A review of You can Change, Tim Chester.
UK minister Tim Chester has written a brilliantly powerful book about how to change… the trouble is, it will really challenge because it will test whether or not we really want to change.
Many of us have things we whinge about changing. I have been complaining about my pride for a long time, and I wouldn’t mind getting fitter, and I know I am too critical of others. So I had quite a few change projects to work on while reading through Chester’s book, and he invites all readers to approach his book in this way.
He starts with some stories of change for people he has pastored: the resolution of problems with addiction to pornography, some struggling with anger or a bitter spirit, a guy preoccupied with proving himself and pleasing others, a girl who was racist and into sexual innuendo.
He goes through a 10-step process for change:
1. What would you like to change? Focusing in on Jesus as the true image of God, and the model for who we could be. He warns that often we want other people to change, but we need to focus on what could change in us, to become more like Jesus.
2. Why would you like to change? He starts with the wrong reasons: trying to prove ourselves to God (ignoring grace), trying to prove ourselves to others (trusting others’ not God’s standards), trying to prove ourselves to ourselves (but our sin is against God). Chester’s motivation to change is both the promise from God that it is a better way to live, and confronting the lies of sin:
o Sin promises fun and excitement but delivers pain and tragedy
o Sin promises freedom but delivers slavery and addiction
o Sin promises life and fulfilment but delivers emptiness, frustration and death
o Sin promises gain but delivers loss
o Sin promises we can get away with it, but the fact is, we don’t.
3. How are you going to change? We can’t change ourselves, and law reveals what needs to change but cannot change us. Only God can change us through the liberating work of the Father, Son and Spirit.
4. When do you struggle? We sometimes blame our sin on our circumstances or our past, but Chester points out that we sin because we fail to trust God or worship God. Ultimately all sin is our attempt to do things our way, because we don’t trust God above all things, and we do not worship God above all things.
5. What truths do you need to turn to? Chester identifies some truths to confront the lies of sin:
o God is great, so we don’t have to be in control
o God is glorious, so we don’t have to fear others
o God is good, so we don’t have to look elsewhere
o God is gracious, so we don’t have to prove ourselves.
6. What desires do you need to turn from? All sin is desiring something more than we desire God, so Chester sees that the key is having the faith that God is both bigger and better than our sinful desires.
7. What stops you changing? Pride in our self-reliance, or attempts to justify ourselves by excusing, minimising or hiding our sin, or by hating the consequences of sin but continuing to love the sin.
8. What strategies will reinforce your faith and repentance? Avoid what provokes and strengthens sinful desires, and sow to the Spirit instead through the Bible, prayer, worship, Christian community, serving others, learning through suffering, and the hope of change.
9. How can we support one another in changing? Chester explains that the challenge to our individual failure to change, is the truth that we should be a community of change, truth, repentance and grace. We are not meant to struggle with sin on our own.
10. Are you ready for a lifetime of daily change? We are free to choose change or free to struggle with sin. Changing to be who we are meant to be is a lifetime task, but it begins today, and everyday, by focusing our desires on God.
The problem is, sin is so attractive, and our lives are saturated with temptations. Sin can promise many pleasures, it can fool you into believing you will never be caught, it can pretend to be the source of much gain, it can pretend to be tiny and trivial, and it can excuse itself by pointing to others who have sinned.
Tim Chester explains that everything we need to change is before us, there are no excuses, and that we simply need to reach out to the hand God offers us, and cling to it, trusting that he knows best what we truly need.