Paul David Tripp is a Christian pastor, counselor, speaker, and author. He wrote this book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, in order to show his readers “how God uses people, who are themselves in need of change, as instruments of the same kind of change in others” (p. xi).
This is the table of contents of the book to show you a skeleton of the book as a whole:
- The Best News: A Reason to Get Up in the Morning
- In the Hands of the Redeemer
- Do We Really Need Help?
- The Heart Is the Target
- Understanding Your Heart Struggle
- Following the Wonderful Counselor
- Building Relationships by Entering their World
- Building Relationships by Identifying with Suffering
- Getting to Know People
- Discovering Where Change Is Needed
- The Goals of Speaking the Truth in Love
- The Process of Speaking the Truth in Love
- Establishing Agenda and Clarifying Responsibility
- Instilling Identity with Christ and Providing Accountability
One central premise of this book is that all Christians are called to ministry. No, Tripp does not mean to make the claim that all Christians are called to professional, full-time ministry. That is an unhealthy rumor and belief in certain parts of the Church. What Tripp means is that all Christians are called to minister to those around them in everyday life, whether they are an architect, teacher, or pastor. Christians, in their need of change, are called to help those around them in need of change.
There is a way we need to speak about change to others, a way to show change to others. We cannot just tell people that there are ways that they can “get better.” We must tell them about the Redeemer who changes people for His glory and for their good. We can’t just show people that certain steps elicit change, but that there is a person who changes us. Tripp puts it this way:
We cannot treat the Bible as a collection of therapeutic insights. To do so distorts its message and will not lead to lasting change. If a system could give us what we need, Jesus would never have come. But he came because what was wrong with us could not be fixed any other way. He is the only answer, so we must never offer a message that is less than the good news. We don’t offer people a system; we point them to a Redeemer. He is hope.
(p. 9; bold mine)
God doesn’t just want any unnamed individual ministering to the people around you, He wants you to do that. There is something about you, in your need and imperfection, in your gifts and specialty, that God wants to use in order to make others and yourself more like Him.
“God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in the lives of others.” (p. 18)
“God transforms people’s lives as [they] bring his Word to others.” (p. 19)
Many have heard of the Creation/Fall/Redemption/Glory concept of the world. This is a Biblical understanding of the universe that shows us how God created us, how man fell in sin, how Jesus Christ came to redeem his people, and how we will join the Triune God in eternal glory when Christ comes again. It is a narrative conception of the world that is based in Scripture. One big misconception about Christianity is our need of God, what Tripp’s book is mainly about. The misconception is that we need God because of our fall from grace. No, we were created in need of God. Yes, we need God in new ways because of our sin. Nevertheless, we were created to be dependent on the Triune God. We needed God before we were in sin.
Tripp calls his readers to these two separate but intertwined prayers:
“God, I am a person in desperate need of help. Please send helpers my way and give me the humility to receive the help you have provided.”
“Lord, make me willing to help someone see himself as you see him today.”
Even though we needed God as created, unfallen creatures, we need God even more now that we are in sin. “Sin is much more than doing the wrong thing. It begins with loving, worshiping, and serving the wrong thing” (p. 67, italics mine). Sin is not action in isolation. Sin exists as a result of those things we love, worship, and serve (when that which we love, worship, and serve is not God Himself). These idols have “inescapable influence” over us, and they are why behavior modification is not the way to deal with sin. God must change my heart; He must rule my heart, rather than my idols ruling my heart, in order for me to move away from sin.
[God] knows what is best, and he will not let there be peace until he alone controls our hearts. He is a Warrior King, who will not rest when we are captive to other kings. He fights for us, for the thoughts and desires of our heart.
God has called us to incarnate Christ to others. We are to imitate Christ in his incarnation, God being made flesh:
The power of the incarnation is that it makes the presence and glory of God visible. By taking on flesh and blood, Christ made known the unseen God.
Thus, the goal of Biblical, personal ministry is “for the world to see and know Christ” (p. 102). We are to make God visible to others — this is what it means for us to incarnate God to others.
Tripp lays out a methodically flexible way to minister to those around us with the above goal in mind:
- We are to love those around us
- Enter the person’s world
- Incarnate the love of Christ to them
- Identify with their suffering
- Accept them with the agenda of change in Jesus Christ
- We are to know those around us
- Ask them good questions
- Think and pray about this person with Scripture in you
- We are to speak into the lives of those around us
- Speak the truth in love to them (which includes both affirmation and confrontation — we are called to COMFORT and CONFRONT)
- Call this person to consideration, confession, commitment, and change
- We are to act in the lives of those around us
- Establish your personal ministry agenda (stemming from God’s agenda for change in Jesus Christ)
- Clarify responsibility
- Instill identity in Christ
- Provide accountability
This method of personal ministry must be enacted with the knowledge that the initiator is also in need of this type of ministry as well. The one who loves and confronts must also know they need this same sort of ministry from others.
This book has been incredibly helpful in my understanding of ministry, both as it is my job, but also as it is my life as a Christian. I am called to be ministered to in my need and to minister to others in their need, both within my job as an RUF intern and as a person in Christ living life.