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Chapter 5 of Renovation of the Heart Class

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Slides for chapter 5 from class and discussion about Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart.

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Chapter 5 of Renovation of the Heart Class

  1. 1. Spiritual Change Chapter 5
  2. 2. The Reliable Pattern  “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” ~2 Corinthians 3:18  The next logical step after revealing the dysfunction of the human heart is to proceed into how to fix it. However, Willard wants to spend a final chapter clearing up some preliminary matters.
  3. 3. Transformation Into Christlikeness is Possible  “First of all, we must be clear that such a transition as is envisioned in Christian spiritual formation can actually happen, and can actually happen to us. This, today, is not obvious.”  We have already recounted previously the ‘failures’ of Christian leaders, and a few more examples are given here.  “Although there is much talk about ‘changing lives’ in Christian circles, the reality is very rare, and certainly much less common than the talk.”  (concerning the examples) “What is sad is who these leaders have been all along, what their inner life has been like, and no doubt also how they have suffered during all the years before they ‘did it’ or were found out.”  “The possibility of denial and self-deception is something God has made accessible to us, in part to protect us until we begin to seek him. Like the face of the mythical Medusa, our true condition away from God would turn us to stone if we ever fully confronted it.” (Interesting)
  4. 4. ‘Miserable Sinner’ Christianity  There is a mistaken view held by many Christians. “This is the widely held view that the low level of spiritual living among professing Christians is to be regarded as ‘only natural,’ only what is to be expected—lamentable as that may be.”  This view is the result of a few misunderstandings.  1:  “One is that the ungodly condition of the human heart and life described in the Bible is essential to human beings as such, and therefore remains true until we pass from this life and take a new form.”  The body is dirty, vile, and completely associated with wickedness. The only way to escape it or be free of its ‘badness’ is to get rid of it (i.e. die and get to Heaven).  This is a platonic view that is retained throughout our history but is inaccurate.
  5. 5. ‘Miserable Sinner’ Christianity  2:  “… unless the ‘miserable sinner’ account were true, we might rise to a position where we could deal with God on the basis of merit. “  Even Paul says he is the chief of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15, but it would be extraordinary to believe that Paul was just as messed up and evil on the inside when he penned these words as when Christ confronted him on the road to Damascus.
  6. 6. Never ‘There’ Yet  “But no doubt the later Paul who wrote these words was very sure that whatever spiritual formation in Christlikeness he had received might be overwhelmed. There remained in him a spark of evil that could be fanned into a flame were he not watchful or if God did not continuously direct and uphold him in every dimension of his nature.”  In other words, you can never just be satisfied with where you are and stop striving to be more like Christ. We always have a sinister tendency to fall back into old ways, so we must not “let up in the hot pursuit of God for today, for now.”  “But to distort this important truth into a claim that we can never really change, and especially in our hearts, is to substitute a glaring and harmful falsehood for a liberating and life-blessing truth.”
  7. 7. And We Are Never On Our Own  The final misunderstanding concerning ‘miserable Christianity’ is that if human beings are somehow good ‘on their own’ (apart from God), then they can save themselves.  “We must keep clear, however, that it is the worth of human beings, not their righteousness, which is tied to their nature.”  “The transformation of the inner being is as much or more a gift of grace as is our justification before God. Of course neither one is wholly passive. . . In fact, we consume the most grace by leading a holy life, in which we must be constantly upheld by grace, not by continuing to sin and being repeatedly forgiven. The interpretation of grace as having only to do with guild is utterly false to biblical teaching and renders spiritual life in Christ unintelligible.”
  8. 8. The General Pattern of Personal Growth  There seems to be a clear pattern in how people transform themselves in various ways.  1st Example  Learning Arabic  “Now this is the vision that goes into the particular project of learning the language. Unless one has it—or, better, it has them—the language will pretty surely not be learned. . .The presence of such a vision explains why, on the other hand, the English language is learned at a phenomenal rate all around the world. Multitudes see clearly the ways in which their life might be improved by knowledge of English.”  There is also required an intention. “Projects of personal transformation rarely if ever succeed by accident, drift, or imposition. . . Effective action has to involve order, subordination, and progression, developing from the inside of the personality.”  Lastly, there are the means to carry out the vision and the intention.
  9. 9. The General Pattern of Personal Growth  2nd Example  Alcoholics Anonymous  “Historically, the AA program was closely aligned with the church and Christian traditions, and now it has much to give back to a church that has largely lost its grip on spiritual formation as a standard path of Christian life.”  “Any successful plan for spiritual formation, whether for the individual or group, will in fact be significantly similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous program.”
