Saturday, October 16, 2010

Book Review: How People Change

I wouldn’t have chosen to read two books about idols back-to-back, but that is pretty much what I’ve done. The book How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp is a cleverly-disguised continuation of the conviction received from Elyse Fitzpatrick's Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone. I guess God thought I needed a double dose.

The stated purpose of the book is “to get individuals and churches to think deeply, consistently, and Biblically about the gospel’s significance for the everyday matters of life.” Lane and Tripp contend that many Christians are good at seeing the gospel’s relevance to save sinners, but we aren’t so skilled at applying it to our daily lives. This is why we find change so elusive, because true change is only possible through the power of the gospel.

We should not – and need not – live long seasons of life with “gospel amnesia.” God has placed each of His children within the body of Christ, where we are meant to be constantly reminded of the value of the gospel for our daily lives. When the church is functioning as it is supposed to, the message of grace permeates every facet of the community. Wherever they turn, believers are challenged and encouraged to be transformed by the gospel’s power.

We tend to see the need for change the most when we are in the midst of a trial. Interestingly, these trials can come in the form of difficulties or blessings. A trial can be something as big as a job loss or serious illness or something as mundane as an irritating driver in front of you on the highway. Lane and Tripp define trials as “an external situation that reveals what is happening in the heart.” They go on to say this:

A trial can lead to significant personal growth at the heart level or it can lead to temptation and sin. It is very humbling and important to admit that trials do not cause you to sin. Trials do not cause us to be what we have not been; rather, they reveal what we have been all along.

Throughout the book, Lane and Tripp refer to the idols of our hearts as “God-replacements” and maintain that identifying these “God-replacements” is the first step to real change.

We worship what we find attractive. We allow many things to eclipse the beauty of Christ. We devote our hearts to our jobs, other people, a state of mind (comfort, security), success, power, peace, or money. We have many options before us, but we cannot get our identity from these things. When any of these things become more important to me than Christ, it impacts my behavior sinfully.

Our hearts are so often captivated by paltry God-replacements that matter to us more than the true God. When we start to see this, it is the beginning of change and the pathway to freedom.

The authors’ bottom line of how people change is this:

When the gospel is central, people can look honestly at their sin – not just behavioral sin, but the heart sin beneath. Real repentance looks deeply at the ways we have forsaken Christ. This produces sorrow and humility for allowing something to displace Christ from the highest place. Faith then lays hold of the grace and love offered to the repentant person. When repentance and faith are joined in this way, the person’s heart is recaptured* by Christ. This is what produces lasting change from within.

{* As a personal note, I don’t particularly like their use of the word “recaptured” here. It seems to denote that Jesus somehow “lost” the heart and had to retake control of it. However, I don’t think that was the authors’ intent. I prefer the word “re-captivated” here because I think it more accurately puts the focus on our straying heart’s need to refocus on Christ.}

The most convicting chapter for me personally was the one about change as a community project. I tend to keep my sin struggles to myself for the most part, but the authors make a compelling case that sharing your struggles with your brothers and sisters in Christ not only helps you in your struggle, but also encourages them when they see your growth. As a society, we tend to have several “surface” relationships but not very many that are deep enough to help us grow and change. While admitting that developing this kind of deep relationships takes time and effort, the authors assert that the benefits far outweigh the cost.

Meaningful relationships… require work, sacrifice, humility, and selflessness. While the idea of loving another person taps into something inherently human, it also exposes our sinful self-centeredness.

THE VERDICT: Recommended, especially for anyone involved in counseling others


Krista said...

Thanks for posting this review. I am really looking forward to reading this book one day. I have not been able to justify purchasing it yet because I have other books that I have purchased yet to read...but I have thought that this book has looked good and your review has encouraged me to get through the books I do have so I can justify buying this one!

Jennifer said...

I know what you mean, Krista. I actually got this book for Christmas last year and I'm just now getting around to reading it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...