DemSati 09-09-145

Satisfy Your Soul

Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality


Bruce Demarest

NavPress, 1999, 312 pp.,  ISBN 978-1-57683-130-4



Dr. Demarest spent ten years working with SIM International in West Africa and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Europe.  He is a professor of spiritual formation at Denver Seminary.  He is a life-long student of inner transformation.  In this book he provides a balanced understanding of timeless spiritual practices such as silence, meditation, contemplation, journaling, and spiritual direction.  I found it a very insightful and practical book.


Chapter 1.  Path to Discovery and Transformation

Many Christians are faithful in religious practices, but when it comes to encountering God himself, we are a bit vague.  Without a sense of really knowing God, we are perhaps not that much different from our unsaved neighbors! (22)


Spiritual formation is the "forming" or "shaping" of a believer's character and actions into the likeness of Christ. (23)  When an inner change begins, it must be nurtured and directed. (24)  It is possible to substitute a knowledge of the Bible for knowing how to interact with God Himself.  (25) 


"We Protestants are a largely undisciplined people."  As Richard Foster says, "The Disciplines…put us where [God] can work with us and transform us…."  (33)


By Christian spirituality, I mean, "the shaping of our inner character and outer conduct, in cooperation with the work of the Spirit, so that we are gradually being conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ." (38)


Chapter 2.  Spiritual Hunger

"…waves of people are seeking significance by turning to the spiritual world, which they sense instinctively." (45)  "Contemporary spiritualities aim at helping the individual realize that he or she is divine." (47) 


Many Christians "hunger for a sense of God's presence and long for a connectedness with Him that will make us come alive at the core of our being." (49)  "For the Christian, the path of connectedness to God involves the development of a Christlike mind, will, affections (or emotions), character, relationships, and actions." (50)  "Cognitive trust alone is not sufficient to form and nourish the Christian soul. …  We were made to crave God with our whole being." (52) 


"We can find help if we are willing to move beyond our prejudices and open up to God in ways that have been known to the church for centuries." (58) 


Chapter 3.  The Need for Discernment

"You can be straight as a gun barrel theologically and as empty as one spiritually." (63, quoting A. W. Tozer)


"Christian spirituality…involves cultivating a healing, renewing, and satisfying relationship with Christ, deepening love for Him, and giving flesh to the new life through obedient and fruitful living.  Christian spirituality describes our growth in those familiar pursuits, godliness and piety." (70)     


"…in the midst of life, where the commands and promises of God often do not appear to make sense, the deepest questions of our hearts are revealed.  And we are challenged to open our lives to God in ways we did not think possible." (73)  "When all is said and done, the core of Christian spirituality is a loving, deepening relationship with the living God." (74)


"The Western way emphasizes critical thinking and logical consistency."  "The Eastern mind, however, pursues truth through intuition and experience."  "Tribal people worldwide…present a third way.  They seek knowledge concretely through symbols, parables, proverbs, and storytelling. ... Old Testament poets, prophets, and sages used sensory-rich word pictures to impart spiritual truths.  So did Jesus…." (85)  "… each approach becomes unbalanced unless informed by the other two ways of knowing.  And in fact, our greatest potential for growth lies in our areas of weakness.  When truth remains in the head, we shrivel up and become spiritually lifeless.  But when the head engages the heart, new life is brought forth." (87)


Chapter 4.  Knowing God…As Intimates

"We find it easier to perform for God, rather than to learn how to be aware and work along with Him." (92)  "The truth is, God is always at work in our lives (see John 5:17), trying to communicate with us through events and other people, and waiting to ignite His written Word within our hearts.  God always seeks us out before we seek Him." (93)  


"A fulfilling and empowering connection with God cannot develop in busyness.  It comes in quietness and prayer, and as we act under His peaceful guidance in concern for others." (95)


"…transformation comes when you open yourself at a deep level with another person.  It requires closeness, vulnerability, disclosure, shared history, and complete trust.  This is where our hearts turn to jelly.  Why?  Because surrendering all that's in us to God is threatening.  First and foremost, it means giving up our tendency to insist on our own way." (97) 


"Learning to dwell in the presence of God requires us to step out from behind our shame and pretense, also our head knowledge and our good works, to show God who we really are on the inside.  And then to look long and hard into the face of who He is." (98) 


"But we expect to grow in such strong heart-bonds to God that His qualities 'flow,' like the nourishing fluids in a vine, to us.  And so, eternal life is not only imputed to us; because of Jesus' astonishing blood sacrifice that life also becomes real in us." (99)


