A bit in advance, but I’m speaking on the themes of my book You Can Change at two conferences in the spring of 2011.
New Word Alive
10-15 April 2011
Proclamation Trust Younger Ministers Conference
3-6 May 2011
Tim, what’s the big idea of You Can Change?
I think what I’m trying to do is to show how change takes place through faith. I want to move people away from just focus on behaviour because if we focus on behaviour then our efforts to change will always tend toward legalism. Instead I want to focus on the heart because where our hearts lead, our emotions and behaviour will follow.
But I want to make these ideas practical for people. I guess the basic idea is this. Behind every sin is a lie. We believe that sin offers more than God. So the key to change is recognizing that God is bigger and better than anything sin offers. That’s not easy or straightforward. It’s a day by day challenge to look to God, to find hope and help and satisfaction in him.
In some ways I tried to write the antidote to self-help books in the form of a self-help book!
Who have been the main three or four living influences on your understanding of how we change as believers?
There are some obvious people: Tim Keller, John Piper and the guys at CCEF. I think also of my community in The Crowded House with whom I have worked on these issues, both at a theological and practical level. My breakthrough moment came when expounding Romans 1 in my church – realising the way that sinful behaviour flows from exchanging the truth of God for a lie and worshipping created things rather than the Creator. That’s how I arrived at my claim in the book that our twin problem is trusting lies (the false promises of sin) instead of trusting the word of God, and worshipping, desiring, treasuring things more than we treasure God (which is idolatry).
For thoughtful, theologically untrained Christian readers, what is the single best book by a dead guy you would recommend that supports and reinforces what you’ve tried to do in You Can Change?
I received an advance copy of the US version of my book You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions today. It looks great – thank you Crossway! It’s published on 31 March. You can pre-order copies here from Amazon.com. I know of a number of churches in the States who are already using the UK version as part of their pastoral or discipleship program.
Here are some commendations …
A book about Christian growth that is neither quietistic nor moralistic is rare. A book that is truly practical is even rarer. Tim Chester’s new volume falls into both categories and therefore fills a gap.
Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City
There are few books that are shockingly honest, carefully theological, and gloriously hopeful all at the same time. Tim Chester’s book, You Can Change, is all of these and more. He skilfully uses the deepest insights of the theology of the Word as a lens to help you understand yourself and the way of change, and, in so doing, helps you to experience practically what you thought you already knew. The carefully crafted personal ‘reflection’ and ‘change project’ sections are worth the price of the book by themselves. It is wonderful to be reminded that you and I are not stuck, and it’s comforting to be guided by someone who knows well the road from where we are to where we need to be.
Paul Tripp, President of Paul Tripp Ministries
A wonderful book for those who are serious about personal change. For so many Christians the gulf between our aspirations and the reality of our daily Christian walk is very large. Here is very helpful material to help us bridge this gap and become the whole people God intended us to be.
Stephen Gaukroger, Senior Minister at Gold Hill Baptist Church
We are called to be salt and light. Yet often the church fails to live differently. In our busy culture, we rarely spend time dealing with sinful areas of our lives; instead we try to sweep them under the carpet. Tim’s book is a biblical and practical challenge to the very root causes of ungodly patterns of behaviour. Read it and allow God to change you!
Andy Frost, Director, Share Jesus International
The book is structured around a series of question to help people work on issues in their lives:
1. What would you like to change?
2. Why would you like to change?
3. How are you going to change?
4. When do you struggle?
5. What truths do you need to turn to?
6. What desires do you need to turn from?
7. What stops you changing?
8. What strategies will reinforce your faith and repentance?
9. How can we support one another in change?
10. Are you ready for a lifetime of daily change?
Here’s a sample chapter (from the UK edition): You Can Change – Chapter Five: What Truths Do You Need To Turn To?
And finally here’s a video introduction …
It’s great when a reviewer correctly identifies what you were trying to do in a book. Here’s the opening of the review by Jean Williams of You Can Change in September 2009’s edition of The Briefing.
