True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer

How to live for Jesus moment by moment

Foreword by Charles Colson

I’m intrigued by Chuck’s summary: “It is a probing, penetrating search through the Scriptures for what it means to be truly Christian”.

Introduction by Jerram Barrs

The series of lectures that form the material for this book was born from a time of spiritual crisis in Francis’ life. He was concerned with the lack of Christian reality that he saw in himself, others and Christian organisations – a lack of fruitfulness, lack of transformation, lack of joy.

Basically his starting question is, once born again through faith in Christ, what does it look like to live the Christian life? And I think in summary, the answer is – living the Christian life looks remarkably like the way we started the Christian life – justified by faith, sanctified by faith i.e. we live by faith.

Another point Jerram makes which I have found to be true is that Francis has a unique writing style and form of theological insight that feels a lot more philosophical, psychological and sociological than what I am otherwise used to, whilst still being biblically grounded.


Chapter 1: The law and the law of love

Big idea

The Christian life starts with being born again. Living the Christian life is more than external/outward behaviour – it is inward (not to covet against God and man is the climax of 10 commandments). And it is not ultimately a negative inward (i.e. do not covet), but it is positive (i.e. being alive to God, on a true personal level, in this moment of time)

Big takeways

  • I am not saved by faith. Faith is the instrument by which I accept the free gift of salvation
  • Faith is not a jump in the dark but is believing the specific promises of God – “raising the empty hands of faith and accepting the finished word of Christ”
  • Just like a baby being born, so too with being born again – that is just the beginning – the important thing after that is how you live
  • Living as a Christian, we are free from trying to live by trite lists of rules, but we are ‘free’ to a much more confronting thing – the Law of Love i.e. love God and man
  • The last commandment (do no covet) summarises the rest. When you break any of the others, you break the last commandment as well.
  • Love God enough to be contented in “all things”
  • Love fellow people enough not to envy (even of good things)
  • True Christian living is internal, not external
  • Matthew 22:37-39
  • There is to be a positive exhibition in present history of our future resurrection

Chapter 2: The centrality of death

Big idea / key takeway

I am to face the cross of Christ in every part of life and with my whole man. The cross of Christ is to be a reality to me not only once at my conversion but all through my life as a Christian. This is the ‘negative’ of the Christian life – now to the positive…

Chapter 3: Through death to resurrection

Much discussion of the reality of transfiguration and resurrection of Jesus as real events in space and time – and how in these things Jesus is the ‘firstfruits’.

Big idea

  1. Christ died in history
  2. Christ rose in history
  3. We died with Christ in history
  4. We will be raised in history
  5. We live by faith as though we have died
  6. We live by faith as though we raised from the dead

Romans 6:11

Key takeaways

  • Live now as though I have died, been to heaven and come back again as risen
  • This is a moment-by-moment thing
  • If no one preached Christ today, it would make no difference to the fact that he is raised, he is glorified
  • In the present life, I am to live now as though I am dead now (to sin), and alive to God (Romans 6:11)

Chapter 4: In the Spirit’s power

Big idea: Reality of Christian resurrection (for those who have died), and translation (for those still alive), previewed in transfiguration (Moses, Elijah)


  • Only two realities for Christian – in this life with Christ living in me, or with the Lord. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord
  • I am to live by faith now rooted in things that have been (Christ death), is now (unseen stream of spiritual reality), and what will be (bodily resurrection or return with Christ)
  • The power of the crucified, risen, glorified Christ is with the dead in paradise now, and lives in us now bringing forth this fruit
  • I will not be ashamed experientially when I act on the reality of the spirit of God living in me
  • ‘active passivity’ – e.g. Mary, Jesus mother – ‘be it unto me according to your word i.e. according to your promises, bring forth your fruit in me.

