Counseling One Another

Helping you grow in God's all-sufficient truth and grace

Counseling One Another

July 15, 2019
by Paul Tautges
0 comments

“Transformed Into His Image” Seminar in Cleveland, Ohio

Do you desire to become more like Jesus? Do you sometimes wonder if it’s possible to change your attitudes or actions to more consistently represent Him? Would you like to learn how to help other believers who are struggling in their walk with the Lord?

Then I’d like to inform you about a Saturday seminar being hosted by our church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

This free 3-hour seminar will provide a clear explanation from Scripture of how God has designed personal transformation to take place in our lives. You will learn the key to human behavior and personal change, to get to the heart of what needs to take place to cultivate genuine growth and lasting change.

Register for this free seminar here.

Print this entry

July 13, 2019
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on NUGGETS

NUGGETS

New Car Before Baby? – Never buy a new car based on emotional reasons!

Don’t Play with Sin – What we once played with can now kill us.

20 Things to Know about the Construct of ADHD – ADHD points to a perceived problem with a child. The most vital determination is not the observed behavior, but the presupposition you will use to bring clarity and a solution to what you’re seeing in the individual.

Print this entry

July 11, 2019
by Paul Tautges
6 Comments

Bearing One Another’s (Sin) Burdens

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load (Gal 6:1-5).

God never intended for the Christian race to be run alone. We need one another, not only for mutual encouragement, but also to help each other overcome besetting sins. This continues the relational context of the above Scripture.

The one-another ministry of restoration, described in Galatians 6:1-5, includes supportive accountability for fellow believers who are struggling with sin. The exhortation “Bear one another’s burdens” (v. 2) means that the ministry of restoration involves helping carry the weight of another person’s sin. The “burden” in this context is the weight of sin or the “burden of temptations” that has trapped sinning brothers or sisters. To bear this weight is to help them carry their sin burden. Richard Baxter encouraged his fellow pastors to serve their sheep in this way:

Another class of converts that need our special help, are those who labour under some particular corruption, which keeps under their graces, and makes them a trouble to others, and a burden to themselves. Alas! There are too many such persons. Some are specially addicted to pride, and others to worldly-mindedness; some to sensual desires, and others to frowardness or other evil passions. Now it is our duty to give assistance to all these; and partly by dissuasions, and clear discoveries of the odiousness of sin, and partly by suitable directions about the remedy, to help them to a more complete conquest of their corruptions.

Nevertheless, though those who are “spiritual” are responsible for carrying the burden with those who are trapped, they do not carry it for them: “For each one will bear his own load” (v. 5). In other words, whatever help we give to sinning brothers or sisters must not remove an ounce of personal responsibility, since they are, first and foremost, morally accountable to God as creatures made in His image. While we lovingly confront, in keeping with the goal of restoration, we must remind those who are caught in sin that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:2). By ministering in this way, we “fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2), who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).

Jay Adams writes of the priority of love in our relationships with fellow believers:

Love for God and one’s neighbor constitutes the sum of God’s requirements for the Christian. The man who loves needs no counseling. Love cements relationships between God and man and man and man. While love attracts, fear repels. When love gives, lust grabs. What love builds, hatred destroys. With love communication flourishes; with resentment it withers. Love is the ultimate answer to all the problems of living with which the Christian counselor deals. Love, therefore, is the goal.

As believers committed to each other’s spiritual well-being, we must recognize that we are not the only ones fighting the daily battle against sin, but our brothers and sisters are too, though some of them may be losing the war and need extra help in gaining the victory. If walking in love is what we are called to then we must love one another enough to humbly confront when we are aware of one who is trapped by sin, and gently lead him or her into paths of righteousness. Ministry without this kind of love profits nothing (1 Cor. 13:1–3). Love looks to the long-term good of the defeated brother or sister and brings forth compassionate, restorative, humble ministry to a fellow sinner, recognizing that, to one degree or another, we are all “strugglers” and therefore must maintain a commitment to the kind of ministry that restores amidst a culture of grace and truth.

[To learn more about this biblical philosophy of one-another ministry, read Counseling One Another.]

*This post was originally published in September 26, 2012.

Print this entry

July 8, 2019
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Saving and Transforming Grace

Saving and Transforming Grace

The Christian life is a life of grace. It begins with God saving us by His grace. It continues with God sanctifying us by His grace. And it will end—with the full redemption of our souls and bodies—by God’s grace. But this runs across the grain of man’s nature. It swims against the flow of our inborn bent toward self-righteousness. In our pride, we want to boast of our righteousness—even if just a little bit.

