Counseling One Another

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

Counseling One Another

March 14, 2014
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off

The Right Answer to the Disciples’ Wrong Question

As we saw a couple days ago, the disciples asked the wrong question about the cause of the blind man’s disability. Thankfully, Jesus gave the right answer. The blind man’s disability was not the result of his sin, or the sins of his parents, but God had a greater purpose in mind. Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question was “Neither.” It was not the blind man or his parents who had sinned, but the man’s disability was divinely-ordained so that the works of God would receive greater glory. In revealing this higher purpose, Jesus was not denying that the man and his parents were sinners; that was a given. However, Jesus was denying any cause-and-effect connection between the personal sinfulness of any of them and the man’s blindness. Instead, Jesus said, this man was born blind “in order that the works of God might be displayed in Him” (John 9:3).

What a shocking statement for the disciples to hear! The religious culture of their day was largely influenced by Judaism, which resisted the idea that God could be responsible for letting an “innocent” person (i.e. someone who was not really evil) suffer from something such as blindness. A good and holy God, it taught, simply doesn’t do those things. God is love; He would never allow someone to suffer on purpose. Therefore, the religious crowd would certainly have agreed with the disciples’ judgment: It must be the mother, father, or the young man who caused the blindness. Notice, however, that Jesus made no attempt to get the Father off the hook, so to speak, for doing “such a cruel thing.”

Instead of attempting to make God look better, i.e. appear more loving, gracious, and merciful, or, worse yet, inept; Jesus made it clear that the man’s blindness fit perfectly into the sovereign plan of God. Jesus would not allow Himself to be ensnared into a debate over the possible secondary causes of the man’s blindness. That’s what the disciples wanted Him to clear up for them. “What is the specific sin that we can put our finger on? Who is to blame?” In the mind of Jesus; however, there was no problem, no dilemma at all. The “blame” belonged solely to God.

The man had been born blind because that is how God knit him in his mother’s womb. He was made for a purpose—on purpose. He was created as a tool in the hands of God to bring to his Creator and Savior more glory. In other words, God would receive greater glory as a result of the man’s congenital blindness than if he had been born with sight. That’s what Jesus is saying. It was so that the works of God might be displayed in him that the man was created (not merely born) blind.

The fundamental purpose of disability

Herein rests the fundamental purpose of disability—to draw attention to God! Physical disability is a God-ordained means of displaying His power and wisdom. It is a means to shift our earth-bound focus toward what is infinitely and eternally more valuable. You see, God does not need us to defend Him. He does not need for us to come up with other plausible explanations for why children are born with various disabilities in order that He may be relieved of embarrassment. God makes no apology for His actions. He takes full credit for creating the blind and the deaf; He always has. As far back as the days of Moses, God took personal ownership for the creation of children with disabilities. He said to Moses, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11).

God is good and wise and, therefore, His plans are good and wise even if our finite minds cannot comprehend them. We must not make God into our image, or change His nature in order to make Him less sovereign so that our small beliefs about Him are not so easily offended. He is who He is; He is absolutely sovereign. If He wants to create some people blind, deaf, and with all sorts of other disabilities, doesn’t He have the right to do so? Well, yes, of course He does. In the end, everything is about Him receiving the glory He deserves. He is God; we are not. He can do whatever He wants. “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psalm 135:6). This is our God!

Print this entry

March 14, 2014
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off

Theological Primer for Counselors: Progressive Sanctification

We continue our brief series covering the ten basic categories of theology and relating them to our walk with the Lord and to our personal ministry of the Word of God to one another. Today, let’s think about the doctrine of salvation, particularly what it means to be saved and progressively sanctified by the grace of God.

