Counseling One Another

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

Counseling One Another

February 21, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Everyday Talk about Sex and Marriage, Part 2

Any conversation with your children about sex and marriage would be incomplete without discussing sexual attraction. This topic often lacks biblical clarity for Christians because it is most commonly discussed outside its biblical context. The Bible is clear: sex is reserved for marriage. If one is attracted to sexual activity, that attraction can be pleasing to God only when it is focused on its expression within marriage. On the other hand, I am not saying that we should not appreciate—and even, in a proper sense, be attracted by beauty. But the Bible makes a distinction between admiration of beauty and sexual attraction. The beauty of Job’s daughters was recognized throughout the land. That is not the same as saying that people throughout the land desired them sexually. On the other hand, Proverbs 5:19 speaks of being captivated (NIV) or intoxicated (ESV) by love for one’s wife. The public admiration of physical beauty is appropriate when there is no intimacy or lust involved. Sexual attraction, though, is to be restricted and private. Unlike the appreciation of physical beauty, biblical sexual attraction leads to intimate knowledge of the person being admired. Biblical sexual attraction must involve at least these four qualities:

  • Worship of God
  • Intimacy and pleasure
  • The purpose of procreation
  • Expression of unity in the one-flesh relationship

In his book, The God of Sex, Dr. Peter Jones gives a thorough and compelling biblical argument for this view of sexual attraction. Biblical sexual attraction goes far beyond what the world calls sexual attraction, and marriage is absolutely essential if God is going to be honored when you or your children think about sex. In this culture, we have the myth of the red-blooded American male. The idea is that when male or female hormones are at work, sexual attraction can’t be helped; it is involuntary. That may be the world’s understanding, but it is rooted in the humanistic, Darwinian thought that sex is primarily a biological function and that sexual attraction is necessary to ensure that humans keep breeding. Both your sons and daughters must be taught that such thinking is unbiblical and displeasing to God. Sex and marriage are not the products of a long evolutionary process. Rather, they are part of God’s mandate for man at creation to glorify God as he occupied and controlled the earth. Christ warns against lust leading to adultery of the heart. Paul insists that Christians are not to live life as the world does, becoming dominated by sensuality. Sensuality is what passes for sexual attraction in this culture–but sensuality is actually the opposite of biblical sexual attraction. That is why it is vital that sexual activity be rooted in the context of marriage. Sexual attraction is to be private and deeply personal between husband and wife. Biblical sexual attraction is not primarily physical attraction. Look with me at Proverbs 5:15-21, and you will see why this is true.

Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer – may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife? For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths.

Note the personal nature of this instruction. The husband’s thoughts are not to be public, but private. He is not to look at other women the way he looks at his wife. There is no doubt that the husband is to be sexually attracted to his wife and her body. But note carefully that this attraction is not physical at the core. The passage does not say if one’s wife meets certain culturally accepted criteria then he is to be attracted to her. Not at all. Rather, this view of sexual attraction is intensely biblical and personal. Since every woman’s body is different–in some cases dramatically different–from other women’s bodies, it cannot be the size and shape of her body that is the basis of a husband being captivated and intoxicated by her. The four relational components listed at the beginning of this chapter form the basis of the husband’s intoxication for his wife. That is how appreciation of physical beauty and biblical sexual attraction differentiate themselves. Physical beauty can be admired by many. But sexual attraction is only for one’s marriage partner.

Sexual attraction outside of marriage will lead to lust and, eventually, torment. It is important to teach this truth to both your daughters and your sons. In Galatians 5:19-21, sensuality is listed as one of the deeds of the flesh. The Spirit’s fruit of self-control is what counters sensuality. The Holy Spirit’s fruit of self-control is not the anguished self-denial of living with unmet desires. Biblical self-control is rooted in the fact that God has better things prepared for his people in sexual relations than we can possibly imagine. That is the view of self-control that God wants you to teach your children. That is the view they will need in order to withstand the sexual onslaught of modern culture. What the world offers as sexual attractiveness is a lie. It never satisfies. It only produces an uncontrollable hunger for more and more sex. Sexual attraction in this context is simply lust, and it is destructive to all it controls.

[This post is written by Jay Younts, and is drawn from his brand new book, Everyday Talk about Sex and Marriage: A Biblical Handbook for Parents.]

