Book Review - Broken-Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad

Image of Broken-Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad
by Paul David Tripp
Shepherd Press 2009
Paperback 250

It is often said that you cannot judge a book by its cover. The cover for Broken-Down House is one of the best looking covers I have ever seen. The creative team at Tobias’ Outerwear for Books has once again designed an eye-catcher. To have the inside of this book worthy of the outside, author Paul David Tripp had his work cut out for him.

Paul Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and is on the pastoral staff of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Previously he was a counselor at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (Glenside, PA) and is an Adjunct Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA). He is not to be confused with his brother Tedd Tripp, also an author of note.

It wasn’t only the cover that attracted me to this book. I had just read Tripp’s War of Words which I found particularly edifying. Soon, I will be using his What Did You Expect marriage curriculum in a Sunday School class. I appreciate his “down to earth” style—a style well suited for a book on a sin-cursed earth, or as he calls it a “broken-down house.” However, it is not just this world that is broken—we are too. This book encourages us to cooperate with what the Master Carpenter is doing to restore the brokenness.

Overview of the book

This book is divided into two parts. Part One is “Knowing” (chapters 1-10) and Part Two is “Doing” (chapters 11-16).

What must we know? “Sin has left this world in a sorry condition. You see it everywhere you look” (p. 17). Because of this at “every point and every moment, your life is messier and more complicated than it really ought to be because everything is so much more difficult in such a terribly broken world” (p. 17). In spite of this, “God calls us to live productively in a world gone bad” (p. 21).

To live productively we must know where we are (chapter 2) and who we are (chapter 3). We also must understand God’s sovereignty (chapter 4) and our limitations (chapter 5). We must forsake human wisdom and trust God’s wisdom (chapter 6). We must be careful not to confuse “spirituality” with true conversion (chapter 7). And we must focus on eternity (chapter 8), actively wait (chapter 9) and get angry at sin (chapter 10).

After knowing comes doing. According to Tripp, we should get involved in renewing this broken-down world (chapter 11). We need to pursue biblical community (chapter 12) and love others (chapter 13). We must celebrate grace (chapter 14) and see our total life as ministry (chapter 15). Finally, we should take steps to ensure that we leave a strong spiritual legacy (chapter 16).

The Christian’s two identities

The key to this book is chapter three. Every Christian has two identities, sinner and saint (“child of grace”). As a sinner, we are not as good as we think we are. The Bible, however, serves as “the world’s best diagnostic tool” (p. 36). Even though we live in a broken-down world, our environment is not the problem. We are the problem. Our spouse, children, job, church, government, etc. is not our biggest problem. I am a sinner, that’s my biggest problem.

But we are more than sinners. As a child of grace we are better than we can imagine. “It is only the person who is deeply aware of his sin who gets excited about grace, and it is only grace that can give you the courage to humbly face the enormity of your sin” (p. 42). “Grace will put you in your place without ever putting you down” (p. 42) Where sin leaves us unable, grace enables us. Grace will inevitably and finally deliver us. We are loved by a “dissatisfied Redeemer” (p. 46).

Marriage and family

One area that Tripp stresses is how this sinful condition affects marriage and family. It starts with “our western culture” concept of dating, which he likens to “used-car sales” (p. 25). The idea is to sell yourself.

The last thing you want is for the other person to really get to know you. Consequently, a man who doesn’t like to shop will suddenly be saying things like ‘Sure, honey, I would love to go to another twelve stores to look for those special shoes you have in mind.’ A woman who doesn’t appreciate sports will find herself volunteering to watch sports with her date and his buddies for hour upon endless grueling hour.” (p. 25)

The problem is, by forgetting that we live in a broken world, they each believe they have found the perfect mate. “Six months after the wedding, the wife is crying and saying, ‘This is not the man I married!’ But of course, he is. He is precisely the man she married. It’s the guy she dated who was the fake!” (p. 25-26).

Tripp believes that even Christians often marry out of love for self, not love for the other person. The one believes that the other will meet a need in his or her life.

They think they love one another, but in the biblical sense they really don’t. What they love is what the other person appears to offer them. What they have actually married is their dream. In an act of narcissism, they have made a lifelong vow to an aspect of themselves.” (p. 198)

Concerning how this broken down world affects child rearing, he writes, “It amazes me how often parents are actually irritated at the amount of parenting their children seem to need” (p. 194). “We are easily satisfied with raising children who learn to jump through our behavioral hoops, but don’t really have hearts for God” (p. 197).

The remedy to all this is what Tripp calls sharing our “Redeemer’s dissatisfaction.” Our “dissatisfied Redeemer” will “not rest until every microbe of sin has been eradicated from every cell of the hearts of every one of his children” (p. 196). We must be as dissatisfied as God is about our problems. We must be the tools He uses to restore this world gone bad.

Although this book is thoroughly biblical, the author could have used more scripture to support his propositions. As a premillennialist, I would have liked to see some reference to the second coming as the ultimate answer to a broken-down world. In spite of these reservations, I heartily recommend this book.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

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