Books

Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands by Paul David Tripp (Book Notes)


This afternoon I've been reviewing some old notes from Paul Tripp's book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2002). I thought I would post them in hopes of whetting your appetite for more!

Quotes about Sin

“Sin is the ultimate disease, the grand psychosis. You cannot escape it or defeat it on your own . . . Our deepest problem is not experiential, biological, or relational; it is moral, and it alters everything. It distorts our identity, alters our perspective, details our behavior, and kidnaps our hope.” (12)

Rebellion – “more than breaking a few rules; it is a fundamental flaw in my character” (13). “Rebellion is the inborn tendency to give in to the lies of autonomy, self-sufficiency, and self-focus. It results in a habitual violation of God-given boundaries.

”Autonomy says, ‘I have the right to do what I want when I want to do it.’ Self-sufficiency says, ‘I have everything I need in myself, so I don’t need to depend on or submit to anyone.’ Self-focus says, ‘I am the center of my world. It is right to live for myself and to do only what brings me happiness.’” (14)

Foolishness – “Foolishness believes that there is no perspective, insight, theory, or ‘truth’ more reliable than my own. It buys into the lie that we know better. It causes us to distort reality and live in worlds of our own making. It is as if we look at life through a carnival mirror, convinced that we see clearly” (14).

“Foolishness is a rejection of our basic nature as human beings. We were never created to be our own source of wisdom. We were designed to be revelation receivers, dependent on the truths God would teach us, and applying those truths to our lives” (15).

Inability to do what God ordained us to do – “This inability colors every situation and relationship in our lives. It is not just that I don’t want to do God’s will, or that I think my way is better, it’s that even when I have the right intentions, I can’t pull it off” (15)

Quotes on the Heart, Desires, and Idols

“The Bible uses ‘heart’ to describe the inner person. Scripture divides the human being into two parts, the inner and outer being. The outer person is your physical self; the inner person is your spiritual self (Eph. 3:160. The synonym the Bible most often uses for the inner being is the heart. It encompasses all the other terms and functions used to describe the inner person (spirit, soul, mind, emotions, will, etc.). These other terms do not describe something different from the heart. Rather, they are aspects of it, parts or functions of the inner person.” (59)

“A tree produces fruit, and our hearts produce behavior. We recognize a tree by the fruit it produces, and in the same way, the Bible says people are known by their fruit” (61).

“An idol of the heart is anything that rules me other than God.” (66)

“Sin is fundamentally idolatrous. I do wrong things because my heart desires something more than the Lord. Sin produces a propensity toward idolatry in us all. We all migrate away from worship and service of the Creator toward worship and service of the created thing. This is the great spiritual war beneath every battle of behavior – the war for control of the heart” (66)

“Sin leads us to believe that life can be found away from the Creator, and so we, in subtle and obvious ways, forget the Creator and deify the creation. Our behavior is ruled, not by worship and service of the Lord, but by a ravenous desire for something in the creation. As John Calvin said, our hearts are ‘idol factories,’ and our words and actions are shaped by our pursuit of the things our hearts crave.” (67)

“To make matters worse, this idolatry is hidden. It is deceptive; it exists underground. We can make this great exchange without forsaking our confessional theology or even our observance of the external duties of the faith. So we hold onto our beliefs, tithe, remain faithful in church attendance, and occasionally participate in ministry activity. Yet at the level of what we are really living for, we have forsaken God for something else.” (67)

“The heart of every person is a fount of competing desires.” (79)

“You and I are always desiring. Desires precede, determine and characterize everything you do. Desires get you up in the morning and put you to bed at night. Desire makes you work with discipline to get one thing done, and run as hard as you can to avoid another. Desires sculpt every relationship in your life. They are the lenses through which you examine every situation. At the foundation of all worship, whether true or false, is a heart full of desire.” (78)

Desires are the tap root of relational conflicts. Desire morphs into demand (“I must”) and demand morphs into need (“I will”) so that we now view the thing we desire as essential for life. Need inevitably produces expectation (“You should”), and expectation very quickly leads to disappointment (“You didn’t!”). Disappointment then leads to some form of punishment (“Because you didn’t, I will . . .”).

Desire > Demand > Need > Expectation > Disappointment > Punishment

Quotes about Ministry

“Personal insight is the product of community. I need you in order to really see and know myself. Otherwise, I will listen to my own arguments, believe my own lies, and buy into my own delusions. My self-perception is as accurate as a carnival mirror. If I am going to see myself clearly, I need you to hold the mirror of God’s Word in front of me.” (54)

“God transforms people’s lives as people bring his Word to others . . . . The combination of powerful truth wrapped in self-sacrificing love is what God uses to transform people” (21).

“Our deepest problem is that we seek to find our identity outside the story of redemption. If the entire goal and direction of our lives are wrong, we need much more than practical advice on how to do the right thing in a particular situation” (27)

“The sad fact is that many of us are simply not biblical in the way we use the Bible! Being biblical does not mean merely quoting words from within its pages. Being truly biblical means that my counsel reflects what the entire Bible is about. The Bible is a narrative, a story of redemption, and its chief character is Jesus Christ. He is the main theme of the narrative, and he is revealed in every page in the book. This story reveals how God harnessed nature and controlled history to send his Son to rescue rebellious, foolish, and self-focused men and women. He freed them from bondage to themselves, enabled them to live for his glory, and gifted them with an eternity in his presence, far from the harsh realities of the Fall” (27).

