What kind of cake are you?

It seems like the social networking site Facebook has become overrun in recent days with various quizzes wanting to know what you are. What 80’s song are you? What kind of dog are you? What kind of shoes are you? What childhood toy are you?

While I am sure my life would be complete if I finally found out if I am really Strawberry Shortcake or Rainbow Brite, there are other quizzes and standards I would rather judge myself against. For instance, Charles Spurgeon asked this question, “What kind of cake are you?” over 100 years ago. I’ve been trying to tell people for years that Spurgeon was one cool man, and he proved it this morning by being relevant to the Facebook crowd.

I encourage you to read his words, spend some time in prayer with the heavenly Father, and ask Him to show you what kind of cake you are.

“Ephraim is a cake not turned.”

Hosea 7:8

“A CAKE not turned is uncooked on one side;; and so Ephraim was, in many respects, untouched by divine grace; though there was partial obedience, there was too much rebellion left. My soul, I charge you to see whether this is true of you. Are you thorough in the things of God? Has grace gone to the very center of your being so that its divine operation is felt in all your powers, your actions, your words, and your thoughts? To be sanctified, spirit, soul, and body, should be your aim and prayer; and although sanctification may not be complete in you, still it must be at work in you. There must not be the appearance of holiness in one place and reigning sin in another, otherwise you also will be a cake not turned.

A cake not turned is soon burned on the side nearest the fire; and although no man can have too much religion, there are some who seem burnt black with bigoted zeal for that part of truth that they overemphasize; others are charred to a cinder with a self-congratulatory Pharisaic performance of those religious activities that suit their mood. The assumed appearance of superior sanctity frequently accompanies a total absence of all vital godliness, and the saint in public is a devil in private. He deals in flour by day and in soot by night. The cake which is burned on one side, is dough on the other.

If it be so with me, O Lord, turn me! Turn my unsanctified nature to the fire of your love, and let it feel the sacred glow; and let my burned side cool a little, while I learn my own weakness and lack of heat when I am removed from your heavenly flame. Let me not be a double-minded man, but one who is entirely under the powerful influence of reigning grace. For I know only too well that if I am left like a cake unturned, and am not on both sides the subject of Thy grace, I must be consumed forever in everlasting burnings.” —  The June 23 entry for Morning and Evening, by Charles Spurgeon; from the updated edition, revised by Alistair Begg.

Instruments, Part 6

The last two chapters of the book deal with the action aspect of change in the heart of the church as a whole. While the first three parts of the personal ministry—Love, know and speak—are vital to the confrontation of people in sin, this last aspect, the doing aspect, is the key to keeping one another in a healthy state of change. “Do” is the daily process not of achieving some sort of behavioral perfection, but rather, the process of learning daily how to fulfill the commandment to “Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11:44) (239). The process of becoming instruments of change is not with a foreseeable end. As long as people are living and breathing on this planet, Tripp reminds the reader that change is possible and required. “Do trains people in the decisions, actions, relationships, and skills of Christ-centered, biblically informed living. We have a wonderful opportunity not only to teach people how to solve their problems biblically, but to turn their lives around for the long run” (243-244).

The appendices to the text of this book are full of valuable practical application information that will be vital to a successful ministry of helping others with biblical change. In the appendices, Tripp covers valuable topics, such as hindrances to the data gathering process, biblical explanations for the success of giving homework in biblical counseling, descriptions of the types of qualities a counselor should bring into the life of a counselee, and how each of these concepts fit into the overall process of counseling.

This is a solidly written book rich in biblical truths, but there is one main witness a reader should be aware of prior to reading the text. There are times when Tripp’s writing can digress into a long list of personal anecdote stories that occasionally feel as though they are filler words to meet a publisher’s page number requirement. Often, when making a point about a certain type of struggle, or in an attempt to show the universal effects of sin, he will include numerous life examples, either anonymous examples or personal examples. This issue by no means takes away from the quality of the writing as a whole, but for someone who is reading this as a more academic endeavor, entire paragraphs of applicatory examples from “real life” can begin to seem pointless and redundant.

While many books available on counseling today are geared specifically to the professionally trained counselor, Tripp remains true to his original goal of providing a way to instill change in the church as a whole. Instruments in the Hands of the Redeemer is not a book full of technical jargon and psychological terms. Rather, it is an instruction manual for becoming an instrument of change in the lives of others that can be understood and appreciated by all members of the body of Christ, from the seasoned pastor to the young layperson. The strength of this writing is its readability and the effort Tripp shows to make the reader understand that this type of lifestyle is not only possible for all believers, but it is a Scriptural commandment for all believers.

Instruments, Part 5

Chapters Nine and Ten offer what is certainly the strongest accusation against the church today: “We tend to have permanently casual relationships that never grow into real intimacy. There are things we know about each other, but they fool us into thinking that we know the human being who live within the borders of those details” (163). The self-protecting anonymity of society has destroyed the concept of friendship to such a level that there are people with whom we interact on a daily basis but we have failed to grasp the intimate, spiritual details of their lives. Tripp implores the reader to consider this concept: “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…You cannot minister well to someone you do not know” (165).

