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Posted August 7, 2009
In Revolution of Character: Discovering Christ's Pattern for Spiritual Transformation, Don Simpson presents a concise version of Dallas Willard's popular book, Renovation of the Heart. In an opening statement, Willard notes that "the text of this book has been composed entirely by Don Simpson and expresses our shared understanding of Renovation." This is helpful information and helps explain the format; broken into twelve chapters, each with several 1-2 page sections, the book is appropriated for small bits of reading and reflection. Each chapter concludes with questions for meditation and response.
In the opening chapter, A Revolution Has Begun, Simpson explains his use of the term heart and its interchangeability with the terms spirit and will. This is helpful, as Simpson mentions these three terms throughout. "From the contents of our heart," he says, "we see our world and interpret reality. From that decisive place in our self, we make choices, break forth into action, and try to change our world. We live from our depths-most of which we understand only in part" (12).
The heart, therefore, plays a vital role in our spiritual formation, which he defines as "the Holy 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.the outer life of the individual becomes a natural expression of the character and teachings of Jesus" (16).
Chapter two continues discussing the importance of the heart and explores the six human dimensions, with the heart at the center; spiritual transformation occurs when these dimensions work in proper order: (1) thoughts, (2) feelings, (3) the heart, (4) the body, (5) social context (relations with others), and (6) the soul (the integrator to all of the above). A helpful diagram provided by Simpson demonstrates the proper functioning of these six dynamics.
A significant amount of time is spent discussing one's restoration and how the process of overcoming ruin contributes to spiritual transformation. "One of the amazing things about human beings," says Simpson "is their capacity for restoration-a restoration that makes them somehow more magnificent because they have been ruined" (55). The key to restoration is one's ability to die to self and therefore replace, rather than enhance, the ruined self. Chapter Four provides an excellent challenge, accompanied by practical steps, to become more like Christ through dying to selfish claims on life.
Simpson next explores Christ's pattern of spiritual transformation through the process of VIM (Vision, Intention, Means). Vision applies to our ability to visualize the kingdom of God and to live fully in it today, rather than preparing only to live in the kingdom post-life. We live in the kingdom now through the process of intention. Of this necessity, and the connection between vision and intention, Simpson says:
The idea that you can trust Christ for the hereafter but have no intention to obey him now is an illusion generated by a widespread unbelieving "Christian culture." In fact, you can no more trust Jesus and not intend to obey him than you can trust your doctor and not intend to follow his or her advice. If you don't intend to follow the advice, you simply don't trust the person. (76)
In order to follow our vision through living intentionally, there must also be a means. The means
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