Thursday, January 08, 2009

Renovation of the heart

In my class this semester I am reading again (third time now) Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard (one of my all-time favorite authors!). I love the book and don't mind diving into it again. The book is deep enough that there's no way you can truly get all of what he's trying to say in just one read. I think Dallas has some God-given wisdom for our day and age on change and how we truly change as we walk with Jesus. If you get only one book to read this year as a serious book this is a eye-opener!
Here's a quick synopsis of the book.

In Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard explores spiritual growth and transformation in the lives of followers of Jesus. “We live from the heart,” Dallas writes in the introduction to his book (pg.13). The heart (will/spirit) is where our outlook on life, our choices, and our actions are formed. The problem is that our heart has curved in upon itself and, “has been formed by a world away from God.” (pg. 14) Dallas points out that Jesus came to change us from the inside out through a relationship with Him. Through constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit, God works a change in our heart. This is renovation of the heart and God is willing to renovate any heart submitted to Him. Dallas defines spiritual formation for the Christian as, “the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.” (pg.22)

In the following chapters (2-5), Dallas sets forth the basic human aspects that need renovation. The six basic aspects are: Thought (mind), feeling (mind), heart (will/spirit), body, social context, and soul. Explanations of each aspect follow. All human action flows out of our heart and this is why Jesus worked a change from within. Dallas sets forth the ideal life ordered by God and what it would look like: God, spirit, mind, soul, and then body. This is almost opposite for those living in darkness. Without God present in their lives, their life order looks like this: Body, soul, mind, spirit, God. To start the process of spiritual renovation, “our spirit (heart) must come alive to God,” Dallas writes (pg.41).

Dallas is quick to point out that spiritual renovation involves both human and Divine effort. We are to be diligent and persistent in our spiritual growth, but our mere human efforts will not bring about transformation, that is the job of the Holy Spirit working through the grace poured out on those who have accepted Jesus Christ into their lives by God the Father. We also learn the importance of coming face to face with who we are and how far we have fallen from God. Pride (which is taking things into our own hands), rooted in the heart, can keep/does keep many from embarking on spiritual renovation of the heart.

The following chapters (6-13) deal with a hands on approach to spiritual formation of the different aspects of humans (e.g., mind, heart, body, social context, and soul) and the processes involved in that transformation. Some important highlights from each chapter include: spiritual renovation begins with transformation of the mind (chp.6), mastering our feelings involves submission to God and acceptance that our feelings don’t have to be fulfilled (chp.7), “temptation to sin originate in desire,” (pg.154) and an enslaved heart will in turn enslave the mind (chp.8), our body is the primary target of temptation (chp.9), “spiritual formation is always profoundly social” (chp.10), the soul (which even God has) dictates everything in our life, this is why soul renovation is so important (chp.11). Chapters 12 and 13 focus on what a renovated heart looks like in our world, sanctification of believers, personal discipleship, and community discipleship.

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