Renovation of the Heart

Chapter 4 Trying To Be Good

The external transformation of Christ likeness is not the focus of Christian spiritual transformation. When the outwardly becomes the focus it leads to legalism, which is a major barrier to spiritual transformation. To merely strive to act in conformity with Jesus’ expressions (Matthew 5-7) is to attempt the impossible. Christ likeness of the inner being is not a human attainment. It is a gift of grace.


When we come to faith, we realise that we were saved by grace and that salvation is a free gift. But after a while we are encouraged to try to be good but this is exhausting. When we seem to be successful at growth, our spirituality becomes about us and not about the power of God. The weight of trying to be good is unnecessary because the way God wants to transform us is an inner transformation done by Him with our cooperation and it is that cooperation that is explored in this book. We need to ask God what the next small steps are and how to take them.


Confess any attempts to become like Jesus by trying hard to do so. Then, feast for a moment on this idea: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27 NIV). Ask God to do this work in you and show the next step you need to take to cooperate in this process.


Chapter 5 Who We Are, Not How We Act

Transformation of the heart is the only way to definitively conquer outward evil. To dress up the outward with good deeds is a failure to grow spiritually. According to 1 Corinthians 13:4 love is patient and kind but if we try to be loving by acting patiently and kindly, we quickly fail. Little progress is made in the acts of love until we advance in love itself. When we take love itself, God’s kind of love, into our inner beings it will enable us to act lovingly to a surprising extent.


What would it look like for you to take God’s kind of love into the depths of your being through the way of spiritual formation?  Consider the following steps:

  • Read through a Gospel, pausing to reflect on and relish each loving thing that Jesus did.
  • Focus on one loving thing Jesus did and picture his face as he did it. Maybe even put yourself in the place of the person Jesus loved for a moment and absorb that love. Hold on to that as you go to sleep tonight.
  • Spend a few minutes with the most loving person you know, thanking God for the window into God’s heart
  • Do some small act of service for someone you love who is feeling overwhelmed


If you choose to do any of these, do them slowly with the intention of exploring the way God loves while doing it.

Chapter 2 No Unsolvable Puzzle

Formation in Christ is not a haphazard thing. Though mysterious spiritual experiences like Paul’s Damascus road can be meaningful, it does not constitute spiritual formation. God is not a God of disorder and although He can choose to work in disorder it is not His preferred way of working. Why should spiritual formation be any different? We must humble ourselves and submit to the ways that God chose to work in us.



What do you already know about how God is forming your soul? Make some notes as you read through this book. What do you think of the following ideas of soul transformation?

  • Immerse yourself in the words of the New Testament. What would it look like to experience Scripture passages and taste and see that God is good? How does it help you to hear God speaking to you?
  • “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” is not true. When have you strained to become a better person, relying on your will alone?
  • Spiritual formation in Christ is an orderly process. Confess to any beliefs that you might have that spiritual growth somehow without you paying attention to it. Consider what God has done that has facilitated the most growth in you. How did you cooperate in this?


Pray and ask God to show you today the small steps in your life that would lead to inner transformation.


Chapter 3 Change Me On The Inside

Our lives are the result of what we have become in our inner being. From our inner self we make the choices that affect our lives and those around us.  That is why Jesus’ revolution is one of the heart, to bring all human life under the ruler ship of God. The revolution is one of character of individuals that in the end form society and we will see “… a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.” Amos 5:24 NIV.


Spiritual formation of the Christian’s soul is Spirit-driven forming the inner man into the image of the inner being of Christ. The outer life is a natural outflow of this. Christian spiritual transformation is entirely focused on Christ and is brought on through the purposeful interaction with the grace of God in Christ.


When regrettable words “slip out”, we didn’t have the time to dress up what was in our heart before it came tumbling out of our mouth. Unsavoury thought leaks out in objectionable words and actions. (Luke 6:45). [Note: I remember my dad explaining to me Galatians 5 and how a tree doesn’t strive and try to produce fruit, it just does it.] As we let what is stored in our hearts be transformed, we behave as Jesus would have.


What sort of heart would you like to have? Read 1 Cor. 13:4-5. Form your dreams and desires for your heart into a prayer.

As we as ordinary people read passages in the Bible such the Gospels and letters like 1 Peter and Ephesians we read of this divine life so different from the life we daily experience in this world. When faced with this truth we are faced with our personal inability to reach the standard set out in these passages, or as Willard puts it the “kingdom personality” of “genuine mutual love” that is free of “all malice and al guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.”. This inability is usually met with the response of “Nobody’s perfect”. What if our response is rather that we believe in God’s power to transform us into people who actually have this “kingdom personality”?

Today’s Experiment

“Read slowly through these phrases describing the kingdom life and personality:

  • to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge
  • to be filled with the fullness of God
  • power at work within us
  • able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine
  • rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy
  • genuine mutual love pouring from their hearts
  • without malice, guile, insincerity, envy, and slander

Thank God for the beauty of the kingdom life and for the possibility of the transformation of your soul. Spend a minute or two longing for the kingdom of God in your life: “Thy kingdom come! Thy will be done!” “

I am part of a learning community in South Africa called EChruch and MissioNet Learning Community where we read material on certain subjects and then get together once a quarter do discuss what we have learned.

One of the books we have read and discussed is Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard.  We somehow got the wrong book here at Impetus, Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice, instead of Renovation of the Heart, but despite that I jumped into the book and found it very engaging. The book is  co-written with Jan Johnson, and on the back the following is noted:
“Spiritual director Jan Johnson guides you through sixty-one carefully selected chosen selections from the renowned author Dallas Willard’s best-selling book Renovation of the Heart.”
After each chapter in the book there is a section called “Today’s Experiment”, where some guidelines are given to put what was discussed in that chapter into daily practice.

As I read through the book I will try to summarise and note my own thoughts.