Paul Tripp

President of Paul Tripp Ministries

Jesus Genie

Thanksgiving is just days away, so it’s time to start reflecting on what we’re thankful for. After all, we need a few talking points when the question is asked of us at the dinner table.

Yes, I’m being intentionally sarcastic with that statement. We ought to be a people who are thankful 365 days a year, not just when the calendar reminds us to be. Like I wrote last week, dangerous things can happen when you forget the generosity of God.

But not only must we be a people who are thankful; we ought to be a people who are thankful for the right reasons. When you celebrate, why do you celebrate? When you receive blessing, how do you define blessing? Be honest – what do you want from God? Or maybe this is a more provocative way of saying it: what kind of Messiah do you want Jesus to be?

I think many of us are just not on Jesus’ page. What we dream of and hope for is not the same as what he has promised us and works by zealous grace to deliver to us. Perhaps many of us struggle with disappointment with God because, at street level in our daily lives, we don’t esteem what God values.

Could it be that many of us don’t treasure what God has harnessed the forces of nature and controlled the events of human history to deliver to us? Maybe many of us actually want nothing more than a Jesus Genie who will make our lives easier by obeying our every command, for which we would give him thanks and name him as faithful.

Perhaps many of us want control more than we want redemption. We wish we had more control over the people and circumstances of our lives. That would be the good life for us.

Perhaps many of us crave success more than we crave redemption. We are willing to do almost anything to be successful; meanwhile, we neglect the things that God says have eternal value.

Perhaps many of us esteem acceptance more than we esteem redemption. We find more joy in the acceptance of the people around us than we do in the abounding love of God.

Perhaps many of us desire comfort and pleasure more than we desire redemption. If our lives could just be easier and more predictable, we would be satisfied.

Perhaps many of us want material things more than we want redemption. We tend to judge the quality of our lives by the size of our piles of stuff we have acquired.

Now, none of these things is inherently evil; it's not wrong to desire any of them. The game-changing question is this: "what set of desires rule my heart?" This is important because the desires that rule your heart determine how you evaluate your life, how you make small and large decisions, and, most importantly, how you think about the goodness and faithfulness of God.

This Thanksgiving season, go ahead and be thankful for the success and comfort and material things that God has blessed you with. But more than that, celebrate what God is working to produce in you – a redeemed heart. Your Lord is much, much more than a Jesus Genie; he is your sovereign Savior King.

God bless

Paul David Tripp

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

  1. How has God blessed you with control? In what ways do you value control more than redemption, and how might God be redeeming you through the lack/loss of control?
     
  2. How has God blessed you with success? In what ways do you value success more than redemption, and how might God be redeeming you through the lack/loss of success?
     
  3. How has God blessed you with acceptance? In what ways do you value acceptance more than redemption, and how might God be redeeming you through the lack/loss of acceptance?
     
  4. How has God blessed you with comfort and pleasure? In what ways do you value comfort and pleasure more than redemption, and how might God be redeeming you through the lack/loss of comfort and pleasure?
     
  5. How has God blessed you with material things? In what ways do you value material things more than redemption, and how might God be redeeming you through the lack/loss of material things?

We all do it, probably every day. It has a huge impact on the way we view ourselves and the way we respond to others. It’s one of the main reasons we experience so much conflict in our relationships. The scary thing is: we barely recognize that we’re doing it.

What is this thing we all tend to do that causes so much harm? We forget the generosity of God.

In the busyness and self-centeredness of our lives, we sadly forget how much our lives have been blessed by and radically redirected by the generosity of God. The fact that he blesses us when we deserve nothing (except for wrath and punishment) fades from our memories like a song whose lyrics we once knew but now cannot recall.

Every morning, God’s generosity greets us in at least a dozen ways, but we barely recognize it as we frenetically prepare for our day. When we lay our exhausted heads down at the end of the day, we often fail to look back on the many gifts that dripped from God’s hands into our little lives.

We don’t often take time to sit and meditate on what our lives would have been like if the generosity of the Redeemer had not been written into our personal stories. Sadly, we all tend to be way too forgetful, and there are few things more dangerous in the Christian life than forgetfulness.

