Following the Wonderful Counselor

Helping Others Change by Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane

This is lesson 4 in a series of on-line journal posts on my journey through the workbook Helping Others Change.  I plan to post my answers to questions at the end of each chapter, hoping that the process of being open to my own struggles living for Christ will provide encouragement to others on the same journey.  Each post in this series will begin with the Big Question from the lesson, and list the key Concepts along with the Personal and Relational applications.  After these will be my journal entries answering the questions as honestly as possible.

Lesson 1 Questions and Answers

Lesson 2 Questions and Answers

Lesson 3 Questions and Answers

Lesson 4 Questions and Answers

The Big Question: Right now, where has God positioned you to be one of his instruments of change?

Concepts:

  1. God calls us to be ambassadors, representing his message, methods, and character (2 Cor 5:14-21)
  2. Ambassadors get from negative fruit to positive fruit not be fixing problems externally, but by heart change.
  3. The LOVE-KNOW-SPEAK-DO model follows Christ’s example of how to do this (Jn 13:34).

Personal Application:

  1. In all of my relationships, I must remember that I am Christ’s ambassador.
  2. I must examine my goals for my relationships.  Am I solely motivated by my own personal happiness?  Do I respond to others with a desire to encourage God’s work of change in their lives?
  3. I must examine my commitment to the message, methods, and character of the King.

Relational Application:

  1. I must learn to look at all of my relationships redemptively, keeping an eye out for God-given moments of ministry.
  2. It is important to use the LOVE-KNOW-SPEAK-DO model as a way to examine the quality of the relationships God has given me.
  3. In my relationships, I must always remember that I am called to be God’s instrument.  God alone changes people.

Journal Questions:

1. What are some reasons why external change is appealing to us as human beings?  Why does God seek heart change?

Frankly, because “before” and “after” photos are impressive.  The problem is that even if the photos are not photoshopped or doctored in some deceptive manner, they still represent external change.  For example, I wonder if the “before” and “after” weight-loss photos merely manifest a person’s exchange of one idol for another.  An overweight person’s heart-idol may be food, comfort, or pleasure.  The same person after losing 100 lbs may have merely exchanged their heart-idol for health, pride, self-denial, or social approval/beauty.  The person in the before and after photos may be as miserable and unhappy as they have always been, perhaps more so because external change didn’t deliver the happiness they craved.  The reasons why external change is appealing to us are myriad, but they all have in common the sin of idolatry.  We know deep down that external change is not truly change, only a counterfeit.  But the counterfeit, even when it is recognized as such by the world, is still valued!  However, God seeks heart change because God is not interested in the outward appearances of people, but he looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7).  God is interested in our hearts because Scripturally-speaking, the heart is the center of who we really are.  Our external behavior and actions (and even appearance to a certain degree) flow from the contents of our heart.  Our hearts are like the bit in a horse’s mouth.  Change the horse’s behavior and direction by controlling the bit (Jas 3:3).  Change the heart, and you’ve changed the person’s internal motivations and therefore behaviors.  God seeks heart change because it is the only way to truly affect change in us.

2. How has God dealt with you according to the LOVE-KNOW-SPEAK-DO model?  How have others done LOVE-KNOW-SPEAK-DO with you?  Pick a specific instance.

One example from my childhood when God dealt with me according to the LOVE-KNOW-SPEAK-DO model in order to bring about change involved my first “collection” of things.  I’m a collector by nature.  That’s just the way God shaped me.  In my life I’ve collected baseball cards, Star Wars figures, books, magazines, CDs, sermon MP3S, stamps, even Internet links!  As I recall, my first collection that I obsessed over was MAD magazine.  I really loved my MAD magazines.  I subscribed for a few years.  I bought the double-issues whenever a new one was published.  I made it my mission to read and store all the older issues I could find.  I read them religiously, laughing at the sarcasm and snickering when any authority turned up their nose at me for reading such juvenile and asinine literature.  But after awhile I began to feel a twinge of conviction whenever I came across something that was not God-honoring (which was pretty often in MAD).  This could have just been my conscience, except that I grew up a regular church-goer.  It soon became difficult to maintain a sense of sincerity when I was in church singing songs to the Lord, listening to my pastor preach the Bible to the church, and participating in my Sunday School.  The Word of God was having an effect in convicting me of sin and rebellion.  No one explicitly confronted me on my infatuation with MAD.  In fact, some of my friends and family members thought it was cute and harmless.  But I distinctly remember one night I had a dream in which I heard God instruct me that I had to get rid of my entire MAD collection!  I don’t remember, but I probably woke up in a sweat.  This was a severe test for me, but it was very clear.  If I wanted to be a disciple of Christ, then I had to give up “all that I had” and follow him (Mk 10:17-27).  I was quite a while (probably a few months) before I succumbed to the Lord’s prodding, but I eventually threw my entire collection of about 50 MAD magazines in the garbage.  And wow, I experienced emotions that I wasn’t expecting.  Relief, joy, my heavenly Father’s good pleasure, and hardly any sense of loss.  That lesson stuck with me ever since, and I’ve learned that sacrificial obedience to Christ brings new life, not death.  Looking back on that experience, I can see how God used the LOVE-KNOW-SPEAK-DO model of affecting change in my heart.  He loved me by placing me in a loving Christian home and church.  He demonstrated that he knew me as a collector and identified my heart’s strong desires and idols.  He spoke to me through his written, preached, and taught Word, even with words that were not directed specifically for me alone.  And if that weren’t enough, he acted personally and directly my reaching into my dreams in order to instruct me in how I must deny myself, take up my cross, and follow him (Lk 9:23-25).

