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The Spirit of the Disciplines
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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.

Customer Reviews:

  • The Need for Discipline
    Dallas Willard begins by investigating a question: Why does today's Christian church fail to regularly produce mature, disciplined Christians? The book rests on his thesis that it is because the church has failed to teach people how to live like Jesus Christ. If the point of Christianity is to become transformed into the image of Christ, it is astonishing to think that one can strive for that goal without attempting to live as Jesus did. To further illustrate this, imagine how many times you have read the New Testament and been amazed at the response of Jesus or a Christian in certain situations. Usually our response is to say, "I want to be like that in my times of despair and trial." However, we neglect the regularly practices of Jesus (and other early Christians like Paul), and thus we regularly fail to produce the kind of behavior Jesus and Paul did. Do we pray, fast, retreat in solitude, give to the poor, and practice the other things Jesus and his followers did? Most of us do not. Willard's point is that following Jesus' teachings is intimately tied to following His way of life.

    This book is intelligently written, and supported by scripture and reason alike. The chapters and subject headings have been set to make his argument cogent to those without doctorates in philosophy. The historical examples and practical advice interwoven in every chapter will challenge all believers, and expose one's personal need for discipline. I recommend this book to all Christians, from the young convert to the experienced clergy, this book will have meaning and application that anyone will be wise to return and read time and time again....more info

  • Don't let the title fool you...
    This is not a book that bashes you over the head with a disheartening, "no pain, no gain" approach to spiritual growth. Willard does challenge followers of Jesus, whether young in the faith or old, to build more spiritual muscle and "pump it up"; but you might be surprised by his major, underlying, empowering premise. The book handles well the--it's easy, but it's not--paradox of the process of becoming more Christlike. If you suspect that you have some spiritual weakness or flab to deal with, and want to get better at training to run the Christian race with power and endurance, I recommend reading this book....more info
  • One of the better in-depth looks at active discipleship
    Because I'm a big fan of J.G. Marking and his book, "A Voice Is Calling" mentions Willard's works, I decided to give this a read...and I completely understand why one of my favorite new authors cherishes Willard so much.

    Willard may be the best writer to ever actually define and reveal how the spiritual disciplines utterly alter our lives in Christ without making them seem tedious or boring.

    This book has just as much depth and power as Marking's work, which means I loved it!

    Highly recommended!...more info
  • Back to the Basics
    If you have an active, living relationship with Jesus Christ, you will no doubt eventually be providentially directed to the purchase of this book. It is a vital part of the next stepping stone to becoming closer to reaching the Christ-likeness goal that is set before each of us. Brother Willard has gracefully allowed the Holy Spirit to use his pen to speak to the hearts and spirits of those readers "who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says..." Take your time! Take time to ponder it! You will not be disappointed....more info
  • Survival guide to living our Christian life
    This book is for those who have just started the faith or for those who feel really burned out and have no idea where the direction of their relationship with God is headed. Willard calls us to reclaim what is lost and missing from our Christian lives, the basic disciplines. He likens today's Christians to the typical baseball fan who mimics the star player by wearing his uniform, his batting stance and is astonished to find that when we take the field to play softball with our friends, our play doesn't match the level of the star player that we admire. The problem, Willard, points out is that we've never committed to the life required to play professional baseball. He uses this powerful analogy to show us that the vibrant relationship that we desire in God eludes us because of our failure to commit to the mundane disciplines of fasting, praying, bible reading, etc. Read this book and take the lessons to heart and you'll begin to experience God in ways never imagined....more info
  • From "doing" to "being"
    One of the essential shifts that Willard has worked to recover in the evangelical Church is the shift from "doing" to "being," that is, from running amok trying to serve Christ, to simply sitting still in his presence (akin to the comparison made in the Gospels between Mary and Martha, or what Jesus calls us to in John 15). Spirit of the Disciplines takes us back to what the early Christian mystics, such as the desert fathers, sought-- communion, intimacy, with God. Not programs, not more things on a list of "things to do." Simply being. It is in this "being" still and knowing God that God transforms the disciple-- and, ironically, empowers the diciple to do more than they could have done just by doing. The odd thing... we tend to look on the practices that Willard (and others like him, for instance, Richard Foster) suggests as "doing" the wrong things... or doing things that don't make much of a difference, since, at first, they seem so unquantifiable (how can you measure fasting? time spent in prayer? solitude? service?). At any rate, Willard helps us take this important journey, this shift, in this book. A definite tool for the journey....more info
  • Theological basis for spiritual disciplines
    Dallas Willard has written an outstanding book exploring the question of how God transforms our lives, as he seeks to help us understand a way of life that is both practical and theologically grounded in producing the fruit of the spirit, and finding contentment in the process. He makes the case that the key to this self-transformation resides in the practice of spiritual disciplines. Throughout the book he lays the biblical foundation for how God sanctifies the believer, what His role is, and what our role is. Christ's yoke is easy, and yet not many choose to follow.

