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The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives Paperback – May 5, 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (May 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060694424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060694425
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Cameron B. Clark VINE VOICE on August 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book, "The Spirit of the Disciplines," is part of a trilogy which includes "In Search of Guidance" (later revised and retitled "Hearing God") and culminates in "The Divine Conspiracy." Do not make the mistake of thinking that the latter book, as good as it is, surpasses and makes obsolete the other two. All three are great books in their own right and supplement each other and should be read together as the author intended. Also, Willard's books are good complimentary companions to those by Richard Foster, especially his "Celebration of Discipline" and "Prayer: Finding The Heart's True Home." In fact, in "The Spirit of the Disciplines," Willard refers readers to "Celebration of Discipline" for more practical application of the disciplines since his book's main thrust is to provide a practical theology of the spiritual disciplines which he felt was lacking in contemporary Christian literature. Another good book on the spiritual disciplines is "Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life" by Donald S. Whitney which takes into consideration Willard's and Foster's insights and adds a few of its own, including the important one that "meditation is the missing link between Bible intake and prayer." I also consider spiritual mentoring to be important and I've found the book by Randy Reese and Keith Anderson entitled "Spiritual Mentoring: A Guide for Seeking and Giving Direction" to be very useful in this regard. Reese and Anderson also value the wisdom of the Christian spiritual masters of old, as do Foster and Willard, and saturate their book with their insights.
Willard's thrust in this book is to emphasize and expound the vital importance of the spiritual disciplines to the Christian life and to clear away popular misconceptions of them.
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Format: Paperback
Dallas Willard's examination of the disciplines of the Christian life is an unparalleled book on the subject. I have never read its equal. In Christianity today, there is so much emphasis on a quick conversion and the love and mercy of God, but rarely does a teacher speak on the difficult topic of the strain and pain and longevity of the daily walk with Christ. The disciplines of a Christian are similar to the disciplines of one running a marathon, the Apostle Paul teaches, and Dallas Willard has taken a careful examination of these disciplines. He declares that Christianity can only be a relevant guide for modern humanity if it takes the need for human transformation through the Holy Spirit seriously, and clarify and exemplify realistic methods of this transformation by modeling it ourselves as Christians. Willard goes into great detail concerning the disciplines as the method by which Christians model the work of the Spirit in their lives. He declares that they are the very nature of life itself for Christians and that only by consistently teaching and practicing them will Christ's church be the force required for true spiritual change in today's society. A masterful work, this book should be in the library of any Christian that seeks to truly live the life of Christ and be a light in the world today.
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Format: Paperback
In the doctrine of sanctification, or Christian growth, it is customary to distinguish between God's role and man's role. Spirit of the Disciplines is focused exclusively on man's role in sanctification, or his own spiritual growth. As long as you keep that in mind and read from that perspective, this book is dynamite. However, it is useful to point out that this book is not the last word in Christian growth, or sanctification, simply because it does not deal with God's role in our sanctification.
For study on God's role in sanctification you need to look to books like "Transforming Grace," by Jerry Bridges, or "Holiness by Grace," by Brian Chappel. Both books do an excellent job of bringing out the fact that God's grace is the thing that enables a man to engage in spiritual disciplines. Also, Jerry Bridges book "The Discipline of Grace," is probably the best book dealing with both God's role and man's role.
I give these commercials for other books simply to prevent the reader from thinking that Willard's book is the whole story on sanctification. If this is the only, or the main book that you read, frustration is inevitable, simply because Willard does not point you back to the source of our sanctification, or the source of our ability to practice spiritual disciplines, which is the grace of God.
Having said all of that, I heartily recommend the book. I think the most useful thing that Willard said was his comparison of the Christian life to athletics. He has a great illustration of how kids will idolize a major league baseball player (this illustration will work for any sport).
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3 Comments 79 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
First of all, I am not writing this to argue with all the people that loved it, rather I am reviewing for someone who has not yet read it and want an idea of what they are getting themselves into. I appreciated what this book has to say: Instead of focusing on what Jesus and the Paul did "in the spotlight", more attention should be paid to what they did to prepare for those moments, the Spiritual Disciplines.

However, I felt that was clearly stated in the first chapter, then comes 5 to 6 chapters of study on theology with heavy emphasis on epistemology. The writing style is difficult to read. Sentences are often long: 20-30 words in a single sentence. The headings are enigmatic (I was trying to take notes in a mind map as I went along and had a really hard time). The author also quotes others so often it is hard to follow HIS thoughts. When the time finally came (I wrote in my notes, FINALLY) to talk about the actual disciplines, it was only a chapter in length. I know that is not the main focus of the book, but nonetheless it seemed unbalanced after spending 200 pages promoting the Disciplines.

I was disappointed. My pastor in college really loved his other book: Divine Conspiracy. Therefore I was looking forward to read this author. I know part of the issue is that perhaps I am not used to his style of philosophical writing, but I don't think just because something is deep, it can't be made easy to understand.
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