The main obstacles that block our communication with God are unconfessed sin and failing to listen to Him.  (108-09)


"We have only to ask God to make His presence real to us, and He is likely to begin with a subtle knowing, a conviction or a calm awareness…" (115)


"God is more than a conclusion to a line of thinking.  He is a Person to be engaged and enjoyed." (119)  "A person who lacks heart connectedness to the Lord, biblically speaking, does not know God in the fullest sense."  "Reliable beliefs.  Godly affections.  Obedient action.  All three are essential to the Christian life." (120) 


Chapter 5.  Word that Feeds the Soul

"At the most basic level, meditation is a practice that is necessary to refocus the inner man from the push-and-shove outer world to the eternal--to move us from preoccupation with ourselves to thoughts of God and His concerns." (125)


Some lives are so full, God can't get our attention.  We can't hear because there is too much static.  Quieting the heart is necessary for the life of the soul.  "Quietness creates a context in which our deepest self comes to the fore, where it may be yielded to the Lord of all." (127)  "By quieting our souls, we create an empty space in our busy lives for God." (129)  Silence can prepare us to hear the Word. Preparatory relaxation creates an atmosphere of calm and silence. 


An exercise:  "Sit comfortably, and just breathe normally.  As you breathe, focus attention on the air as it enters and leaves your nostrils.  Should your mind wander, gently bring the focus back to awareness of your breath.  Continue this for several minutes."  The purpose is to quiet the soul and dispose you to an awareness of God. (131)  Deep and quiet breathing can be an aid to effective meditation. 


Another exercise:  "Again breathe normally.  As you exhale, imagine with God's help that you are breathing spiritual and emotional impurities out of your life.  These might include worry, fear, or anger.  Focus for a few moments on one impurity, then on another."  (132)


"To meditate as a Christian is to cultivate the soil of the soul, which the traffic of the world compacts and hardens."  "Meditation refocuses us from ourselves and from the world so that we reflect on God's Word, His nature, His abilities, and His works."  (133)  "Meditation, therefore, involves deep, repetitive reflection on eternal truth." (134)  "…meditation allows the Word to descend from the mind to the heart in order to renew the entire person."  (135)


Lectio divina proceeds in four stages.  In the language of the centuries they are lectio (reading), meditatio (discursive meditation), oratio (affective prayer), and contemplatio (contemplation).  As preparation for lectio, yield all your cares and concerns to the Lord.  Invite the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Word, to illumine its message to your heart." (136) 


In formative reading, the reader places himself before the Word to hear what God has to say and to respond obediently.  He approaches the sacred text with a view to Christ directing his thoughts…." (137) 


Cultivate the meditation habit.  Begin with one day a week to spend in extended time of meditation. (138)


"Ask yourself questions such as: Does this passage give me new insight into the nature of God?  Does it explain something of the spiritual life I didn't really understand…?  How do I need to alter my life to act on the insight I've gained?"  (139)


"Every one of us must make a strategic decision to break the cycle of perpetual busyness and learn how to quiet our souls before the Lord.  We need to move from being externally driven performance machines to internally motivated intimates of God." (151) 


Chapter 6.  The Power of Contemplation

Contemplation is looking to the Lord Himself, composing our souls and focusing on Him.  Some have called it practicing the presence of God.  (158) 


"At its simplest, the prayer of the heart involves lovingly reciting a biblical word or phrase, such as love or peace or a name of God, or the name Jesus. (160)  A word or sentence repeated can help us concentrate and create an inner stillness to listen to the voice of God. (160)  Scripture forbids vain or meaningless repetition, but not repetition.  Note Psalm 136. 


"First, quiet your heart by gently turning aside from the distractions of your life.  Begin by focusing your thoughts on an attribute of God, such as His power, goodness, or mercy."  "Then rest in the Lord, believing that as you draw near to God, He will draw near to you (James 4:8)."   "Look to the Lord in faith with singular attentiveness.  Listen for His voice.  Sense His presence.  Rest in His love." (163)


"Meditation investigates, contemplation wonders." (164)


"The purpose of contemplation is not primarily to form ideas about God.  No, it's to enter into God's presence and be touched by the One who lives at the center of our being." (168) 


"Verbal prayer changes circumstances in the external world; contemplative prayer changes the inner world of the Christian who so prays." (170) 