Forgetfulness is dangerous, because it shapes the way you think about yourself and others. When you remember God’s generosity, you also remember that you simply did nothing whatsoever to earn his blessing. When you remember his generosity, you’re humble, thankful, and tender. When you remember his generosity, complaining gives way to gratitude and self-focused desire gives way to worship.

But when you forget God’s generosity, you proudly tell yourself that what you have is what you’ve achieved. When you forget his generosity, you take credit for what only his blessings could produce. When you forget his generosity, you name yourself as righteous and deserving, and you live an entitled and demanding life.

When you forget God’s generosity and think you’re deserving, you find it very easy to withhold generosity from others. Proudly, you think that you’re getting what you deserve and that they are, too. Your proud heart is not tender, so it’s not easily moved by the sorry plight of others. You forget that you are more like than unlike your needy brother or sister, failing to acknowledge that neither of you stands before God as deserving.

This Thanksgiving season, will you remember to remember the generosity of God? Remembrance produces upward worship, inward humility, and outward generosity. Give thanks, be humble, and be generous, because the blessings you receive from the Lord are not what you deserve.

God bless

Paul David Tripp

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

  1. How has God been generous to you in 2014? List at least 10 examples.
     
  2. Look at your list. Which of those 10 examples are you tempted to take personal credit for? Why does God deserve all the credit?
     
  3. How have you been arrogant and self-righteous about blessings when you should be humble and grateful?
     
  4. How have you failed to extend generosity to others in 2014?
     
  5. How can you be generous to others as an expression of your humble gratitude for the undeserved blessings you have received as a result of the generosity of God?

Beware: You Too Can Be Taken Captive

When I was in seminary preparing for ministry, I never imagined what I've encountered since then as a counselor.

So many times I've sat with confused and discouraged people, people who had made regrettable personal decisions that further complicated their travels through this broken world. They would sit with me and wonder aloud why things happened the way they had, and what in the world they should do about it all now. Usually they were hoping there might be some rare, hidden wisdom that would clear things up for them. They craved a revelation, a solution, a magic bullet. And as I listened I would think, 95 percent of what this person is seeking is right there in God’s Word.

These people did not need any new revelation or special insight. They needed to submit to what God had already written. They needed to trust what is sure: the clear words of the Creator of it all, found in the pages of his book, the Bible.

The apostle Paul does a good job in Colossians 2 of diagnosing this endemic problem:

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and
the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ"
(Col. 2: 6-8 NIV).

If you, as a resident of this fallen world, are to follow in the vein of what Paul is teaching here, you must embrace two realities:

1) The first is this: as a person made in the image of God you do not live life based on the cold, objective facts of your experience, but on your interpretation of your experience. Everyone living is a philosopher and a theologian. We are always stepping back, taking a look at our lives, and turning our situations and relationships over and over in our hands for further inspection and understanding. The sense you make out of the events of your life will form what you do and say in response to them. As you interpret new events and reinterpret old events, time after time after time, your interpretations will begin to form into a worldview that will function as an organizing structure not only for what you think, but also for how you live.

2) Here is the second reality: you are always being bombarded by the opinions of others. The world around you is not silent. You live in the middle of a constant cacophony of interpretations of reality. Whether its the opinion of a friend, the lyrics of a song, the words of a text, an article from a newspaper, the plot of a sitcom, some information on a website, or the worldview of a great movie, your eyes are receiving and your mind is being influenced by a thousand voices every day. Each is telling you how to think, and in telling you how to think, is telling you how to live. We never interpret the events of our lives on the basis of pure objectivity; we are always influenced by a myriad of cultural and interpersonal influences.

Now, keep these two realities in mind as you consider Paul’s diagnosis. He is saying that Christians, people who really do know the Lord, can be taken captive through “hollow and deceptive philosophy.” In this phrase we find a stinging criticism of the limits of human research, experience, and interpretation. Here’s what Paul is telling us: understanding that is merely human, continually claims that it can provide a reliable basis for daily living, yet its hollow (empty) because it doesn't provide this reliable basis, and its deceptive (false) because it cannot. The authoritative truth and wisdom you need to guide you through your situations and relationships simply can’t be obtained from any human source.

