The BCC Author Interview Q & A with Tim Chester
As part of our BCC vision, we want to help you to get to know gifted Christian authors and their books. This week we’re highlighting Tim Chester as he talks about his book You Can Change.
BCC: “How does this book connect the truth about God with everyday struggles?”
TC: “One of the keys to gospel change is the recognition that change takes place through faith. We become Christians by faith and we growth as Christians by faith. Faith recognizes that God is bigger and better than anything sin might offer. So, in You Can Change, I try to help people make the connections between faith in God and Monday-morning struggles by identifying four liberating truths about God:
- God is Great: So we don’t have to be in control.
- God is Glorious: So we don’t have to fear others.
- God is Good: So we don’t have to look elsewhere.
- God is Gracious: So we don’t have to prove ourselves.
A failure to embrace one of these four truths lies behind most of our sinful behavior and negative emotions. So ‘the four Gs’ are like a diagnostic kit to help us identify the gospel truth that we need focus on.”
BCC: “What do you mean when you say that ‘holiness has been written into our DNA’?”
TC: “Change begins with regeneration, with being born anew through the Spirit. The Spirit gives us new power and new desires. John says God’s seed remains in us (1 John 3:9). I think if he were writing today he might have said God has given us his DNA. The DNA I received at my physical birth means I look somewhat like my earthly father. The DNA I received at my new spiritual birth means I increasingly look like my heavenly Father.”
BCC: “Avoiding temptation is a major step in defeating sin. But we can’t always avoid particular circumstances. What must be in place to ensure that we be victorious, even if presented with temptation?”
TC: “Avoiding temptation is an important move in changing our sin, not least because it signals that we desire God above sin. But in and of itself it will not bring change. It’s a support to the core work of changing by faith, of finding delight and confidence in God.”
BCC: “How does rejoicing in our suffering lead us toward change?”
TC: “Again and again the New Testament says that God uses suffering in our lives to bring about change. Suffering leads to character. Hebrews 12 talks about the Father using the circumstances of our lives to discipline us—not in the sense of punishing us, but shaping us. This doesn’t mean suffering is easy, of course. But it does enable us see purpose in it, even if in the moment we only hold on to that by faith.”
BCC: “What role does pride play in repeated failures at change?”
TC: “I’m convinced that pride is the number one reason why we don’t change. Because of pride we think we can change ourselves instead of relying on God. Because of pride we minimize or excuse our sin so we never really grapple with it. And because of pride we don’t share our struggles with other Christians. In effect, we decide our reputation matters more than our holiness. I’ve come to realize in my own life that my desire to be thought of as a holy person is the main thing that prevents me actually becoming more holy!”
BCC: “What does it mean to have a cross-centered life?”
TC: “I think the cross permeates everything. The cross makes me realize how serious my sin is. The only solution for sin was the Son of God dying, abandoned by His Father. This is how much God hates sin. But the cross also wins my heart. Paul says he lives by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me. Faced with a choice between sin and God, we turn to the cross and see the amazing extent of God’s love.”
BCC: “What are some of the strategies you suggest that people have in place to reinforce faith and repentance?”
TC: “I think it’s really important to put in place strategies like avoiding temptation and countering the influence of the world. What these strategies are will vary from person to person. I have a tendency to be tight with money. For me it’s important not to watch my spending too closely. But for someone who defaults to ‘retail therapy,’ itemizing all their spending might be an important discipline. We also need to strengthen our faith through reading God’s Word, prayer, the Christian community, corporate worship and so on. The important thing is to recognize that all these things are about reinforcing faith and repentance—they direct our attention to God. We mustn’t view them as universal rules for change or a form of self-reliance.”
BCC: “What is the importance of community in the process of change for an individual?”
TC: “I firmly believe the local church is the God-given context for change. This is where faith and repentance are reinforced as we speak the truth in love and as we encourage and exhort one another. And this is so much more than sessions in a pastor’s office. Hebrews 3 says we need to encourage one another daily. So we need to create communities in which everyone is pastoring everyone in the context of everyday life.”
BCC: “Sanctification is a lifetime process that requires effort on our part. What is the right balance between self-reliant legalism and thinking that God will provide smooth sailing and make all struggles disappear forever?”
TC: “We need to see that we are changed by faith, but faith in God can be a daily struggle. We just need to believe in the sense that there is no other solution. But that word ‘just’ can mean a lifetime of struggle. Suppose someone struggles with porn. It may offer them a fantasy world in which they are potent and adored. Today they might struggle to look to God as their refuge and they might win that battle. But tomorrow, when their boss puts them down or they face a challenging situation, the temptation to turn to porn for refuge will start all over again. So tomorrow they again need to fight the fight of faith to believe that God is their refuge. Climbing a mountain can be hard work, but what keeps you going is the prospect of the view from the top plus the glimpses of that view that you get as you climb higher. That’s how change takes place in the Christian life. Climbing the mountain of holiness is hard work, but what keeps us going is the prospect of seeing and knowing the glory of God plus the glimpses of that glory that we get by faith as we climb.”
BCC: Thanks, Tim, for helping our readers to ponder biblical principles of daily growth in grace.”