We were created to bear the image of God, the “imago dei.” But something went desperately wrong in the Garden, and that event has left humanity shattered and broken. Jesus came to redeem us broken image-bearers and to recreate the imago dei on the earth. That is the gospel, and we know it. But knowledge and insight never changed anyone. Anyone who has been a believer in Christ for more than a day has agonized with Paul, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) True sanctification (simply the process of of being recreated into the image of God) is a transformation of the heart, and Tim Chester has set forth Heart Transformation 101 in You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions, published by Crossway. This is the best teaching on gospel-fueled change that I have read. This book is for those of us who want to wage war against our sin, and find that it is a daily, even hourly, battle. Chester suggests to his readers that they engage in a “change project” as they read the book by naming a specific struggle, behavior or emotion that they would like to change. He then lays out a process for gospel change based on the following questions:
- What would you like to change?
- Why would you like to change?
- How are you going to change?
- When do you struggle?
- What truths do you need to turn to?
- What desires do you need to turn from?
- What stops you from changing?
- What strategies will reinforce your faith and repentance?
- How can we support one another in changing?
- Are you ready for a lifetime of daily change?
Each question forms a chapter of the book that helps readers understand a critical aspect of gospel transformation and apply it to their change project. I found particularly helpful Chester’s chapter entitled, “What Truths Do You Need to Turn To?” (Chapter 5). Chester identifies four life-changing truths about God from Psalm 62:11-12:
- God is great – so we do not have to be in control.
- God is glorious – so we do not have to fear others.
- God is good – so we do not have to look elsewhere.
- God is gracious – so we do not have to prove ourselves.
Of course, the Scriptures are full of truths like these about God that fuel gospel transformation in our lives. As we mine the Scriptures for a deeper and deeper understanding of His excellencies, we shake loose the grip of idolatry that chains us to “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions” (1 John 2:16) and impedes spiritual growth. I also resonated with what Chester said about the church as a “community of change” in Chapter 9: How Can We Support One Another in Changing?
You Can Change is the best book I have read on the subject of heart transformation through the daily application of the implications of the gospel. I highly recommend it to pastors, teachers, counselors – as well as to all who are daily being recreated into the imago dei.