Grace is offensive to our works-mentality. We want to earn our salvation, our forgiveness, our acceptance with God. But we cannot. We could not ever do so, before or after we are saved, since we were born with a sin nature that is naturally rebellious and innately helpless. That’s why God intervened.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:6-8)

…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. [a few verses later]… for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.  (Gal. 2:16)

[If salvation] is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. (Rom. 11:6)

Grace dismantles every religious attempt to make oneself right with God, to atone for one’s own sin. Being saved by grace, however, does not mean we are now free to live any way you please. True freedom can only exist within the boundaries of truth and holiness.

Salvation, from beginning to end, is all of grace. But that grace not only saves our soul for eternity, it sanctifies our heart for life on this earth. That is the apostle’s point here in Titus 2:11-14. In light of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, the apostle gives three expectations.

  • Be saved by the grace that has appeared in Jesus Christ (v. 11).
  • Be trained by the grace that teaches you to deny sin and pursue righteousness (v. 12).
  • Be motivated by the grace that completes your redemption (vv. 13-14).

Over the years, it has been helpful to me, personally, to think about these three expectations this way—as past, present, and future grace.

  • Past grace – God has provided salvation in Jesus.
  • Present grace – the Holy Spirit is sanctifying us as we put off sin, and put on righteousness, according to God’s Word.
  • Future grace – Jesus our Savior is coming again. And when He returns our redemption will be fully complete. We will be glorified.

Listen to, or watch, the sermon.

Print this entry

July 1, 2019
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Thanks For Your Prayers

Thanks For Your Prayers

Dear readers:

Thank you for your recent and ongoing prayers. It’s always such a blessing to hear from you!

Some of you have noticed that I’ve not posted in a couple weeks. Additionally, I have fallen behind on several more writing/editing projects. This is due to several factors: an injury to both index fingers (now fully healed), a family ministry trip to a Joni & Friends Family Retreat, and the death of my father-in-law.

Following this week’s travels to Wisconsin for the memorial service, I hope to be back in the saddle, writing-wise. In the meantime, I continue to cherish your prayers. I echo the apostle Paul’s request and appreciation:

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. – 2 Corinthians 1:11

Print this entry

June 14, 2019
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Why the Psychological Church Will Always End Up Diminishing the Cross of Christ

Why the Psychological Church Will Always End Up Diminishing the Cross of Christ

In 1 Corinthians 1:17, the apostle Paul establishes the preaching of Christ as his highest priority. He does this to turn the Corinthians’ attention away from humanistic philosophy to “the word of the cross.” Take a moment to read the full context in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.

Here, Paul exalts the wisdom of Christ over the foolishness of men. This is seen in the repetitive use of the words “foolishness” or “fool” (five times), and “wisdom” or “wise” (nine times). This contrast between God’s wisdom in Christ and the foolishness of human philosophy highlights six elements of God’s revelation that establish its superiority.

The priority of God’s revelation. First, the revelation of God in Christ is superior to the wisdom of men because it is the only message that has the power to redeem sinners. The phrase “the word of the cross” (v. 18) refers to the whole doctrine of Christ and His all-sufficient work of salvation. The cross proclaims God’s righteousness, being the culmination of a just God breaking into time to purchase unjust sinners (Rom. 3:25–26). Christ bore in His body the penalty that we deserve (1 Peter 2:24), was victorious over sin and Satan (Heb. 2:14), propitiated the wrath of God (1 John 4:10), and opened the floodgate of God’s mercy upon sinners (Eph. 2:4–5). What is required to rescue hell-bound sinners out of a state of perpetual death is not a psychological gospel that persuades them to think more highly of themselves, but rather a supernatural work of God outside themselves—the whole gospel of Jesus Christ.

The permanency of God’s revelation. Second, the endurance of God’s revelation is set in contrast to the destruction of human wisdom. Man’s wisdom will be destroyed, but the truth of God in Christ will endure forever, “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside’” (1:19). The phrase “set aside” means “to do away with.” So Paul asks, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?” In other words, the worldly philosopher is nothing. Christ is everything! Thus, “God made foolish” the wisdom of the world (v. 20). Man’s wisdom cannot bring us to God because it is temporary, but the wisdom of God is eternal.