In terms of other people using the LOVE-KNOW-SPEAK-DO model with me, I have been on the receiving end of very profitable personal ministry from my wife.  I think women are naturally more relational than men, so generally speaking women are more at home in a marriage relationship while men have to learn, adjust, and grow into being a good relational husband.  Many times my wife has worked to bring change in my heart (by God’s grace of course) by demonstrated tangibly her love for me, her knowledge of my heart and who I am, speaking to me with words of incisive grace, and taking action in a way that only in my most callous moments could I criticize.  Don’t get me wrong, my wife is a sinner just like all of us, but she is definitely an instrument in the Redeemer’s hands when it comes to my sanctification and growth in grace.

3. Reflect (using this model) on two or three relationships in your life.  Where are they weak?  Where are they strong?  Have you been functioning as an ambassador?  Pray that God would use these truths to shape the way you serve in these relationships.

First, I will reflect on my relationship with my oldest daughter.  Second, I will reflect on my relationship with a my wife.

My daughter is much like me, which is why we sometimes butt heads.  My relationship with her is weak in certain areas.  For example, I can be very impatient with her (much more so than with my other children).  I also tend to get angry with her for her persistence, when what I should be doing is answering her with careful explanations or loving disciplinary measures.  Instead, I can see that I bring on much of my frustration by letting my negative emotions toward her fester until they explode in an outburst of irritation.  It is ironic that some of the weaknesses in my relationship with her lead to some of the strengths.  She and I are very affectionate.  We love to give each other warm hugs and express our love for one another in tender words.  I very much enjoy her affection, and I know she cherishes my attention, love, and approval.  We also tend to confess our sins against one another and ask for forgiveness fairly quickly.  Tender and teachable moments (for her and myself) often follow forgiveness of each other.  I try very hard to be an ambassador of Christ in my relationship with her (and with all my children) by teaching and demonstrating the knowledge of God, the wisdom of God, and the character of God.  She is also getting to the age where she understands and digests these lessons, so much so that often she is able to apply what she’s learned to lovingly chastise me in the name of the Lord.  What a blessing she is in my life!  I pray that I would recognize the blessing she is more often, would more often thank and praise her for what she means to me in my life, and that I would grow in my sanctification so as to hurt her feelings by my insensitivity less and less.

My relationship with my wife is obviously more developed and mature because she is not a child but an adult, and one who has walked with the Lord for most of her life.  We are almost nine years into marriage, and I still struggle with thoughts and desires of what she can do for me, rather than what I can do for her.  Being a servant leader to my wife is very difficult, but by God’s grace I am growing.  I suppose our relationship could use growth in our devotional time together, our commitment of marriage relationship time together, and our prayer time together.  All of these areas are weaker than I would like them to be.  I also know that having a large and young family presents us with unique challenges in these areas, but they cannot be used as excuses for inaction.  Where are we strong?  Our commitment to each other, our family, and ministry is strong.  We have shared values and vision for the direction and purpose of our family.  We are both people who want to love each other from a servant’s heart, and we both want to be transparent in our marriage and life with others (both other Christians and family members).  I think that both of us are teachable, and we both desire to learn from those who faithfully trod the path before us.  I pray that God will this year (being a transition year of ministry opportunity for us) bring real change into the areas where we are weak, and strengthen us as a couple so that we may minister together more effectively.  God help us to use the biblical truths found in this lesson to bring change to our hearts and in the hearts of those whom God has placed in our paths.

4. Personal Ministry Opportunity

First, choose a setting where you want to concentrate your attention.  You could choose a formal or an informal relationship, a 1:1 relationship or a small group.  Whatever you choose, seek to become more biblically intentional in your communication.  (I’ve chosen to focus on a 1:2 discipling relationship that I currently have with 2 young men.)

Second, describe and analyze the setting and the person or people involved.

Third, as you work through the rest of the lessons, begin to strategize.  Design a plan for ministry on the basis of what you have been studying and thinking.

Fourth, pray!  As you study each lesson, don’t simply think of the truths as strategies for happier relationships.  See them as a means to see your own need for change and your dependence upon Christ to live in a way that evidences him.  You may want to ask two or three people to pray for you in this process.

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