7 Steps to Overcoming Your Addiction to Self-Help Books

I've recently been reading through a spate of what are often called "Christian self-help" books. (A lot aren't technically "self-help," but, they seem to tap into the American cultural phenomenon of self-help publications) Whether it's dating, leadership, male identity, pastoring, cooking the perfect pasta dish, caring for suede, or replacing a head gasket, there seems to be a "Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul" version or a "7 Steps to Wholeness" series or a "<insert Christian celebrity>'s how-to" for doing better at whatever it is you're failing at.

And, some of them are really insightful - backed not only by decades of biological or psychological research, but, tapping into sound theological doctrine and solid spiritual advice. Others... not as much.

However, in the midst of this clamor about all the broken things in your life and how they can be fixed or improved, I've been gently urged repeatedly by the Spirit concerning the life of holiness. It seems a lot of the valuable material from these "Christian Self-Help" books can be summed up in the command, "Be holy." Obviously, this doesn't negate the need for understanding how to live holy lives - what holiness looks like in the life of the believer and how it can be cultivated. But, perhaps, as believers, our primary questions shouldn't be "how can I date more successfully" or "what can I do to be a better pastor" or "how can I be a more effective leader." But, rather, "how can I further submit to the Spirit in cultivating a life of holiness." The most effective "aid" in dating, marriage, leading, pastoring, or parenting - just to name a few self-help niches - will never be found in how-to-guides or step-by-step manuals, but in consistent, obedient, submission to the sanctifying Spirit. Oswald Chambers puts it this way: "We must continually remind ourselves of the purpose of life. We are not destined to happiness, nor to health, but to holiness. Today we have far too many desires and interests, and our lives are being consumed and wasted by them. Many of them may be right, noble, and good, and may later be fulfilled, but in the meantime God must cause their importance to us to decrease. The only thing that truly matters is whether a person will accept the God who will make him holy. At all costs, a person must have the right relationship with God."

Or, as the apostle Peter declares in 1 Peter 1:16, "like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'you shall be holy for I am holy'."

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