The plan of God’s revelation. Third, it is according to “the wisdom of God” that man is unable to find salvation through his own wisdom. This was God’s sovereign plan from eternity past. Our wisdom is intentionally limited, for “the world through its wisdom did not come to know God” (v. 21a). The limitations of earthly wisdom explain how psychologists can research the behavior of man and not arrive at the conclusion that his greatest need is the spiritual rebirth and transformation that only God can perform by means of the gospel. The wisdom of man is foolishness to God, and the wisdom of God is foolishness to unregenerate man, revealing that, the more that man tries to find God through his own wisdom, the more he worships the creature rather than the Creator. Subsequently, the more that the church seeks solutions to behavioral problems by integrating theology with psychology, the farther we drift from the God of truth.

The pleasure of God’s revelation. Fourth, the revelation of God in Christ is superior to man’s wisdom because it exalts His sovereign pleasure. Paul wrote, “God was well pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1:21b). He is not saying that preaching itself is foolish, but that the content of the message is foolish to the mind that has not been renewed by the Spirit of God through the Word of God. According to William MacDonald, “The Greeks were lovers of wisdom (the literal meaning of the word ‘philosophers’). But there was nothing in the gospel message to appeal to their pride of knowledge.” Therefore, it pleased God to save sinners in a way that man would never have dreamed of. The gospel may be foolish to man because it slaughters his pride, but it is not foolish to God.

The preaching of God’s revelation. The fifth element of God’s revelation is its preaching, which focuses on “Christ crucified” (v. 23). However, Paul identifies two obstacles to spreading the message of the cross: a search for signs and rational explanations. The Jews of Jesus’ day were always looking for a sign or a demonstration of His power because they would not take Him at His Word. Matthew 12:38–39 says, “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.’” Asking for signs is not a demonstration of faith, but a lack of submissive trust in God’s revelation in Scripture. Therefore, to the Jew waiting for a miraculous sign, the message of a crucified Messiah was a “stumbling block” (skandalon); it was scandalous. Second, “Greeks search for wisdom” (v. 22). While the Jews looked for signs, the Greeks searched for rational explanations. They believed only that which could be understood and explained by human intelligence. To them, the preaching of the cross was foolish, ridiculous, insane, and sheer madness. Both of these kinds of people exist in churches today, largely because, in this therapeutic age, “preaching is psychologized.”

The power of God’s revelation. Sixth and finally, the superiority of God’s revelation is demonstrated by its inherent power. To the “called,” the message of Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v. 24). The “called” are God’s elect, those who have received the outer call of the gospel through the preaching of the Word because of the inner effectual call of the Holy Spirit. Paul refers to the believers at Rome as “the called of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6). Those “whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). As a result of the call of God, believers are regenerate, “born again not of seed which is perishable [like psychology] but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).

God’s revelation of Christ in the gospel is radically distinct from anything the world of psychological counseling can offer. By its very nature, worldly psychology is antagonistic to the cross. As it exalts man’s wisdom, it diminishes Jesus Christ, the very source of truth (John 14:6). David Powlison testifies, “After years in the psychotherapeutic world, I found that Christ turned my life upside down. Then I started to see that he turned the whole world upside down: everything was God-centered, not man-centered. That meant that counseling needed a fundamental realignment to inhabit the real world, not the world fabricated by unbelief.” To attempt to integrate biblical theology with psychology is, therefore, utterly foolish and will only lead to the exaltation of man, which in turn leads to his spiritual ruin.

[Excerpted from chapter seven of Counseling One Another.]

Print this entry

June 13, 2019
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on NUGGETS

NUGGETS

Remembering David Powlison – Curtis Solomon describes the impact David had on his life and ministry.

Distinguishing Marks of a Quarrelsome Person – You might be a quarrelsome person if…

When Moral Relativism Comes to Counseling – “Moral relativism is our culture’s precious grandchild now. It gets a pat on the head and sugar for supper. It demands its way like 2-year-old. And it barges into the counseling room. So how might you quiet it?”

Print this entry

June 9, 2019
by Paul Tautges
1 Comment

An Interview with David Powlison

[Since my friend David Powlison entered the joy of his Master this past Friday, I’ve wanted to write a tribute to his gracious influence in my life. However, an injury to my hands has made it difficult to type. For now, I’m re-posting this 2-part interview from January 10, 2013, which was part of a series that I call Journey to Biblical Counseling.]

Welcome to the second installment of our new feature Journey to Biblical Counseling. Here I interview various pastors, teachers, equippers, authors, and leaders in the biblical counseling movement. What led them to biblical counseling? What were some of the influences the Lord used in their journey? How do they now define biblical counseling? These are just a few of the questions they will answer.