The Doctrine of Progressive Sanctification

Relative to the one-another ministry we call ‘counseling,’ let’s concentrate on the aspect of soteriology known as progressive sanctification. Millard Erickson defines sanctification as “the continuing work of God in the life of the believer, making him or her actually holy. By ‘holy’ here is meant ‘bearing an actual likeness to God.’ Sanctification is a process by which one’s moral condition is brought into conformity with one’s legal status before God.” In other words, the believer’s sanctification is threefold: sanctification is positional (past) in that it refers to God’s calling apart a sinner unto Himself (Galatians 1:6); it is progressive in the present in that it refers to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer conforming him to the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10); and sanctification is ultimate (future: “glorification”) in that it refers to the day the believer’s standing and his present state become one—being completely sanctified on that day in glory (1 John 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). Jim Berg accurately reminds us of the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in this ongoing work: “Change into Christlikeness…is not something we do to ourselves. It is something that happens supernaturally through the agency of the Holy Spirit when we expose ourselves to God’s Word and He reveals to us His glory.”

According to Romans 6:5-11, it is the believer’s union with Christ that makes sanctification possible in our everyday experience. “Union with Christ” means that the believer is spiritually united with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17; Romans 8:9), resulting in the believer’s old self being crucified with Christ on the cross and the new self being raised up with Him in His resurrection. Because this is true, each believer must put off the old self and put on the new self, which is created in the likeness of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:17-24). Wayne Grudem notes that these “changes within our individual lives are accompanied by a dramatic change in the realm in which we live….To be ‘in Christ’ is to be in that new realm that Christ controls. This means that every action in our lives can be done ‘in Christ,’ if it is done in the power of his kingdom and in a way that brings honor to him.” Henry Thiessen gives four consequences of union with Christ:

  1. Union with Christ means eternal security,
  2. Union with Christ means fruitfulness as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work,
  3. Union with Christ means endowment for service, and
  4. Union with Christ means fellowship with Christ.

In other words, all true growth toward Christlikeness is an outgrowth of the believer’s union with Him. It is our union with Christ by faith that guarantees the ultimate completion of our sanctification into His image. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Previous Posts in the Series

Print this entry

March 13, 2014
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off

Theological Primer for Counselors: Doctrine of Sin

We continue our brief series covering the ten basic categories of theology and relating them to our walk with the Lord and to our personal ministry of the Word of God to one another. Today, let’s think about the doctrine of sin (hamartiology), its nature, and what it means that we are “totally depraved.”

Sin Is Defiance

Relative to counseling it is crucial for us to have a biblical understanding of the nature of sin, especially its inward power. In other words, we must not merely deal with the outward manifestations of sin, though they must be confronted, but with the inner rebelliousness of sin and its motivations. Sin is willfulness. When God created Adam and Eve for His glory, He had intimate fellowship with them and provided that the enjoyment of this relationship would continue only within the sphere of obedience to His commands (Isaiah 43:7; Genesis 2:7–25; 3:8–24). When our first parents sinned, they chose to do the opposite of what had been commanded them; that is, they acted in willful independence of their Creator. Thomas Schreiner is correct when he writes, “sin is first and foremost a rejection of the supremacy of God and his lordship over our lives.” Sin shows its defiant nature by actively resisting God’s demand for obedience.

Sin Is Self-Centeredness

Sin is not only willful independence from the Creator, but it is also utter self-centeredness. The human heart demands its own way, and demands it now, regardless of the consequences its choices may bring on itself, or others. But it is not merely inconsiderate of others; sin also makes the sinner cruel. For example, once Adam and Eve dethroned God, it was not long before sin displayed its cruelty. Their firstborn son, Cain, envied his brother’s righteousness and his acceptance with God and, in anger against God and man, first murdered Abel in his heart, and then carried out his desire by literally taking his brother’s life (Genesis 4:4–8). This explains why the Apostle John used Cain’s sin as a contrast to biblical love, which leads us not to hate others, but to lay down our lives sacrificially for their good (1 John 3:11–16). It also explains why Jesus exalted the two “love commandments” above all others when he answered the inquiring lawyer, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40). There is a sense in which we may say that, if we would always love God and others perfectly, we would never sin. “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).