    He devotes a large chapter to several of the key spiritual disciplines, which he divides in two categories. Disciplines of abstinence include solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy and sacrifice. The Disciplines of Engagement include study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession and submission. Although he describes each of these briefly, the reader wanting to know much more about the disciplines themselves should turn to Donald Whitney's Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

    The book may be considered a 'must read' for anyone seriously exploring the spiritual disciplines, although he may not adequately address objections to the central thesis. If the spiritual disciplines are so central to my sanctification, why are they not more explicitly encouraged in scripture? Why are they not described as such? Why is the pathway of spiritual disciplines so strewn with bodies of those who collapsed under the weight of legalism? Read it, but also take the time to read criticisms of spiritual disciplines as well as other authors who take a more contemplative and relational approach to spiritual growth....more info
  • Provides a Practical Theology of the Spiritual Disciplines
    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. In the preface, he says: "My central claim is that we CAN become like Christ by doing one thing - by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself. If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live. We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he himself practiced in order to remain constantly at home in the fellowship of his Father." He continues: "What activities did Jesus practice? Such things as solitude and silence, prayer, simple and sacrificial living, intense study and meditation upon God's Word and God's ways, and service to others. Some of these will certainly be even more necessary to us than they were to him, because of our greater or different need. But in a balanced life of such activities, we will be constantly enlivened by `The Kingdom Not of This World' - the Kingdom of Truth as seen in John 18:36 - 37." We must go beyond asking "What would Jesus do?" to practicing what Jesus practiced. "Following `in his steps' cannot be equated with behaving as he did when he was `on the spot.' To live as Christ lived is to live as he did all his life."

    Some of the misconceptions he exposes, as they relate to practicing the spiritual disciplines, include the denigration of the physical body and confusing it with the fallen human nature, and the elevation of poverty as a virtue and denigration of wealth as a vice. He takes exception to some of the ascetic practices of some of the early Christian monks who went so far as to abuse their bodies. He also states: "to withhold our bodies from religion is to exclude religion from our lives" (pg. 30). Spiritual life is the body's fulfillment. He also respectfully disagrees with such notables as John Wesley and Alastair MacIntyre who more or less see the rich as destined for Hell. Additionally, he argues that salvation is not JUST forgiveness, as popularly taught today, but a new order of life (which includes forgiveness). He expounds more on this disagreement in his book "The Divine Conspiracy" and there takes exception to theologians such as Charles Ryrie. This disagreement is one of the contemporary controversial issues (not only among Arminians and Calvinists but even among those who believe in "eternal security" or "once-saved, always-saved") and involves the relationship of faith and obedience in a true (not just professing) Christian's life. Willard's position seems to be that discipleship and/or obedience to Christ is NOT optional but integral to what it means to be a Christian. But this implies that a lack of discipleship to Christ (which includes a lack of some sort of spiritual discipline in one's life) means a lack of salvation. This is what provokes debate since some see this as promoting the idea that we maintain our salvation by works, an idea that surely Willard would reject because it misunderstands his point about the relational aspect of salvation inherent in discipleship. He sees two great omissions from Christ's great commission in the contemporary Church (that is, among those who profess to be Christians): 1) the omission of making disciples, and 2) the omission of the step of taking our converts through training that will bring them ever increasingly to do what Jesus directed (see Appendix II). This book is intended as a biblical corrective to those omissions and I think it contributes admirably to that purpose. This is essential reading....more info

  • One of the Best "Christian Disciplines" books
    What is behind Willard's book is a desire to look at the psychological, philosophical, and historical development of the modern-day view of the Christian disciplines. This information is eye-opening and challenging, especially the information on asceticism. He then moves out of the theoretical into the practical and looks at the 7 disciplines of abstinence and the 8 disciplines of engagment. The section on each of these is extremely short, but the instruction is concise. I would highly recommend this book, but do not let it be the only book you read on this subject. Donald Whitney's Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life is well-done, and Jerry Bridges Discipline of Grace offers some balance from the Reformed perspective without going to bat for the Reformed faith per se....more info
  • Thought provoking and highly engaging
    A must read for anyone seeking to reorienntate their "religious faith" towards an apprenticeship with Jesus....more info
  • Wonderful Concept
    The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives by Dallas Willard is a book of obedience to God and to the scriptures. According to the author we can become like Jesus if we follow exactly the way He lived and practiced the activities he engaged in. It seems to make sense, if one lives exactly the way Jesus did and arranged their life around the way Jesus lived than one would become as close to the fellowship with God as Jesus was. Ask yourself "what would Jesus do" than follow in His steps.

