Inner Formation of the Heart

Part 15: How We Unintentionally Reinforce the Gap to Remain

    Posted by Klaus Issler on January 18, 2010

           Unfortunately Christian leaders can reinforce the willing-doing gap in three particular ways, as indicated briefly at the beginning of these musings. When we give too much focus about external actions and too little about inner attitudes, we major on the minors. In light of our discussion on central beliefs, we can better appreciate why, in Jesus’ teaching, inner formation is more important than just focusing on outward actions (see principle #1). The formation project involves:  “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matt 23:25). Jesus himself did not worry much about the complaints against his external actions—of breaking the Sabbath, his lifestyle of perceived “gluttony and drunkenness,” or his association with “impure” people. He focused primarily on his relationship with the Father and a heart of dependence in doing what pleased the Father.

            Another way that we may reinforce the gap is by an over-emphasis on cognitively knowing the Bible without helping to nurture Christians’ inner formation into actually believing the Bible (see principle #2). Since talk is easy, one can glibly profess many Bible facts and articulate sound theology without having the respective central beliefs represented by the facts and theology. Living in the truth is the goal, not just professing it—Bible believers, not just Bible knowers. Regular Bible reading and study, and Bible memorization are essential to growth, but not sufficient in and of themselves. Additionally, regular meditation (Ps 1:2) is a critical practice. As Scriptural principles and values become more deeply embedded as central beliefs—treasuring Scripture in our hearts (Ps 119:11)—with God’s enablement we will more regularly rejoice in following his statutes (Ps 119:9-16). Theologian Peter Toon’s Meditating as a Christian: Waiting upon God (London: Collins, 1991), is a helpful introduction to the topic, including examples from church history regarding how we can affectively enter into meditating on Scripture and theology.

            Finally, a call to commitment is often presented to believers as if all one must do to bring about a new pattern of Jesus-like living is to walk the aisle (at a local church or camp) and to make a decision. Such altar calls, without offering or indicating the need for continuing, intentional engagement in formation practices does not accomplish the desired effect and adds on more guilt and doubt when no change takes place (see principle #6).

Next Musing: Part 16--Summary of the 10 Principles

Dr. Klaus Issler