Total Depravity

Man’s autonomous heart is enslaved to his depravity. When we say man is depraved, we mean that he is continually under the influence of sin. And when we say that he is totally depraved, we mean that sin has negatively affected every aspect of man’s being: intellect, emotions, and will, leaving him profoundly sinful at the very core of his being from the moment of conception. “Total depravity means that sin infects all of what a human is.” No part of man is left untainted. In other words, it is his nature to sin. Sin is what man does best. Sin is more than a choice: it is also the powerful influence or magnetic pull behind the choice, which holds the sinner in voluntary bondage. Del Fehsenfeld, Jr. writes, “The problem with sin is first it thrills, but then it kills. It blinds and binds its victim.” Israel’s King David understood this all too well when he confessed his adultery to God: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being” (Psalm 51:5–6). When the prophet Jeremiah confronted Judah’s sin, he said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick.” But he went on to ask, “Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). In other words, not only is man’s heart corrupt, but also its corruption is accompanied by blindness to the depth of its own self-centeredness.

Total depravity is sometimes called total inability, since man’s bondage to his corrupt nature has rendered him unable to do anything in his own power to remedy his extreme spiritual problem. Apart from Jesus Christ, man is helpless, dead in sin, and left alone to lustfully indulge the desires of his flesh and mind (Romans 5:6; Ephesians 2:1, 3). As a result, natural (unconverted) man does not understand the things of God and has no innate desire to know them (1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 3:11). Only a God of grace and power can redeem such a person. In order for conversion to take place, the sinner must be quickened to spiritual life by regeneration. Regeneration is the supernatural imparting of spiritual life to the sinner’s heart by the Holy Spirit alone, resulting in a spiritually dead person being brought to life in Christ (Ephesians 2:1; Romans 3:10–18; 5:6; Colossians 2:13).

Previous Posts in the Series

Print this entry

March 12, 2014
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off

The Wrong Question

John 9:1 tells us that as Jesus walked along the road He saw a needy man, but the disciples saw a problem. The disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he would be born blind?” (9:2). Who sinned? That was the question, at least in the minds of the disciples. Someone had to have sinned. There simply was no other explanation for the man’s suffering, or so the disciples thought. Sadly, it appears that having their curiosity satisfied was of greater importance to the disciples than the need of a real human being. Lest we judge the disciples too harshly, or too quickly, how often do we do the same thing?

Stop for a moment and think about it. Jesus saw a human being with a need, but the disciples saw a dilemma. There is a huge difference! Jesus saw a blind man—a priceless creature beautifully made in God’s image exactly as God desired him to be. The disciples (who were very much like we are) saw a problem; they saw a theological conundrum. To the disciples this man was really something of a bother—a pebble that was just a bit too large to sift through their predetermined theological grid—but to Jesus the disabled man was of immense value and, therefore, worthy of His time.

Are Disease and Disability Always the Result of Personal Sin?

What exactly was wrong with the disciples’ thinking? “Sin—either in the parents or the child—must be the cause of the blindness,” they thought. “One of the three people must be guilty.” And so they asked, “Which is it, Jesus? Is it him, or is it his parents? Is he being punished for his own sin or is he being punished for his parents’ disobedience to God? Or is there some kind of strange curse upon his family?” (How exactly the blind man could have sinned before he was even born is not explained, but nonetheless the disciples asked the question.) That aside, however, perhaps the disciples were prompted by their remembrance of Exodus 20:5, which warned Israel that God visits “the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations.” Perhaps that verse was swimming around their brains and led them to make an immediate sin-to-suffering connection. In their minds, every disease, abnormality, or disability had a sin cause. That was simply the mindset in which the disciples functioned—a mindset prevalent in the Judaism of their day.

Now, there is an ounce of truth in their conclusion, but there is also a gallon of error. Let me explain. Every form of pain and suffering is the result of the curse that God pronounced upon mankind in the Garden of Eden after sin entered the world. Therefore, there is a sense in which we need to view all suffering as the result of sin. The world was once perfect; there were no diseases; there were no disabilities. But sin changed that. We no longer live in a perfect world. Instead, our world, and every person in it, is fallen. Therefore, in that sense, there is what we might refer to as a universal connection between sin and suffering.