Chapter 5: The supernatural reality

Big idea: There is to be an experiential reality, moment-by-moment of supernatural world – in our relationship to Christ, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, by faith


  • Our world is naturalistic and will easily crowd in on our Christian thinking
  • Supernatural and natural worlds are part of same reality e.g. transfiguration, Jesus resurrection e.g. road to Emmaus, 2 Kings 6:16
  • Christian lives in practice in the supernatural world now – this is the life of faith, moment-by-moment

Chapter 6: Salvation: Past – Future – Present

Big idea: Justification is past, sanctification is present, glorification is future – a single piece, a flowing stream – the same base (Christ), the same instrument (faith) – one in history, the other moment-by-moment


  • The one thing that heaven will not contain – the privilege of living a supernatural life now by faith
  • Salvation is a unity between me and trinity – restores my relationship with Father, new relationship with Christ, and indwelt with Spirit
  • Christians are to be a demonstration to the world until Christ returns of the supernatural world
  • Justification must be understood as irrevocable. I cannot be more or less justified

Chapter 7: The fruitful bride

Big idea: Christian life is bringing forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the agent of the crucified, raised, glorified Christ as my whole man (will, mind, emotion) believes in God’s promises, moment-by-moment


  • If I am not bringing forth fruit, I am being spiritually unfaithful
  • Parallel between justification and sanctification – both via instrument of faith, both happen in a moment. Justification in a single moment, and sanctification in an ongoing series of moments. The only way to live the Christian life is moment-by-moment
  • It is not doctrine alone that is important, but doctrine appropriated i.e. made real


i.e. wider considerations of the True Christian Life

Chapter 8: Freedom from conscience

Big idea: God means for us to have as one of his gifts in this life, freedom from a false tyranny of the conscience.


  • Before we can concern ourselves with freedom from results  of bonds of sin, we must be sure we understand and believe how we are free from bonds of sin i.e. the gospel, or else all that follows becomes just some psychological trick
  • In considering freedom from conscience, there are two dangers to avoid – sinless perfectionism, and secondly an almost resigned acceptance of the presence of sin in the life of a Christian
  • Our conscience is like an iceberg – 1/10 above the surface (conscience) and 9/10 below (sub-conscience)
  • At the point when I fall into sin and my conscience is in trouble, I seek a way back to God and it is familiar – confess my sin (1 John 1:49)
  • If we have sin in our lives, and we go on, and God does not chastise us, then we are not children of God
  • Get specific. It’s easy to want God’s will in a general sense. It’s important to want God’s will in relation to our specific sin
  • God is not an abstraction or a doctrine. He is a person, really there.
  • The reality of the fact of the blood of Christ has meaning in our present life – bring specific sin under the blood of Christ
  • There must be death before there can be life
  • As I consciously say thank you to God for a completed work on the cross, my conscience should come into rest as I have been supernaturally restored
  • Reality is meant to be experienced, not understood in creeds or doctrines

Chapter 9: Freedom in the thought-life

Big idea: True spirituality always begins inside, in our thought world and in the thought world is where the spiritual battle occurs


  • First comes an idea, then comes the outward result. True spirituality is a matter of our thoughts. The external is the expression, the results i.e. the battle is won in the mind, not in the actions (Matt 12:3, sermon on mount, Mat 15:17-20)
  • The reality of communion with God must take place in the inward self – personality
  • Battle for men is in world of ideas, not behaviour
  • 3 steps
  1. Internal is first
  2. Internal causes external
  3. Morally, internally is central (remember 10th command)

Chapter 10: Substantial healing of psychological problems

Big idea: As Christ’s death is infinite, all the true guilt in us is covered, and guilt feelings that remain are part of the psychological miseries of fallen man


  • Substantial does not mean perfect
  • The Christian position states two things: 1) God is there, this infinite-personal God; and that 2) you have been made in his image, so you are there. From here, you can make intellectual sense of your place in the world
  • Who am I? I am personal, rational, moral. Personality – like God, Finite – like creation
  • The rebellion of man is trying to live outside of the circle in which God has placed him
  • Got a bit lost in this chapter. Seems to be arguing that without Christian understanding, in all the deep elements of man within himself – rationality, morality, emotions – he is damned i.e. conflicted
  • In the fall, man is divided from men, nature and himself i.e. the curse causes this internal conflict within self
  • There is psychological guilt, and there is moral guilt. Remember iceberg. Not always possible to know which is which. All too often evangelical tradition tends to try to ignore the iceberg below the surface. Our part is to function in that which is above the surface and confess whatever sin I know to bring under the finished work of Christ on the cross
  • Gradually as one does this, the Holy Spirit helps one to see deeper into themselves (below the surface)
  • All people have a psychological problem. They differ in degree, but since the fall, all people have a problem