    After you read this book it may be a good time to consider reading my book entitled "The Enlightenment, What God Told Me After One Million Prayers, a Message for Everyone" (See Profile Above)
    ...more info
  • The Spirit of the Disciplines
    I give this a 12 on a scale of 10! It helped bring my faith into perspecitive and is challenging me to strive for spiritaul growth.

    This is a must read for the contemporary Christian church. (Certainly pinpoints why most Christians are considered hypocrites.)...more info
  • Learn why the disciplines are not works, but active grace.
    Willard presents a helpful introduction to the theology behind the spiritual disciplines. This book is a perfect compliment to Richard Foster's the Spirit of the Disciplines. The ancient spiritual disciplines are normal Christianity and reveal why so many experience a faith so far below what is revealed in Scripture....more info
  • Great point but hard to read
    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....more info
  • A Classic Work on the Subject of Spiritual Formation
    Dallas Willard has written a compelling argument for a revival of the spiritual disciplines. It's a book that goes beyond "what would Jesus do" into the deeper question of "how would Jesus live." Willard argues that for us to live the life of Jesus "under pressure" we must adopt his overall lifestyle, which was punctuated by the spiritual disciplines. Though individual disciplines are examined, "The Spirit of the Disciplines" isn't primarily a book about "how to" practice the disciplines but "why to" make them a central part of your life. It is challenging, thought provoking, and potentially life changing....more info
  • An essential book for the modern Christian
    The premise of this book is simple. A lack of discipline and spiritual training is a source of weakness and malaise in the church. We seek to act like Christ in a moment, but fail to build a lifestyle that supports such moments. Willard uses a simple example to explain this to us.

    We all see the hall of fame type baseball players (Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, etc) and how well they play the game. And we want to emulate them. So when we pray, we copy their rituals and techniques but without the same results they get. Why is that? It is because we don't see all the training that led to the great moments in the game! The diets, exercise, practice after practice, the playbooks, discussions, regimens, and years of playing beforehand.

    So we Christians want to act like the true Superstar without first bending our life to look more like his when he wasn't healing and ministering to the public. We want the glory of Christ to shine when we pray, but the rest of our lives tell a different story. And if we want to see the life of Christ manifest in us, as all Christians do, then we must build discipline into our lives of the same nature and character as Jesus did.

    This book helps us understand what those disciplines are (there the private disciplines and the public ones) and how to integrate them into our lives. Willard corrects the incorrect theology of how to understand the body of a Christian and its role in discipline. He shows very clearly the need for specific disciplines, but also the understanding that there needs to be flexibility in how it is approached in our lives. This book is an essential one for the modern Christian who wants to get beyond first base in their walk with God....more info

  • A Classic Book You'll Want to Re-read Often
    I first read The Spirit of the Disciplines three years ago and I've enjoyed re-reading parts of it several times since.

    If you're feeling shortchanged by "contemporary" and "relevant" churches and Christian practices, this book will help you get in touch with our religion's 2,000+ year old roots, beliefs and practices.

    This book, along with Foster's Celebration of Discipline, will encourage and guide you in pursuing a deeper and more satisfying Christian walk. I recommend this in the highest terms....more info

  • Phenomenal exploration of essential spiritual habits
    This book provides a theological look at the nature of the spiritually disciplined life. Willard explores the "why" of the disciplines more than the "how." While this book certainly stands on its own, it makes an excellent follow-up to Foster's "Celebration of Discipline." Willard's intent takes him deeper than Foster and provides a more thorough exploration of spiritual disciplines. Highly recommended....more info
  • absolutely a 5!!!
    i am determined not to so easily give away 5s. for some reason, it seems like negative ratings are unholy or taboo to give to christian books.

    but this one is truly great. perhaps the best christian literature i have ever read, especially because of the western culture that i am in the midst of. christianity is only portrayed as a relationship that gives you peace, and that the burdens are light, for all who are weary and burdened to go to Jesus and He will give you rest... which is all completely true, but we don't hear the rest of the message, that for us who claim to live in God must walk as Jesus did... that we can't continue to sin any longer, or else we are not of God... now does this sound easy?

    Dallas Willard hits this head on and systematically shows us why we need to transform our lives. I've read plenty of men's books on discipline, but they never elaborate clearly on why we should do it, they only show how do it, which is needed, of course, but it is more important for us to solidify our foundation and know why we need to transform. If we don't know why we do things, but simply do them, then we just doing discipline for discipline sake, which doesn't transform anyone in the long run.

    If we don't change, we are risking the cost of UNDISCIPLESHIP, which is to lead a burdened life which will never taste the true joys of being a disciple of Christ. This is what this book is about....more info

  • A powerful call to a disciplined life
    I picked up this book expecting another book along the lines of Foster's Celebration of Disciple, yet it was nothing of the sort. The actual description of the individual disciplines was confined to a fairly brief section in the middle of the book. Leading up to that was a quite intense and valuable exposition of a theology of discipline, clearly stating how essential the practice of disciplines is to a fulfilled Christian life. Willard as always expresses the idea that being a Christian is more than just a "ticket to heaven" but rather should be a complete turnaround in our mindset, actions, and purpose in life. And it is through the practice of the disciplines that we co-operate with God making these changes in us, as we imitate Jesus.


