Unpacking Atonement and Transformation

Gary W. Moon Part 3 of 3

Did you know that Dallas Willard didn’t have a daily “quiet time”? In fact, he spent his entire day keeping company with Jesus. Given that the only time Jesus defined eternal life is found in John 17.3, being in a knowing relationship with the Trinity, you could say that Dallas spent his day in Salvation—being in a transforming friendship with the Trinity.

In this interview, Gary and Dallas discuss the various theories of atonement, Dallas tells Gary how he believes transformation is possible, and shares some of the practical ways he attempts to live each day “with God.”

Dallas Willard devoted his life to Christ, specifically “providing a consistent, authentic, and profound voice calling nonbelievers to Christ, and Christians to an authentic transformation in Christ.” (P12) This issue focuses on change, and how a commonly held belief among modern Christians is to look upon salvation as a moment that began our religious life instead of, as Dallas put it, “the daily life we receive from God.” He unpacks this beautifully when he defines salvation as deliverance from sin and guilt. But what stands out to me, and that Dallas says is crucial to our transformation, is how we understand our salvation occurring over our lifetime, and the vital role the members of the Trinity play in our [continued] salvation. The Gospel gives us new mercies for each day, and our friendship with the members of the Trinity allows us to receive them.

Dallas reminds us here that spiritual growth is an eternal project. On page 17 he says, “You need to understand all aspects of you as a human being [thinking, feeling, choosing, relating, etc] and how redemption comes into them by your discipleship to Christ and growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” He says much more about whole-person transformation in his book, Renovation of the Heart (NavPress, 2002)

Gary also asked Dallas about the rhythms he kept to work out his salvation on a daily basis.  Routinely, when he woke in the mornings he would meditate on the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm. He also made gratitude a regular practice, and invited the Lord to be with him throughout the day. In his words, “My main objective is to keep the Lord at my right hand, or to use another biblical image, always before me. So, my objective is to go through my day with God.” Dallas was such a wise and humble teacher, and his influence on the topic of Kingdom living will continue to impact generations of Christ-followers.

In each issue of our newsletters which focus on the Conversations Journal we hope to provide thoughtful content, along with questions to consider that will help you form connections between what you read, and how God might be speaking to you though it. Perhaps this can foster meaningful conversations with those in your community group, your spouse or a friend. Authentic change happens in community.

  1. Have you considered salvation to be a life-long process, or a one-time conversion experience? What helped inform your view and what ways did this article challenge or affirm that?
  2. Reflect on a time when you needed to make changes in your life (whether in thought, behavior, relationship, or volition) How did your relationship with God impact your ability to make those changes? Was the change lasting?
  3. In his opening paragraphs Gary Moon shares that he knows few people who actually look like Jesus, and one of them was Dallas Willard. Who in your life has experienced transformation that causes them to resemble Christ? Spend some time in prayer thanking God for his mercy in bringing this friendship into your life. Consider sharing with your friend how you’ve experienced the image of God in them.
  4. What does it mean to you to be an active participant in a ‘transforming friendship with the Trinity’?
  5. Dallas shared a few of his daily habits that help him keep company with Jesus. The first two relied on his reflection of passages of Scripture that he’d memorized. The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (Calhoun, IVP 2005) defines memorization as “the process of continually remembering words, truths, and images God uses to shape us. Memorization provides us with a store of learning, which can be accessed anywhere anytime.” Consider starting your days this week by meditating on Psalm 23 and/or the Lord’s Prayer. Notice how beginning your day by inviting God to be a part of it stirs your heart in new and different ways.
  6. When you find yourself captivated by a Scripture, write it on a card that you can tape to a mirror, a window or even the shower wall. Every day read this verse, rehearsing it in your mind and heart. On a daily basis remind yourself of the Scripture until you know it by heart. Only then are you ready to move on to another portion of Scripture.1
  7. If you were put in solitary confinement, what sort of things would you have learned by heart to nourish your soul?

 

Footnotes
  1. Questions # 6 and 7 are taken from from The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, by Adele Calhoun.
Listen to all parts in this A Guide to How We Change series