I was at a conference earlier this year, and while waiting for the sessions to begin, noticed this book on the book table. I had never read Tim Chester before, but had heard a few of his other books bandied about as ’good reads’ in my circle. I was really happy I made this purchase! Here is a book about sanctification, or as Chester rightly calls it ‘transformation’ that practically holds forth the gospel promise. It is so rare to come across a book on this issue that is not quietist (let go and let God), nor moralistic (go change yourself). This book has a gospel-centered and biblical approach to sanctification with an accessible practicality. So much of it reminds me of John Owen’s classic work “the Mortification of Sin”, just making it all the more appealing as a worthwhile read. The subtitle puts the content of the book succinctly, “God’s transforming power for our sinful behaviors and negative emotions”
Here is but a taste of what I enjoyed from it:
Chester brilliantly connects the truth about God (namely His greatness, glory, goodness and graciousness) with everyday struggles. He rightly grasps and demonstrates how faith is at the root of all real change. As you read through the book you discover afresh how embracing the truth about God is the key to change, while denying the truth about God is at the core of all sinful behaviour and negative emotions.
In this book Chester show how holiness is written in our spiritual DNA. When a believer is born again through the Spirit, we are given new desires and power. As the apostle John puts it, God’s seed remains in us (1 John 3:9). This DNA is meant to constantly direct us back to the Father.
Chester discusses amongst other things, avoiding temptation. It is important in changing sinful behaviour. However he rightly shows how this can never ultimately change us. Avoiding temptation is just a support to the core work of our lives being changed by faith as we delight more in God.
Insightfully we see how suffering is used in our lives to cause change. Suffering leads to character. Just as a Father chastens a son to bring out maturity and lasting joy, so the heavenly Father does with His children (Heb 12).
One of my favourite chapters explains most helpfully, how often our desire to be thought of as a holy person is actually the thing which prevents us from being holy! The motivation at the bottom is pride, and pride is relying on self not on God. Furthermore pride is living for self not for God.
The best aspect of this book is its cross-centered focus. The cross makes us realize how serious our sin is. The only solution to our sin was the Son of God dying, abandoned by His Father. Furthermore, that is how much God hates sin. Thus it is the radical love of the cross that ultimately changes our hearts,
As I mentioned earlier, the book is crazy practical. Chester discusses strategies to avoid temptation and to counter the influence of the world. He wonderfully uses real life examples throughout the book, giving it a real on the ground approach and applicability.
Towards the end of the book we see the importance of community in the change process for each individual. The local church is given its rightful place, as God context for change in our lives. It is here that faith and repentance are reinforced as we speak the truth in love and encourage one another.
Chester shows how we need to see that we are changed by faith, and that faith in God is a daily struggle. 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.”
The book right from the beginning asks the reader to implement a ‘change project’. Each chapter ends with application questions and review that move that project further along. This, plus the simple and easy writing style, makes the book ideal for a small group of new or mature Christians. It is a helpful resource to work through when counselling someone. As a pastor I am always looking for resources that are clear and gospel-saturated. There are many books that advocate change but there are a precious few that advocate change because of the work of the Holy Spirit as a consequence to the work of Christ. You Can Change by Tim Chester falls into the category! I highly recommend it, both as a resource for minister to use with their counselees, or for the everyday Christian who is seeking to better wage war against sin.