The Spirit of the Disciplines - Reissue: Understanding How God Changes Lives

The Spirit of the Disciplines - Reissue: Understanding How God Changes Lives

by Dallas Willard


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How to Live as Jesus Lived

Dallas Willard, one of today's most brilliant Christian thinkers and author of The Divine Conspiracy (Christianity Today's 1999 Book of the Year), presents a way of living that enables ordinary men and women to enjoy the fruit of the Christian life. He reveals how the key to self-transformation resides in the practice of the spiritual disciplines, and how their practice affirms human life to the fullest. The Spirit of the Disciplines is for everyone who strives to be a disciple of Jesus in thought and action as well as intention.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060694425
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/05/1999
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 152,997
Product dimensions: 5.36(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.71(d)

About the Author

Dallas Willard was a professor at the University of Southern California's School of Philosophy until his death in 2013. His groundbreaking books The Divine Conspiracy, The Great Omission, Knowing Christ Today, Hearing God, The Spirit of the Disciplines, Renovation of the Heart, and The Divine Conspiracy Continued forever changed the way thousands of Christians experience their faith.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Secret of the Easy Yoke

Take My yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
— Matthew 11:29-30
His commands are not burdensome.
— I John 5:3, NIV
A more reasonable estimate of human costs and values will lead us to think that no labour is better expended than that which explores the way to the treasure-houses of the spirit, and shows mankind where to find those goods which are increased by being shared, and which none can take from us.
— William Ralph Inge

"Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it has been found difficult and left untried." So said that insightful and clever Christian, G. K. Chesterton. Whether or not he was totally serious, there is almost universal belief in the immense difficulty of being a real Christian. The vast, grim "cost of discipleship" is something we hear constantly emphasized. Chesterton's observation can at least be taken as reflecting the attitude of many serious people toward The Way of Christ.

But it must not be left to stand as the whole truth. We would do far better to lay a clear, constant emphasis upon the cost of nondiscipleship as well. As Søren Kierkegaard reminds us, "It costs a man just as much or even more to go to hell than to come to heaven. Narrow, exceedingly narrow is the way to perdition!"

Proverbs 13:15 tells usthat it is the way of the transgressor that is hard. We can also learn this by candid observation of life. Actually, a large part of the Old Testament book of Proverbs merely records the results of such observation. The whole book is a song of praise for the path of the righteous over that of the wicked, leaving no doubt in which life, joy and strength are to be found.

To depart from righteousness is to choose a life of crushing burdens, failures, and disappointments, a life caught in the toils of endless problems that are never resolved. Here is the source of that unending soap opera, that sometimes horror show known as normal human life. The "cost of discipleship," though it may take all we have, is small when compared to the lot of those who don't accept Christ's invitation to be a part of his company in The Way of life.

The words of Jesus quoted above from Matthew 11:29-30 present an alternative to the desolation of life lived apart from God. Yet, in all honesty, most Christians probably find both Jesus' statement and its reiteration by the author of 1 John (5:3) to be more an expression of a hope or even a mere wish than a statement about the substance of their lives. To many, Jesus' words are frankly bewildering. We hear them often quoted, because the idea they express is obviously one that attracts and delights, but there seems to be something about the way we approach them, something about what we think it means to walk with Christ and obey him, that prevents most of us from entering into the reality which they express. The ease, lightness, and power of his Way we rarely enjoy, much less see, as the pervasive and enduring quality of our streetlevel human existence.

So we do not have the strength we should have, and Jesus' commandments become overwhelmingly burdensome to us. In fact, many Christians cannot even believe he actually intended for us to carry them out. So what is the result? His teachings are treated as a mere ideal, one that we may better ourselves by aiming for but know we are bound to fall glaringly short of.

It's a familiar story. "We're only human," we say, and "to err is human." Such pronouncements may be for another age or "dispensation", we may think — or possibly they're for when we are in heaven. But they cannot be for us now. Not really. Jesus could not have imposed anything that hard upon us. And beside, we're in a period of grace — we are saved by grace, not by anything we do — so obedience to Christ is actually not necessary. And it is so hard, anyway; it cannot be expected of us, much less enjoyed by us.

And so we reason. All of our reasonings cannot, however, remove the thought that Jesus calls us to follow him — to follow him now, not after death.

No one denies that we would be far better off and our world an immeasurably better place, if we were to conform in deed and spirit to who he is and what he taught. And all of our lack of understanding doesn't cancel his offer of an easy yoke and a light burden, in which our souls can find rest. That offer, like his call to follow him, is clearly made to us here and now, in the midst of this life where we labor and bear impossible burdens and cry out for rest. It's true. It's real. We have only to grasp the secret of entering into that easy yoke.