Picking up Tim Chester’s You Can Change, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a self-help book. It has all the trappings – a title promising transformation, testimonies of change, an invitation to choose a personal “change project”, ten chapters with titles like “What would you like to change?” and questions for self-reflection. You Can Change is designed to communicate to a society obsessed with personal change, but it turns the self-help genre on its head.
That’s exactly what I was trying to do: write an anti-self-help book in the style of a self-help book. The next paragraph summarises the m,essage of the book better than I can!
It quickly becomes apparent that the only change Tim Chester is interested in is transformation into the likeness of Christ. The power for change is not inner strength or willpower, but the grace of God through the death of his Son, applied by his Spirit. The method for change is not rules and programs, but faith and repentance. The context for change is not the counsellor’s office of a solitary retreat, but the community of God’s people speaking the truth in love. The goal of change is not to find yourself, but to forget yourself in love and service. The message is not so much that you can change as that God can change you.
Here’s a new song that I wrote ages ago, but I’ve just realised I’ve never posted it on the blog. It’s an attempt to express in song something of the pastoral significance of the 4Gs that I’ve talked on the blog before.
Weary of striving to make it alone,
fearful of failure or trying to atone,
I hear ‘It is finished’, Christ sits on the throne:
Jesus, I rest in you.
2. Weary of fearing what others may say,
needing approval to feel I’m okay,
when Jesus alone is the Lord I obey:
Jesus, I rest in you.
3. Weary of chasing the lies of this world,
finding its treasures an empty reward:
my beautiful Saviour, most glorious Lord,
Jesus, I rest in you.
4. Weary of needing to be in control,
brooding on worries, disturbing my soul:
the Stiller of storms who alone can console,
Jesus, I rest in you.
5. Weary of memories recalled with dismay,
burdened with guilt that I can’t sweep away,
when Jesus has cancelled what I could not pay:
Jesus, I rest in you.
Here’s the music: Weary of Striving (Jesus I Rest in You). You can also sing it to the tune of ‘Just As I Am’.
The astute among you will notice there are five verses. One of the Gs gets two verses. I’ll leave you to work out which. But here’s a clue. Both my daughters are named after this ‘G’. It’s the second name of one and the other’s first name is the Hebrew word for it.
Tim Chester © 2007 c/o http://www.thecrowdedhouse.org. May be copied and used freely for non-profit personal and congregational use.
In my book You Can Change I identified four liberating truths about God. I suggested that underlying all our sinful behaviour and negative emotions is a failure to believe one of these truths at a functional level. Embracing, believing, trusting, delighting in the appropriate liberating truth therefore has the power to set us free from sin – though we need to recognize that this typically involves a daily struggle – the fight of faith. These four liberating truths offer a great diagnostic tool for addressing sin in our lives and in the lives of others. The four truths are:
1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves
Soma Communities have been using the four liberating truths a lot. They have coined the term ‘the 4 Gs’ as a short description for them. Caesar Kalinowski emailed me today saying, ‘We continue to be absolutely rocked by the 4 Gs … We now do them each time at Soma School due to the overwhelming response to the material.’ They have four free audio messages on each of the 4 Gs based on talks they gave in Estonia.
You Can Change is available in the UK from IVP and is being published by Crossway in the US in March 2010. I notice Crossway already have You Can Change on their website with a cover design (below). In the meantime you can buy the UK edition from Amazon.com.
I’ve been sent a couple of questions on depression. One was in response to my book, You Can Change, asking if I think depression is a sin. The other is from David Wayne, a pastor in Maryland, in response to my series on communities of grace. Here’s what David wrote:
Here in the US, the therapeutic culture defines and narrates the story of depression. The psychologists, psychiatrists and other therapists are the great high priests on these issues, high priests to whose wisdom we ill-informed pastors must bow. I do know and understand that, by and large, the church and many of us pastors are given to flippant and pious platitudes in response to depression. On the other hand, since the therapeutic culture gets to narrate the story of depression, when we pastors seek to frame a biblical story of depression we are usually ruled out of line and hurtful. For the most part, depressed people in my congregation, or others who are under the influence of any kind of counsellor simply will not listen to me. They will tell me what their counsellor says about how I am to help them and it is my job to receive instruction from them and to never contradict the authority of the counsellor.