    "Once the individual has, through divine initiative, become alive to God and his Kingdom, the extent of integration of his or her total being into that Kingdom order significantly depends on the individual's initiative." p68

    It was the final part of the book where I got a bit lost. In this section Willard details what he sees as the sociopolitical consequences of a mass renewal in Christian disciplines. He paints a picture of a Christian Utopia, a system of government which is almost a mix between the book of Judges and Plato's Republic. I won't immediately say that I disagree with it (needs a bit more processing) but it certainly isn't the sort of concept you come across every day.

    As with all of Willard's books the writing style is very dense, dripping with meaning in every sentence, yet at the same time of variable clarity. There are some parts which shine with a powerful meaning that hits you right in the face, and there are other sections which feel a little like wading through thick marshland - the value is still there, but you need to concentrate a little harder and take it a bit slower to appreciate and understand it. Overall I would heartily recommend this book to all Christians. The message of the first half of the book is well worth it, leading us to a wider, deeper understanding of "salvation" replete with both increased power, and increased responsibility
    ...more info
  • A High Recommendation
    The author gets down to the superficial type of Christianity that's all too typical these days, by contrasting Christ's walk with that of modern day believers. It is a reality check that cuts to the quick and if heeded, would reform the church back to its intended call. It has impacted my life, as well as the other believers in our small group. It's "heavier" reading that requires thought, prayer and action. Read it,do it and be blessed....more info
  • An intelligent, thorough overview of spiritual disciplines
    This book has had a profound influence on my life, and I don't suggest that you read it unless you are ready to change the way you think about the disciplines, the things we make ourselves to to get closer to God, such as prayer, fasting, worship and reading the Bible. Williard plots the history of the disciplines, and explains psycologically and physiologically why they have such an effect on people. It is a slow read in a few parts, but never impossible. After reading this account of why the disciplines are important, read Richard Foster's Celebration of Disciplines to learn more about the practice of the disciplines. And then do them!...more info
  • An unparalelled look at an underspoken topic
    Dallas Willard's examination of the disciplines of the Christian life is an unparalelled 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 modelling 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 who seeks to truly live the life of Christ and be a light in the world today....more info
  • Challenging book
    The natural progression of Apostle Paul's declaration that Christian ought to run the race for our everlasting crown is that we need to keep spiritual disciplines much like an athlete has to keep strict diet, training schedule, and so forth.

    Dallas Willard does a great job summarizing the most important of these spiritual disciplines. Some caught me by surprise, such as solitude, but nonetheless he gives compelling reasons for each. Professor Willard's list is by no means a complete one. But he does provide a great starting point for many Christians....more info

  • To Become a Mature Disciple of Jesus...
    Dallas Willard is a remarkable writer-centering his reader's attention on the way to live the Christian faith. It is fair to say that discipleship requires discipline, and Dr. Willard posits a number of disciplines that would help a Christian more fully express his or her faith, on a daily basis.

    The subtitle of the book, "Understanding How God Changes Lives" gives you a good idea of what it to come. So if you are person who thinks that "change" is a four-letter word, then this book is not for you. Or then again, perhaps it is ESPECIALLY for you! Because change is the order of the day. Not change for change's sake, but change for Jesus' sake and for goodness sake. Your goodness, that is.

    Can a book that deals with such quesitons as "Is Poverty Spiritual?" speak to a skeptical generation? Yes. If it is given a chance. Dr. Willard takes a chapter to address the answer and then in a chapter on what he calls the main disciplines for the spiritual life, offers a full array of what it takes to become mature disciples of Jesus Christ: solitude and silence, fasting and frugality, chastity, secrecy and sacrifice. Study and worship, celebration and service, payer and fellowship, confession and submission. I would suppose that any person who took the encouragement Dr. Willard provides for each of these would find himself or herself well on the way toward wholeness and meaningful living.

    And, the congregation that did so...well! What a joy that would be!

    The author is professor at USC's School of Philosophy and an ordained minister in the South Baptist Church.

    If you find this review helpful you might want to read some of my other reviews, including those on subjects ranging from biography to architecture, as well as religion and fiction
    ...more info
  • Classic Willard
    John Ortberg says there is no one like Dallas Willard when it comes to expressing the deep truths associated with pursuing Spiritual Disciplines. He's right. This modern classic is one I reference again and again.

    There really is nothing quite like Willard's profound insights on this topic. He's the best....more info
  • An unparalleled look at an underspoken topic
    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....more info