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The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives Paperback – May 5, 1999
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"Essential guidance for spiritual growth."-- Richard J. Foster, author of "Streams Of Living Water""A fresh examination of the nature of life and discipline . . . exciting and instructive." -- "The Disciple""Few books have challenged me like this one. I would urge every serious minded Christian to read it . . . at your own risk" -- Bill Hybels, author of "Honest to God?""A profound call to discipleship based on spiritual disciplines [that] awakens us to a forgotten truth, that the transformation to Christlikeness is realized through taking on the easy yoke' of the disciplines" -- Sue Monk Kidd, author of "God's Joyful Surprise, When the Heart Waits," and "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter"
From the Inside Flap
This wise and compelling meditation invites us to a new understanding that sees salvation not only in terms of forgiveness of sins but in light of the total transformation of our lives. Dallas Willard presents a way of living that enables ordinary men and women to join with God and realize their highest aspirations of well-being and -doing. The key to this self-transformation resides in the practice of the spiritual disciplines. Willard explains why the disciplines work and how their practice affirms human life to the fullest.
The Spirit of the Disciplines places solitude and silence, prayer, simple and sacrificial living, meditation upon God's word and ways, and service to others at the heart of the gospel. "We need a deeper insight into our practical relationship to God in redemption," Willard writes. "We need an understanding that can guide us into constant interaction with the Kingdom of God." Speaking to what Willard identifies as "a widespread and deep longing among Christians and non-Christians alike for the personal purity and power to live as our hearts tell us we should," the observation of the disciplines can make the process of deepening and revitalizing our relationship with God a part of daily existence.
"We can increasingly resemble Christ in character and in power by following him in his overall style of life," Willard affirms. "This was the method of his earliest disciples, and it is as valid today as it was then...To enter into and increasingly master such a life is what having faith in Christ really means." To enter into the spirit and practice of the disciplines is to move toward the authentic life of faith. The Spirit of the Disciplines is an intelligent, thoughtful guide to an enriched spiritual life, a book about how to live as Christ lived, directed to those who hope to be his disciples in deed as well as intention. It details why the disciplines are essential to our deliverance from the concrete power of sin, and outlines the ways they can help each of us achieve the blessings of the companionship of Christ.
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This is analogous to the life of professional athletes, who spend countless hours routinely training and practicing the same repeated exercises and tasks, over and over again, so that they're fully prepared to excel and succeed on game day. They earnestly and eagerly run laps, lift weights, learn plays, drill actions, etc. On their own, most of these activies don't even resemble the game for which they are training. But an athelete must do them regularly and consistently, if they expect to perform well and win the big game.
Spiritual disciplines are the "training exercises" every Christian can integrate into their daily lives to prepare themselves for the inevitable trials and temptations that challenge everyone. More than that, they are the tangible methods and means to seek, follow, serve, and love our Lord Jesus Christ. They allow us to be "more than conquerors" -- they're how we draw near to God, and allow Him to bless us with His love, grace, mercy, and provision.
Dr. Willard gives us a preliminary list of spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, Bible study, fellowship, service, solitude, meditation, fasting, etc. But more than that, he explains why they're important, giving us a solid theology behind their significance. This helps the reader understand that spiritual disciplines are not complusory, obligatory, or merely dry duty. The reader is motivated by the thrill of taking honest-to-goodness, real, tangible actions that routinely improve their relationship to Jesus.
Dr. Willard does not provide or explain a complete list of spiritual disciplines in this book, for that is not his intent. Rather, he intends (and succeeds) in telling us why they're important and how we benefit from them. For more specific details on the disciplines themselves, Dr. Willard recommends "The Celebration of Discipline", by Richard J. Foster.
I like that this really hits discipleship and following Christ.