You Can Change, Negative Emotions, and Christian Character


I find the title to Tim Chester’s book to be obnoxious and cheesy.

Yes, I’m a snob.

I find his writing lacking, as he is prone to make sweeping generalizations and statements about absolute truth that are not absolute. Example: Chapter 5 begins with the statement that “Behind every sin and negative emotion is a lie.” That is a sub-heading for the chapter and something to which Chester returns to throughout the chapter and the book.

Had he not written the word ‘every,’ I might have gone with it. However, what I ended up doing instead of tracking with him was writing “cancer” into the margins every time he referred to that sub-heading.

As time went on, I went from writing “cancer,” to writing…

CANCER

then,

CANCER

then,

FREAKING CANCER!

then,

B.S. – CANCER!

then,

Bull Shit! Cancer! Cancer! Cancer!

Now, I think you can probably figure out why I was writing that, but just in case, I think Christians should probably admit that there are certain situations that feel terrible even for saints. There are situations in life that come about through no error or sin, and no amount of truth can keep us from negative emotion. Cancer is one of the more obvious examples of when that’s true. The book of Job is another obvious example.

It bothers me that Chester so obnoxiously generalizes, neglecting the relatively common human experience of undeserved and inexplicable pain and suffering.

————————————————————————-

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can tell you that Chapter 6 actually turned my hatred of this book around. It’s the first chapter that dealt with sanctification as I would expect of a mature Christian. It addressed the depth and intangibility of character change, and it did so by referring to the gospel.

Highlight for you:

“In 1569, Dirk Willems escaped from a Dutch prison. He’d been imprisoned because he was an Anabaptist… Willems fled across a frozen lake, pursued by a prison guard. Half-starved from prison rations, Willems crossed the lake safely. But the guard fell through the ice into freezing water. Willems immediately turned back and pulled him out. The guard wanted to release Willems, but by then a burgomaster had arrived on the scene. Willems was arrested, tortured, and burned at the stake. Willems didn’t have time to decide on the right thing to do. He reacted in a moment. That’s a sign of Christian character. It’s a sign that grace has become a habit. You can’t create Christian character overnight. It’s the fruit of suffering and perseverance (Romans 5:3-4). It’s the harvest of daily weeding out sin and planting grace,” (112).

Up until this point in the book, Chester seemed immature to me. He seemed like a writer of Christian self-help, which, I now think is probably what he’s writing against. He also seemed like someone who knows very little of suffering or endurance. My greatest criticism of this book is that I wish it hadn’t taken Chester five chapters to say what needs to be said. I think he was trying to lay a foundation in those five chapters, but I honestly wouldn’t have read past them except that I’m in a Bible study that’s reading it.

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