to do it, and I expect God to help me. I will give my life to it. Of course, I will be a prisoner of Christ; that's what I am."[i] This philosophy is very much evidenced in his writing and in his commitment to allowing the Spirit to reign and provide direction in his life. Although not setting out to teach in a secular university, he was led to do so subsequent to his graduate work. Willard stated that he never self-promoted himself - not seeking a position or a raise - but considers himself a "literalist in terms of the Bible,"[ii] as it relates to advancement coming from God.
The thesis of this book is that in the process of realizing the character of Christ, one may "remove or master" each impediment to gaining that character (:10-11); and that process should be orderly - not haphazard or mysterious - to those wanting to overcome human (sinful) nature.
Willard presents five chapters of introductory, foundation-building elements which examines mankind's frailty in the human existence, and provides support for the development of spiritual formation; including why people often fall short of the ideal of Christ-like character.
An "Interlude" chapter reflects on the reality of seeking this transformation. It is Willard's perspective that our own effort falls short; we are in need of God's grace. He states that those who are "the greatest saints are not those who need less grace, but those who consume the most grace;" God's grace sustains them (:93-94).
Willard then lays out through six chapters a process of transformation of: (1) Mind/ Thought; (2) Mind/Feeling; (3) Will; (4) Body; (5) Social Dimension; and (6) Soul. These areas of one's self are outlined earlier in chapter two as distinct areas in which we must allow the Spirit to work through for our transformation (:38).
In the two concluding chapters Willard examines how this process of transformation interfaces with the world and within the local church. In the world, a contrast of light and darkness presents a picture of the outcome of personal sanctification, and its effect upon us and the world we are in (:224). Willard then presents God's plan for spiritual formation within the congregation of the people of God with a focus on being rather than doing.
This book makes me recall Richard J. Foster's Celebration of Discipline. While I read Foster's book in 1978 during a period of discipleship, I find Willard's book is timely to this era of my life. Through this book I am able to more fully recognize my shortcomings and how I may have diverted from disciplines in my life, which were a critical and primary element of my new life in Christ. I am not surprised that Foster provides an endorsement for this book.[iii]
Willard puts flesh on the teaching of sanctification in a way I need to reconsider within my life and leadership ministry, and grasp that the transforming work of the Spirit ". . . brings every element in (my) being, working from inside out, into harmony with the will of God . . ."[iv] C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce also comes to mind, as the landscape on the way to the Kingdom feels unbearably unreachable until one repents through an act of the will.
[i] Dallas Willard, "My Journey To and Beyond Tenure in a Secular University" (Remarks given at the Faculty Forum Luncheon of the C.S. Lewis Foundation Summer Conference, University of San Diego, 21 June 2003), available at http://www.dwillard.org/biography/tenure.asp, Internet.
[iii] Richard Foster states, "No one has thought more carefully than Dallas Willard about the human personality and how it can be transformed into Christlikeness." This endorsement is found on the back cover of the hardcover version of Renovation of the Heart.
[iv] A summary which quotes the author is found on the back cover of the hardcover version of Renovation of the Heart.
That marked my life as has this work and others by Dallas Willard.
I love the integration of thoughtfulness, practical wisdom, compassion, and living from the inside out. His words and spirit have deeply impacted my life like few others.