Are You Willing To Run?

trippPrompted by the latest health update from Paul David Tripp (officially diagnosed with stage 3 kidney disease), I recently returned to my shelf of books he has written to discover I have read all of his books (see a full list of his titles). Paul has been a source of great blessing in my life over the years, and I know I speak for many when I pray for him to be given many more years of life and fruitful labor.

I have read every book by Paul David Tripp because (1) I’m a Christian in need of wisdom, and because (2) I’m a writer in need of superior examples. All of his books deliver on these fronts. But as I mulled over that shelf of books, I think my favorite of all is Sex and Money: Pleasures That Leave You Empty and Grace That Satisfies (Crossway; 2013).

In every book Tripp understands how sin and temptation work in the human heart because he knows his Bible well. And he understands the expulsive power of a new affection is needed to drive out old, fallen desires. But it’s in Sex and Money, and perhaps because of the dominance of these allurements in our culture, that his counter-cultural courage, his prophetic voice, and pastoral skill are on full display.

A lot more to say about the book, but here I only want to point out that Tripp also prioritizes the imperative to run away from temptation. Some of life’s most important decisions are not complex. Yes, there are layers of affections to address and complex motives to uncover sometimes, but in the moment of temptation (especially sexual temptation) we must be willing to simply run.

Tripp makes the point in Sex and Money when addressing the simple command of Paul to “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18).

If you are going to live in the sexual domain of your life in the way that God has called you to live in the middle of this world that has gone sexually insane, you are going to have to be willing to do a whole lot of running.

You have to be willing to run from thoughts that work to paint as beautiful what God has forbidden.

You are going to have to run from desires that at times seem too powerful to resist.

You are going to have to run from the seductive whisper of the enemy who will lure you with lies.

You are going to have to run from situations and locations that play to your weaknesses.

You are going to have to run from pride that tells you that you are stronger than you really are.

You are going to have to run from selfishness that would allow you to use others for your own pleasure.

You are going to have to run from things you would love to participate in but expose you to things you cannot handle.

You are simply going to have to run from anything, anywhere, and from any person that is immoral in the eyes of your Savior. You have to be willing to run.

Paul is not calling us to medieval monasticism. We know that the greatest sexual danger to each of us exists inside of us, not outside of us. We know that running won’t make us morally pure. But running acknowledges the presence and power of the sin that still lives inside us and how it makes us susceptible to temptation and sadly able to see as beautiful and beneficial what God calls ugly and dangerous. As you work to separate yourself from what God names as immoral, you cry out to God to do what you cannot do, that is, to deliver you from you. God calls you to do what he has empowered you by grace to do, as he does for you what you cannot do for yourself. How amazing his grace is! (95–96)

Fullness of Joy

Paul Tripp on Psalm 16 in The Problem of Good: When the World Seems Fine without God (P&R, 2014), 133:

The pleasures of the physical world are temporarily enjoyable, but the shelf life of their enjoyment is short. The taste of food is wonderful, but it does not linger long on your tongue. The delight of musical creativity is enjoyable, but the notes do not ring in your ears for very long. You sit on the edge of your seat during that powerful movie, but on the way home you are already planning for your next day at work.

Pleasure is pleasurable, but the pleasures of this right-here, right-now created world can never give you fullness of joy. God graces you with pleasure not to satisfy your heart, but to point you to where your searching heart will finally be satisfied. Joy is found in pleasure, but fullness of joy is to be found only in the One who created pleasure for your good and his glory.

Hold Your Dreams with Open Hands

From Paul David Tripp’s excellent new devotional of freshly written content, New Morning Mercies (Crossway), here’s the September 11 reading:

Life is all about to whom and where you look for satisfaction of heart. The shape and direction of your life are determined by what you tell yourself will make you content. Everyone in some way says, “If only I had this, I would be content and able to stop looking for the next thing.”

What sits on the other side of your “If-only”?

We are all dreamers. We all chase a vision of what we would like life to be. We all wish we were sovereign over our lives so our dreams would come true. We all fantasize and imagine. Now, this ability is not evil in and of itself, but combine it with the selfishness of sin, and it will surely get you and me into trouble.

Here’s what happens: it’s not just that you have a dream, but that your heart gets captured by your dream. It becomes your definition of “life.” You no longer hold your dream with open hands. What was once a desire has morphed into a demand, and it won’t be long before you view that demand as a need.

This thing that you once wished that you had becomes your nonnegotiable, the thing that you are unwilling to live without. Soon you’re unhappy, not because life has been hard or God has been unfaithful, but because this thing that is effectively and functionally ruling your heart lies beyond your grasp. You are despondent and discouraged. You envy people who seem to have captured their dreams. You wonder why you’ve been singled out. You wonder why God has forgotten you.

Dream? Yes, but when your dream becomes a ruling thing, it wreaks havoc on your spiritual life.

Pay attention also to what happens to your relationship with God as your dreams gobble up more of the turf of your heart. God is no longer the thing that motivates you and gives you courage and hope. God is no longer your source of sturdy joy. The glory of God is no longer the thing that you’re living for. Awe of God is no longer the reason you do everything you do.

Sadly, God has been reduced to a delivery system. If he delivers, you’ll worship and serve him, but if he fails to deliver, you will question his goodness and love, and you’ll have little motivation to offer your life to him.

I think there are thousands of Christians in this sad position. Perhaps this is what the Bible is picturing when it talks of those who have “abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4). However, there is grace for this struggle — grace that battles for your heart, grace that is more powerful than the draw of any dream. Own the dangerous dreams of your fickle heart and run to the grace that is yours in Jesus.