Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul David Tripp (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002.  348 pp)

Paul David Tripp is a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation in Glendale, Pa. and a lecturer in practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.

How People Change vs. Instruments

As a review of How People Change has already been written on this blog, I felt it necessary to review its companion Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands.  The first thing that is needed to be said is that if you read How People Change, you should have read this book instead.

How People Change focuses on the hard circumstances in life and how to adequately bring out a spirit-filled, redemptive change in the lives of Jesus’ people. It states that the stages in life are Heat, Thorns, Cross, and Fruit, quite too readily categorizing the pains and joys of life into a few arbitrary categories.  The book simplifies life, sanctification, and counseling in a way that is almost insulting.

Everyone Needs Redemption

Paul David Tripp’s earlier book, however, portrays an accurate insight into the heart of God’s people. Tripp states as his main premise that everyone is messed up at their core, and that is why everyone needs redemption.

“Sin renders us incapable of doing what God has ordained us to do. This inability colors every situation and relationship of our lives. It is not just that I don’t want to do God’s will, or that I think my way is better, it’s that even when I have the right intentions, I can’t pull it off. I always fall short of God’s standard” (15).

Love, Know, Speak, Do

With the understanding that humankind is all messed up, that nobody is perfect, and that no one this side of heaven can accurately reflect Jesus’ perfection, Tripp outlines a simple system (perhaps too simple) to help others go through struggles in life.  The system is “Love, Know, Speak, Do”.

“These words do not represent a four-step process. They are not phases of a personal ministry relationship, as if you start at the first (Love) and push people thorugh until the last (Do). They are simply four imprtant elements of biblical ministry. Although there is some logic to the order, you will be doing all of these things simultaneously as you seek to be the Lord’s ambassador” (109).

What’s unique and helpful to his counseling technique and legitimately helping people change (unlike his other book), is that he realizes loving and knowing are the two key concepts to helping people change for the better.

“Love highlights the importance of relationships in the process of change.  Theologians call this a covenantal model of change. God comes and makes a covenant with us. He commits himself to be our God and he takes us as his people. In the context of this relationship, he accompishes his work of making us like him” (110).

Knowing, similarly, is just as important as loving people, and is perhaps a symbiotic part of loving.

“Know has to do with really getting acquainted with the people God sends our way. When you assume that you know someone, you won’t ask the critical questions you need to ask to get below the surface…[k]nowing a person means knowing the heart” (111).

Real and Lasting Change

Tripp outlines a way that he feels can produce more than just temporal, superficial change.  Tripp, rightly so, tries to find possible situations where bias, agenda, and the like come in the way of effective council. Much like his other book, however, the process may at times be too simple, but Tripp readily recognizes this fact.  Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands serves as a tool, not as an exhaustive compendium of how to council people in need of help.

Verdict: 3 out of 5

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