Much of what I’ve learned about spiritual formation in the way of Jesus has come from studying Dallas Willard’s teachings and having personal conversations with him.
As a psychologist and spiritual director, I’ve been especially interested in his methodology for life change.
In The Divine Conspiracy (pp. 367-368) Dallas identifies specific stages or dimensions of “taking on the eternal kind of life of being in The Kingdom Among Us.”
He says we grow in this divine life through a “loving cooperation” or “shared endeavor” with Christ. This requires being “intelligently active” and engaging in “unrelenting study under Jesus, and in particular by following him into his practices and adapting them” for our own life.
To put it simply, loving and emulating Jesus Christ energizes our growth. He is the perfect human being and he teaches and enables us to become more like him.
Dallas Willard’s Stages of Eternal Living lay out a path, which is like a sneak peek into our model in our new book, Journey of the Soul:
1. Confidence in Jesus
To grow spiritually you need hope that God will take care of you. Then hope can mature into faith-trust and love for others, yourself, and, God. Through Jesus we experience “life from above” (John 3:16).
2. Desire to be Jesus’ Apprentice
A hopeful vision and confident belief in Jesus moves our hearts to desire to be close to him and to become like him. We want to be his apprentice in learning how to live our daily life from the resources of the Kingdom of the Heavens.
3. Obedience to God
The great commandment Jesus gave us is to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as our self (Mark 12:30-31). In this stage we offer our gifts and talents to help other people. We serve them with kindness, prayers, and the gospel of Christ.
4. Inner Transformation
To progress in the way of Christ we need to keep turning inward. Our failures to obey God and love well, along with our hurts and unmet needs, can prompt growing deeper roots into the love of Christ.
5. Power to do God’s Works
At this stage we learn that in our own flesh we do not have the power to consistently love others well — we need God’s power. So we learn to rely on the Lord with us. We take on the fruit of the Spirit into our habitual modes of relating and working (Gal. 5:22-23).
Dallas doesn’t actually identify a 6th stage, but he suggests that the ultimate stage of growth is to continually abide in the Spirit of Jesus.
In Journey of the Soul, we lay out our model of six CHRIST stages of faith — with a focus on how to progress in emotional and spiritual growth. After this book releases on February 16th, we’ll dive deep into this content in our weekly blogs and podcasts.
PS. We’ve got a special read for you. Today Ann Voskamp shared with her readers an excerpt from our soon-to-be-released new book, Journey of the Soul. She featured this in her blog which is in the Top Ten of Christian blogs on the web. You can read it here: “Tired? Weary? Let this prayer renew your soul.”
If you don’t know Ann’s ministry you’ll want to. She is a farmer’s wife and mother of seven in rural Canada who became internationally famous through her best-selling inspirational books. Most importantly, she is a devoted follower of Jesus who ministers his joy, grace, and compassion to millions of people.
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: Dallas Willard inspired the model that Bill and Kristi write about in their upcoming book, Journey of the Soul. His writings in The Divine Conspiracy and his personal conversations with them offered a helpful and important framework for helping people journey with Christ. Bill and Kristi offer an overview of these CHRIST stages of faith featured in Journey of the Soul.