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Entries in Paul Tripp (5)


What keeps us from community?

In their book How People Change, Paul Tripp and Tim Lane discuss how we as Christians are meant to grow and change within a community of believers. When we are born again, we are placed into a body, and it is within that context that we are sanctified.

There are things that may inhibit us from actively searching out that community aspect of our lives in Christ. Tripp and Lane point out that there are obstacles in building relationships: 

  • The busyness of life, keeping relationships distant and casual.
  • A total immersion in friendships that are activity-and-happiness based.
  • A conscious avoidance of close relationships as too scary and messy.
  • A formal commitment to church activities, with no real connection to people.
  • One-way, ministry-driven friendships in which you always minister to others, but never allow others to minister to you.
  • Self-centered, "meet my felt needs" relationships that keep you always receiving, but seldom giving.
  • A private, independent, "just me and God" approach to the Christian life.
  • Theology as a replacement for relationship. Knowing God as a life of study, than the pursuit of God and his people.

I fall prey to some of these situations.

I would also add fear to this list, and specifically a fear of failure. There have been many occasions when I have had a failed friendship, and I have concluded that I'm not "cut out for" friendships, especially with women. We can allow our fears to interfere with our relationships, and then fall into the "just me and God" situation they speak of.

Evaluating our attitude to our relationships is always a good exercise, even if it is a little uncomfortable at times.


Emptying the heart

From How People Change, Paul Trip and Tim Lane:

Scripture's approach calls us to forsake the things we have sought to fill our emptiness. Before we can be filled with God's grace, we must engage in intelligent, honest repentance. We have to forsake and demolish the god-replacements that have supplanted the true God in our lives. Repentance is a form of emptying the heart. James 4:1 says that we fight with others not because we are empty, but because we are full of desires that battle within us. Along with deep repentance, Scripture calls us to faith that rests and feeds upon the living Christ. He fills us with himself through the person of the Holy Spirit and our hearts are transformed by faith.


A first great command struggle

From Relationships:  A Mess Worth Making:

Why do we struggle with offering mercy?  We struggle because there are things we desire more than God and his glory.  Our struggle reveals that our hearts are rules more by comfot, appreciation, respect, love, success, control, achievement, possessions, position, power, and acceptance than we have been willing to admit.  Here is the painful spiritual reality:  our struggle with mercy is not just a second great command struggle; it is a first great command struggle as well.  We struggle to respond rightly to one another because we don't have God in the right place.


Can you hear my cries...

... of "ouch, ouch, ouch?"  Over the past few days, I think I have uttered them internally each time I have sit to read Relationships:  A Mess Worth Making.

Scripture tells us who we are.  First, we are creations of God.  Secondly, if we are redeemed, we are children of God, and one with Christ.  We are to continue to seek oneness in Christ by living in the reality that we belong to Him.

Of course, we are human and sinful, and we often don't realize that we frequently find our identity in anything other than God.  So many things can interfere with that.  We contribute to difficulty in our relationships when we let ourselves seek our fulfilment in others.  Paul Tripp and Tim Lane gave a good summary of what it looks like when we do this:

...if I am seeking to get identity from you, I will watch you too closely, listen to you too intently, and need you too fundamentally.  I will ride the roller coaster of your best and worst moments and everything in between.  And because I am watching you too closely, I will become acutely aware of your weaknesses and failures.  I will become overly critical, frustrated, disappointed, hopeless, and angry.  I will be angry not because you are a sinner, but because you have failed to deliver the one thing I seek from you:  identity.  But none of us will ever get the well-being that comes from knowing who we are in our relationships.  Instead, we will be left with damaged relationships filled with hurt, frustration, and anger.

When I was growing up, I sought my identity entirely in others because I was not taught an alternative.  I believed there was a God, but I was twenty before I was shown how to properly relate to Him.  Until then, I had relationship failure after relationships failure, whether it was with family members, friends, or even worse, young men as I got into my teens.  I wish I could say that once I was converted that it all changed.  It's not something I really began to understand until later, and it was never put to me quite the way that Tripp and Lane have expressed it.

No other person can withstand the pressure of being the sole means of our identity.  Only God can, and that is because He is sufficient in Himself.  He needs no one and nothing.  He won't let us down.  Only God can provide our identity so that we may live our lives as we ought.  To put our identity into another person means that our lives will follow a course with that other person at the centre, dictating our actions.  What happens if that person is no longer there, or lets us down?  It's such a slippery slope.  

I need to pray daily for God to reveal to me when I am not finding my identity in Him, because sometimes, I'm just a little too dense to see it myself.


A diagnosis and a cure

I have to admit that I haven't often considered my relationships as being a way to diagnose a problem. When we're in a relationship, we tend not to analyze it in such terms immediately.  When we have a problem we just usually feel bad, and when things are going well, we're happy.  

Paul Tripp and Tim Lane in their book Relationships:  A Mess Worth Making, point out that relationships reveal heart issues:

God has designed our relationships to function as both a diagnosis and a cure.  When we are frustrated and ready to give up, God is at work, revealing the places where we have been given in to a selfish agenda (the diagnosis). He then uses that new awareness to help us grow precisely where we have struggled (the cure).

Usually when I have trouble with a relationship, I am tempted to either blame the other person or think it's just a matter of bad communication.  Looking at it as a way for God to reveal my sin is, in the long run, more productive, even if it is a little uncomfortable.