However, the gallon of error washing over the disciple’s thinking is that there is always a cause-and-effect relationship between personal sin and personal suffering. Sadly, there are Christians today who think the same way. They are very quick to interrogate a suffering believer as to the identification of the sin for which God is punishing them, when that may not necessarily be the case. Personal suffering is not always caused by our own personal sin. We must get that straight!

Consider two biblical examples. First, consider again the Old Testament patriarch Job, who lost his ten children and all his earthly possessions in one foul swoop (or four foul attacks from the foulest of all enemies, if you will), perhaps in less than 24 hours (see Job 1:13-19). Now if we embrace the view that personal suffering is always the result of personal sin then we have a serious dilemma, since God’s own assessment of Job’s heart and life before the suffering occurred was that Job was “a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” No one was more righteous than Job, in his day, God concluded. And yet no one suffered more greatly than Job did.

A second example is the Apostle Paul. In his case it is very interesting to note that his physical disability was not the result of personal sin, but was given to him by God in order to prevent him from sinning in greater ways. Because of the “surpassing greatness of the revelations” from God, Paul wrote, “to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!” (2 Corinthians 12:7, emphasis added). The things God had revealed to the apostle when he was taken up to the third heaven were so spectacular that the very experience made Paul more susceptible to a great fall resulting from pride. Therefore, his affliction was actually a gift of God’s grace.

We do not know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was and I’m glad for that because, more than likely, we would then make its application too narrow. We must come to recognize that there are thorns in the physical flesh that are given by God, not always because of sin, but sometimes in order to prevent sin, to keep us from doing something that may ruin our lives forever.

Print this entry

March 12, 2014
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off

Theological Primer for Counselors: Anthropology

We continue our brief series covering the ten basic categories of theology and relating them to our walk with the Lord and to our personal ministry of the Word of God to one another. Today, let’s think about man, the pinnacle of God’s creation who then became His enemy through the rebellion of sin.

The Doctrine of Man

Our view of man’s origin, nature, and sinfulness has enormous impact on the content and approach to the one-another ministry that we call ‘counseling.’ If the counselor has an unbiblical anthropology [doctrine of man] and believes, for instance, that man is basically good (E.g. The self-esteem movement), or is merely the product of his environment [determinism], he will be content with man-centered theories of change and, therefore, true inner change will forever escape the counselee. However, a counselor with a biblical anthropology will recognize the bondage of the human heart to sin and its desperate need for the redemption God has provided in Jesus Christ.

Sin has left all men totally depraved, that is, under the negative influence of sin in every part of his being. Jay Adams describes total depravity this way: “no area has escaped sin’s blighting effects.” Therefore, the biblical counselor will not be content merely with the counselee’s outward compliance to certain expected behavior, but will always be directing his counsel at the inner man, the heart, so as to effect lasting, biblical change. Salvation is not merely the rescue of an immaterial soul from Hell (though that is great indeed!), but also the complete renovation and restructuring of a human life for the glory of his Creator and the benefit of the redeemed (John 10:10); Col 3:10).

Previous Posts in the Series

Print this entry

March 11, 2014
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off

Theological Primer for Counselors: Satan & Demons

satanWe continue our brief series covering the ten basic categories of theology and relating them to our walk with the Lord and to our personal ministry of the Word of God to one another. Today, let’s think about Satan and his hateful work.

