A pastor needs a pastor. A counselor needs a counselor. Perhaps that comes as a surprise to you, but it should not. As a son of Adam, I am cut out of the same bolt of fallen cloth that you are. Yes, the print or pattern on our fabrics is unique in various ways, but the cloth is woven from the same thread—fallen, sinful, depraved, innately rebellious, idolatrous, weak, inadequate, feeble thread.
Deep down, my sinful nature is the same as yours. Deep down, we are in need of more than a divine rescue that delivers us from sin simply in order to bring us to heaven. Deep down, we need complete redemption—from the inside out—a life-long process beginning at conversion and culminating in glorification (Rom 8:23). We need to be reconciled to God himself in order to be renewed into the image of His Son (Rom 8:29; Col 3:10).
A couple weeks ago, the pastor whom I am going to for counseling carefully and compassionately listened to me describe my faith struggles, negative thinking patterns, and other aspects of my fallenness—at least those that appear most obvious to me right now (knowing, of course, all the while that there is much more that I remain blind to). After listening to me, he did exactly what I do when I counsel others. He opened the Bible and asked me to read a portion. However, what he asked me to read took me completely by surprise. He asked me to read 1 John 3:2 and stop when he said so. “Beloved, now we are children of God” [STOP]. He then asked, What does this say about God and about you?
“God calls me ‘Beloved.’ God loves me,” I said.
“When? When does He love you?”
“He loves me now, right this minute, even though I do not feel it.”
“What are you?” he then asked.
“I am a child of God. This is who I am. I am a child of my Creator and my Redeemer. This is my identity. My ultimate identity is not ‘father,’ not ‘husband,’ not ‘pastor,’ not ‘author,’ not ‘counselor.’
“I am a child of God. This is who I am.”
Now, why did my counselor direct me to this verse? He had quickly recognized that my own battle against indwelling sin is directly related to my false views of God, which directly impact how I understand myself, which affects every relationship in my life. That concept is not new to me. I know this in my head. I teach others the same principle! But I have failed to see it in myself.
The root reason why I continue to strive to be accepted is that I fail to think rightly about God—He has already accepted me—and rightly about myself—I am already accepted (present tense, now!). Since I am forever united to Christ, the Second Adam, by faith, my understanding of who God is directly impacts my understanding of who I am, which spills into every other area of my life.
But there is often a “grand canyon” between my theology and my practice, between my intellectual thinking and my functional thinking. For example, I may believe I am accepted by God by grace alone, but too often I function as if I am not yet accepted, but will eventually be…by my works. I may believe God is sovereign, that He has all things under His control, but too often I function as if I am. Why? Because my view of Him and His goodness is erroneous (or at least, inadequate), which produces an erroneous view of myself.
Therefore, to renew my mind, my counselor has asked me to work through the book of 1 John, one verse at a time. What is true of God? What is true of me? What lies must I repent of believing? These are the questions I’m asking myself. As I continue to record my thoughts of what the Lord is teaching me, I will, from time to time, open my journal and share them with you. Perhaps, as the Holy Spirit counsels me, you will in turn receive some encouragement too.
Please pray for me. Pray the Holy Spirit continues His work of grace in my life, specifically, by renewing my mind with truth so that the functional lies that I tend to believe will be purged from my heart and replaced with God-glorifying, joy-producing, love-overflowing truth. I will appreciate it.