Counseling with Authority

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COUNSELING

WITH AUTHORITY

 

In droves, Americans turn their televisions to hear popular entertainers like Dr. Phil McGraw and Oprah Winfrey, or tune their radios to listen to hosts like Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  These people provide much commentary on life and inject their thoughts about how you should live.   For their efforts, each of them has made a fortune.  Notwithstanding the popular attraction to the world, why listen to Dr. Phil, Oprah, or Dr. Laura for answers concerning your life’s deepest questions?  None of them use the majority of their television time for the purpose of presenting the Word of God and showing how they rely exclusively upon the Word of God to make life’s greatest decisions.  In short, they have not risen to fame because they are unequivocally proclaiming the Word of God, but rather because they can attract and maintain a large audience among Americans.    Apparently, some church groups have invited Dr. Laura to speak to them.  She talks about morality, but has denied that Jesus Christ  alone is the way, the truth and the life.  Likewise, she denies that no one comes to the Father, except through Jesus Christ.  When churches invite her to speak, they must think that Jesus would ask Nicodemus for spiritual advice.  The gospel of Hollywood and secular talk shows will always rely upon the flesh for answers and deceive many people.  Sometimes they will write books about God, or do a program on God, and people will listen.  Yet, in many ways, their programs could be hosted by Nicodemus.  But remember that Jesus told Nicodemus, a devout Jew and teacher of Israel, that Nicodemus would never see or enter the kingdom of God until he had been born of the Spirit of God.  Without being born again, Jesus said you likewise will perish.  Many people offer all kinds of advice for living on television, in books, websites, and videos.  Many proclaim scientific research supports their approach to counseling, and others rely upon good old common sense, or their own training and experience.  More than likely you have heard a “Christian Psychologist” speak at a church, or give a seminar somewhere, or read a book on the subject.  Well, take a moment and ask the simple question,  “By what authority are they telling me how to act?”

I am going to use the term “authority” to mean the ultimate source for decision-making.  For the Christian Counselor, that ultimate source will always be God.  God exists eternally in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  In compound unity, the Divine Persons exist as One God.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit will all be involved in the decisions you make as a Christian Counselor.  They speak directly to your heart through the Word of God, the Bible.

You must be a student of the Word of God to learn more about being a Christian Counselor.  You will never be a better student of the Word of God than to the degree that you love God and love your neighbor.  I want to emphasize that study and practice, particularly, love, must go hand in hand in Christian Counseling.

 

Key Concepts

 

  •   Authority and God’s Word

  •   Understanding God’s Word

  •   Sharing God’s Word

  •   Love Acts

So, ask me, “By what authority are you telling me how to counsel my friends?”  I answer: “Let us turn to God’s Word, the revelation of God, for all truths for spiritual living and spiritual counseling.”  We must become devoted students of the Bible, the whole Bible.  Remember that God lives, and He uses His Word to shape lives everyday.

 

2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

“All Scripture is inspired by God

 and profitable for teaching,

for reproof, for correction,

for training in righteousness;

so that the man of God may be

 adequate, equipped for

 every good work.”

The Scripture consists of the the thirty nine books of the Old Testament and the twenty seven books of the New Testament.    God has breathed His revelation into those Books so that they are without error in the original manuscripts.  Because God breathed the words in each Book, the inspiration came directly from God through the writer and onto the written page.  Each writer wrote in their own vocabulary and used his own syntax, but the product God guaranteed to be without error.  Furthermore, each Book derives its authority and canonicity from God, and not because some church council or church father accepted it as inspired.  God breathed the text (“θεόπνευστος, theopneustos“), and therefore it is verbally inspired the moment the author recorded the revelation. 

The text of the Bible provides all the guidance we need for every good work in life.  God has called us to walk in His works.  He prepared those works before hand, just so we can glorify Him by doing His works.  The Word of God, in both Old and New Testaments, discloses God’s will for our lives.  Because those books have been fully and completely breathed by God, we can rely upon every word they contain as fully authoritative.  We must be careful to interpret the Bible carefully, for even Satan quoted the Bible to serve his own purposes.  Notice that this verse outlines the different ways that God uses the Bible in our lives.

Profitable.  This Greek word, “profitable” (ὠφέλιμος, ophelimos), means useful or beneficial.  God intends His word to benefit Christians.  In this context, God describes the ways His word can be used by Christians for His benefit.