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February 20, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Everyday Talk about Sex and Marriage, Part 1

This past weekend, our church was blessed to host a very important conference we called Redeeming the Gift: God’s Design for Sexuality. To help us present the topic in a manner that was biblical and practical in application to every believer we invited two faithful Bible teachers to join us, Tim Challies and Jay Younts. Throughout this week, I will share with you some of the teachings we received and direct you to their resources, trusting they will encourage your personal growth in holiness. Today’s post is drawn from two sessions taught by Jay Younts, author of Everyday Talk about Sex and Marriage: A Biblical Handbook for Parents.

One of the more challenging of parental responsibilities is telling children about sex. This conversation is often so awkward that both parent and child wonder what good could come from it. Sometimes, there is no actual conversation. A parent might hand a book to his or her child and say, “Read this and let me know if you have any questions.” There is a degree of irony in this awkwardness. On the one hand, it is almost impossible to avoid being confronted with sex. Movies, billboards, commercials, songs, news reports, casual conversations, TV programs etc., form a cultural bombardment of sexual themes that invade daily life. On the other hand, at least in most Christian households, sex is not talked about as a part of regular family conversation. So as soon as your children have unsupervised access to the world outside your home, they will begin to hear of any number of references to sexual activity, ranging from subtle to crude. So what is not talked about at home is encountered with regularity outside the home. The reality is that your children will likely hear about sexual activity and sexual perversion long before you actually sit down to talk with them about what sex is. You know this and your children know this. As I said—it’s awkward.

This awkwardness has come about because the world and, unfortunately, most Christians view sex in the same way. The world views sex as something distinct from marriage. In the world’s thinking, marriage is a place where sex may occur, but marriage is not necessary for sex. There are few restrictions in modern Western culture on when, where and with whom sexual activity may take place. Restricting sex to marriage is at best a well-meaning but archaic religious tradition that is simply a denial of basic human nature and needs. Most discussions about sexuality outside the home focus on having sex that is pleasurable and safe. This view is the perspective embraced by advocates of sex education in our school systems. Masturbation, homosexual sex, and straight sex are all appropriate. This is the inevitable outcome when marriage and sex become separated from each other. The truth is that God designed sex for the setting of marriage alone. This is where the discussion about sex must begin. This point may not seem to be important, but it is. Sex and marriage must be discussed together. Let’s look at Genesis 1:28 and 2:24:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

When asked about divorce, Jesus Christ put these two passages together to define what marriage is. “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

God made man male and female. He gave them the directive to have children, to fill, subdue, and rule the earth for his pleasure. The call to be fruitful and multiply is specifically tied to marriage in Genesis 2:24 and in Jesus’ commentary on this same passage. This relationship of husbands and wives is consummated when they become one flesh as a result of their union. Pre-Fall this meant that in marriage men and women were to be united as one flesh to carry out God’s mission of having dominion over the earth for God’s glory. In the perfect sinless world before the Fall, this calling could mean nothing less. This is further underscored by Paul’s quotation of this same passage in Ephesians 5. Here Paul likens this one flesh relationship between husband and wife to the relationship between Christ and his church.

This, then, is where you must start in teaching your children about sex. Sex is not fundamentally a biological, physiological activity. Sexuality is a necessary aspect of God’s purpose for man to occupy and control the earth for the glory of God. All of the physiological phenomena that happens to the human body while engaging in sexual activity is expressly designed by God to remind husbands and wives that they have been called to unity, intimacy and procreation in their mission to have dominion over the earth. Sexual activity is designed for a man and a woman who are obeying God in marriage in order to bring honor to his name. The idea that sexual pleasure is designed merely and primarily for self-interest is pagan at its core. It is dishonoring to God to talk about sex in abstraction from marriage. The whole of the Christian life, in fact, is focused on the sacrificial and selfless love of others done in imitation of Christ according to 1 John 4:7-12. Sex cannot be both God-honoring and self-serving. Sex is specifically designed for marriage and for nothing else.