The Doctrine of Satan & His Demons

Relative to the personal ministry of the Word it seems most fitting to focus on the work of Satan and his demons as they oppose the work of the gospel in evangelism and as they oppose believers in their walk of faith in Christ. First, in relation to evangelism we must accept the reality of Satan’s unrelenting strategy to oppose the ministry of making disciples of Jesus Christ. The Bible refers to all unbelievers as children of the devil (1 John 3:10), born into his family because of the guilty, rebellious nature inherited from Adam (Rom. 5:12). Salvation is nothing short of a divine rescue mission whereby sinners are plucked out of the devil’s grasping claws and graciously placed into the family of God and the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we are accepted (1 John 3:2; Colossians 1:13; Romans 15:7). Thankfully, because of the authority delegated to us by Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), we have a mission that is not dependent on human resources. Rather, the Great Command to make disciples is accompanied by the authority to carry it out. Thanks be to God that the resurrected Jesus has rendered the devil powerless, and that His delegated authority will grant us the victory (Hebrews 2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:57)!

Second, in relation to the personal ministry of counseling one another as believers, we must accept that progress in the ongoing work of discipleship is at the expense of much effort. In Colossians 1:28-29, the apostle describes this work as “striving,” which refers to a wrestling match. Its Greek root, agonizomai, from which we get “agony” and “agonize,” means to exert great effort. The Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament says that this word especially emphasizes “Paul’s missionary work, with all its attendant toil, its tireless exertion, and its struggles against all manner of setbacks and opposition.” Just a few verses later, Paul mentions the “struggle” he has had on the Colossians’ behalf (Colossians 2:1); his spiritual struggle for them must have included prayer (1:9–12). Therefore, ministry in the name of Christ is a constant spiritual struggle for the well-being of those under our care.

Knowing this, we must recognize that a large part of this struggle is spiritual warfare. Though we may sometimes feel like we are fighting people (often the very ones we love and want to help the most), our actual struggle “is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). As we strive to come alongside others in order to help them to overcome sin and grow in their obedience to Christ we certainly don’t want to give Satan more credit than he deserves. However, we also want to guard against a shallow understanding of the conflict that is presently raging in the invisible world and thereby be tempted to find more humanly acceptable explanations for spiritual struggles, as D. A. Carson challenges us:

The shallowness of spiritual conflict in the West owes something, no doubt, to centuries of Christian influence and the relentless exposure of superstition. But, less honorably, it also owes something, nowadays, to raw secularism, and a pervasive world view that thinks of all reality on a naturalistic plane. In other words, our failure to perceive more of what is going on in the demonic realm may sometimes owe less to our Christian heritage than to our deep indebtedness to a culture that assigns sociological, psychological, and economic reasons for everything.

If we are convinced that all of our problems can be understood and explained on a human level—without recognition of the very-present opposition of supernatural evil, we are extremely foolish, naïve at best. There is undoubtedly more spiritual warfare against those committed to ministering grace and truth to others than we realize. Our enemy has an agenda: it is simply to devour disciples of Jesus (1 Peter 5:8). We must be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10).

Previous Posts in the Series

Print this entry

March 10, 2014
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off

Theological Primer for Counselors: The Holy Spirit

holy spiritWe continue our brief series covering the ten basic categories of theology and relating them to our walk with the Lord and to our personal, one-another ministry that we call ‘counseling.’ Today, let’s think about the Holy Spirit’s role in life transformation.

The Holy Spirit is the “Agent of Change” in counseling. The early Christians freely dispensed the hope found in the gospel and were confident of the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit; they truly believed in heart and practice that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation and sanctification (Romans 1:16; Galatians 5:22-26). By virtue of the believer’s union with Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his physical body and accomplishes transformation of character by teaching the Truth of the Word (John 16:12-15), empowering him to change through diligent application of biblical truth to life (2 Peter 1:5-8), and renewing the mind of the believer as he meditates on the written Word (Ephesians 4:23; Romans 12:2).

The Holy Spirit not only teaches and empowers the believer, but He also leads, intercedes, fills (controls by yielding to the Word) and produces spiritual fruit in the life of the obedient disciple (Romans 8:14, 26; 1 John 2:20, 27; Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:18). Therefore, effective biblical counseling is impossible without the active presence of the Holy Spirit. John MacArthur sums it up well in the volume, Introduction to Biblical Counseling,

Only the Holy Spirit can work fundamental changes in the human heart. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the necessary agent in all effective biblical counseling. The counselor, armed with biblical truth, can offer objective guidance and steps for change. But unless the Holy Spirit is working in the heart of the counselee, any apparent change will be illusory, superficial, or temporary—and the same problems or worse ones will soon reappear.

