“. . . you’re not loving them; you’re using them to love yourself.”

One of my favorite heroes of the faith is Paul Tripp. I’ve read nearly every book he’s written, several times. Below is just another example why I read him.

Here is his blog.


And here is what I just read. May you too be helped.

Identity In Relationships

Last week I wrote to you about the temptations and dangers of seeking identity in what we achieve. Today I want to expose an equally appealing and hazardous identity trap: our relationships.

Just like God created us to be successful workers, so God created us to be social beings. His plan, from day one, was for us to live in meaningful relationships with other people. It’s one of the reasons God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)

Human community is also one of the primary ways we reflect God’s image; have you ever considered that God himself is a community? Here’s the bottom line: our relationships are essential to life. In fact, our relationships are so essential that God positioned the command to love one another as second only to the call to love him (Matthew 22:37-39).

But just as sin messes with our ability to work hard for God’s glory, so sin messes with our ability to pursue relationships in a healthy way. Our twisted hearts are lured into thinking that other human beings can provide the one thing that only God was designed to provide.

If you’re a parent, you’ll be lured into seeking identity in your children. We start to live for, and live through, our kids. Their appreciation for us, their respect of us, and their personal success because of us (so we think) become the reasons we get up in the morning.

Sooner or later, this way of relating to your children will come crashing down. Our kids were never given to us to be trophies on the mantel of our identity. If anything, their success is a hymn of praise to another Father who provided everything they need to be where they are and to do what they’re doing. As parents, we’re never more than instruments in his redemptive hands.

Similarly, if you’re married, you’ll be tempted to find identity in your spouse. We tend to feel the most alive when our husband or wife gives us praise and affection, and we quickly become discouraged and irritated when we feel ignored or taken for granted.

Finding identity in your spouse will never work. No sinner can be your mighty fortress; only God can, as the classic hymn reminds us. Perhaps even more importantly: when you look to another person for identity, you’re not loving them; you’re using them to love yourself.

Children and marriages are probably the two most frequently occurring locations for misplaced relational identity, but we all attempt to find identity in another human being at some point – a friend, a “celebrity” that we know, or even our pastor! It’s a parasitic way of living that always ends in disappointment.

Human relationships are unable to provide us with life, contentment, happiness, and joy, so when we ask them to be our source of identity, it’s only a matter of time before they fail us. We can never be reminded of this enough: our identity is only safe in one Person – Jesus Christ!

His love, unlike other people’s love, will never fail. His work, unlike other people’s work, is complete. So run to the Lord again today. As the Psalmist says, “He is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

God bless

Paul David Tripp

Reflection Questions

  1. In what ways might you be seeking identity from your children? Or, who else may you be living vicariously through?
  2. In what ways might you be seeking identity from your spouse? Or, who else are you tempted to seek identity from?
  3. Pick one of your above examples. Why is your heart lured into thinking that you’ll find life in that relationship?
  4. What are you asking that person to provide for you? Why are they unable to provide that for you?
  5. How is Christ able to provide above and beyond what you are asking for in a human relationship? Be specific.

War of Words

Below is a lesson from Paul Tripp’s outstanding book, “War of Words.” I return to it now and then to evaluate myself before I speak. Enjoy!

                                                Words Have Significance

Words have significance, power and importance because the first person who ever spoke words was God. It is heart-stopping that every word that we have ever spoken will be judged by the one who spoke first. Therefore, all the talk in the world is related to God – either our words will bring God glory or will bring his just condemnation, because, our words are audible expressions of our hearts.

Before Sin, there was no communication struggle, no war of words. No arguments, no lies, no words of hatred, impatience, or retaliation. There was no yelling, no cursing, no condemnation, and no self-flattery. No words of self-defense, arrogance, envy, or fault-finding were ever uttered before sin. But that beautiful world of words is long gone.

“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man”  (Matthew 15:18).

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23).

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:35-37).

Jesus is saying that before any sinful action there is a word that is spoken from the heart.  Here are some questions for Self-Examination of our Heart by listening to our Words:

1. Does your talk with others lead to biblical problem solving?

2. Does your talk have a “stand together” or a “me against you” posture?

3. Do your words encourage others to be open and honest about their thoughts and feelings?

4. Are you approachable and teachable or defensive and self-protective when talking with others?

5. Is your communication healthy in the principal relationships in your life? Parent-child, husband-wife, extended family, sibling relationships, employer-employee, friend-friend, body of Christ, neighbor-neighbor.

6. Does your talk encourage faith and personal spiritual growth in those around you?

7. Do you talk with others to develop relationships with them, or do you only talk to solve problems during times of trouble?

8. Do you speak humble and honest words of confession when you sin and words of sincere forgiveness when others sin against you?

9. Do your words reflect a willingness to serve others or a demand that they serve you?

10. As you face the struggles of talk, do you do so with recognition of the gospel – God’s forgiveness, his enabling grace, and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit?