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 2

Focusing from the beginning on the need for change and for God in our lives may lead many to bristle and quickly defend that there needs to be no help shown to them in their lives. Tripp faces this argument head-on in Chapter Three. Going back to the very beginning of time, he proves to the reader that, whether it is admitted or not, all people are desperately in need of help. According to Tripp, there are several universal concepts that apply to mankind. First is the fact that humans were created to be dependent. This first statement goes against much of what the culture today teaches, but Tripp states that, “Genesis 1 confronts us with the fact that our need for help preceded sin… If there had been no Fall, if we had never sinned, we would still need help because we are human” (41).

The second universal quality of all humans, Tripp says, is that mankind was made to interpret. He states that man is not a machine that simply takes in facts, but rather man interprets, or thinks through, those facts and makes choices based more on the interpretation of facts rather than the facts themselves. Tripp argues that the only correct way to interpret any event in life is through the lens of God’s word (41).

Lastly, Tripp states that all people were created to worship. Whether we are worshiping God, ourselves, or something or someone else (45), all of mankind is in the act of worship at all times.

Tripp concludes this chapter by explaining that because all people are sinful, dependent, interpreting worshipers, then the only logical conclusion is that all people are also in need of some form of counseling and all people are counseling, or influencing, other people on a daily basis.

How does one ensure that the counsel being both given and received is, in fact, solid counsel? Tripp states in Chapter Four that the process of ensuring one counsels and receives counsel correctly begins in the heart. The word heart, for this discussion, refers to the Scriptural explanation: “the inner person (spirit, soul, mind emotions, will, etc.)” (59). The central discussion of this chapter relates to the thesis because, in order for a radical change to occur in people, one must know where and how to start the change. Tripp argues that change begins in the human heart. “One of the most important word pictures in the New Testament reveals Christ’s perspective on how people function. It is Christ’s answer to the age-old question, “Why do people do the things they do?”” (60).

In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus compares people to trees, explaining that the fruit in our lives is the behavior exhibited, and the heart is the root system that feeds the tree and influences the production of behavior. Tripp expands this illustration clearly and thoroughly throughout the remainder of the chapter, explaining to the reader both how most people attempt to “change” their fruit (a process he calls “fruit stapling”) and how the Scripture explains true change occurs. Change only occurs on a real, permanent level when the one receiving counsel comes to realize that “sin is much more than doing the wrong thing. It begins with loving, worshiping, and serving the wrong thing” (67).

Tripp contends that because humanity is created with a need to worship that all people will choose to worship something. The key to ministry is helping people see the error in their choices to worship created things instead of the Creator. Not only are people worshippers, but people are also treasure hunters, and Tripp tells his reader clearly that “there are only two kinds of treasures, earthly and heavenly and whatever we choose will become our rulers” (72). He concludes by stating, “The things we set our hearts on never remain under our control. Instead, they capture, control, and enslave us” (73). The point being that one can either be controlled by Christ and His heavenly treasure, or controlled by “earth-bound treasures” and therefore reap the consequences of that choice.

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

The following series of posts is a detailed summary and review of Paul David Tripp’s book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. I hope that providing this will encourage you to read the book in its entirety.

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, by Paul David Tripp. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002. 375 pages.

Paul David Tripp received his M.Div. from the Philadelphia Theological Seminary and his D.Min. degree from the Westminster Theological Seminary, also in Philadelphia. Tripp is a counselor at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation in Glenside, Pennsylvania, where he is the director of Changing Lives Ministries, as well as a lecturer in practical theology at Westminster. In addition to his teaching and counseling responsibilities, Dr. Tripp has also authored several books and is a highly sought lecturer and speaker.

The purpose of this book is clearly stated by the author in the preface to the body of the text. Tripp states his two-fold thesis in the following manner:
…[T]his book is about: how God uses people, who are themselves in need of change, as instruments of the same kind of change in others. This book’s goal is not just that people’s lives would be changed as they give help and receive it. The goal is to help change the church’s very culture (xi).
Within the confines of this book, Tripp gives his reader a comprehensive outline for how these two goals can be accomplished, starting with the changes needed in the heart of each individual person, and then moving out, to describe the changes necessary in the behavior of people and in the interactions between people. While Tripp seems to be stating in his thesis that the ultimate goal is the radical culture change of the church as a whole, his writing consistently points to the fact that he believes change in the church will not occur without there first being an individual radical change in the hearts and minds of every believer in the church.

To further support this statement, Tripp begins his argument in Chapter One with the most basic heart change any person can experience: the change that occurs in the heart of one who has accepted Christ as Savior. Tripp argues that the need for change in the hearts of men is due to the Fall of the first man and woman. When sin entered the world, the need immediately occurred for a Savior to redeem the hearts of a now sinful mankind. In order for someone to recognize that a change is possible, or even needed, she must first recognize the fallen nature of her own heart and acknowledge the need to be rescued from that fallen nature.

Tripp clearly states from the beginning that only God can begin the redeeming process. “From the moment of the Fall, for generation after generation, he controlled everything so that someday he could fix what had been so horribly damaged. Into this world, at just the right moment, he sent his one and only Son” (3). While salvation from the damnation we deserve for our sins is reason enough to rejoice over the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the reader is quickly informed that, “The King came not to make our agenda possible, but to draw us into something more amazing, glorious, and wonderful than we could ever imagine” (4). There is more to this life than simply being redeemed so that we can share an eternity in Heaven with Christ; we are here to bring God glory through our actions and reactions to the world around us. Recognizing our sin and a need for a Savior and then accepting the call placed on every believer’s life to impact the lives of those around us is, Tripp states, the first step in becoming an effective instrument for change in the lives of people around us.

Chapter Two moves in a logical order from the main idea of Chapter One. Once a person has surrendered her life to Christ, there are certain things she should now be doing as one who is living in the grasp of the Redeemer. The overall theme of the second chapter is summed up in the following statement: “God transforms people’s lives as people bring his Word to others” (19). According to Tripp, this is the second step in the process of becoming a people helper; Christians are not to be those who simply refer their lost or hurting neighbors and family members to the church pastor. Rather, each person who has experienced a saving knowledge of Christ is called to bring Christ’s message of hope and peace and redemption to whomever in their life needs the message. Tripp continues to support his thesis of radical church change by focusing in this chapter on the idea that “in the biblical model, much more informal, personal ministry goes on than formal ministry” (19). His concept in this chapter is to enforce the idea that radical change is not solely the responsibility of paid church staff, but that, as a body, each member of the church is responsible for proclaiming the Word so that people’s lives will be dramatically changed.

Tripp spends a significant amount of time in this chapter answering the key question of any ministry: “What is the best way to minister biblically to another person?” (24). He answers this question in two ways. First he explains what biblical ministry is not. He states that biblical ministry is not the practice of throwing trite advice and biblical-sounding platitudes in the general direction of a hurting individual. He states that the topical, encyclopedic use of Scripture is an incorrect use of Scripture. In this vein of thinking, Tripp states, “If I handle Scripture topically, I will miss the overarching themes at the heart of everything else God wants to say to me…The sad fact is that many of us are simply not biblical in the way we use the Bible!” (27). Instead of simply stating the problem and moving on, Tripp does a good job of giving logical examples of how to use the Bible correctly in ministry situations. He then gives the reader what he calls the three overarching themes of Scripture: God’s sovereignty, God’s grace, and God’s glory. Next, these three things, he states, must be communicated to the hearer before any true change can take place in the heart. And change, Tripp concludes, “is the central work of God’s kingdom” (35).