Here’s my response to these two questions.
Here’s a summary of part of my talk at the North American Total Church conference on ‘making disciples in missional church’.
Churches often have a very professional approach to pastoral care – it’s something done by a pastor or a counsellor. But Paul tells the whole Christian community in Ephesus to speak the truth to one another in love (Ephesians 4:15). The context is the gospel community (Ephesians 4:1-16) and the content is the gospel word (Ephesians 4:17-25).
God has given us the Christian community with all its differences and giftings as the context for change and growth. Paul says Christ ‘makes the whole body fit together perfectly’ (v. 16, NLT).
– you need to help others change
– you need to let others help you change
We help one another change and overcome pastoral problems:
– by ‘speaking the truth in love’ (v. 15)
– by speaking ‘the truth that is in Jesus’ (v. 21)
– as we ‘put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body’ (v. 25)
– as we ‘do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.’ (v. 29)
We pastor one another through speaking the truth because our underlying issue is the ‘deceitful desires’ of our hearts (v. 22; see also Mark 7:20-23; Romans 1:18-25). Sin promises satisfaction, meaning, identity. but it deceives. In reality it enslaves and destroys. So we need to speak the truth to one another, calling on one another to repent of our idolatrous desires and turn in faith to the truth that is in Jesus.
So missional communities need to create a culture in which we encourage one another to challenge, comfort, console, exhort and rebuke one another with the gospel in the context of ordinary life.
If I’m moaning, I need someone to challenge me to find joy in Christ. If I’m anxious, I need someone to exhort me to trust in my heavenly Father’s care. If I’m ashamed, I need someone to comfort me with the grace of God. It might be another leader; it might be a new Christian. It might be in a scheduled meeting; it might be as we tend someone’s garden together.
This is not just about what happens in a weekly meeting. This is about gospel intentionality through the week in the context of shared lives. We need daily exhortation (see Hebrews 3:12-13). And we need it from people who see us in the daily grind of life, not just when we are on our best behaviour. Anger, frustration, bitterness, sulking, jealousy and malice are all signs that are idolatrous desires are being threatened or thwarted. We need people who see us when we are angry, frustrated and so on so they can challenge those idolatrous desires.
We need to create church cultures in which it is normal to comfort and rebuke one another. One of our dangers is that we only do this in times of crisis. As a result, speaking the truth in love actually creates a crisis. We need to think of church discipline not simply as a final act of excommunication – that kind of discipline rarely works. We need to think of it as a lifestyle of discipleship.
As with mission, this speaking the gospel to one another does not happen automatically. Hanging out with people is not enough in itself. If I go to the cinema or do some chores with you, that is not going to change you on its own. Again, we need ‘gospel intentionality’. We need to engage in every relationship thinking, How can I bless this person? What’s the next step for them? What truth do they need to here? It’s about ordinary life with gospel intentionality.
This material is developed more in chapter 9 of my book, You Can Change.
You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behaviour and Negative Emotions, my book on sanctification, Christian growth and pastoral issues is now out from IVP-UK. It was actually out a month a go, but I forgot to post about it.
Here’s what Tim Keller says about it: “A book about Christian growth that is neither quietistic nor moralistic is rare. A book that is truly practical is even rarer. Tim Chester’s new volume falls into both categories and therefore fills a gap.” Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City
And here’s what Paul Tripp says about it: “There are few books that are shockingly honest, carefully theological, and gloriously hopeful all at the same time. Tim Chester’s book, You Can Change, is all of these and more. He skilfully uses the deepest insights of the theology of the Word as a lens to help you understand yourself and the way of change, and, in so doing, helps you to experience practically what you thought you already knew. The carefully crafted personal ‘reflection’ and ‘change project’ sections are worth the price of the book by themselves. It is wonderful to be reminded that you and I are not stuck, and it’s comforting to be guided by someone who knows well the road from where we are to where we need to be.” Paul Tripp, President of Paul Tripp Ministries
Here’s a sample chapter: Chapter Five: What Truths Do You Need To Turn To?
And here’s a movie of me introducing the book: