I will praise the Lord, who counsels me….God says: I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you with my loving eye on you….You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory….Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. (Psalm 16:7, 32:8, 73:24, 119:24)
This builds on Pastoral Counseling (Part 1)
Pearls from Powlison
Dr. David Powlison (1949–2019) was my former classmate and a gifted counselor and author. He wrote:
By instinct and habit, all of us tend to think of counseling as a human-with-human interaction. But in fact, a human-with-Savior (Jesus Christ) interaction must come first. When counselors don’t get that straight, we offering people some sort of saviorette….God gives His grace to humble people who ask for it. Instead of talking about others’ sins, you can confess your own. Instead of proudly proclaiming your own rightness, you can confess your many sins, failings, and weaknesses and ask for the Lord’s mercy. Instead of railing against God when you don’t get what you want, you can submit yourself to God and draw near to Him, that He may lift you up in due time.1
Salvation in Jesus Christ means being delivered, redeemed, and rescued from sin and its consequences in this life and in the world to come. Christ saves us by His sinless life, His crucifixion and atoning death, His bodily resurrection, His sending the Holy Spirit, His eternal alive-ness, His presence with us, His ongoing help and prayers for us, and His certain return for us at the end of the age. Jesus’ followers are brought into a faith relationship with God while here on earth and to eternal life with God in heaven after death.
Four Aspects of Counseling
Last time I wrote that in my view, Pastoral Counseling is really shorthand for four overlapping areas of ministry:
- Pastoral Care
- Biblical Counseling
- Spiritual Formation
I covered the first two last time and address the third one here in this post.
Scripture-based guidance goes back to Bible times, but was re-emphasized by my teacher Jay Adams (1929-2020) in his book Competent to Counsel. Christian individuals and families must be trained, coached, and mentored in trusting God and living by His truth. Biblical counseling has three components: Speaking the truth in love, out of deep concern, to help people make godly changes.
Speaking the Truth in Love
Counseling must be done out of love for our neighbors, seeking people’s highest well-being and treating them with respect, generosity, and compassion. All our advice must be consistent with the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. We focus our guidance on the Bible’s timeless truth, believing that, “The Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so we be thoroughly prepared to do good things.”2 We bring people the Lord’s comfort in Christ and also God’s loving warnings that express His fatherly care. We are not loving or helpful to people if we compromise Christ’s truth to make them feel comfortable in their sins.
Our counseling is done in a warm, family way, helping others to become more like Jesus and receive His blessing. Scripture says: “We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children…..We dealt with each of you as a father deals with his children, encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory.”3 This is how Christ ministered to people. And His servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, and patient with difficult people.4
Helping People Make Godly Changes
We seek to help people grow in spiritual strength and understanding of Jesus, our Master and Redeemer, obeying His Greatest Commandment, His Great Commission, and His Cultural Mandate. Christ is our Savior and our Standard. God the Holy Spirit is our Revealer, Regenerator, Renewer, Sealer, and Sanctifier. He changes us as He powerfully works in us with His Bible truth and in fellowship with other Christians. The Lord (Father, Son, and Spirit) helps us to put off ungodly beliefs and behaviors and to put on Christ-like ones.
Areas of Bible-based Counseling
Here are some areas that we deal with:
Alcohol & drug abuse
Equipping for Service
The Bible speaks often and plainly on these practical issues. When Christ’s people counsel one another within the family of God (the Church) we have many advantages. We know people and see them in action. Maybe we know their parents and friends and see how they treat others. We know how they handle themselves in a group. We have their “back-story.” We know what kind of spiritual nurture they’ve had. We can invite them into our home or visit them in theirs. We can initiate the relationship and express our concern for them. This is the kind of Biblical Counseling that Jay Adams, Dave Powlison, and others teach and practice and which I seek to imitate.5
The Lord says: Come and listen to my counsel.
I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise. (Proverbs 1:23)
To be continued
Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Adapted from his books, Speaking Truth in Love and Good and Angry. 2 2 Tim 3:16-17. 3 1 Thess 2:7f. 4 2 Tim 2:24. 5 This section adapted from David Powlison.