One of the best books I’ve read this year is Paul Tripp’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul Tripp. I read Tripp’s How People Change earlier this year, which he co-wrote with Timothy Lane and I use their book Relationships: A Mess Worth Making in the Graduate Interpersonal Relationships Class I teach. But I had not heard of Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand until it was recommended to me by the head of my peace studies program.
The book is a theology and philosophy of personal ministry and Biblical counseling. It unpacks the incarnational calling of the body of Christ to minister to one another at the heart level in the way the Scriptures describe and mandate. Tripp challenges secular models arguing that they reinforce blameshifting rather than go to the true source of our problems and need to change – the problem of sin.
Tripp uses Scripture really well to convey a thoroughly Biblical framework for personal change and the role that each of us needs to play in giving and receiving Biblical instruction and counsel. While giving his personal philosophy of Biblical counseling, Tripp presents this book as a resource for all believers for their personal growth as well as for the role they can play in God’s redeeming work of change in people’s lives through Christ.
There is excellent material here, including practical resources of questions to ask, key Scriptures to use, and a general process of coming alongside other people in the change process. One of the most valuable parts of the book was one of 5 appendices, which unpacked the dynamics of spiritual blindness. Spiritual blindness is something we all experience personally and we all observe in others, but Tripp’s teaching from the Scriptures on the topic in addition to practical questions and approaches to help people face their spiritual blindness was really helpful I thought.
I think Tripp’s approach from Scripture is a needed one and it’s a model of personal ministry that would truly be transformational. Few in the ministry really consistently teach and talk about the heart. Fewer still really give people the tools and build a culture around how to keep Christ’s work in the heart at the center of ministry. Tripp offers great resources and paradigms from Scripture.
My only gripe is that it presents a view that all problems can be solved just addressing sin. I think his treatment of depression falls in this category – where there are sin and belief issues involved as well as other things. So I still see the importance of specialized counseling in some scenarios that help someone navigate complex issues, but I believe this approach to Biblical counseling would cover most scenarios pretty well. The main point is that we need to let the gospel do its work in peoples’ lives and for that to happen, we need to get at the heart and the way in which we deceive ourselves and exchange worship of Christ for tons of other things.
But again – this is not just a counseling resource. It’s a great resource for discipleship, small groups, and mentoring. I’ve walked the guys I’m mentoring through some of the foundational aspects of this change model and it’s been quite helpful. So I recommend it as an ongoing resource that can be pulled out when you find yourself in situations where god has you in a position to help facilitate change in someone’s life. There’s not going to be much better tools to help you think about the idolatry of the heart and how to help you and others shift from false worship to authentic worship of Christ in all things.