Four Steps to Personal Ministry:
1. Love
2. Know
3. Speak
4. Do

1. Love

“Love highlights the importance of relationships in the process of change. Theologians call this a covenantal model of change. God comes and makes a covenant with us. He commits himself to be our God he takes us as his people. In the context of this relationship, he accomplishes his work of making us like him. As we understand the way God works in our lives, we realize that relationship to him is not a luxury, but a necessity. It is the only context in which the lifelong process of change can take place. In the same way, we are called to build strong relationships with others. God’s purpose is that these relationships would be workrooms in which his work of change can thrive.” (110)

The Four Elements of a Loving Ministry Relationship
1. Enter the person’s world
2. Incarnate the love of Christ
3. Identify with suffering
4. Accept with agenda

2. Know

“Know has to do with really getting acquainted with the people God sends our way.” (111)

“Knowing a person means knowing the heart. When you say that you are getting to know someone better, it’s not that you are gaining a more intimate understanding of her kneecap! You mean that you know more about her beliefs and goals, her hopes and dreams, her values and desires. If you know your friend, you will be able to predict what she will think and how she will feel in a given situation. Friendship is the connection of hearts.” (112)

Breaking through the Casual

Why are our relationships trapped in the casual?

(1) Busyness – “we despair of getting ten dollar conversations into ten cent moments” (164)
(2) “We buy the lie that we are unique and struggle in ways that no one else does” (164)
(3) “We do not see . . . sin is deceitful, causing us to see others with a greater clarity than we see ourselves” (164-165)
(4) “Perhaps the simplest reason for our lack of self-disclosing candor is that no one asks” (165)

“We must not let ourselves become comfortable with the casual, where ministry is limited to offering general principles that would fit anyone’s story. The genius of personal ministry is that it is personal. It can take the grand themes of the Great Story and apply them with utter specificity to the particulars of an individual’s life. Personal ministry is not preaching to a very small congregation. It is the careful ministry of Christ and his Word to the struggles of heart that have been uncovered by good questions from a committed friend. This means that effective, God-honoring, heart-changing personal ministry is dependent on a rich base of personal information. You cannot minister well to someone you do not know.” (165)

Asking Questions

“Asking good questions is doing the work of change. Through them, we give sight to blind eyes and understanding to dull minds, we soften hardened hearts, encourage flagging souls, and stir hunger that can only be filled by the truth. This not only builds a platform for the work the Messiah does through us – it is that work!” (173)

(a) Always ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no.”

(b) Ask a combination of survey and focused questions

Survey questions scan the various areas of a person’s life and look at the person as a whole . . . survey questions help uncover themes and patterns in the person’s life . . . Focused questions look intensively into one area . . . The purpose of focused questions is to uncover roots and causes. (176-177)

(c) Remember that certain kinds of questions reveal certain kinds of information

* What? Questions are the most basic, uncovering general information (“What did you do?” “I talked to my wife.”)
* How? Questions reveal the way something was done. (“How did you talk to her?” “I yelled at her for fifteen minutes!”) Notice how much more we know already, simply by asking a follow-up ‘how’ question.
* Why? Questions uncover a person’s purposes, desires, goals, or motivations. (“Why did you yell so long?” “I wanted her to know how angry I was at what she had done.”) Here we have gone beyond the husband’s behavior to examine the heart behind it.
* How often? And Where? Questions reveal themes and patterns in a person’s life. (“Where did this happen?” “At the supper table. Suppers are hard. We are both tired. We have young children. Meals are not relaxing at all! The evening meal always seems tense for us.”)
* When? questions uncover the order of events. (“Tell me exactly when you began to yell during supper.” “In the middle of the chaos my wife said, ‘Well, how was your day? She was obviously annoyed because I hadn’t asked about hers. I said, ‘Do you really care or are you just being nasty?’ She said, ‘Well, you’re the only one here with an interesting and important life, right?’ At that point I blew up.”) (178-179)

(d) Ask a progressive line of questions in which each question is based on information uncovered in the previous questions . . . continually ask yourself What do I not know about what I have just heard? (160)

Organize Information Biblically

What is going on? > What does the person do in response to what is going on? > What does the person think about what is going on? > What does the person want out of what is going on?

Situation > Responses > Thoughts > Motives

3. Speak

“Speak involves bringing God’s truth to bear on this person in this situation . . . . Speaking the truth in love does not mean making grand pronouncements. It means helping your friend to see her life clearly.” (111)

* Speaking truth is not an option
* Speak truth after you love and know, not before
* Speak truth to yourself first
* Speaking truth is a lifestyle not just an event
* The failure to speak truth is hatred, not love
* Speak truth with the right goals (redemption vs. condemnation)
* Speak the truth of the gospel: give grace and hope

4. Do

“Finally, you must help your friend Do something with what she learns – to apply the insights God has given to her daily life and relationships.” (112)

Four Objectives

1. Establish Personal Ministry Agenda
2. Clarify Responsibility
3. Instill Identity in Christ
4. Provide Accountability

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