This principle means that you want to lay the proper foundation for talking about marriage and sex with your children. This will provide a more natural transition when you talk with your children about the specifics. Here’s where Jay’s book gets really practical. He addresses:

  • When to talk about sex
  • What specifics should be covered at what age
  • What sexual attraction is
  • Abuses of God’s provision for sexual activity

In some ways, these topics should be a part of your everyday talk as parents, but there is still the appropriateness of having a specific discussion when the time is right. The very first foundation stone to lay is this: marriage and sex go together. This one parameter will help you to present biblical sexuality in a way that honors God and blesses your children.

[This post is drawn from Everyday Talk about Sex and Marriage: A Biblical Handbook for Parents.]

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February 20, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS (February 20)

Pride Still Matters in Ministry – The day after ministry success, Andy Farmer reflects on Augustine’s insights.

Why It’s Terrible News that Millenials Are Having Less Sex – This interesting article from The Federalist reveals how porn and the anti-social results of social media are destroying the intimacy of true relationship.

David’s Plea to His Son – “Would you tell your children to pursue wisdom as their most important task in life? Would you be willing to go so far out on the proverbial limb and say even if it costs you all that you have – get wisdom?”

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February 8, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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A Double Remedy for a Downcast Spirit

For as long as I can remember, Psalms 42 and 43 have been a refuge for my soul and the souls of brothers and sisters whom I have helped to work through times of spiritual depression. The honesty of the psalmist is startling to those who have the impression the Bible only speaks in platitudes disconnected from life in the real world. For many, these two Psalms have become personal prayer guides, directing the eyes of their heart to the Lord as their lighthouse in the midst of emotional storms.

In Psalm 42, the man of God longs for God as a deer longs for the fresh water of a flowing stream. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night…” Repeatedly, he asks himself why his spirit is downcast and then exhorts himself to hope in God who restores his countenance. In Psalm 43, as the man of God pleads for vindication, he repeats the habit of counseling himself with Scriptural truth about the faithfulness of God and, again, ends by telling himself to hope in God.

Last week, while continuing to work through Alec Motyer’s new devotional translation of the book of Psalms, I was blessed by his summary of the application of these two songs (Remember, Psalms is a songbook!). He points out that the psalmist asks God questions nine times. It is good, therefore, “to remind ourselves that questions are not doubts. So often a person can be heard to say, ‘I have so many doubts’ when, in fact, all they have is what we all have—‘so many questions’. And so it will be till we get to heaven…” However, in the asking of these questions of God, Motyer is convinced, lies a double remedy for the downcast spirit.

Transparent Prayer

First, help is found in the honest cries of a soul in anguish. He writes, “Verse 5 [of Psalm 42] surely implies that, with God as our hope, we have no need to be downcast; then verse 6 chips in, ‘My soul is downcast.’ What a frank prayer; I know it’s foolish to be down, but I am! This sort of openness with God runs through the psalm – what 42:8 calls ‘a prayer to the transcendent God of my life’. Just as his love never falters, so his ear is always open (v. 8).”

Transforming the Mind

Second, help is found in the renewal of the mind with the truth of God. When our emotions fight to take over the control of our hearts and the vision of our soul, we must deliberately turn to biblical meditation; that is, rehearse Scriptural truths about God so as to nourish our feeble faith. Motyer writes, “The mind is ‘renewed’ by feeding on new thoughts. If we are only being anxious about our anxieties, worrying over our worries, stewing our problems, we are only nourishing the old mind, the downcast spirit. No, says Psalm 42:4, 6, I will turn from old memories, ‘I keep remembering you.’ The mind feeding itself on diving truth, dwelling on the promises of God, recalling his endless mercies and unchanging love, turning its eyes upon Jesus—that mind is walking the pathway to renewal.”

Is your spirit troubled today? Are you downcast in your soul? Honestly cry out to God in prayer, turning your doubts into questions of faith. Then deliberately turn away from the messages your emotions speak to you and replace them with the unchanging truths of Scripture.

You may also enjoy these related posts.

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February 8, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS (February 8)

How much better to get wisdom than gold!  – Proverbs 16:16

Adorned – Here’s Tim Challies’ review of wonderful new book from Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth of Revive Our Hearts.

Take a Younger Woman Under Your Wing – Speaking of Revive Our Hearts ministries, here’s an example of why I love their True Woman blog and their commitment to helping the church carry out the Titus 2 vision for discipleship.

