Friday, April 24, 2009

The Stages of the War for the Heart

A number of people at Arrowsmith have been blessed lately by the ministry and insight of Paul Tripp. One of his books that I have enjoyed is Instrument in the Redeemer's Hands, where he unpacks the truth of James 4:1-10. Justin Taylor recently posted this, and so I am reposting here for those who might be interested – and because I wrote my doctoral thesis on the spiritual battle for the heart. Here is how Paul Tripp sees the war for the heart according to the following stages:

Stage 1: Desire. "The objects of most of our desires are not evil. The problem is the way they tend to grow, and the control they come to exercise over our hearts. All human desire must be held in submission to a greater purpose, the desires of God for his kingdom." (p. 85)

Stage 2: Demand. ("I must.") "Demand is the closing of my fists over a desire. . . . I am not longer comforted by God's desire for me; I am threaten by it, because God's will potentially standards in the way of my demand. . . . The morphing of my desire changes my relationship to others. No I enter the room loaded with a silent demand: You must help me get what I want. . . ." (p. 86)

Stage 3: Need. ("I will.") " I now view the thing I want as essential to life. This is a devasating step in the eventual slavery of desire. . . . To 'chriten' desire as need is equivalent to viewing cake as I do respiration. . . ." (p. 86)

Stage 4: Expectation. ("You should.") "If I am convinced I need something and you have said that you love me, it seems right to expect that you will help me get it. The dynamic of (improper) need-driven expectation is the source of untold conflict in relationship." (p. 87)

Stage 5: Disappointment. ("You didn't!") "There is a direct relationship between expectation and disappointment, and much of our disappointment in relationships i s not because people have actually wronged us, but because they have failed to meet our expectations." (pp. 87-88)

Stage 6: Punishment. ("Because you didn't, I will. . . .") "We are hurt and angry because people who say they love us seem insensitive to our needs. So we strike back in a variety of ways to punish them for their wrongs against us. We include everything from the silent treatment (a form of bloodless murder where I don't kill you but act as if you do not exist) to horrific acts of violence and abuse. I am angry because you have broken the laws of my kingdom. God's kingdom has been supplanted. I am no longer motivated by a love for God and people so that I use the things in my life to express that love. Instead I love things, and use people--and even the Lord--to get them. My heart has been captured. I am in active service of the creation, and the result can only be chaos and conflict in my relationships." (p. 88)

So what do you do when desire has morphed into demand into need into expectation into disappointment into punishment? The first step must be vertical, not horizontal. Because relationship problems are rooted in worship problems, James's solution, Tripp rightly notes, is "Start with God":

"Submit yourselves therefore to God" (James 4:7).
"Draw near to God" (James 4:8).
"Cleanse your hands . . . and purify your hearts" (James 4:8)
"Humble yourselves before the Lord" (James 4:10).

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