Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Book Review -- Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands

Leading the list of “Things I Wish I Had Learned Better in Seminary” is how to help people grow. That’s why Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands was such a welcome book to me. The subtitle says it all: “People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change.”

Instruments is a manual on “personal ministry”—training the reader to help others grow in Christlikeness. Paul Tripp artfully unpacks the doctrines of indwelling sin, progressive sanctification and the priesthood of all believers, bringing them into the kitchens, living rooms and mini-vans of everyday life.

He begins by painting the good news of the “big picture” in six inspiring chapters: The King has come and is restoring His people. And we, as His ambassadors, have the high calling of representing Him in each other’s lives.

In the last eight chapters, Tripp unfolds his model of helping people move toward heart and life transformation with four key words: love, know, speak, do. Tripp teaches that we need to follow the “Wonderful Counselor” by incarnating His love and entering into the worlds of the people around us. Merely casual relationships will not do in the body of Christ. Tripp then trains us in the art of asking good questions to get to the heart of things. Lasting change will not happen, however, until the truth is spoken in love and people are led in authentic repentance.

Instruments does have its weaknesses. Readers can get lost pretty easily in its 350 pages. Though engaging, it feels a bit like an academic textbook. And many of the colorful illustrations are drawn from the author’s intense counseling ministry, leaving some readers overwhelmed with the severity of the problems being addressed. If more of the illustrations were taken from kitchens and mini-vans, his argument would be even stronger.

All in all, however, I strongly commend this book to church leaders. Every page is saturated with Scripture and biblical principles that can be immediately put to work. For deeper study, Instruments has been adapted into a church-based discipleship curriculum: “Helping Others Change,” and is available with an array of similarly excellent materials from Changing Lives Ministries (

[Reprinted with permission from EFCA Today, Winter 2005, published by the Evangelical Free Church of America. You can read the first chapter of this book at the CCEF site.]