Dallas Willard's Divine Conspiracy
For the fourth summer in a row, I just finished leading groups through Willard's awesome book, The Divine Conspiracy. We use it as a postlude for our DC graduates (our 21-month discipleship curriculum, Thoroughly Equipped) and as an prelude for others to enter DC in the Fall.
The book critiques the church on the left and on the right-- the former for reducing Christian living to some version of the "social gospel" and the latter for reducing Christianity to conversion and "fire insurance". (Willard also critiques the left for reducing Jesus to a great teacher whose teachings, ironically, they dismiss when inconvenient. The right is allergic to references to Jesus and teacher, and paralleling that, largely ignore his role as a teacher!) Instead, Willard says the gospel does save us out of God's mercy and grace, but it is not just a "gospel for dying" but a "gospel for living". After setting the table, more than half of the book uses the Sermon on the Mount as a springboard for a discussion of apprenticeship under Christ, in living out abundant and eternal lives in His Kingdom-- now.
Willard is a philosophy professor at USC and has made amazing contributions to the field of "spiritual formation" and spiritual disciplines. His book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, is a must-read on the "whys" of the spiritual disciplines. (It is an indispensable precursor to Richard Foster's more famous book on the "hows" of the spiritual disciplines, Celebration of Discipline.)