Saturday, October 9, 2010

Recommended Classic: Introduction to the Devout Life by Francis de Sales

A breath of fresh air, Francis de Sales’ classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, invites all believers to enter the deeper life in Christ. Not reserved for just a few spiritual people, the life of genuine devotion to Jesus is available to all believers.

Describing the inner life of faith, De Sales welcomes his readers to engage in a deeper walk with the Lord than they have known before. With profound insight, he exposes our self-focus and the spiritual games that we often play instead of allowing Christ to transform our thoughts, attitudes and actions. Appreciated by believers with a sincere desire to grow—evangelicals and Roman Catholics alike—this work is down to earth.

De Sales opens the book with several guided reflections on Scripture. It addresses the pragmatic issues of Christian growth including purity, patience, humility and anxiety, and it deals with the situations of everyday life, how they can be sanctified, and how we can be truly sanctified in the process.

With penetrating insight, de Sales challenges us to practice spiritual disciplines that we need most—not necessarily the ones we like the best. “In practicing any virtue, it is well to choose that which is most according to our duty,” he states, “rather than most according to our taste” (86). Fasting may come easily to some, but what they need to work on are gentleness and patience. Others may prefer solitude, but confessing sin is more valuable. Still others like small group sharing and activity, but their greatest need—and opportunity for most profound growth—comes as they cultivate solitude and their own personal walk with Jesus.

De Sales offers helpful tools for honestly examining our lives, our attitudes, our obedience and our spiritual formation. In the final section of the book he suggests ways to take a yearly retreat to review our growth and gain new focus for the coming year.

Introduction to the Devout Life is a practical manual on how to live the deeper life. It challenges us not to be satisfied with the status quo of our spiritual growth, yet encourages us to be gentle with ourselves and others during that maturation process. It breathes with creativity, wisdom and hope. Although not as well known as some other classics, this book is one of the true gems of Christian spiritual formation!

Francis de Sales. Introduction to the Devout Life. Vintage Spiritual Classics. New York: Random House, 2002. ISBN: 0-375-72562-8.

2010 © Glenn E. Myers

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