Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, Free for CAPC Members
In Gospel Fluency, Jeff Vanderstelt wants to help every believer speak the gospel in the stuff of everyday life.
Back in 2013, Paul Tripp published a book for people who live in a sex and money obsessed culture. Those people would be you and me, and that culture hasn’t changed much in the past five years. I would imagine that is part of the reason why Crossway has split the original book into two and is republishing them as separate titles. The first installment, Sex in a Broken World: How Christ Redeems What Sin Distorts, just came out, and the next is slated for a May release.
The original book deserved a much wider reading than it initially received. It may have just flown under the radar, but it also could have suffered from tackling two sticky topics at once. This first book is essentially the same content from the original but with a new opening chapter.Tripp carefully and pastorally tries to show readers a much better way.
In it, Tripp explains part of what makes a book like this important reading:
There are maybe few areas of our lives that preach more loudly to us of our need for redemption than our constant struggle with sex. When it comes to sex, the promises we make to ourselves and others tend to be short-lived. Our commitment to purity of heart and hands tends to weaken in the face of temptation. It doesn’t take much for our eyes and our desires to wander. In the sexual arena we are confronted with the truth that we will never be righteous on our own. Sex preaches to us all that we deeply and desperately need grace (20).
Tripp then unfolds a preview of this grace through a brief exposition of Romans 8. Chapter 2 gives a short defense of our sex craziness. Then, chapters 3–5 provide theological and behavioral foundations for our pursuit of pleasure, which isn’t wrong, but often (always) needs re-wiring. As Tripp explains here:
It is not an overstatement of a distant theological platitude to say that pleasure and its birth are in the mind of God. Legitimate pleasure of any type is God’s creation, and our ability to recognize and enjoy pleasure is the result of his design. There is no better place to see this and to trace its implications than to go back to the beginning, to the garden of Eden. I want to introduce you to the Eden hermeneutic. Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation. You and I don’t live life based on the facts of our existence but on our unique and personal interpretation of the facts. Here’s how it works for our topic: if God created pleasure, then pleasure is not the problem. The problem comes when we understand pleasure in the wrong way and then involve ourselves in pleasure in ways that are the direct result of the wrong interpretation we have made. (70–71)
Having set this context, Tripp spends chapters 6–9 specifically focused on offering a correct, God-centered interpretation of sex and our lives as sexual beings. In short, since sex is about worship (chapter 7), relationship (chapter 8), and obedience (chapter 9), then it can’t just be about us. But the problem for many of us is that we try to do just that: make it all about us and our wants. Tripp carefully and pastorally tries to show readers a much better way.
Over the past decade or so, there are few writers of practical theology that have influenced me as much as Paul Tripp. While someone familiar with his writing might be able to piece together his take on sex without reading the book, it is worth spending the time reading and reflecting on the content in detail (there are questions at the end of each chapter to facilitate that, something else that’s new with this edition). This is a topic that affects all of us in varying ways. Because of that, it is exceedingly helpful to have bearings provided by an author like Tripp who relentlessly emphasizes grace in his writings.
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