Both the title and add for this new reality show airing on the National Geographic Channel captured my attention. The title caused me to look as the fast moving add thrust me into the midst of a church service with men and women handling venomous snakes during their worship service! The camera quickly moved to the pastor sitting on a chair and speaking with passion and conviction about unconditional faith in and obedience to the Word of God.
The National Geographic Channel describes the show as follows:
“Jamie Coots and Andrew Hamblin struggle to keep an over-100-year-old tradition alive: the practice of handling deadly snakes in church. Jamie and Andrew believe in a Bible passage that suggests a poisonous snakebite will not harm them as long as they are anointed by God’s power. If they don’t practice the ritual of snake handling, they believe they are destined for hell. Hunting the surrounding mountains for deadly serpents and maintaining their church’s snake collection is a way of life for both men. The pastors must frequently battle the law, a disapproving society, and even their own families to keep their way of life alive.”
It grieves me to see the misinterpretation and misapplication of Scripture where those who believe Mark 16:18 is part of the canon, draw national attention from the Christ of salvation to “snake salvation,” and lead some undiscerning people into unnecessary harm, and possibly eternal damnation, in the name of obedience to God’s Word!
Faith in the Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture?
Listening to the pastor during the TV advertisement affirm the authority of Scripture above all was arresting. Mark 16:18 is the one and only authority upon which he based his action and counsel.
How delightful it would be for biblical counselors to engage with clients who are so solely committed to the Word of God. People coming to us with a Romans 12:1-2 submission to the Word of God as living sacrifices. Committed to the proposition that the Word of God is authoritative and sufficient! Refusing to allow family, culture, law, or even possible death detour them from obedience to the truth!
Handle with Care!
When a child of God commits themselves unconditionally to the Word of God and comes to a biblical counselor this is a priceless gift that must be handled with care! We, as counselors, must be careful how we build the lives of redeemed saints that God leads to us (1 Corinthians 3:6-17). Our goal is to build the faith of believers in such a way as to free them from sin and lead them into a deeper relationship with Christ. Total surrender to Bible passages misunderstood and misapplied can be as deadly as outright denial of the Bible!
Proper counsel, at times, is confusing for some of us. Clients struggling with suicide, dealing with mental illness, potentially violent situations, etc. can challenge a counselor as to what is wise counsel. There have been times when I have questioned whether I had correctly applied the Scripture during a counseling session.
Often counselees reject the truth and suffer the consequences. This is easier to handle with compassion and mercy than discovering that we gave wrong counsel to an obedient counselee who suffered the consequences of poor counsel! Thus we all are sobered by the counsel to not be many teachers (James 3:1).
Counseling with Skill: Diagnoses
A surgeon must first diagnose the problem before surgery. Proper diagnosis demands an understanding of the illness to be addressed and the skill necessary to address it. Symptoms of a problem are traced to the root.
Likewise, biblical counselors need a good understanding of a biblical analysis of human nature and divine remedies for deadly diseases. Yes, we need to study the Word (2 Timothy 2:15). We also need tools to assist in gathering data and tracing symptoms to root causes.
Intense Bible studies would seem to be extremely important to biblical counselors. Training through biblical counseling programs, Bible College/Seminary programs and/or a few Bible College/Seminary courses, e.g. Old and New Testament Survey, Bible Study Methods, Hermeneutics, Introduction to Biblical Counseling, etc. would serve every biblical counselor well.
Reading, observing and mentoring by others about human problems develops one’s skill in the proper diagnosis. The Biblical Counseling Coalition website is a great resource! Also, Crossroads Bible College is about to release an online Biblical Counseling major.
Counseling with Skill: Prescription
The Word of truth must be handled both prayerfully and correctly, especially when offering counsel to saints who are totally committed to obeying what they are taught (2 Timothy 2:15). Proper handling of the Word of truth is the result of time and exercise (Hebrews 5:12-14). Personal maturity, which certainly assists in counseling others, is the result of the constant practice of distinguishing good from evil. We must engage in prayer for wisdom (James 1:5-6) as well.
All of us can probably recall “biblical advice” we gave in the past that we wish we could recall today. It would be nice if regardless of biblical knowledge, spiritual growth, etc. all our counsel was 100% accurate! However, God has designed that our growth will come through instruction and study, prayer and dependency, wise counsel and purifying circumstances, trials and temptations, failures and successes.
A faith dependent upon the Word of God, a heart humbled under the hand of God, a mind open to wisdom from mature saints of God, and a life open to the reproofs of God over time will allow us to be shaped by wisdom into the likeness of the son of God. Counseling skill will be developed!
Should God bring us saints to counsel who are committed to obey the Word of truth at any cost, may we be prepared to give wise counsel that magnifies Christ’s salvation rather than any form of “snake salvation” (John 3:14-15). May we take advantage of all the Biblical Counseling Coalition offers to increase our counseling skills (Proverbs 3:13-26).
Join the Conversation
What do biblical counselors need in order to be sure that our counsel truly is biblically wise and relevant?