  10. 10. VIM: The General Pattern  As we’ve seen in the two illustrations just given, the pattern can be summarized with an acronym, VIM.  V: Vision  I: Intention  M: Means  “If we are to be spiritually formed in Christ, we must have and must implement the appropriate vision, intention, and means. Not just any path we take will do. If this VIM pattern is not put in place properly and held there, Christ simply will not be formed in us.”
  11. 11. Why We Fail And Don’t Grow  The reason becomes obvious here: If we know the pattern (VIM), then the reason we fail is because we don’t follow the pattern.  “That is why today you find many professing Christians circling back to nonChristian sources to resolve the problems of their inner life.”  “…the process of inward renovation starts from the stark vision of life in the Kingdom of God.”
  12. 12. The Vision of Life in the Kingdom  “The kingdom of God is the range of God’s effective will, where what God wants done is done.” (Interestingly – “The planet Earth and its immediate surroundings seem to be the only place in creation where God permits his will to be not done.”)  “The vision that underlies spiritual (trans)formation into Christlikeness is, then, the vision of life now and forever in the range of God’s effective wil— that is, partaking of the divine nature.”  “What we are aiming for in this vision is to live fully in the kingdom of God and as fully as possible now and here, not just hereafter.”
  13. 13. The Intention to Be a Kingdom Person  “The vision of life in the kingdom through reliance upon Jesus makes it possible for us to intend to live in the kingdom as he did. We can actually decide to do it.”  *** “Concretely, we intend to live in the kingdom of God by intending to obey the precise example and teachings of Jesus. This is the form that trust in him takes. It does not take the form of merely believing things about him, however true they may be. Indeed, no one can actually believe the truth about him without trusting him by intending to obey him. It is a mental impossibility. To think otherwise is to indulge a widespread illusion that now smothers spiritual formation in Christlikeness among professing Christians and prevents it from naturally spreading worldwide.” ***  “Moreover, knowing the ‘right answers’—knowing which ones they are, being able to identify them—does not mean we believe them.”
  14. 14. Intention Involves Decision  A decision is that which carries through an intention.  If someone says they intended to do something, but they didn’t do it (and there aren’t sufficient reasons/constraints that prevented them from doing so), then we tend to be skeptical of their ‘intention.’ (Did they really intend to do it?)  In other words, having the vision and the intention will still fall flat if we don’t actively decide to implement the intention. (Procrastination is an enemy here)  “Now the robust intention, with its inseparable decision, can only be formed and sustained upon the basis of a forceful vision. The elements of VIM are mutually reinforcing.”
  15. 15. Means  Once we have the Vision and the Intention, all that is left is discovering the Means.  “In finding such means we are not left to ourselves but have rich resources available to us in the example and teachings of Jesus, in the Scriptures generally, and in his people.”  This is the meat of what will be covered in the rest of the book.  “We must start by discovering, by identifying, the thoughts, feelings, habits of will, social relations, and bodily inclinations that prevent us from being generous to these people.” (This is in relation to the example given of being charitable to someone who have claimed some of our property through legal means  “When my neighbor who has triumphed over me in the past now stands before me in a need I can remedy, I will not be able ‘on the spot’ to do the good thing if my inner being is filled with all the thoughts, feelings, and habits that characterize the ruined soul and its world. Rather, if I intend to obey Jesus Christ, I must intend and decide to become the kind of person who would obey.”
  16. 16. Training “Off the Spot”  While we cannot decide ‘on the spot’ to be a certain kind of person, we can retrain ourselves in various ways. (study, meditation on Christ, application of Scriptural teachings on the world, etc.)  “I can also help my thinking and my feelings by deep reflection on the nature and bitter outcome of the standard human way in such situations, in contrast to the way of Jesus. I can also consciously practice explicitly ‘self-sacrificial’ actions in other, less ‘demanding’ situations. I can become a person for whom ‘looking out for number one’ is not the framework of my life.”  “On the other hand, where there is not will (firm intentions based on clear vision) there is not way.”  “And this in turn is, today, largely due to the fact that they have not been given a vision of life in God’s kingdom within which such a decision and intention would make sense.”
  17. 17. Prompts  1. Do the common failures of Christian leaders and lay people prove that transformation into Christlikeness is impossible?  3. If we are active in the process of spiritual formation, does that mean we are acting “on our own”? How do grace and effort interrelate in spiritual growth?  6. What is the biblical vision of our life in the kingdom of God? Give some details that would fit into your life.  7. How concretely can we ‘intend to live in the kingdom of God now’?  8. How does intention relate to decision? Can ‘knowing the right answers’ substitute for intention and decision in the spiritual life?  9. What are the main means that you personally use for implementing your decision to live in the kingdom of God now? Are they adequate to the intention?  10. What measures of ‘off the spot’ training for obedience to Christ do you employ?

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Slides for chapter 5 from class and discussion about Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart.

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