Response to How People Change

(I am a huge fan of this book. Shortly after it was published, I used it to lead an intro to counseling bible study/class for lay counselors. I have heard that they have since developed it into a program with that purpose, but I have yet to use it)

Response to How People Change by Paul Trip and Tim Lane


What struck me most as I read this book:

Overall, this book is an excellent resource on the Christian life. I am considering including it (definitely aspects of it) in the discipleship materials at the church where I end up working.

The gospel counterfeits that were presented in the first chapter were a good summary of how we tend to try to replace the truth with our own idols. The fact that many of these gospel replacements start out with pure motives is amazing. Most of issues listed here are either aspects of the gospel, or based on appropriate responses to the gospel.

There is a story on pg 31 which tells of the author “resolving” an issue with his wife so that he can go watch a game on TV. I found this humorous, but also very real-life. It made me think about how many times I “behave appropriately” without actually meaning it, in order to accomplish something that I want to get done. Or to make myself appear to be a better Christian than I actually am. It is amazing how possible it is to take something that honors God (like forgiveness) and turning it into something bad (lying to your spouse).

The idea that people are “meaning makers” is a very important one. We are blessed that God has given us this capacity and drive. Sometimes it almost turns into a curse. We always want an explanation as to why we are going through difficulties. This appears to be a source of many of our stresses of life, but it also allows us to solve problems and accomplish tasks.

Pg 40 – “dreaming is never moral neutral because the dreamer is never morally neutral.” It is amazing that even our dreams can easily be captured by sinful desires. This makes sense, since we are sinners and it is easy for sin to take over any part of our lives. This caused me to think more about my thought life. Most times that this phrase is used, I think of controlling lustful thoughts, but it is so much more than that. We should control all of our thoughts.

In a human marriage, both partners bring assets and liabilities. But in our marriage with Christ, he is all assets and we are all liabilities. This way of wording this is slightly different than any other way I have heard it said before (although this could be a result of my upcoming marriage and actually thinking though all of that). There is nothing good that we bring to Christ. Nothing at all.

Pg 135 – “The Christian life is a state of thankful discontent or joyful dissatisfaction.” This is an amazing statement. I hope it will be often quoted when this book becomes a classic read. We are to be thankful of where Christ has brought us, but dissatisfied that we are not any further. We need to work on more growth. It is almost bittersweet, in that regardless of how much we grow; there will always be room to grow. What I find to be the most frustrating is that any time I think I have been doing well in a particular area; I have a tendency to run back into that same area of sin.
Some implications for thinking and ministry:

I will definitely include teaching this material in my church. I am already recommending it to friends to read.

It is very easy to replace the gospel with something that should flow out of the gospel. I must be watchful so that I do not let theology or works or any other response become the focus in my life.
Care must be taken to avoid righting a situation just for personal gain.

Our goal should be to understand that sometimes there really is no real reason for something to occur, other than the fact that it is part of God’s plan and that we must trust in him. This can be very difficult and sound almost trite at times, but as the understanding and relationship with God grows, this will actually be a sufficient “meaning” for the situation. Even if it takes a while to get there.

All aspects of thought life must be brought under the scrutiny of the gospel.

We need to live with the understanding that everything good we have or are is a result of our relationship with Christ. We bring nothing good to the relationship.

We must live constantly growing better, even though we cannot obtain perfection. This can be difficult, especially if we are prone to pragmatism. We cannot be content with where we are, but we understand that we are there only as a result of God’s grace.