Book Reviews

Book Review: Real Change For Students (Nicholls/Thorne)

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How do Christians change? How do we know we will change? What will we change into? How will it happen? Andrew Nicholls and Helen Thorne have written an excellent book on how Christian students can face each day knowing God works to change them through their relationship with Jesus Christ. Andrew is Director of Pastoral Care at Oak Hill Theological College in London and Helen is Director of Training and Mentoring at London City Mission.

The book is meant to be used for a six-session course showing how God works patiently with us to become more like Jesus in the very places in which we struggle. We all face struggles differently, but Christ is there to meet each an every one of us.

  • Life comes and puts pressure on us, and we feel its heat.
  • Our heart is “where we decide how we are going to respond to what is going around us and to God” (10).
  • Thorns stem from our heart’s self-centered desires.
  • From these thorny actions we reap the negative consequences.
  • The Holy Spirit meets us in our sin and leads us to repentance.
  • As we remember the cross and all Christ has done for us, giving us new life in him, we receive God’s mercies and we begin to change.
  • Good root: As we continually go to Jesus every day in repentance and dependence on him, we are rooting our desires, thoughts, and actions into him, and we are changing to be like him.
  • Because we are rooted in the one who is good, we will produce good fruit: good “behaviors, thoughts, and actions that stem from the godly desires of our heart” (11). We love God and others.
  • Even when the heat and stresses of life are on us, when we produce good fruit by faithfully following Christ and his example we will reap positive consequences. By loving God and others even in difficult times, we will be a blessing to those around us.

We desperately need one another, and the people you rub shoulders with at church have been given to you (and you to them) for the purpose of growth. We have life experiences that we can share with one another to help each other grow into Christlikeness. We actually ought to depend on each other, and Jesus has made it this way on purpose. We have the Holy Spirit in us, a river of life flowing in our hearts. We are not a stunted bush in a desert (Jer 17:5-6); we are tress planted by the water of life digging our roots deep into Christ (17:7-8). Hard times will come, but Christ, who is our source of life, is at work in us through his Spirit, his people, and our circumstances.

The authors encourage you to take on a change project: find one thing in your life where you struggle the most and would like to see God change you. Do you struggle with anxiety, lust, fear, or frustration? Disappointments or injustices? Are things so good and easy that God seems irrelevant? This is a very helpful task because it applies the book in a very direct way. The chapters will help with many general things, but at the end of it you hopefully will see a big change in one specific area of your life.

At the book’s halfway point is the leader’s guide to help you think through what you will need to have ready before you begin this study, as well as preparing your heart, the material, the logistics, and the participants. Each of the six chapters correspond with the six chapters in the student’s guide. Andrew and Helen help guide you through the information in each section, what questions you should ask yourself first, and then what and how you should present the information to the students. This is perfect for someone like me who has never lead a course quite like this at all. Though really it’s helpful for anyone because it makes sure that even the leaders understand how God changes us to be more like Christ.

Recommended?

This is a terrific book, honestly. Andrew and Helen easily get to the heart of the matter by looking at Scripture and how we deal with life situations. We acknowledge our need for Christ, which we easily see when we stumble, and we run to him to lift us up! We do not become more like Jesus in the big momentous occasions, but in the every day situations in life. We have choices to make in every instance. What will we choose? How will we do it? Will we become stressed or anxious? Angry or embittered? Will we reach out to forgive and love and make amends? Will we bring peace and joy? Both this volume and the original Real Change come highly recommended. They’re perfect for small group work and one-on-one discipleship.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Andrew Nicholls & Helen Thorne
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: New Growth Press (September 23, 2019)
  • Read a sample from the original book

Find it on Amazon and New Growth Press!

Disclosure: I received this book free from New Growth Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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