Then Paul points us to the fatal flaw of human understanding. Such understanding will ultimately fail because it looks to “human tradition and the basic principles of this world” rather than to Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (v. 3). This is exactly what often makes our lives so difficult. We're relying on some basic tradition of human understanding for guidance in daily life. Some of us are relying on the power of the human intellect: our own. Others are relying on a popular mystical notion we've clearly absorbed somewhere along the line: that a benevolent orderliness in the nature of things will simply guide you into goodness. Both have forgotten about the Fall, about the reality of this broken universe.

Human “wisdom” that cannot be aligned with Scripture simply is not wisdom at all. Because many of us have embraced fallen imitations of wisdom, we live stressful and disappointing lives full of unexpected problems and confusion. We've been taken captive and didn’t know it, even as we hold in our hands the only truly reliable source of understanding and direction: the Word of God; written guidance from the One who supplies every treasure, insight, wisdom, and truth.

This article is a resource of Paul tripp Ministries. For more information visit www.paultripp.com

~"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). Prayer reminds you that your biggest life struggles exist inside, not outside, of you. Real prayer always leaves you humbled because real prayer requires you to admit who you really are. We would all like to think we’re fundamentally good people whose biggest struggles in life exist outside, not inside, of us. But prayer confronts us with a humbling reality: we’re only hooked by the evil outside of us because of the evil inside of us.

Prayer requires us to face the fact that no matter what we suffer, the deepest, most abiding dilemma of our life exists inside, not outside, of us. Prayer requires us to face the dark and devastating reality of our sin and how it distorts what we think, desire, say, and do. Prayer requires us to acknowledge that we need rescue and protection because we carry around something inside ourselves that tempts us away from what is right toward what is wrong. Prayer humbles us as it welcomes us to admit that we carry around something inside that is self-focused and antisocial and therefore destructive to ourselves and to our relationships.

Prayer requires us to confess that the biggest problem in our lives, the one thing we cannot escape by change of situation and location, is ourselves! It’s our sin that seduces, deceives, and entraps us again and again. It’s our sin that causes us to want things we shouldn’t want, to think things we shouldn’t think, to say things we shouldn’t say, and to do things we shouldn’t do. Prayer calls us to quit blaming our circumstances and relationships for our words and actions. Prayer welcomes us to accept responsibility for our behavior and, as we do, to receive forgiveness and help.

Prayer destroys the finger-pointing, it’s-your-fault, blame game that paralyzes us. When you’re deeply persuaded that your hope in life is to get everything around you fixed, and the people around you are deeply persuaded of the same, you can be sure that nothing will get fixed. It’s only when you and your neighbor both confess that it’s the sin inside that leads you both to do what’s wrong—not the failure of the other—that each hungers for growth and change and then reaches out for God’s help.

Change always begins with looking within, and that’s exactly where prayer calls us to look. The celebration of a Savior, which lies at the heart of prayer, makes sense only when we acknowledge that we can’t escape from the sin inside us. When we acknowledge our sin, we quit blaming people, places and situations and begin getting serious about getting help. Prayer reminds you again and again that your biggest, most abiding problem is you.

“For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Prayer reminds you that the key to real life is found in an allegiance to God’s kingdom and not your own. True heartfelt prayer ends as it begins—with recognition of God’s kingship and his glory. Prayer reminds you that life isn’t about you. Prayer reminds you that the center of your universe is a place reserved for God and God alone. Prayer reminds you that real peace, satisfaction, and contentment come when you live for a greater glory than your own. Prayer reminds you that hope in life isn’t found in building your own kingdom but in submitting to the wisdom and rule of a better King. Prayer calls you away from the kingdom of self, which is so destructive to everything life is intended to be, and welcomes you to the kingdom of God, where a God of love rules in wisdom and love.

"This article is a resource of Paul Tripp Ministries. For more information visit www.paultripp.com"

About Paul Tripp

Paul Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is "Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life." Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children. For more information, visit http://www.paultrippministries.org/store

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