Christian Education Professor Addresses ‘Gaps’ in our Spiritual Formation

Klaus Issler takes issues of money and business head on

Mar. 14, 2012 By Joseph Gorra

It’s rare today to have business leaders, philanthropists and scholars endorse a spiritual formation book by a professor of Christian education. 

But Professor Klaus Issler’s recently released book, “Living into the Life of Jesus,” is not your quintessential evangelical spiritual formation book.

Written for the general public, Issler’s book offers a tender-hearted, winsome and practical vision of how to enter into the life of Jesus.

One of the unique contributions of the book is Issler’s ability to help readers sort through the “spiritual formation gaps” in their experience and to learn how to address these with intentionality and divine assistance.

In many ways, “Living into the Life of Jesus” is a testament to Issler’s ability to be acutely attentive to the teaching-learning process and how sound knowledge is to comfortably rest in sound action.

“In my view, good theology is always practical,” said Issler. “It has important implications for living well on a daily basis.”

Biola University’s director of strategic alliances, Greg Leith, endorsed the book, noting how Issler “tackles the tough topics of money, the marketplace and generosity.” 

Issler’s final chapter, which Leith alludes to, does something that few contemporary books in evangelical spiritual formation attempt: seriously attend to how money and work shape our “spiritual formation gaps” and why it is important to address them in our everyday life in God.

As Beeson Divinity School’s Calvin Miller wrote in the foreword to the book, “Klaus Issler is a man for all seasons.” It also turns out that “Living into the Life of Jesus” is a resourceful spiritual formation book for various seasons and backgrounds of life.

Read a preview of Klaus Issler’s full interview:

In general, one of the many things I respect about your work is how attentive you are to the teaching-learning process, theology and biblical studies, spiritual formation and even issues of philosophy. Can you tell us how you appreciate these areas, especially their convergence for knowing how to “live into the life of Jesus”?

ISSLER:  I like getting the whole enchilada. I see as my task to be a “trusted editor” who explores the sometimes dusty technical tomes from these various fields of knowledge that offer key nuggets and insights about the formation process.  Then I enjoy the challenge of taking these seemingly disparate pieces of information and weaving them together into a unity to provide readers a more holistic picture, in what I hope can now appear as a seamless presentation.  

Sometimes professing Christians have an idealized view of spirituality and what it means to be Jesus’ disciples. How do we deal with this?

ISSLER: “Life in God” as another add-on item — for all that effort we expend on this — yields only great frustration, guilt and no deep change. I’m finding that, rather than worrying so much about my external actions, I’m paying more attention to my inner life — the heart of the matter — to my reactions to others, to what sense of peace or pressure I’m experiencing, to whether or not I’m consciously aware of inviting God to be involved in my daily activities. Though this change of focus may not yield immediate formation results, it will do so in the long run. Faithful Christian living is not a 100-yard dash, but a marathon, in which good, solid plodding, step by step, more like the tortoise than the hare, brings one to complete the course, and do it well. 

You also say that the Holy Spirit is a “divine mentor in Jesus’ life and ours.” But even for some self-identified Christians, the Spirit is not often believed as a mentor in our everyday practices. How is the Spirit’s work a resource in this regard, and how has He empowered your own journey?

ISSLER: The Evangelical Trinity tends to be “Father, Son and Holy Scriptures.” For much of my adult life, the Holy Spirit was a doctrine I could teach, but was not on the radar screen of my daily living experience. Paraphrasing Paul, we experience the miracle of the Spirit’s ministry in our conversion, but we tend to go it alone in our daily Christian walk (Gal. 3:1-3). Without the Spirit’s mentoring and empowering ministry, Jesus could not have accomplished his mission (see Ch 5 of the book). A significant awakening encounter with the Holy Spirit at age 47 began my conscious awareness and increasing dependence on the Spirit’s work. Scripture is clear that the Spirit is the agent of sanctification. I want to be a more cooperative and aware learner, rather than clueless and stubborn student, who tends to  quench the Spirit’s good work as I formerly did, now much less.  I can’t imagine that I would be experiencing the current freedom and peace if I had not been a bit more willing and aware over these last 10 years. I still suffer from spiritual cholesterol — but I hope it keeps being reduced more and more as I invite the Spirit’s ministry in my life.

See the full interview here.

You can learn more about Klaus’ work by visiting his website at www.klausissler.org.

Written by Joseph Gorra, Biola’s Christian Apologetics Program. For more information, contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator, at 562.777.4061 or at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.

 

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