Our special guest for this edition is Dr. David Powlison of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation and Westminster Theological Seminary.

PT: David, what is your current involvement in biblical counseling?
DP: I have worked at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) since becoming an intern in 1978, while still a seminary student. The ministry of CCEF has enabled me to flourish in doing the things that I am good at, and to be covered by other people in the areas where I am weak. It’s been a great example of the way an institution can hire multiple kinds of gifted people in order to allow each person to flourish using their strengths. I don’t have to wear ten hats that take me into my areas of weakness. Aside from CCEF, I served on the board of directors of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) for 20 years, and I was in at the ground floor of the founding of the Biblical Counseling Coalition (BCC). I have taught at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) steadily ever since my involvement at CCEF began, and I have also taught at various other seminaries as an adjunct professor. I feel so privileged—in this wonderful mercy of God—to be able to make a living by being who I am and doing what I most love. It is hard and challenging work, but such a wonderful privilege. When Paul Tripp and I used to travel a lot together, we would often return from a weekend conference saying, “Can you believe they pay us to do this? We would do this kind of ministry on the weekend even if we drove a cab during the week!”

My responsibilities at CCEF are primarily teaching, writing, and editing the Journal of Biblical Counseling (JBC), as well as mentoring and interacting with students at WTS. Due to health problems a few years ago I had to stop my regular counseling schedule. But one of the ways, in God’s mercy, that I have compensated for the lack of weekly counseling is by including in my teaching a hearty component of self-counseling for the students. For example, I have 130 self-counseling projects coming in this week. It is a wonderful, vicarious opportunity to see the ways in which the Lord as shepherd, the Father as vine-dresser, the Holy Spirit as active agent, and the Word of Truth meet people in their daily struggles and grow them into Christ’s image. I have interacted with 2,000-3,000 self-counseling projects over the years, seeing the truth of God re-work people’s lives day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out.

I could never be convinced not to be a biblical counselor! It would be to deny how my own life has been transformed by the steady mercies and truth of God, and by the steady benefit of His people and His means of grace. Having counseled so many people and seen the relevance of “God’s take” on our lives, and the power of His engagement, it would be hard to argue myself out of believing that this is indeed the way to go.

PT: In 50 words or less, how do you define Biblical Counseling?
DP: Counseling is one part of the overall ministry of Christ that meets us publicly, privately, and interpersonally. The public means of grace—preaching, teaching, the Lord’s Supper, worship, and fellowship—meet people in crowds. You never have to attach anyone’s name to it, but the Holy Spirit is able to personalize the public ministry of the gospel and the truth of the Lord. Then there is the private ministry of the Word of Truth. This is your own prayer life, meditation on and study of Scripture, application, journaling, and your own implementation and meditations of the heart. Finally, biblical counseling is part of the interpersonal ministry of the Word. God means for us to bear each other’s burdens. It’s a good goal to become more competent at self-counsel, the private ministry, but we always need other people. We need their prayers, encouragement, and insight. There may be something you have said to yourself a hundred times, but then you hear it from the lips of someone else, and the Holy Spirit chooses to work. Hearing it from another person’s voice makes it come to life. Wise counseling brings that personalized relevance of interpersonal ministry of the eternal Word of Truth that turns our lives upside down and inside out.

PT: How does your definition today differ from 5 or 10 years ago?
DP: There is not much difference in definition over the past 5 or 10 years. But when I think back through 35 years, I would describe my experience of biblical counseling as living in a treasure house. There are always more riches—slowly acquired—in God’s wise, loving, and truthful ways with us.

For example, one key juncture came when I realized that “biblical counseling” is not just about “counseling,” per se, but about the entire second half of the Great Commission to make disciples of Christ. This means remaking men, women, and children into His image, which means dealing with “counseling issues”: anger and forgiveness; anxiety and trust; addictions and self-control; suffering and meaning; despair and hope; broken relationships and peacemaking; presumption and humility. It’s just as much for those who don’t think they need counseling as for those who obviously “need counseling.” Jesus’ call to remake people in his image comes with two subordinate clauses. First, baptizing them in God’s name (which I take to be shorthand for evangelism, baptism, church planting—all that entails entrance into the kingdom). Then teaching them to obey all the love, wisdom, trust, and obedience that Jesus commands. The entire Christian life is a process of changing, learning, growing, struggling to become wiser and more loving. Biblical counseling is just one component of that second half of the Great Commission, among the means of grace that work unto our renewal, transformation, reconstruction, and renovation.