Chapter 11: Substantial healing of the total person

Big idea: To live moment by moment through faith on the basis of the blood of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit is the only really integrated way to live – communion with God, not divided against self, in my place as creature before creator in a fallen abnormal world


  • God may miraculously heal a person, but does not heal his total physical self i.e. substantial healing and not perfect e.g. heal hernia but a headache that night
  • Be the creature, not try to be the creator
  • The Christian doctrine is not just rational answers, but in practice provides healing to the whole self e.g. not just theoretical psychology but practical
  • For the Christian, there is never fear of the impersonal because the personal infinite God is really there
  • Simple profound truth: “Do not be afraid because God is here”
  • No fear of non-being. I know that I am, and who I am – I have a valid existence
  • No fear of death. For Christian there is continuity of life from here into the world to come. Death is not a chasm, as we have crossed the chasm at new birth
  • Whilst in the moment of experience, these truths can be difficult to apply, at least we have a rational framework in which to process this.
  • We must help each other to think and live in the light of the truth of the total unified Christian system
  • False integration points – false idols – functional saviours. Money, sex, religion etc. Like a garbage can trying to fit in a man. False integration points not big enough to account for the whole man
  • Roll all your cares onto him (1 Peter 5:7). A personal infinite God, Matt 11:28
  • Justified in Christ, but present communion with God requires constant bowing in intellect and will

Chapter 12: Substantial healing in personal relationships

Big idea: God is personal and infinite. Human relationships will not be perfect (the Fall) but on the basis of the finished work of Christ, human relationships can be healed, joyous. Christians are to show forth a personal God to the watching world, and demonstrate real personal relationships, that can be fun!


  • God deals with us on the basis of who he is, and how we made us.
  • Man is called not to be justified, but to love God with all his heart, soul, mind, strength
  • Just as our end point with God must not be truths about him, but relationship with him, so too in our relationships we must not settle for anything less than real personal relationships of love and communication
  • But I need to accept myself as an equal to all men before I can turn outward
  • We are called to demonstrate God to the world. To do this, we must demonstrated personal relationship
  • If I love neighbour, I will love for him to be right. Even if he is wrong, I will not rejoice in being right.
  • Confess to God first, then confess to man. And because our integration point is God rather than ourselves, we can admit we are wrong because our ‘centre’ is Christ
  • Our confession to God and to man must be as open as Christ’s crucifixion on a hill. We must be ready for the shame as well as the pain.
  • If you seek for all that you need for human relationships, you will suck them dry and they can never satisfy. But Christian sufficiency in infinite personal God relationship

Chapter 13: Substantial healings in the church

Big idea: The church, as Christ’s body, should exhibit him to the world until he returns – acting in moment by moment, based on sound doctrine, but in practice, flowing out into the total culture


  • Unity is not about equality, but that all areas are controlled by the one head
  • The church should represent the supernaturally restored human race in reality
  • The church should seek to retain its spiritual purity in the visible church
  • The communion of saints is not just a creed. It is to be exhibited
  • The church cannot just teach in words, but in practice it must consciously demonstrate supernatural world
  • If all that the bible teaches concerning prayer and the Holy Spirit was removed from the bible, would practical difference would it make to how our church functions? Answer, hopefully: A lot!
  • 3 universal promises of God to the church for this era:
  1. Power in the holy spirit Acts 1:8
  2. Fruit of the spirit Galations 5:22ff
  3. Christ will be with the church through the HS John 14:16-18
  • These promises are what the world should see when they look at the church!
  • Prayer is the place where the church is the church i.e. practically operating by faith
  • We love ‘the church’ as we love the people in our local church
  • We don’t want to have orthodoxy, but dead an ugly in practice
  • Avoid cold impersonal acts as bare duty, but share whole man with whole man in love and communication
  • The church should be what is can be, recognising that the members do not need to hang onto each other, because the integration point is God

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