Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal by Richard Lovelace (Book Notes)

One of the great evangelical classics of the last thirty years that has received far too little attention is Richard F. Lovelace’s Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1979).

This is a wise and balanced book that explores the theological framework and actual experience of spiritual renewal and revival, with a good bit of church history thrown in. It should be essential reading for anyone in pastoral ministry and/or anyone concerned with personal or corporate revival. (It’s also one of only a handful of books that I quoted multiple times in Christ Formed in You.)

To whet your appetite for Lovelace, here are a few of my favorite quotations:

“Growth in faith is the root of all spiritual growth and is prior to all disciplines of works. True spirituality is not a superhuman religiosity; it is simply true humanity released from bondage to sin and renewed by the Holy Spirit. This is given to us as we grasp by faith the full content of Christ’s redemptive work: freedom from the guilt and power of sin, and newness of life through the indwelling and outpouring of his Spirit.” (p. 19-20)

“Spiritual life flows out of union with Christ, not merely imitation of Christ. When the full dimensions of God’s gracious provision in Christ are not clearly articulated in the church, faith cannot apprehend them, and the life of the church will suffer distortion and attenuation. The individual Christian and the church as a whole are alive in Christ, and when any essential dimensions of what it means to be in Christ are obscured in the church’s understanding there is no guarantee that the people of God will strive toward and experience fullness of life.” (p. 74)

“In order to experience normal spirituality Christians must go with Jesus Christ into mission, must depend on him to direct and empower in this, and must give and take sustenance in community with the members of his body.” (p. 78)

“Spiritual life is produced by the presence and empowering of the Holy Spirit, not simply by the comprehension of doctrinal propositions or strategies of renewal.” (p. 79)
“Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. Many have so slight an apprehension of God’s holiness and of the extent and guilt of their sin that consciously they see little need for justification, although below the surface their lives are deeply guilt-ridden and insecure. Many others have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification . . . drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience. Few enough know to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude.” (p. 101)

Regeneration is “the beachhead of sanctification in the soul.” (p. 104)

“Regeneration is the re-creation of spiritual life in those who are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). It occurs in the depths of the human heart, at the roots of consciousness, infusing new life which is capable of spiritual awareness, perception and response, and is no longer ‘alienated from the life of God’ (Eph. 4:18).” (p. 108)

“Sanctification, like justification, is grounded in union with Christ. The power of sin to rule their lives has been destroyed in the cross of Christ; we have died with Christ, and have been raised up together with him in newness of life. Therefore we are not to set the estimates of our power to conquer sin according to past experiences of our will power, but are to fix our attention on Christ and the power of his risen life in which we participate: for we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.” (p. 115)

“The principle work of the Spirit in applying redemption lies in making us holy, and being filled with the Spirit simply means having all our faculties under his control rather than under the control of sin.” (p. 125)

“We should make a deliberate effort at the outset of every day to recognize the person of the Holy Spirit, to move into the light concerning his presence in our consciousness and to open up our minds and to share all our thoughts and plans as we gaze by faith into the face of God. We should continue to walk throughout the day in a relationship of communication and communion with the Spirit mediated through our knowledge of the Word, relying upon every office of the Holy Spirit’s role as counselor mentioned in Scripture. We should acknowledge him as the illuminator of truth and of the glory of Christ. We should look to him as teacher, guide, sanctifier, give of assurance concerning our sonship and standing before God, helper in prayer, and as the one who directs and empowers witness.” (p. 131)

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