Let us be reminded that any lasting change in our lives—and the lives of those whom we counsel—is accomplished by the power of the Spirit of God, as Christ is beheld and obeyed, not the cleverness of our approach. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Previous Posts in the Series

Print this entry

March 8, 2014
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off

Theological Primer for Counselors: Lordship of Christ

Today, we continue a brief series covering the ten basic categories of theology and relating them to our walk with the Lord and to our personal, one-another ministry that we call ‘counseling.’ We have already thought about the doctrine of God and the doctrine of the Scriptures. Today, I want us to think about the doctrine of Christ (Christology). Actually, much more narrow than that, we need to think about how the lordship of Christ affects the life of the true believer and how Jesus’ role as the ultimate Reconciler must impact the effort God expects us to put forth in order to be reconciled to others.

The Doctrine of Jesus Christ

Every matter of counseling is somehow related to a person’s relationship with God or people, other image bearers. In other words, biblical counseling is always relational—aiming at and working toward reconciliation, which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, makes possible. He died and rose again to reconcile rebellious sinners back to their holy Creator (Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 3:18; 2:24). He did this by dying a substitutionary death in place of guilty sinners (Isaiah 53:1-12, esp. vv.4-6). Through His death, Christ propitiated (satisfied, appeased) God’s wrath against sin (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10); and demonstrated the love of God (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16), the mercy of God (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 2:4), the grace of God (John 1:17; Romans 3:24); and the righteousness of God (Romans 3:25). Christ died and rose again to free us from the power and penalty of sin, to be Lord of the dead and of the living, so that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again for us (Romans 14:7-9; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). It is reconciliation with God, through Christ, which makes reconciliation with other people not only possible, but part of what it means to be a true Christian, a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.

In addition to thinking about Jesus’ work of reconciling us to God, another aspect of Christology that we need to think about is His lordship. In biblical counseling the unbiblical Savior-Lord dichotomy is often confronted, and that rightly. It is unfortunate that the term “Lordship Salvation” was coined and then so negatively received by some. For me the key issue is: What is the nature of faith that truly saves? Is it alive or is it dead? Does it produce good works or is it merely intellectual assent to historical facts about Jesus? Does it result in a new creation or is it merely another add-on to a religious system? The Bible teaches that if a person is truly under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, his/her faith will be a repentant faith, which contains an element of submission. Granted, this submission will not be consciously directed toward every sin in his life all of the time (for we all have ‘hidden sins,’ still), but rather it will be a basic and foundational kind of submission that is characteristic of the new heart that God gives at the moment of salvation. Saving faith is empty-handed, but submissive; it receives the gift of God and rests in the finished work of Jesus Christ as full payment for one’s sin debt. It is faith in Him as one’s personal Sin-bearer that saves. Knowing Jesus means loving and obeying Jesus as Lord: “If you love me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

Print this entry

March 7, 2014
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off

Theological Primer for Counselors: Bibliology

Today, we continue our series covering the ten basic categories of theology and relating them to our walk with the Lord and to our personal, one-another ministry that we call ‘counseling.’ Yesterday, we thought very briefly about the doctrine of God. Today, we turn to the doctrine of the Scriptures.

Bibliology: The Doctrine of the Scriptures 

Scripture alone provides the final authority for our counseling since it is the Word of God. There is nothing that man experiences that God does not directly or indirectly address in His Word, by precept or principle, i.e. the Bible is sufficient to deal with the problems we face because God created us and because Scripture is the revelation of God, our Creator (Psalm 19:7-11).