Treasuring Others – “God’s promise of heavenly treasure is not a concession for our selfishness. Instead, it is the key to connecting his command to love our neighbor with a growing hunger for heaven!

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February 3, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Sermon on Bitterness

A gentleman in our church recently told me that he has listened to this sermon many times and it has changed his life. It’s called Bitter Root, Rotten Fruit and has been downloaded over 10,000 times since it was first preached in 2011. Bitterness is often a subtle sin, which exists undetected in our hearts, but imprisons us and defiles others. Perhaps you would benefit from listening to it as well. May the Lord continue to cause us to grow in His unchanging truth and matchless grace!

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February 3, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS (February 3)

How much better to get wisdom than gold!  – Proverbs 16:16

Blessed Are the Merciful – “In short, mercy withholds the kind of abusive, manipulative, vengeful, and selfish ways people frequently treat one another. In fact, our relationships ought to be marked by a consistent pattern of mercy for others’ flaws and faults.”

How to Grow in Grace: Step 4 – Tim Lane stresses how Scripture calls us to robust self-examination. “Take a moment to see how your unproductive and/or ungodly responses to your circumstances are potentially making things worse.”

Discipleship According to the Scriptures – “Discipleship does not just happen. We need to be intentional about cultivating deep, honest relationships in which we do spiritual good to other Christians.”

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February 2, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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The Great Horizon for Marriage

“What, then, is marriage for?,” Tim Keller asks in The Meaning of Marriage. He answers, “It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us.  The common horizon husband and wife look toward is the Throne, and the holy, spotless, and blameless nature we will have. I can think of no more powerful common horizon than that, and that is why putting a Christian friendship at the heart of a marriage relationship can lift it to a level that no other vision for marriage approaches.”

Then he gives this helpful illustration.

“Have you ever traveled to a mountainous part of the world when it was cloudy and rainy? You look out your windows and you can see almost nothing but the ground. Then the rain stops and the clouds part and you catch your breath because there, towering right over you, is the magnificent peak. But a couple of hours later the clouds roll in and it has vanished, and you don’t see it again for a good while. That is what it is like to get to know a Christian. You have an old self and a new self (Ephesians 4:24). The old self is crippled with anxieties, the need to prove yourself, bad habits you can’t break, and many besetting sings and entrenched character flaws. The new self is still you, but you liberated from all your sins and flaws. This new self is always a work in progress, and sometimes the clouds of the old self make it almost completely invisible. But sometimes the clouds really part, and you see the wisdom, courage, and love of which you are capable. It is a glimpse of where you are going.”

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February 2, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS (February 2)

How much better to get wisdom than gold!  – Proverbs 16:16

4  Steps to Building a Bible Reading Rhythm – If your 2017 Bible reading resolution is waning already, here’s some encouragement.

Already, Not Yet, Right Now – And God doesn’t say, “Hey, look around. Everything’s great!” He knows “looking around” is their problem. He beckons them to look back and to look forward.

Paralyzed Patients Communicate Thoughts via Brain-Computer Interface – Very cool 2-minute video!

From Resentment to Reconciliation: Finding Healing Grace in Marriage – “We were tethered to a grace that drew us out of death and destruction into a harbor of contentment and rest. It didn’t happen overnight.”

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February 1, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Why the Bible Compares False Doctrine to Gangrene

False doctrine has the power to undermine faith and damage believers if we are not discerning and, consequently, allow man-centered, Christianized self-help theory to permeate our churches and thus redirect the eyes of believers off of Christ, and onto self. That which common man may consider good psychology may in fact be nothing more than bad theology. We must discern.

Poison in the Spiritual Bloodstream

Bad theology is like poison that invades the bloodstream and destroys spiritual health. False doctrine kills the church from the inside out, whether it is preached openly from the pulpit or shared subtly in the “counseling room.” The apostles warned of these “destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1–3) that hold undiscerning believers “captive through philosophy and empty deception” (Col. 2:8). Therefore, church leaders must instruct men “not to teach strange doctrines” (1 Tim. 1:3) because “their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim. 2:15–18). Gangrene is a deadly disease. As it spreads throughout the skin tissue, it leaves portions of the body dead and in need of amputation. The disease starts when there is a lack of blood flow, and the resulting shortage of oxygen to the body parts causes tissue to die. Once dead, the tissue becomes numb and turns black, leaving only one effective treatment—removal of all dead tissue and the exposure of infected areas to oxygen under high pressure, thus killing the bacteria that can only live in oxygen-free tissue.

