From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a October 2002 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.
Introductory Note:

Richard Foster, always helping us put theory into heart-opening action, here gives several deeply practical ideas for presenting one’s body and mind to Jesus.

It’s easy to read these, nod in agreement, and move on. In this age of distraction these kind of experiments take a lot of intention. I encourage you to choose one, just one, and put it into practice this week. Because my thoughts in the morning often start dark, right now I’m setting a nightly reminder on my phone to pray St. Aidan’s prayer and record my thoughts in the morning. I’m excited to see how God works through this simple exercise.

Brian Morykon

To a small group of us Dal­las once said (and here I am quot­ing him from mem­o­ry), With­out a prop­er the­ol­o­gy of God and a prop­er ontol­ogy and anthro­pol­o­gy of the human self, reli­gion will always degen­er­ate into super­sti­tion or legal­ism, and often both.” Dal­las’ book Ren­o­va­tion of the Heart gives us the very best ontol­ogy and anthro­pol­o­gy of the human self” found anywhere. 

This teach­ing is so very impor­tant. Today peo­ple throw around words like soul,” spir­it,” heart,” will,” etc. with­out the slight­est idea what they mean. Well, this book explains exact­ly what such terms mean. It gives us a clear, bib­li­cal under­stand­ing of the depths of the human self. Even more, it gives us a clear, bib­li­cal under­stand­ing of how our inward selves can be deeply trans­formed so as to take on the char­ac­ter of Jesus Christ.

You see, we all have been spir­i­tu­al­ly formed, but usu­al­ly our for­ma­tion has been in very bad ways. Indeed, we are de-formed,” if you will. And we need to be re-formed,” that is to say, we need ref­or­ma­tion. Even more, we need trans-for­ma­tion.”

But to effec­tive­ly and con­scious­ly enter into this spir­i­tu­al form­ing, re-form­ing, trans-form­ing process we need a clear under­stand­ing of the human self. Exact­ly what is the heart, the spir­it, the will, the mind, the body, the soul? How are they to be spir­i­tu­al­ly re-formed and what is their role in our over­all spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion? Now, this under­stand­ing is giv­en to us in Scrip­ture, but it is not giv­en sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly. The Bible could not accom­plish what it need­ed to accom­plish and do it sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly. But we do need to under­stand what the depths of the per­son are, and then we need to relate this to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its trans­form­ing pow­er. Then we need to relate all of these mat­ters to the larg­er social realm. All of this is giv­en with pre­ci­sion and care in Ren­o­va­tion of the Heart.

Have you gath­ered by now that I hope you will get this book? Even more, I hope you will read it care­ful­ly and prayer­ful­ly … even more still, I hope you will apply it to the warp and woof of your dai­ly life.

Grow­ing Together

I want to present two sam­ple sug­ges­tions of ways to prac­tice the themes dis­cussed in Ren­o­va­tion of the Heart. Then, as you study the book for your­self, you will be able to devel­op your own exer­cis­es for the oth­er dimen­sions of the self: soul, heart, spir­it, will, social realm. Maybe two or three of you can work on this togeth­er and encour­age one anoth­er along. I’m sure you will get the idea quick­ly. God bless you as you learn to put on the char­ac­ter of Christ.

The Body

The body is the indi­vid­u­al­ized pow­er pack” God has giv­en us for func­tion­ing in life. It is the store­house of habits. So now, take a week or so to become aware of the habits deeply ingrained in your body.

  • Note those habits that make life pos­si­ble. Breath­ing, for exam­ple. Or digest­ing food. Or sleep­ing. Or walk­ing. Or talk­ing. These are all habits that we take for grant­ed but with­out which we could hard­ly func­tion. Give time to thank God for these habits.

  • Con­sid­er habits that make life eas­i­er. Things like dri­ving a car or typ­ing or read­ing or play­ing some sport. Isn’t it won­der­ful that we can do these things almost with­out con­scious thought! They help us get through life, and when they are absent, we real­ly miss them.

  • Con­sid­er habits that move you in life-giv­ing direc­tions. Maybe it is a reg­u­lar habit of prayer. Or of eat­ing healthy foods. Or of prop­er and reg­u­lar exer­cise. And so forth. How did these habits devel­op? Who or what influ­enced you in these life-giv­ing direc­tions? How do you feel when you miss doing them? Are there prac­ti­cal ways that you can incor­po­rate them even more into your dai­ly regimen?

  • Turn to those habits you know are destruc­tive and death-giv­ing. I need not enu­mer­ate them – they are already too vivid in your con­scious­ness. And don’t start con­demn­ing your­self over them or get­ting defeat­ed by them. Just sin­gle out one destroy­ing habit and ask, What deci­sions can I make and actions take this week that would begin to free me from this habit and replace it with a bet­ter one?” Maybe shar­ing this one mat­ter with a trust­ed friend and hav­ing him or her pray over you in this regard would be a good first step. But oth­er steps need to fol­low. What might they be? This is your dis­cern­ment process – you need to dis­cov­er the steps right for you.

The Mind

The mind is a pri­ma­ry bat­tle­ground in the spir­i­tu­al life. Satan, for instance, approached Eve with an idea, and it was an idea asso­ci­at­ed with a lot of feel­ings … and it swept her away. Adam, too. So the are­na of ideas is of pri­ma­ry con­cern for us as fol­low­ers of Jesus. Con­sid­er the fol­low­ing exercises:

  • Set aside one hour some­time and focus your atten­tion on those things that are true and hon­or­able and just and pure and love­ly and gra­cious (Phil. 4:8). How you do this depends on you. You may read or paint or sim­ply sit qui­et­ly. See how you do. Do dis­tract­ing thoughts crowd in? Evil thoughts even? What does this teach you about your inte­ri­or world?

  • Watch a movie or TV pro­gram that is focused on destruc­tion or vio­lence. How do you feel after­ward? What ideas or emo­tions were the cin­e­matog­ra­phers appeal­ing to in the movie? How ready were you to respond? Now, watch a movie or TV pro­gram focused on healthy rela­tion­ships or com­mu­ni­ty build­ing. Check your feel­ings after­ward. Are they qual­i­ta­tive­ly dif­fer­ent from your first exper­i­ment? What were the under­ly­ing ideas or assump­tions? Which expe­ri­ence influ­enced you for the better?

  • For a week or so keep a notepad by your bed and write down the very first thoughts you have as you awake in the morn­ing. Is there a pat­tern? If so, are you glad for the pat­tern or dis­ap­point­ed? Then for the next week pray these words of St. Aidan each night just before sleep, I am going now into the sleep: O be it in Thy dear arm’s keep, O God of grace, that I shall awake.” Then record your very first thoughts in the morn­ing. Are they any dif­fer­ent from the first week? What did you learn about God and your­self from this experiment?

Mem­o­rize Philip­pi­ans 3:10 – 11: I want to know Christ and the pow­er of his res­ur­rec­tion and the shar­ing of his suf­fer­ings by becom­ing like him in his death, if some­how I may attain the res­ur­rec­tion from the dead.” Now, for one month speak this pas­sage out loud every morn­ing, noon, and evening. Also, say it silent­ly as many times as you think of it dur­ing the day. After the month, see if the exer­cise trained your mind in any way. Were there days when you just could not do the exer­cise? What was hap­pen­ing on those days? Were there days when the pas­sage seemed to fit into the day’s events perfectly?

First pub­lished in Per­spec­tive, 2002.

Pho­to by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Text First Published October 2002 · Last Featured on October 2022

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