Vacation for me, among other things, means time to read. Lots of leisurely, lovely, luxurious time to devour a book from cover-to-cover without lots of stops and starts.
I got to do that this past week in NC with How People Change (Tim Lane & Paul Tripp, New Growth Press, 2006, 258 pages).
I liked it and I hated it at the same time.
I liked it because of its practical aim. The goal of this book is to help you grasp the implications of the good news of Jesus Christ for your identity and the daily trials and temptations you face (p. 36). Who doesn’t face daily trials and temptations? Who doesn’t at times feel stuck within a malaise of difficulties that seem to leave a believer powerless and decidedly unspiritual? I know I do.
I found lots of good stuff here, biblically-based and practically-applied principles for addressing how God works through the heat of trials to reveal the thorns of our flesh to lead us to the cross of Christ to bring forth the fruit of the gospel. That’s the book in a nutshell.
I hated it because it put me on a path of examining my heart that revealed way too much of its sinfulness. Don’t you hate that?
This book reminded me of one of the truths I have struggled most to accept in the process of my personal sanctification. In the immortal words of Pogo, We have met the enemy and he is us!
While external conditions can be very influential in our lives and should not be ignored, the Bible says that they are only the occasion for sin, not the cause. Difficulties in life do not cause sin. Our background, relationships, situation, and physical condition only provide the opportunity for the thoughts, words, and actions to reveal whatever is already in our hearts. Our hearts are the ultimate cause of our responses, and where the true spiritual battle is fought … [while] we must never minimize our suffering – ours or anyone else’s … we must make the important distinction between the occasion for sin and the ultimate cause of sin. This will determine what you think the solution to the problem will be …The bible says that my real problem is not psychological (low self-esteem or unmet needs), social (bad relationships and influences), historical (my past), or physiological (my body). They are significant influences, but my real problem is spiritual (my straying heart and my need for Christ). I have replaced Christ with something else, and as a consequence, my hearts is hopeless and powerless. Its responses reflect its bondage to whatever it is serving instead of Christ. Ultimately my real problem is a worship disorder.
So during my week of vacation in NC the Lord confronted me with my impatience, my hero-worship, my love of comfort, my sense of entitlement, oh I could go on. But how depressing a thought is that?
Thank God Lane and Tripp take the reader to the gospel, my only hope and your only hope.
If you are feeling stuck and won’t mind the pain to get to the gain of the gospel, get a copy of this book and read it before you go on vacation so you don’t ruin your vacation.