The central theme of How People Change is that much of the time, Christians live with a “gospel gap.” We believe the gospel intellectually, but we don’t live out its implications practically. This gospel gap “subverts our identity as Christians and our understanding of the present work of God” as it “undermines every relationship in our lives, every decision we make, and every attempt to minister to others” (p. 2).
The gospel gap
The gospel gap produces three kinds of blindness: “blindness of identity,” when we underestimate the power of indwelling sin and misunderstand our identity in Christ Jesus; “blindness of God’s provision,” when we do not understand that God has provided “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3); and “blindness to God’s process,” when we forget that the Christian life is one of “constant work, constant growth, and constant confession and repentance” (p. 6).Many external things can wrongly fill the gap of the gospel for us:Sounds like a good book to me.
- Formalism reduces the gospel to church attendance and spiritual disciplines.
- Legalism adds to the gospel law-keeping and rule-keeping.
- Mysticism reduces the gospel to personal experience.
- Activism reduces the gospel to doing social justice.
- Biblicism reduces the gospel to loving theology more than Jesus.
- Psychology-ism reduces the gospel to therapy.
By contrast, the authors offer five gospel perspectives that fill the gospel gap:
- Socialism reduces the gospel to being accepted by a particular Christian community.
- Awareness of “the extent and gravity of our sin” because we cannot be properly cured without a correct diagnosis.
- A focus on “the centrality of the heart” which emphasizes that sin corrupts not only our behaviors but our motivations.
- Attention to “the present benefits of Christ” because the gospel is the root not only of our justification but also our sanctification.
- A reminder of “God’s call to growth and change” because Christian growth requires self-conscious attention.
According to Tripp and Lane, there are five common “deceitful” teachings that Christians sometime believe which cause us to lose gospel perspective and falsely attribute the root of our problems to our 1) circumstances, 2) behavior, 3) negative thinking, 4) low self-concept, or 5) the idea that we “just need to trust Jesus more.” Understanding the gospel helps us see that none of these can be the ultimate root of our sin or lack of Christian growth.
- A call to “a lifestyle of repentance and faith” because the grace of God is not merely the experience of forgiveness but also the enabling power of change.