So I understand counseling more broadly than I once did, not just as the biblical equivalent or alternative to what secular people do, but as part of this cosmic and personal renewal at the center of the Christian faith. Coming to faith out of a secular background, I was excited about biblical counseling. I had been a psychology major and was working in the mental health field when I came to faith in Christ. My life was turned upside down. Christianity was a whole different dance step from the secular training and models I had received. I initially saw this as the radical way the Bible taught us to approach counseling. But it’s bigger than that. It’s the Bible’s approach to life.

PT: What people, circumstances, and influences did the Holy Spirit use to move you into that “whole different dance step,” from your secular training to your present convictions?
DP: Well, there are far more than can be listed, but I will mention a few. First, I had a very dramatic conversion when I was almost 26 years old. I was a completely secular man. I hated Christianity. On the scale of 1-10 of my positive aspirations, and a scale of -1 to -10 of what I never wanted become, Christianity was at the bottom of the bottom. But the Holy Spirit is mercifully sovereign. It was as though God put the hook in me, and then allowed the fish to run, but at a certain point He said, “You are coming in the boat, buddy!” It was a conversion like C.S. Lewis’s “surprised by joy, the most unwilling convert in all of Christendom.”

Second, I am very grateful that both by teaching and experience I came to understand the significance of the confluence of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. You see, if you just talk about the Word you become a rationalist. And if you just talk about the Spirit you go wacky. Sanctification is the perfect confluence. The people who influenced me had caught the music of that sweet dance. For example, the key passage in my conversion was Ezekiel 36 . I heard the wonderful promise that God takes out a heart of stone and puts a soft heart of flesh in its place. God promises to wash us and give us a new life. The Holy Spirit powerfully took that Word and arrested a man who had lived in his self-referential selfishness for 25 years. Stacked up against life experience was the Word that promised a new life. The Word animated by the Holy Spirit won the day. Our faith has many different aspects, but that perfect interplay of Word and Spirit is something that is easy to get wrong.

Third, just being around godly men and women, good preaching, teaching, counsel, heartfelt worship, candid friendship, and communities that love the Lord has impacted me immensely. I count myself fortunate to never have been part of a community that had some of the typical defects that can attend Christendom, such as legalism, or dead orthodoxy, or liberal theology, or wild-fire pietism. I have always been part of a people who sought balance and fidelity, bringing all of the factors of vibrant Christian faith into play.

I’ve had wonderful nurture and great role models. For example, Jack Miller, my pastor for 20 years was a wonderful influence. He communicated such a sense that God is real, that He is merciful and approachable, and that He hears our prayers. Jack lived the reality of our fellowship as God’s people.

I was also greatly influenced by Jay Adams, both reading his writings and hearing him speak. (He had already left Westminster and CCEF by the time I got there.) Here is one vivid example from when I’d been a Christian for little more than a year. Like a lot of young Christians, I had been initially nurtured in a Watchman Nee, “Let go and let God” pietism. But Jay brought the Bible to life in an utterly different way. I remember the very seat where I was sitting in the auditorium, and the passage Jay Adams was teaching from—Colossians 3—about lying, immorality, lusts, selfishness, and anger, and the contrast with love and the graces of the Spirit. I remember this thought running through my mind like an explosion of light: The Bible is practical. At that moment, I came to see that the Bible is not about a super-spiritual realm of higher numinal reality. The Bible is about what life is about. The Bible speaks to anxieties, angers, despairs, relationships, hurts, grumbling—you name it. The Bible is about life—about what we trust, how we treat people, how we deal with unruly emotions. The Bible is practical because Jesus Christ became incarnate as one of us. He entered our actual, concrete plight, calling us to faith and obedience.

Don’t miss reading part 2 of this interview, where you will read David’s totally unexpected answer to the question, “How can someone begin to be equipped for the one-another ministry of counseling?”

Print this entry

June 4, 2019
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on NUGGETS

NUGGETS

SUPER-DUPER LifeLine Mini-Book Sale – Cumberland Valley Bible and Book Service has select titles for $2 each…while supplies last.

God Save the Kids! – This is an excellent, solid read for parents and anyone who ministers the gospel to children.

Retake Your Heart – “Jesus knows the human heart. He made it, and then he took one himself when he became man. He knows, as both God and man, how to furnish courage to a fearful heart.”

Prayer for the President – David Platt leading his congregation to obey 1 Timothy 2:1-6.

Print this entry