Posted in theology

One major way Christian self-help books damage you

By Elizabeth Prata

“Christian” self-help books saturate the publishing market. Isn’t the notion of Christian self-help an oxymoron? We can do all things…through Christ, who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13). Apart from Him, we can do nothing. (John 15:5).

Yet the books keep coming. Osteen, Hollis, Warren, Niequist, Lusko, Shirer, Meyer…all under the guise of helping you and all sold under the banner of the spotless Name.

These books and ideas harm you. They steer you away from Jesus and that always hurts a Christian.

I was listening to a John MacArthur sermon titled The Hope That Overcomes the World, and though the sermon was not remotely on self-help, something Dr. MacArthur said brought the issue to my mind.

Trying to secure a meaningful, lasting relationship in marriage seems well-nigh impossible. Families are full of chaos and disintegration. Add to this decades and decades of propagating self-esteem and pride, and what you have is people who are consumed with their own desires and their own wants, who then double-down on the impossibility of making meaningful relationships because they’re so self-centered. Source

That’s where self-help books fit so well into the chaos. Using these kind of books or materials will only help you circle the drain. Why? Our natural penchant for self-involvement due to our thorough depravity and sin, engenders this. Turning to these books, instead of to Jesus, for help will only propel us to double down on our sin and selfishness.

I liked the use of the phrase “double down”. It’s apt. The natural man wants his own desires and will seek them in any way he can. We are to rely on the Spirit to slay that old man and kill those desires. Allowing these materials to come into your heart and mind will only double the propensity to turn from Jesus and begin a downward spiral…it’s what the false teachers are there for, to help you do this.

How does it double down? That’s the trap. When the first book doesn’t “work” to help solve the problem of the hour, you’ve tried this or that from the bulleted list the author has earnestly told you will help, you’ll go back and make a second trip to the bookstore, looking for what will help. As one becomes more involved in the journey back to self, the possibility of making meaningful relationships diminishes because we’re ever more focused on self rather than Jesus, who is the source and flow of all meaningful relationships- because He is the primary relationship.

2 Peter 1:16 says, For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

What false teachers have to peddle are myths. They’re cleverly devised, which makes them dangerously hard to spot. They purposely exploit the unwary for gain, with these stories that “they have made up”. (2 Peter 2:3).

When we have been witnesses to His majesty, not eyewitnesses like the Apostles, but witnesses in seeing Him through His revealed word, why turn to myths and stories, and allow ourselves to be exploited? Some books are written by true teachers and may be helpful, but the genre is riddled with the false. Be careful, sister, and watch out that the natural man’s flesh isn’t creeping to the unhelpful. If we double-down on anything, it should be His word made alive in our heart and mind.

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4 thoughts on “One major way Christian self-help books damage you

  1. I agree. I do love real Christian counselling books though. Like those written by Ed Welch, Lou Priolo and David Powlison. They are always about getting rid of sin, you still have to take a look at yourself, but not to make yourself feel better but to come to grips with a possible besetting sin and how to deal with it biblically. They always reference it in light of the gospel and keeping our focus on Christ. Those, I can’t recommend enough.

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    1. Thanks! I’m a bit familiar with Powlison but not the other ones. I knew there are some good help books out there, but wasn’t confident or familiar enough to recommend any. Thank you for supplying names 🙂

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