Teaching.  The next word, “teaching” (“διδασκαλίαν, didaskalian“), focuses upon the impartation of knowledge, and in this case, divine knowledge.  As Christian counselors, we turn to the Word of God for knowledge that will be invaluable to providing a course for Christian counseling.  We no longer need television personalities, or secular professionals, for knowledge provided by the Word of God.  I heard a famous theologian tell his students: “I am glad you say you have the gift of teaching; I pray that you also have the gift of study.”  He meant that you must study before you teach.  Likewise, you must study before your counsel.  When you hold in your hands the Word of God, why turn to television or radio personalities for direction in your life?  Because they have entertaining shows and talk about real problems?  Instead of taking the time to watch or listen to them, why not study the Word of God during that same block of time regarding your problem.  You will need to master a few basic tools for Bible study, but they will enrich your life and counseling in ways you cannot fully appreciate until you study the Word of God for yourself.  In the next chapter, we will introduce you to basic Bible study techniques.

Reproof.  The second profitable use of the Word of God will be for “reproof” (“ἐλεγμόν,    elegmon“).   This word occurs only here in the New Testament.  In the OId Testament, God uses “reproof” (“תּוֹכַחַת, tokachath“)   to describe the words spoken against evil behavior, often as a warning.  The words of reproof bring to awareness your evil behavior, and provide an opportunity to confess and forsake your sin.  Parents offer reproof to their child so that the child will avoid bad behavior in the future.  I know many parents who will not reprove their children because they do not want to “lose their love.” I know many adults who, for fear of confrontation, will never offer reproof, no matter how close the friend or how awful the behavior.  For the wise, reproof can be especially valuable when you have not understood the full scope of your sin, or you have not felt convicted before God about your behavior.  When coupled with the Word of God, and what it says about your behavior, reproof can be especially valuable.  On the other hand, your attitude towards reproof will affect greatly whether people will offer you helpful reproof.  If you hate reproof, then you are stupid (Proverbs 12:1), and such hatred leads to death (Proverbs 15:10).  The Proverbs also provide a contrast between the person who hates himself and despises discipline with the person who accepts reproof and acquires understanding (Proverbs 15:32).  When someone tells you that you are doing something wrong, how do you react?  Anger, outrage, evil impulse to retaliate?  The wise person will continually evaluate the reproof, compare it with Scripture, and then ponder his own behavior.  Maybe God sent that person to you to offer reproof.  I remember King David listening to Nathan the Prophet.  Using an analogy, Nathan reproved David for his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittitite.  Read the story in 2 Samuel 11-12 and consider David’s response.  Instead of trying to kill the prophet, as so many kings did when God reproved their behavior, David listened, turned from evil, and confessed his sin to God.  He received reproof well.  Review Psalm 51 in that context.   In the New Testament, reproof must be given to false teachers and anyone spreading false doctrine (for example, Titus 1:9, 13; 2:15).

The Christian counselor must use the Word of God to warn people away from evil behavior and toward practicing righteousness.  The Christian counselor must be careful to reprove evil behavior.    Be very cautious of any reproof not founded directly upon the Word of God.  Many people will try to reprove other Christians for behavior they dislike, but the dislike arises from personal preference and not the Word of God.  Be very careful that every reproof you offer as Christian counselor rests squarely upon the Word of God and not personal preference.  Your feelings, experience, and personal preferences are not authoritative and never can be authoritative.  Trust the Word of God for reproof in spiritual matters.

Correction.   The spiritual man will also profit by correction (“ἐπανόρθωσιν, epanorthōsin“) from the Word of God.  Correction carries the idea of restoring to the right path.  In contrast to reproof which warns you are on the wrong path and doing the wrong thing, correction helps you follow the right path and to get back on the right track.  It should be offered in gentleness, with a view toward restoring the sinful brother (Galatians 6:1;   2 Timothy 2:25). 

