A high school student reared in a Christian home turns to drugs and alcohol. A woman tries to stop criticizing others—for ten years. A father knows he needs more patience with his children, but his efforts seem in vain.
What do these people have in common? They are all in desperate need of further renovation of the heart, of transformation of the spirit. But just what is this transformation? Author Dallas Willard explains that its ideal end is when "all of the essential parts of the human self are effectively organized around God, as they are restored and sustained by Him. Spiritual transformation in Christ is the process leading to that ideal end, and its result is love of God with all of the heart, soul, mind, and strength, and of the neighbor as oneself."
Although you may acknowledge this as the ideal, you may still wonder how to get there? Renovation of the Heart helps to answer that inquiry. It lays a foundation for understanding the ruin and restoration of humanity by discussing human nature and its components, how they operate, and how they are renewed. It describes common misunderstandings about our human nature and the discipleship process. Most important, it outlines the general pattern of personal transformation—not as a formula, but as a systematic process that we have the responsibility to undertake as intentional apprentices of Jesus. Only then will our transformation be accomplished, through interaction with the grace of God in Christ, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and spiritual treasures stored in the body of Christ.
We aren't born again to stay the way we are. But how many times have we looked around us in dismay at the lack of spiritual maturity in fellow believers? There's good news. You can experience significant growth in your Christian walk, shed sinful habits, and increasingly take on the character of Christ. Willard calls this "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 or the kingdom of God."
- Practical Direction toward Holiness
Christians are to be like Christ. Christ was holy. Christians ought to be holy. It is what the Apostle Peter exhorted in 1 Peter 1. Paul writes to the Ephesian Church that believers have been chosen by God to be holy and blameless in Ephesians 1. Are not Christians supposed to have the Holy Spirit living in them producing the fruit of the Spirit, just as is read in the letter to the Galatians? There is certainly a chasm between the ideal and the reality in believers' lives. Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart is a practical look into the biblical and spiritual disciplines that are needed to experience the change that transforms the believer into the likeness of Christ in every area of life. He addresses the body, soul, thoughts, emotions, and character. The heart needs renovating and here is a handbook offering some direction!
Willard opens his book with an exploration of spiritual formation. The way we understand and act or react to the world around us depends largely on the spiritual formation that we have undergone. The means by which our heart, will, and spirit have been shaped affects the world on the outside, which has been in turn shaped by a long series of actions and reactions of other humans. Spiritual formation will occur by those forces that come to bear upon us unless the process is arrested by a shaping and reshaping of the inner self. Yet then Willard walks the reader down the path of realization of the true nature of the heart, found in the biblical understanding-it is deceitful above all things! The human heart is self-centered, even resisting God Who can bring true healing and change. He points out:
The reason they [humans] do not find God is that they do not want him, or, at least, do not want him to be God. And of course the wanting God to be God is very different from wanting God to help me.
The first step to a renovation of the heart is a brokenness that realizes the utter helplessness of the human condition without God's work. It is not the little work of God here and there by a small god in our lives. What is needed is the complete renovation by a God Who is BIG and transforms every part of our being.
After laying a solid foundation, Dallas Willard then moves into an immensely practical second section of the book which moves through the multiple dimensions of a person. He covers the thought life, sensation, emotion, will, character, body, social dimension, and soul. In each chapter he builds upon the previous, beautifully laying not only the case for change, but also a path forward with practical steps forward in allowing God to enact transformation in your life.
Chapter 8 is an example of his method and one that I felt was personally edifying. In the previous chapters he had already laid the footings dealing with purpose and addiction in an individual's heart and this leading to a transformation of the will and character. Yet it is with the body that there is outward expression of doing what Jesus said. The body must become our ally in serving Jesus. Willard's address brings the body into a cherished and properly cared for instrument, not as a master itself, but as servant of God. The natural process of growing up involves us taking control over our body. In maturity the body increasingly takes on the quality of the inner life. Willard walks the reader through a process of surrendering the body not as our own, but as a gift received and to use for others. He states it bluntly, “We are stewards of our bodies.” Our bodies become a showplace for Christ and a blessing to others. Dallas Willard then takes the reader through a process that includes ideas drawn from Frances Ridley Havergal's book Kept For the Master's Use and Margaret Magdalen's A Spiritual Check-up: Avoiding Mediocrity in the Christian Life to surrender the body unto God and allow His renovating work to take place.
Renovation of the Heart is a tremendous resource for the believer interested in living a victorious life. In it Dallas Willard not only sounds the call for holiness, but also presents it in a way that gives hope. Holiness is something too big for humans, but not too big for God!
- A landmark book, made even more...
A landmark book, made even more special in that that it is read by the author. Dallas practices what he teaches.
- This is a teriffic book. I...
This is a teriffic book. I have heard Dr. Willard speak in person, and enjoyed him very much.
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- There were a lot of gems...
There were a lot of gems of wisdom in this book, which is read by the author. Dallas Willard reads a bit slowly but it is clear. In Renovation one can see his roots in Greek (NT) philosophy (vs. a more OT Hebraic worldview). He makes some excellent points about the frustration of living the ABUNDANT Christian life, but trying to do so in our own power, and how we can overcome that and let our actions as Christians match what we say that we believe.