To overcome this tendency to be fact-knowers instead of people-knowers, Tripp focuses specifically on the questions to ask and the key answers to look for in the process of getting to know a person and his struggles. Based on Hebrews 4:14-16, Tripp tells the reader that Christ is the greatest model for data gathering. Christ “was tempted in everyway, just as we are—yet without sin” 166). He is the one who has personally experienced any type of suffering that can be imagined—and he handled them all in sinless perfection. “For thirty-three years, he lived among us, gathering data about the nature of our experience” (167). Because of that experience, Christ has sympathy for the suffering of humanity. A sympathy, Tripp states, that all Christians are called to emulate in our relationships with one another.

Getting to know people can be a difficult process, and to aid the reader in this process, Tripp gives many practical examples of the types of questions that should be asked and the way those questions should be asked. Specifically, Tripp gives four principles for good questions:
1. Always ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
2. 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… Focused questions look intensively into one area of a person’s life.
3. Remember that certain kinds of questions reveal certain kinds of information.
4. Ask a progressive line of questions, in which each question is based on information uncovered in the previous question (175-180).

Tripp concludes this section with a deeply challenging observation:
Asking good questions is vital to helping people face who they really are and what they are really doing… As sinners we all tend to recast our own history in self-serving ways… Because of this, we all need people who love us enough to ask, listen, and, having listened, to ask more. This is not being intrusive. This is helping blind people embrace their need for Christ (181).

Once a person has embraced a fellow sufferer in love and has listened with the ears and heart of Christ to the struggle in her life, Tripp states that there is a time to speak in response to the struggle. Instruments are meant to be receptors of confessions; we are called to respond, to admonish one other when the need arises. Confrontation and the speaking of truth can, at times, be the most difficult expression of love, but it is a commanded part of reaching people with the love of Christ. Tripp claims, rightly, that confrontation has become such a painful and uncomfortable subject because it is a part of the Christian life that has been all but forgotten in recent years.

This portion of instruction is based upon Leviticus 19: 15-18, which “discusses God’s intentions for this aspect of relationships and personal ministry” (200). According to Tripp, this passage describes confrontation not as an uncomfortable and unusual aspect of our relationships, but as a “constant conversation… where the daily intervention of honest rebuke is a regular part of all relationships” (205). At this point, Tripp reminds the reader that in order to be a proper minister of change in the lives of others requires a change and constant check-up concerning the condition of our own hearts. Confrontation cannot flow from a heart of anger or frustration or personal agenda. Confrontation brings someone face to face with the love and truth of God, and to be able to bring that to someone, the confronter cannot come with his own agenda in mind for the one being confronted.

Tripp tells the reader there are four steps to a biblical process of confrontation: Consideration, Confession, Commitment, and Change. While the first step to the process is the responsibility of the person who is confronting, Tripp emphasizes that true biblical change is ultimately the responsibility of the one being confronted, because the last three steps deal with the response to the speaking of truth by the one who is being confronted.

Instruments, Part 4

Chapters Seven and Eight deal with Tripp’s concept of Christian love and how followers of Christ should interact with one another in loving relationships. In order for the reader to become an instrument for the radical change needed in the hearts of people today, Tripp states it is necessary to consider the following point: “I am deeply persuaded that the foundation for people-transforming ministry is not sound theology; it is love” (117). Tripp does not discount sound theology. Instruments in the Hands of the Redeemer is a writing full of sound explanations and applications of Scripture. But his point is expressed in an old Sunday school poster: “They don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.” People need to know they are loved, and Tripp firmly states in this section that there is more to love than conditional lip service. People who truly want to be a light in the world around them must have a grasp on the unconditional, committed love of Christ.

Paul says, “You are recipients of Christ’s love and nothing can separate you from it.” This love offers hope to anyone willing to confess sin and cry out for transformation. Yet this is where we often get stuck. We want ministry that doesn’t demand love that is, well, so demanding! We don’t want to serve others in a way that requires so much personal sacrifice. We would prefer to lob hand grenades of truth into people’s lives rather than lay down our lives for them (118).

Tripp clearly lays out in these opening pages a call that will be difficult to accept for many. Being an instrument of the Redeemer means giving up the right to perform as an instrument of your own will or agenda. This is a well explained point, and a challenging call that the reader is forced to ponder as the book continues. Christ has not called us to a life of convenient assistance. Rather, we have been called to follow in his footsteps and lay down our lives for our fellow man.

Once Tripp lays out this challenge for radical change in the love shown by the church, he explains how Christ has exhibited this love in the lives of all believers: through our “justification, adoption, and sanctification” (120). Relationships are the key element to the Heavenly Father’s work on this planet. Our relationship with Christ is what redeems us to Him, and our relationships with one another is one way he continues his sanctification work in each of us.