In the Book of Galatians, Paul provides a good example of reproof and correction in how he dealt with Peter the apostle.  Peter came from Jerusalem to Antioch to see the conversion of the Gentiles. While there, Peter ate with Gentiles, even though Jews under the law of the Old Testament did not eat with them.  But then other men arrived from Jerusalem and Peter changed his behavior and started acting like he was back under the law of the Old Testament.  Paul explained that Peter had been carried away with sin and Paul rebuked him publicly for his hypocrisy.  In some cases, the doctrine you practice drastically affects your spiritual life.  If you want to be enslaved again to life under the law, then you oppose the freedom provided by the grace of Christ.  When Jesus died on the cross, and rose again, He fulfilled the law and redeemed believers so that they would become adopted into the family of God, with the benefits of being an heir with Christ Jesus.  So when anyone preached or acted that you must live under the law, Paul knew that such actions destroyed the freedom from the law brought by Jesus dying on the cross and rising again to life in the Holy Spirit.  In a spirit of humility, Paul opposed Peter and corrected his behavior (Galatians 2:11-21).

Training in Righteousness.  Paul joins two ideas here to finish the revelation of how the Word of God profits the believer.  First, Paul hones in on “training” (“παιδείαν, paideian“).  Training in the New Testament meant developing the mind and morals of a person, often a child.  We start out in Christ as spiritual children.  Through the Word of God, Christ develops our spiritual life to conform to His will.  In the process, we put on the mind of Christ, and follow His commandments.  Do not misunderstand.  We do not go back to living under the Old Testament law, but rather we love God and our neighbors by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. 

Paul links training to “righteousness” (“δικαιοσύνῃ, dikaiosunē“).  The Word of God profits us by training us in righteousness.  God commands us to walk uprightly, and to behave correctly.  In a legal sense, righteousness refers to God declaring us righteous so that the integrity and innocence of Jesus  have been deposited into our personal accounts.  God then uses His Word to make those declarations consistent with our practice in life.  Judicially, God has convicted me of sin and sentenced me to death because I sinned.  In the Supreme Court of God, the evidence was overwhelming that I was a sinner.  On the merits, I lost the trial on my guilt and innocence.  Guilty as charged.

The trial then proceeded to the penalty phase.  During the penalty phase, Jesus stepped forward and pleaded my case as my personal lawyer.  He proved that He died on the cross for my sins, and so paid the penalty completely.  I should have suffered the penalty of my sins and died.  But Jesus substituted Himself for me and paid for me.  Therefore, God declared me righteous, because Christ gave me His righteousness and credited it to my account forever. I walked out of the Supreme Court of God free forever because Christ had set me free and no one could dispute that all my spiritual crimes have been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.  I can never be tried for my crimes of sin again because heaven disdains double jeopardy. 

When you were born again, you received a birth certificate of righteousness.  Legally, it describes who you are and what you are. You are like Jesus in the eyes of God.  Yet, you still need training every day to become more like Jesus in the way you live.  You are a righteous child of God by adoption into His family through Christ.  But you are also learning to live a righteous life under His daily guidance from the Word of God.  We live in awe of the righteousness of God within us, and love Him all the more for the price He paid for us. 

Adequate.  God wants you to be “adequate” (“ἄρτιος,  artios“), which means qualified, ready, and perfectly fit for life.  Therefore, He provided the Word of God to you.  It makes you qualified, ready, and fit.  Have you ever had a teacher tell you to just do the problem or write the paper?  But, you really do not understand how to do it.  The teacher has not provided you with the training so that you can perform the task.  But God has already provided you with the Word of God so that He can use His Word in your life to make you perfectly ready to do His will.  Using the Word of God, you can meet every challenge and never have to worry about whether you are qualified to share God’s love with others.  When you stand upon the Word of God, then you do not doubt God’s ability to use you to His glory.  In every area of your life, He will cause you to prosper like a tree planted by streams of water.

Man of God.  Did you know that Satan quoted the Bible to Jesus to tempt Him to sin?  Satan still uses the Bible to mislead people.  Peter warned that the untaught and unstable distort the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:14-16).  Try to imagine the scope of this promise.  God uses His Word to make every believer (the term “man” here includes women) adequate for the job of teaching, reproving, correcting, and training.  He did not make those promises to just pastors, teachers, or evangelists.  He made that promise to you.  God uses the Word of God to train and equip you.   On the strength of God’s Word, you can counsel your friends.

Equipped.  God uses His Word so that you may be thoroughly “equipped” (“ἐξηρτισμένος, exērtismenos“) for every good work.  As you can see from the context, the Word of God provides the means to equip you for every good work.  The Bible proclaims that we have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).  This verse tells us that the source for walking in good works will be the Word of God.  God uses it for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.  It thoroughly equips us for Christian counseling.

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