Review: Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands

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By: Howard Cole

A beautiful guitar locked in its case may resemble many church members. How? A guitar is designed with the intention to be played upon by another so that the music of the instrument can be heard by all. It was never meant to stay in the case! Author Paul David Tripp seizes upon this idea and develops it in his book Instruments in the Redeemers Hands. What is the book about? What were some of its weaknesses? Did any sections grip and grow my own understanding of being a person in need of change helping people in need of change? Read on and consider reading this book if you want to help the ones you love change in areas where they get spiritually stuck.

Lastly, what gripped me and grew me? So much! I caught Trip’s vision and I dream of making it a reality for my local church. I am repenting of the following things that the book pointed out: I am now targeting my heart and others hearts instead of surface behavior, I am first seeking to slowly love and know another before I speak into their life or help with agenda setting, I am seeing myself and others as “meaning-makers” and I am bringing the revelation of Scripture as the primary aid in interpreting how we can change, and lastly I am attempting to ask wise questions that show my love for another as I seek to apply God’s redemptive solutions.

Have you ever considered yourself an instrument fashioned, formed and placed in the hands of Jesus? Have you ever thanked God for the dignity and sense of purpose he gives members of his church who act as instruments in his hands in the change and growth of another? I long to be used by God in this way and encourage you to read this book for your own growth in grace.

Tripp states his focused goal of the book when he says “this book is about: how God uses people who are themselves in need of change, as instruments of the same kind of change in culture.” He reminds his readers that an instrument is not a passive conduit but instead an active tool used to actually change something. He cites Ephesians 4 as the foundation for every member of a local church actually being a particular tool in the Father’s toolbox. Tripp then goes deeper with his overall goal when he adds “the goal is to help change the church’s very culture.” Tripp makes a bold assault on the idea that paid professionals are the only ones that can be used by God as instruments to help people change. He does not denigrate the roles of the pastor or elders or deacons but instead marshals Scripture upon Scripture to call all members into the active role of instruments in the Redeemer’s hands.

The specific content of the book was helpful for me in my understanding of God’s overall purposes regarding how people change, in understanding myself and in understanding others. Tripp began with a profound argument about our behavior being rooted in the thoughts and motives of our hearts. He cautioned against trying to help others change without going down to the depths of one’s heart. The heart is the core of a person where they think, feel and act. Surface level change is not the goal. Change at the heart level is the true goal. Next Tripp called members of a church to be ambassadors for Christ. The helper needs to incarnate Christ in the suffering and struggles of another. He contends that this is done best by a dual process; ask really good questions that get to the bottom of the heart and set an agenda of accountability that puts feet to the change proposed. All of this is done against the backdrop of the radical redemption that both the helper and “helpee” experience in Christ.

Did the book have any weaknesses? I believe Tripp did a fine job in developing an “every member ministry” church culture but what is one to do if a member avoids or fails to follow through with the intended change from another member that is not a spiritual authority? The church was set up with elders (see Philippians 1:1) who guide followers of Jesus in their change process. Our culture is so anti-authority due to the fall of all men into sin. Many members will run from the loving redemptive help of another and the book would be enhanced with a section that gave practical tips on how to help another when the person does not want help. Another suggested improvement of the book centers on a specific “block” that many members might give to another that is trying to help them. What do I mean? Trip challenges his readers to go through a four step process with others to help them change: Love the other, know the other, speak to the other and set an agenda to help the person know what to do. I have found that many people will run from any step of this process by saying “you don’t know my specific struggles so I cannot trust that you can help me change.” I know that this a smoke screen of sorts but I could of used help in what to do for a person that runs from the process with this or many other excuses.