The book You Can Change, by Tim Chester, promotes a gospel-centered approach to sanctification by asking ten major questions. The real fruit of the book comes through the required Personal Change Project, an endeavor reminiscent of the Personal Counseling Project required by David Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change (and quotes CCEF authors throughout).

The Trinity and Change

Chester gives a little more attention to the role of the Trinity in producing personal change than most books on this topic. The Trinity gives us a new identity: 1) children of the Father 2) bride of the Son and 3) the home of the Spirit. He emphasizes the role of the Spirit in giving us the desire to do what is right, believe what is true, and cherish what is good. The simple emphasis on surrender to our inclination to do what is right and believe what is true was a refreshing reminder that the Spirit is already at work in us and that, very often, we simply need to yield to him. The Spirit opposes sinful desires and promotes God-honoring desires. The challenge is to “sow to the Spirit” by “saying yes to whatever strengthens our Spirit-inspired desires.” When we fail to yield to the Spirit, Scripture calls us to repentance and faith. The way we begin and continue in the Christian life is the same—repentance and faith in Christ.

Who is God?

Ten questions guide the reader through categories similar to Dynamics (heat, thorns, root, fruit, etc). In order to get to “the root”, Chester says that we must find “the lie behind every sin” and then identify one of four truths we are refusing to believe: 1) God is not great 2) God is not glorious 3) God is not good 4) God is not gracious. While a little simplistic, this typology is helpful and moves towards Christ being the expression of God’s greatness, glory, goodness, and grace.

Pride and Preciousness of Christ

The chapter on what stops change was personally transforming.  Chester claims that pride isn’t just a sin; it’s part of the definition of sin. In sin we lift ourselves up over God, but in the gospel grace flows down to us. We need to give up on ourselves, to repent of self-reliance in sanctification and receive God’s grace for change. As one prone to self-reliance and pride, this was a word of grace. Jesus not only shows me humility but humbles me through the cross. The god of self-reliance (or self) is not merciful. When I let it down, it does not forgive. Instead, self-reliance beats me when I am down saying: “You could have done better. You need to work harder. You can do it.” But the gospel tells me the truth: “You can’t do it, but God in Christ through the Spirit can do all things through you.” When I let Christ down, he does not beat me; he dies for me. When I rely on him, not on myself, I discover that he not only dies for me but also lives for me, changing me into his very own image. This is a humbling, transforming, gospel-driven way to live and I am grateful for it!