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Excerpts from 'Devotional Classics' edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith Dallas Willard (1935-) Introduction to the Author Dallas Willard was born in Buffalo, Missouri in 1935. He has taught philosophy at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Southern California (current position). He is a distinguished philosopher with over 30 publications to his credit.. A great thinker yet one who can just as easily share the truths of the Gospel with common, ordinary folks. Todays excerpt is taken from his book 'The Spirit of the Disciplines'. The book seeks to lay the foundation for understanding how God changes the inward personality bringing us to a deeper conformity to the way of Christ. The Spirit of the Disciplines 1. Discipleship: For Super-Christians Only? The word 'disciple' occurs 269 times in the New Testament. 'Christian' is found only 3 times and was first introduced to refer precisely to the disciples. The New Testament is a book about disciples, by disciples and for disciples of Jesus Christ. 2. Undisciplined Disciples For at least several decades the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, or to intend to be, a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship. So far as the visible Christian institutions of our day are concerned, discipleship clearly is optional...Churches are filled with 'undisciplined disciples' as Jess Moody has called them. Most problems in contemporary churches can be explained by the fact that members have not yet decided to follow Christ. 3. Great Omission for the Great Commission The first goal Jesus set forth for the early church was to use his all encompassing power and authority to make disciples....Having made disciples, these alone were to be baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. With this twofold preparation they were to be taught to treasure and keep 'all things whatsoever I have commanded you'. The Christian church of the first century resulted from following this plan for church growth - a result hard to improve upon. But instead of Christ's plan, historically the church as substituted 'Make converts (to a particular faith and practice) and baptize them into church membership.' This causes two great omissions from the Great Commission to stand out. First: We omit the making of disciples or enrolling people as Christ's students, when we should let all else wait for that. Second: We omit the step of taking our converts through training that will bring them ever increasingly to do what Jesus directed. The two great omissions are connected. Not having made converts disciples, it is impossible for us to teach them how to live as Christ lived and taught. 4. Discipleship Now We can not literally be with Jesus the way his first disciples could. But the priorities and intentions, the heart or inner attitudes, of disciples are forever the same. In the heart of a disciple there is a desire, and there is a decision or settled intent. The disciple of Christ desires above all else to be like Him...Given this desire, usually produced by the lives and words of those already in The Way, there is yet a decision to be made: the decision to devote oneself to becoming life Christ. The disciple is one who, intent upon becoming Christlike, and so dwelling in his 'faith and practice' systematically and progressively rearranges his affairs to that end. 5. The Cost of Nondiscipleship Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God's overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life that Jesus said He came to bring. Read: Matthew 28:16-20 Reflection 1. Dallas Willard makes a strong plea for churches to emphasize discipleship and not merely membership. Describe your church experience in light of these two approaches. 2. What are the two great omissions from the Great Commission? 3. What is the cost of being a nondisciple? 4. What would change about your life if you were to focus all your energies on becoming like Christ? What kind of reaction would you get from those around you? 5. This week commit to memory Willard's powerful sentence about the cost of nondiscipleship: Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace. Allow yourself to yearn for peace, love , faith, hopefulness, power and abundance of life. 6. Jesus instructed His followers to 'obey everything that I have commanded'. Go through the Gospel of Matthew and list all the things Jesus commanded us to do. This is what basic Christianity ought to look like. 7. Meditate on the Lordship of Christ. Examine your life to see how much of it actually falls under Jesus' authority. Instead of focusing on the cost of giving these areas over to Christ, focus on the high price you have been paying by keeping them under your control.

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