"For many Christians, keeping a spiritual journal proves to be a rich contemplative experience.  In the spiritual journal you record responses to Scripture meditation, prayer experiences, insights into God's ways, conversations with a spiritual friend, and spiritual struggles and victories."  (180)  "…a journal sharpens our perspective on the footprints of God in our lives."  (182) 


Chapter 7.  Spiritual Helpers

"A spiritual helper, in the broadest sense, is a mature Christian who offers soul-care in the form of spiritual friendship, spiritual guidance, spiritual mentoring, or spiritual direction." (189)  "…spiritual helpers must be people who know how to lead us more deeply into God's will, ministering to us as God's unique plan unfolds." (190) 


"…spiritual direction refers to the structured ministry in which a gifted and experienced Christian, called a spiritual director, helps another believer grow in relationship with and obedience to Christ."  This person must be gifted in discernment, wisdom, and knowledge.  "Their task is to help people see the footprints of God in their lives and, now and again, to urge them to move in directions that they might not go otherwise." (193, quoting Richard Foster)


Spiritual helpers must have a vital Christian faith, have knowledge and understanding of Scripture, be people of loving concern, possess discernment, and have experienced and overcome some suffering and failure in life.  (202-03) 


"The dark night is the result of God's mysterious withdrawal.  For a season, God providentially distances Himself, causing the light to become darkness. Spiritually God's absence creates a vacuum that can show us the emptiness of our fleshly attachments, such as our dependence on people and things for a security they cannot give and our reliance on position and money for power that is weak indeed.  When we let go of these attachments, then we are propelled toward Christlikeness.  And so, through the anguish of the dark night, God performs something like 'spiritual surgery' on deeply rooted self-sufficiency, sensuality, and pride.  In this light, the dark night is an event the spiritual Christian sees as God-induced--or permitted by God--for his or her ultimate good.  It is God's work--painful, but unerringly powerful--in our purification." (224)


"To become like Christ, the Christian must be purified by pain."  "In this life, suffering is inevitable, but for the Christian it is always purposeful." (214)


Chapter 8.  Redemptive Counseling

Counseling psychology in a Christian context is "a ministry where a Christian counselor, employing insights from psychology and listening, relating, and offering advice to another, seeks to restore interior health." (221)


"…all disciplines, including psychology, contain important aspects of truth.  But they also contain distortions of truth due to disturbance of judgment by sin.  The bottom line is that psychology contains much constructive truth mixed with error.  The Christian's task is to identify and welcome what is true in psychology…while rejecting what is inconsistent with the biblical standard of truth." (224)


Emotional disorder and psychological woundedness affects spiritual vitality and growth.  And serious spiritual problems also affect our psychological and physical functioning.  (226) 


"But where psychological insights are based on thorough research, where they agree with Scripture and are shown to be practically helpful, they should be accepted as good gifts from God.  We Christians delight in what is biblical; we accept truth that is extra-biblical, but we reject what is unbiblical." (232)


"Emotional wounds of the past act as anchors, hidden from our sight, that hold us back in our spiritual progress." (237) 


"When a person becomes a Christian, he is delivered from condemnation, not necessarily from emotional illness.  God uses Christian psychological counseling--properly interpreted and applied--to bring healing to His children.  A biblically framed psychology helps to diagnose emotional and spiritual problems and offers healing solutions." (251)


Chapter 9.  Wisdom of the Spiritual Classics

There is an overwhelming wealth of material left to us by men and women who walked closely with God.  "The truth is, we can gain amazing insights about life, suffering, love, loss, God, the church, and our poor, confused selves if we approach the writings of the spiritual masters with open heart and mind." (256)


The author lists the favorite classics of several noted authors and categorizes some of them.


The evangelical tradition lacks a spirituality to give staying power to its theology.  Ours tends toward a doctrinal spirituality.  "But Christian renewal traditions often engage the heart of God more profoundly, for there is an affective spirituality.  Believers in the body need to learn from each other's strengths and appropriate the riches of each other's traditions." (278) 


Chapter 10.  Getting On with the Spiritual Journey

"Spiritual progress occurs through the synergy of God's initiative and our trusting response." (287)  "Christ is not merely one aspect of the Christian life; He, and the formation of His life in us, is its sum and substance."  If you want to be spiritually restored and renewed, become a Christ-seeking and Christ-centered person.  (287)  "By dying to ourselves and trusting our futures to Him, love deepens." (288) 


"Isolated from spirituality, theology can become dry and barren.  Isolated from theology, spirituality can drift into platitudinous piety.  Theology and spirituality must be bound together in mutually nourishing relationship." (292) 



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