What then is the secret? There is a simple answer to this' all important question. It is one that can be introduced and even made completely clear, by comparing some facts with which we are all familiar

Think of certain young people who idolize an outstanding baseball player. They want nothing so much as to pitch or run or hit as well as their idol. So what do they do? When they are playing in a baseball game, they all try to behave exactly as their favorite baseball star does. The star is well known for sliding head first into bases, so the teenagers do too. The star holds his bat above his head, so the teenagers do too. These young people try anything and everything their idol does, hoping to be like him — they buy the type shoes the star wears, the same glove he uses, the same bat...

The Spirit of the Disciplines copyright © by Dallas Willard. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All Rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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The Spirit of the Disciplines - Reissue: Understanding How God Changes Lives 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Madwildcat More than 1 year ago
Willard's main point with "Spirit of the Disciplines" is to expound the vital importance of the spiritual disciplines in Christian life. He also takes some time clarifying a variety of accepted misconceptions related to the disciplines. He walks through how application of individual disciplines, such as solitude, silence and prayer can be applied in our daily lives and how they are critical for the spiritual growth that are true believers should be striving for. I especially appreciated how he handles the discussion of wealth and poverty. While he doesn't preach "Prosperity Theology" he does argue against those that extol poverty as a virtue and belittle the rich. He makes good points about making the most out of whatever position God has placed you in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Willard encourages sacrifice as well as enjoyment of lifes pleasures. A well rounded and very informative book.
markwmcintire More than 1 year ago
Dallas Willard never fails to bring intelligence and heart to his writing. This book moves the law and legalism out of the way so that the disciple can practice the disciplines through a heart of love.
JTracy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Willard provides us with an overview of Christian discipleship, coming at it from various angles. The reason we practice spiritual disciplines is no different than the reason an athlete trains and practices. We use disciplines to train ourselves so that our connection with God is established and maintained and so that living in the way of Christ comes naturally (automatically?) as we go about our lives.Willard's view of discipleship is wise in that he emphasizes the need to address the whole person -- mind, body and spirit -- in the path of discipleship. He avoids the tendencies of some to reduce Christian discipleship to mere training of the mind. This has been a tendency of mine anyhow and I found his more broad emphasis to be helpful.There is a discussion regarding various specific disciplines. They are divided up between disciplines of abstinence and disciplines of engagement. Each gets a brief description with recommendations regarding their use.Willard is known for his sometimes dry writing style and it certainly comes through in this work. I say this because the chapter titled "Is Poverty Spiritual?" near the end of the book is easily worth the price of the book on it's own. If you find yourself getting bogged down in the middle of the book, skip ahead to this chapter.Overall this is a helpful work for those looking for an overview of spiritual disciplines and how they are helpful and even necessary in the maintenance and growth of Christian faith and discipleship.
kdavidw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The second book I've read now by Dallas Willard, the first being The Divine Conspiracy. He continues to bring fresh perspective, this time in dealing with the spiritual disciplines.Key quote = ¿We have one realistic hope for dealing with the world¿s problems. And that is the person and gospel of Jesus Christ, living here and now, in people who are his by total identification found through the spiritual disciplines. Why? This faith and discipline yields a new humanity.¿
Barrick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent for in-depth discussion. Not "easy reading" but meaningful and foundational to serious study of spiritual disciplines.
jd234512 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I certainly believe that there was much good in this book and it deserved the renown that it got at the time, I believe there are much better books that are done on these sorts of topics. Although it may have been a precursor to the aforementioned books, I believe that it was less focused. Overall, though, I think there's much wisdom in it and I probably just should have read a different book of his first.
temsmail on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a good introductio to Christian Spiritual disciplines; amazingly alliterated and all beginning with "D"!
rybeewoods on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I need to give this book a second shot. I gave up half way through last time and I'm not sure if it's because I'm a bad Christian or if it was just bad timing. I just found it dry and uninspiring. Maybe I was just expecting something else.
deanc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In his preface, Willard says that "this book is a plea for the Christian community to place the disciplines for the spiritual life at the heart of the gospel." That is, to be a Christian is more than merely believing and confessing a set of propositions about God, Jesus, and salvation; it is to be like Jesus and to practice the righteousness he requires. Willard indicts the church in America for failing to help believers actually become like Jesus in thought, word, and deed. Christians need explicit training in how to express in their bodies the essence of Christlikeness in the moment-by-moment of each day through the practice of spiritual disciplines. Willard provides clear definitions of several of the classic disciplines, benefits they can bring to a church and individual believers, and practical ways of doing them. He devotes a substantial chapter to the question of poverty as a spiritual discipline, asking the question, "Is Poverty Spiritual?" One thing Willard does well in all his writing is provoke critical self-examination without laying on a guilt trip. The result is often (at least for me) either repentance, spiritual enlightenment or both. The book contains chapter endnotes, a full bibliography, and name, subject, and scripture indices.
beanbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If Dallas wrote it you should read it. Some say Chapter 2 is worth the price of the book.
JeffNC More than 1 year ago
Fantastic, action oriented, information on the Christian Disciplines. Read and take heed. JWC
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