The Spiritually Formed Person

Dallas Willard has served as a reliable tour guide in our biblical study of spiritual formation. As we prepare to close out the series, I think it useful to share Willard’s own summation of what the spiritually formed person looks like. (The following is from his book, Renovation of the Heart.)

Let us now draw together the results of our studies… to form a composite picture of ‘the children of light,’ drawing on how they have changed in the various essential dimensions of their being.

Thought life: Simply stated, they think about God. He is never out of their mind. They love to dwell upon God and upon his greatness and loveliness, as brought to light in Jesus Christ. They adore him in nature, in history, in his Son and in his saints. One could even say they are ‘God-intoxicated’… Because their mind is centered upon God and oriented with reference to him, all other good things are also welcome there (Philippians 4:8).

Feelings: …They love lots of good things and they love people. They love their life and who they are… Joy and peace are with them even in the hardest of times – even when suffering unjustly. Because of what they have learned about God, they are confident and hopeful and do not indulge thoughts of rejection, failure, and hopelessness…

Will (Spirit, Heart): …Children of light really are devoted to doing what is good and right. Their will is habitually attuned to it… These are peope who do not think first of themselves and what they want, and they really care very little, if at all, about getting their own way… They do not hesitate to do what they know to be right. It is the obvious thing to do.

Body: …Their body has come over to the side of their will to do good. It is constantly poised to do what is right and good without thinking… It is no longer true of them that their ‘spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak…’ The bodies of these people even look different. There is a freshness about them, a kind of quiet strength, and a transparency.

Social Relations: …They are completely transparent. They do not conceal their thoughts and feelings (nor do they impose them on everyone). They do not try to manipulate and manage others… They know how to really ‘be there’ (wherever ‘there’ is) without sharing in evil, as was true of Jesus himself… They know how to ‘love the sinner and hate the sin’ gracefully and effectively.

Soul: …All of the above is not just at the surface. It is deep. …The things we have been describing are not things the children of light are constantly trying hard to do, gritting their teeth and carrying on. Instead, these are features of life that well up out of a soul that is at home in God.

The biggest danger is that, as you read the above, you hear a voice in your head telling you that you will never look like that. That is Satan. Reject him. The picture above describes the kind of people Jesus intended us to be. Let us lean on his grace and exert ourselves to make it so!


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  1. Wow. Willard definitley creates words that make my head and heart spin in the other direction–the not so everyday thinking direction.

    Thanks for the quotes (not to mention a few type errors Mr. editor boy). They caused me to look over at my shelf and pull the book out for a re-read.

  2. Long time listener first time caller….the quote in the soul section regarding a surface change is right on. An instant behavioral overhaul in regards to these sections may be in the short term beneficial, but in the long term sloppy and hypocritical.

  3. These are not “instant behavioral changes” but transformation over many years of trusting, repenting, resting, relying, believing….and standing in grace! brenda

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