In all of our struggles with sin in this world there exist multiple layers of issues that need to be addressed. If you simplified things down to two main layers, you could say there is always both a fruit problem and a root problem. The fruit problem is what’s external and visible, while the root problem is internal and invisible. Root problems are beliefs, desires, lusts that drive a person’s behavior and produce bad fruit. When we’re talking about root problems, what we’re really talking about is idolatry.

Idolatry – that is, putting anything in our lives above God – is a problem for all of us. John Calvin wrote, “the human mind is…a perpetual forge of idols.”1 And one very common form of idolatry is making idols out of other people. I’m not talking mainly about idolizing celebrities, though that does happen often. More significant though is when our idolatry takes the form of expecting and demanding that another person make us happy, that they fulfill all our needs, that they complete us.

In an article entitled, “Human Relationships,” Paul Tripp shows us how idolizing one another leads to much of the strife we face in our relationships with each other. I would recommend reading the entire article, but here is a great snippet…

There are many, many Christian relationships that are painful and marked by conflict and disappointment because one person, or both people, in those relationships are placing a burden on the other person that no human can bear:

  • No person can be the foundation of your identity
  • No person can provide the source for your joy
  • No person can give you a reason to get up in the morning
  • No person can give you a reason to continue in the midst of difficulty
  • No person can be the carrier of your hope
  • No person can give your heart peace and rest
  • No person can change you from the inside out
  • No person can alter your past
  • No person can atone for your wrongs

AND YET … we have all asked someone, at some point and in some way, to be the fourth member of the Trinity for us!

It’s simply a relationship doomed for failure. When we ask a person to do for us what only Christ can do, we place a crushing and impossible burden on them, and then judge them when they fall short.

Jesus is the answer to our problem of idolatry. First, because He graciously forgives His people of all their idolatry. He washes us white as snow in His sight, despite our continued struggles with sin. And second, He is the answer to our idolatry because the better we get to know Him, the closer we draw to Him, the more we realize that He alone can bring us the fulfillment that we mistakenly seek from others.

Jesus is the only one who can be the foundation of our identity. He is the only one who can satisfy the deep longings of our hearts for acceptance, love, and relationship. We can’t be each other’s saviors, but Jesus is more than up to the task. And when our relationship with Him is in its rightful place, our relationships with each other can stay in their rightful place, and thus produce the good fruit that God wants them to produce.

Source: Paul Tripp Ministries

  1. Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. 1.11.8.
While God is faithful to change hearts and minds in the lives of His children, we also understand that change is a process, and often times far from simplistic or quick. Habits of life and thinking tend to change over time as the Holy Spirit works in hearts. This process of change is called “progressive sanctification.” It can be helpful and sometimes necessary to seek help from other Christians who can faithfully lead and walk with us, providing biblical encouragement and instruction along the way for the implementation of God-honoring, Christ-centered change. If you are struggling with life’s challenges, we would encourage you to seek help from your pastor, a godly friend, or a biblical counselor who is committed to seeking answers from God’s Word. To find a biblical counselor you can contact us or visit biblicalcounseling.com to find a counselor in your area.

Born and raised in the Dallas area, Ryan loves calling Texas his home. He met his wife Jessica at Grace Bible Fellowship Church, where he serves on staff and is a counselor for Grace Biblical Counseling Ministries. Since 2013 he has been a member of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, and in May 2015 he graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a B.S. in Ministry Leadership.

Putting Human Relationships in Their Rightful Place