Renovation of the Heart, by Dallas Willard.
Spiritual formation is a process of becoming more like Christ. This is done in concert with the Holy Spirit. There are six human dimensions that each need to be moved toward Christ in order for spiritual formation to happen: Thoughts, feelings, will, body, social context and the soul. An understanding of the radical brokenness and sinfulness of the human condition is required, and it will lead to a great trust and obedience to the commands of God. Images and ideas are the currency of our thoughts. We should discipline our thoughts to align them with Christ’s message of grace. Our feelings give us liveliness, and can be corrected by better thoughts. Our wills are fractured and need to be focused with spiritual disciplines. We should not see our bodies as belonging to us, but rather to God, their creator. Broken societies are fixed first by fixing marriages. We must acquire vision of what living in God’s kingdom can be like if we are to pursue sanctification by his grace.
This book is not easy to read. Few illustrations, long sentences and dense ideas are typical of Willard’s writing style. Nonetheless, for those willing to put in the effort, much gold lies in those mines. Willard offers a terrific look at the various elements necessary in sanctification. It is not a mystery, as he says, and he pulls back the curtain on what has seemed, at times, to be confusing. He is pithy, helpful and insightful. He is strong on theory, and does attempt to address practicality (save for a few paragraphs here and there). This can be frustrating for a Christian leader asking the question, “What does this look like in a local church, or in the life of an individual?”
“To serve God well we must think straight; and crooked thinking, unintentional or not, always favors evil. And when the crooked thinking gets elevated into group orthodoxy, whether religious or secular, there is always, quite literally, “hell to pay.” That is, hell will take its portion, as it has repeatedly done in the horrors of world history.” p.106.