Sound Theology is Oxygen for Believers

Consider this analogy of theology in the body of Christ, the church. Sound biblical doctrine, like oxygen, is needed to sustain spiritual life. When there is a lack of sound doctrine, the poison of false theories begins to spread underneath the surface of the skin until the infected area of the body dies. Once dead, it becomes numb to any danger. To remove false doctrine from the church requires amputation, followed by intense doses of pure doctrine to force the error out. Os Guinness reminds us that “sound doctrine” in Greek “is literally ‘hygienic’ and health-giving.” It cleanses the mind and feeds the growth of the spirit.

Therefore, we must make the imparting of doctrine a significant part of our ministry. When believers are grounded in the Word of God and taught to think of everything in their lives from a God-centered, biblical perspective, their minds will be renewed and their faith nurtured (Rom. 12:1–2; 1 Tim. 4:6). Gary Johnson’s comments are fitting: “A healthy Christianity cannot survive without theology, and theology must matter today, especially in our mindless and irrational culture. It should especially matter among evangelicals who confess saving attachment to Jesus Christ. But current challenges to the authority of the biblical gospel often come from within our churches, from practitioners who are increasingly uninterested in serious theology.” Therefore, if we are committed to biblical ministry, we must take theology seriously, since the ongoing spiritual health and growth of our disciples depends upon it.

The Apostle Paul’s model for counseling, as explained in Colossians 1:28-29, includes the high priority of teaching doctrine so that disciples learn to think theologically. This, of course, is an echo of the indoctrinating aspect of Jesus’s command to make disciples by “teaching them to observe all [He] commanded” (Matt 28:20). “Teaching” comes from didasko, meaning “to give instruction.” The noun form simply means “doctrine.” Acts 2:42 indicates that doctrine was a high priority in the early church. These believers were “continually devoting themselves to … teaching,” that is, doctrine. They were being instructed in God’s Word to the extent that their lives began to model truth to a dying world (beautifully illustrated in the church at Thessalonica, 1 Thess. 1:6-7).

No Theology, No True Ministry

Sadly, few evangelical churches today have the same priority. Instead, there is a noticeable shift away from theology toward therapy, which is having disastrous effects on the lives of God’s people and their families. The rock-solid foundation of the Word is now actively replaced by the shifting sand of man’s philosophy, and believers are being washed out to sea. This swing away from a love for, and adherence to, absolute truth is documented by David Wells in his discerning critique of modern evangelicalism, No Place for Truthor, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? He says in his introduction,

I have watched with growing disbelief as the evangelical Church has cheerfully plunged into astounding theological illiteracy. Many taking the plunge seem to imagine that they are simply following a path to success, but the effects of this great change in the evangelical soul are evident in every incoming class in the seminaries, in most publications, in the great majority of churches, and in most of their pastors. It is a change so large and so encompassing that those who dissent from what is happening are easily dismissed as individuals who cannot get along, who want to scruple over what is inconsequential, who are not loyal, and who are, in any case, quite irrelevant.

Throughout his book, Wells offers examples of the shift away from a doctrinally based faith to one based on experience. One case in point exposes the church’s preoccupation with self and therapy. This evaluation comes at the end of a thorough study of thirty years of the periodical Christianity Today, particularly the column “A Layman and His Faith”:

In these three decades [1959–1989], the laity had apparently moved from a doctrinally framed faith, the central concern of which was truth, to a therapeutically constructed faith, the central concern of which was psychological survival. Christian truth went from being an end in itself to being merely the means to personal healing. Thus was biblical truth eclipsed by the self and holiness by wholeness.

As people’s perceived psychological needs become more important than believing right doctrine, and feeling good about oneself becomes a higher priority than knowing one’s soul is right with God, the systematic teaching of biblical doctrine becomes more important than ever. In fact, it is indispensable to the disciple-making process because of the power of doctrine to protect, build up, nourish believers, and stimulate spiritual growth (1 Tim. 4:6; 1 Peter 2:2).

[Excerpted from Counsel Your Flock]

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