Repentance is not what we do to right ourselves with God. That’s been done for us by Jesus. Repentance is what we do when we are right with God. It is change in the direction of obedience toward what God desires for us. Repentance is intentional, grace-empowered change over time.
With this book, Andy Farmer not only provides a vision for change, but some of the nuts-and-bolts we need for that “grace-empowered change” to become a reality in our lives.
Andy Farmer. Trapped: Getting Free from People, Patterns, and Problems. 192p., $17.99, New Growth Press.
Farmer invites readers to jump to the chapters that cover their particular “traps.” But you’ll want to read all of them. Chances are, you’ll realize that there’s more (at least potential) traps in your life than you first realized.
In the opening chapter, we’re introduced to each of those traps —approval/people-pleasing/”fear of man,” laziness, pornography, eating disorders, chemical addiction, marital issues—through a series of brief case studies. Then, Farmer pulls back, to remind us that we’re not here to focus on our traps—we’re here to escape them. Hopefully.
We say we want to be free, but don’t want the personal regime change that freedom requires. We may subtly prefer a long-term life chained to our problem to the short-term hardship of doing what it takes to live another way.
In short, the willingness to change has to come first. But even before that, we need to remember that we have already been given freedom in Christ. And it’s something we tend to forget far too often.
At the heart of this book is a singular conviction: The promise of the gospel is not enduring captivity; it is enduring freedom. But this promise isn’t plug and play. It doesn’t just happen because you say you have faith. I do a lot of pastoral counseling and one of the most common struggles I see in those I counsel is how the gospel seems to get lost in the traps and trials they experience. Good, solid, believing Christians face hardships in life and have very little idea of how the gospel is meant to make a difference.
Thus, Farmer spends a few chapters first reminding us of both the freedom and redemption we’ve already received through Jesus. Then, once the reader has been properly (re-)equipped, it’s time to dig into how it’s possible to escape from each of the above traps.
Each trap is given its own chapter, with one exception—pornography and eating disorders are treated together in the chapter, “The Trap of Secret Escape.” If that seems to knock you a bit off-balance, good; you’re ready to listen. And it will make sense once you’re in.
The book ends on a curious coda: After 150 pages of addressing our contemporary problems (or at least our contemporary versions of them), the final chapter details a correspondence between William Legge (aka Lord Dartmouth, Secretary of State to the American colonies) and pastor John Newton (better known as the author of “Amazing Grace”), which took place just months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Without giving away the ending, Newton’s advice to Lord Dartmouth (and the response to it) reminds us all that “being in the world without being of the world” is anything but a new challenge; only the window dressing changes.
Trapped, likewise, reminds us that the same God who has delivered and transformed people throughout the ages is here today, ready to free us now from whatever traps we face—and gives us a vision of what life beyond those traps can look like.