The Word confronts us when we get off the right path and shows us how to get back on and trains us to live godly lives so that we mature and become equipped to serve God: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Because the Word of God is a living book, it has the power to transform the inner man—the heart—and consequently to produce changes in behavior, i.e. produce righteous living (Hebrews 4:12). Scripture is the Spirit’s primary tool in the miraculous event of conversion and the process of sanctification (John 17:17). Every truth-claim made by any person can and must be tested against the Bible, which is “the mind of God in written form” (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). This is not to say that no extra-biblical knowledge (as opposed to unbiblical teaching) that, when filtered through the Word of God, may not be helpful in our understanding of the human condition.

“Inspired” (2 Timothy 3:16) means “God-breathed.” It does not refer to breathing into someone an inspirational thought, but is the act of God whereby He breathed out His will—His thoughts through the chosen human agents. Scripture is the mind of God in written form. It is the divine will inscripturated (in writing) and inerrant in the original manuscripts (Matthew 4:4, 5:17-18). Therefore, Scripture does not merely contain truth—it is Truth with a capital “T.” Scripture is the final authoritative standard of Truth and the instrumental cause of faith and sanctification (Romans 10:17; John 17:17), empowered by the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). Everything contrary to it is error. Thiessen defines inspiration well when he writes, “The Holy Spirit so guided and superintended the writers of the sacred text, making use of their own unique personalities, that they wrote all that he wanted them to write, without excess or error.”

The authority of Scripture is a by-product of its infallibility. Some who call themselves Evangelicals claim to have an authoritative Bible while at the same time deny its infallibility. This is impossible. The authority of Scripture flows from its divine origin and, since God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), it too was flawless in its original form. This is not to say that what we now possess contains errors, for God has been faithful to preserve His Word through millennia. The Dead Sea Scrolls are an example of this. Without an infallible Bible we have no authority to counsel people in regard to what they must believe and do. However, because we do possess the infallible Word of God, we also possess divinely-delegated authority to counsel according to its precepts and principles. We can and must say to counselees, “Thus saith the Lord,” and “this is what God requires of you.” Jay Adams writes, “The ministry of the Word in counseling…is totally unlike counseling in any other system because of its authoritative base. This authoritative character stems, of course, from the doctrine of inerrancy. If the Bible were shot through with human error, and were no more dependable than any other composition—if it were not God-breathed revelation—this note of authority would give way to opinion. But, because the Bible is inerrant, there is authority.” I also appreciate what Wayne Grudem writes, “The essence of the authority of Scripture is its ability to compel us to believe and to obey it and to make such belief and obedience equivalent to believing and obeying God himself.”

Print this entry

March 6, 2014
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off

Theological Primer for Counselors: Theology Proper

Today, I begin a brief series covering the 10 basic categories of theology and relate them to our walk with the Lord and to our personal, one-another ministry that we call ‘counseling.’

Theology Proper: The Doctrine of God

One’s view of God shapes his thinking in every area of life. Of course, this is true for every subsection of Theology Proper. However, for the sake of brevity, a few specific areas that often come to the forefront in counseling include God’s sovereignty, love, goodness, and the “three omnis.”

Counselees who are suffering especially need the biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty over every affair of life including when bad things happen to God’s people (Psalm 139:16; Romans 8:28-30; Eg. Life of Joseph in Genesis 39-50). Whatever the secondary cause of suffering, we must teach counselees that God is truly in control and, therefore, is the principal cause and is trustworthy. Though He is not responsible for evil, God is sovereign over it—whether it comes through sin, Satan, or the natural consequences of the curse, which God placed upon the created world in the Garden of Eden after the fall.

Coupled with His sovereignty, the goodness of God must be communicated along with His love, mercy, and pity toward sinners, which was ultimately made manifest in Christ on the cross (Romans 5:8). The holiness of God compels us to trust Him (for He cannot lie, or do us wrong) and calls believers to a life of holiness (1 Peter 1:15ff). Whatever sin-related struggle we battle, or suffering-related problem we face, God knows it (omniscience), is with us and will never forsake us (omnipresence), and has infinite power to intercede on our behalf according to His desires (omnipotence)

What does all of this mean? The bottom line is: God is worthy of our trust and obedience.

Print this entry