What's lacking in evangelical discipline

Some more gems from Willard, this time from The Great Omission:

The wrong habits of mind, feeling, and body are keyed so closely and so routinely to the social setting that being alone and being quiet for lengthy periods of time are, for most people, the only way they can take the body and soul out of the circuits of sin and allow them to find a new habitual orientation in the Kingdom of the Heavens. Choosing to do this and learning how to do it effectively is a basic part of what we can do to enable ourselves to do what we cannot do by direct effort, even with the assistance of grace.

Indeed, solitude and silence are powerful means to grace. Bible study, prayer, and church attendance, among the most commonly prescribed activities in Christian circles, generally have little effect for soul transformation, as is obvious to any observer. If all the people doing them were transformed to health and righteousness by them, the world would be vastly changed. Their failure to bring about the change is precisely because the body and soul are so exhausted, fragmented, and conflicted that the prescribed activities cannot be appropriately engaged in and by and large degenerate into legalistic and ineffectual rituals. Lengthy solitude and silence, including rest, can make them very powerful. (153-154)

The primary freedom we have is always the choice of where we will place our minds. That freedom is enhanced by the pratice of solitude, silence, and fasting. We can then effectively fill our minds with the Word of God, preserved in the scriptures.  To that end, memorization is vital. It is astonishing how little of the Bible is known by heart by people who profess to honor it. If we do not know it, how can it help us? It cannot. Memorization, in contrast, enables us to keep it constantly before our minds. And that makes it possible to consciously hold ourselves within the flow of God’s life that is Torah and Logos. (155)

[I]n evangelical churches, the big secret is that few people actually read their Bibles and pray. The reason they don’t is because it isn’t presented as an essential part of an overall life that is highly desirable and that we must approach in a certain way.

Christians who do read their Bibles often don’t know their Bibles. The reason why they don’t know their Bibles is because they don’t really read their Bibles as a treatise on reality, as something that brings change and transformation of our lives. For instance, many people read their Bibles on a schedule. You really only have to look at them to know what their aim is: to read the whole Bible in a year. What that plan is good for is that at the end of the year you can say you read your Bible. It’s a legalism. (Of course, some people are significantly benefited by it.)

Back of this lies the idea of portioning out little pieces of something—as if “this is going to be unpleasant,” so if you take it in little pieces it will be all right. You would never suggest this for War and Peace or any other piece of literature.  (172)

[Spiritual formation] is a biblical concept, expressed in many ways in the Bible–in admonition, in prayer, in teaching, in example. “Keep my words within your heart,” Proverbs says, “For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:21-23)… . Later, a strategy of spiritual formation is indicated: “I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11; see also Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1)… .

Biblical religion is above all a religion of the heart and of the keeping of the heart. Thus, Jesus himself stresses that there is no good tree that produces bad fruit, nor a bad tree that produces good fruit (Luke 6:43), and that the good and the evil that come out of people come from their hearts (Luke 6:45; Mark 7:21-23). We are to clean, not the outside, but the inside of the cup, and the outside will take care of itself (Matthew 23:25-26). (107-108).

I could keep going, but that should be enough to chew on…