Ten essential Dallas Willard quotes

This week the church has lost a great saint and a shining light. Dallas Willard succumbed to cancer. As John Ortberg says in a wonderfully written tribute, Willard was brilliant, but "his heart and his life were better than his mind."

I thought it would be appropriate to bring out ten quotes that do a pretty good job of getting at what Willard spent his life teaching and working on.

1. This quote states the central problem Willard spent his career working on:
"My hope is to gain a fresh hearing for Jesus, especially among those who believe they already understand him. In his case, quite frankly, presumed familiarity has led to unfamiliarity, unfamiliarity has led to contempt, and contempt has led to profound ignorance." (opening paragraph of The Divine  Conspiracy)

2. The central problem, restated:
"The governing assumption today, among professing Christians, is that we can be 'Christians' forever and never become disciples." (The Great Omission, xi).

3. Willard's life mission revolved around spiritual formation. Here is one of his summary statements about what spiritual formation is:
"... spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself." (Renovation of the Heart, 22)

4. Willard echoed Jesus' call to sacrifice all in order to gain all:
"Christian spiritual formation rests on the indispensable foundation of death to self and cannot proceed except insofar as that foundation is being firmly laid and sustained." (Renovation of the Heart, 64)

5. You can't follow Jesus from a distance. You must do life with him.
"Disciples of Jesus are those who are with him, learning to be like him. That is, they are learning to lead their life, their actual existence, as he would lead their life if he were they." (Renovation of the Heart, 241)

6. We need to do life with Jesus, and we also need to be very intentional about how we shape our lives:
"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." (The Spirit of the Disciplines, ix) 
"The spiritual life is a life of interaction with a personal God, and it is pure delusion to suppose that it can be carried on sloppily." (The Spirit of the Disciplines, 153)

7. This one really gets my blood racing. The forces of mediocrity and average-ness pull against the calling of God to become like Jesus.
"The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low." (The Spirit of the Disciplines, xii)

8. The following quote comes from a lecture I heard. My quotation may not be word-for-word correct, but the idea was imprinted on me like a tattoo. Read it slowly, think about it, and look at your own life. This is how high Jesus' promise is for our lives.
"As we mature in Christ, it is actually possible to outgrow fear."

9. Willard saw the Christian life as a great adventure.
"If our gospel does not free the individual up for a unique life of spiritual adventure in living with God daily, we simply have not entered fully into the good news that Jesus brought." (Hearing God, 108)

10. This sums it all up:
"We cannot too often center our minds upon his loveliness and kindness, that we might love him more and more." (The Spirit of the Disciplines, 251)
Those who have been around Willard observed that he did not simply talk about centering one's mind on the loveliness and kindness of Christ. He did it. In season and out of season. Every day, throughout the day. And now he stands face to face with the One he has followed. I wonder what he would say now about centering our attention on Jesus' loveliness and kindness, and loving him more and more.


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