Tripp has written much to this point about the love and redeeming work of God, and so much discussion on love often brings up the questioning of God based on the suffering in the world. All of Chapter Eight is devoted to explaining to the reader how God is active in the suffering in this world to bring about redeeming change and ultimately show his love to the world. It this point, having an ultimate faith in the inerrancy of Scripture and the sovereignty of God becomes paramount to the reader’s understanding and acceptance of this idea. Suffering, Tripp states, is “one of God’s most useful workrooms” (145). In suffering, every person is brought to a level playing field of reliance upon God. Suffering is also the way Christ made redemption available to humanity. It was through his suffering that Christ made salvation available to man and showed that he understands the suffering people experience daily.

Tripp shows the reader that suffering has an ultimate purpose in the lives of people. Personal suffering is one of the greatest tools anyone can use to proclaim the sovereignty of God to the life of another. Experience can be the connecting bridge between God and man, and often it is the experience of similar or shared suffering that creates that bridge. Suffering also instills in God’s instruments a certain understanding and Christ-like compassion for those experiencing similar suffering. Often those who have traveled similar roads of suffering and change are the ones that can lead many down the same road of God’s healing love and redemption. Tripp closes the chapter by explaining that “God’s acceptance is not a call to relax, but a call to work…The grace God extends to us is always grace leading to change” (158). Radical change in the church will begin, Tripp concludes, when people become willing to share their sufferings with one another and then are willing to accept one another while assisting in the change God is seeking to make in lives.

Instruments, Part 3

The discussion of the heart and the two forms of treasure in Chapter Four set up the argument in Chapter Five that the battle for the heart of man is indeed a war: a war between Christ and his Word and sin and self. Conflict, Tripp states, “is one of the principal effects of the Fall” (75). While dealing with this issue, Tripp makes one of the most vital points in the entire book: “Human conflict is rooted in spiritual adultery” (82). Problems of anger, jealousy, co-dependency, all struggles of the human heart, flow from an affair of the heart against the Bridegroom who gave himself for us. Tripp states that when people are involved in spiritual adultery, it affects the relationship with God in two important ways.

The first way he describes the relationship being damaged is that spiritual adultery changes the attitude of one in prayer. Instead of going to God and praying according to His will, people will instead approach God like a spiritual genie-in-a-bottle to whom they should express wants and demands. Not only will our attitudes toward prayer change, but according to Tripp, our image of god will change dramatically. Tripp states, “If a certain set of desires rules my heart, I will not want God to be a wise, loving, sovereign Father who gives me what he knows is best. Instead, I will want a divine waiter who delivers what I have set my heart on” (83).

While Tripp does paint a sad picture of humanity and the struggle for the heart of man, he spends the remainder of the chapter sharing with the reader how the Heavenly Father is also the “Warrior King,” who is full of “jealous grace” and will do whatever it takes to capture the heart of man. Tripp encourages the reader to remember that God knows humanity better than any other being in the universe because he is the Creator and, as Creator, he knows exactly what is best for us, whether we know it or not.

The first five chapters of Instruments are concerned primarily with explaining to the reader why a radical change is necessary within the hearts of man and within the church at large. Chapter Six transitions the reader from the “why” questions of radical change to the “how” questions. The first step to being an effective instrument of change is to follow the example of the Wonderful Counselor. Tripp states that “being an instrument of heart change means following Christ’s example and focusing on the heart—starting with your own” (96). In order to experience a personal heart change, one must first understand the true impact of the Incarnation and its effect of life even today. Tripp explains that while the actual Incarnation was an event, it is also a current agenda and call. The call on the life of each Christian is to be an ambassador on Christ’s behalf in the lives of all those with whom we come into contact each day. In order to be an ambassador for Christ though, Tripp explains that people must first relinquish their desires to be mini-kings over their own lives. Tripp shows the reader that “living a representative lifestyle can be summarized by three points of focus. As an ambassador, I will represent:… The message of the King…The methods of the King… [and] the character of the King” (107). This way of looking at and interacting with the world around us will greatly impact how we interact with the people in that world.

Tripp concludes Chapter Six with a summary of the things instruments of change must keep in mind while ministering. Tripp encourages the reader to remember two points when beginning in the ministering experience: “First, whatever you do must have the goal of heart change. Second, whatever you do must follow the example of the Wonderful Counselor” (109). He then shares with the reader the biblical model for a successful ministry of change. In order to be genuinely involved in the lives of those around us, Tripp argues that we must include these four elements in ministry: Love, Know, Speak, and Do. As instruments of change, the body of Christ must Love one another as Christ loved the church; we must know one another in trusting and intimate ways so that we can properly hold one another accountable; we must Speak the Truth of God’s Word into the lives of the broken and hurting; and, finally, we must Do something with the Truth that has been imparted to us. The remainder of Instruments in the Hands of the Redeemer examines each of these four points in greater detail.