In a previous post entitled, Is God Really Into Biblical Counseling, I considered the relevance of the idea of “biblical counseling” to God’s plans and purposes for the church. There is great wisdom in stepping back from time to time to survey the course we have set, to be sure that it isn’t an aberrant trajectory.
The mere existence of the Bible along with how the Bible speaks about itself (see Psalms 1, 19, 119, and Jeremiah 17:5-8, and many other places) gives us insight into God’s heart and intent for His Word to intersect with our every day lives. The Bible is God’s revelation of His glorious self to people who were created to be like Him so that we would know the way back to the glory we lost in the Garden of Eden.
From its pages, we can learn that it is relevant when we are depressed, discouraged, afraid, in conflict, confused, and in any other struggle we might experience. At times the Bible addresses the reader of all generations, in all cultures. At other times, we get to peek into intimate exchanges He has with specific people. In either case, we can be assured that God’s explicit purpose for the Bible’s existence is so that He might speak into the lives of His image bearers—yes, to counsel us—as we navigate life in the world He created.
Furthermore, God makes it clear in His word that His book is not only a source for guidance in life. It is the source (Psalm 1; Jeremiah 17:5-9); that any time we settle for less than His wisdom, we will suffer debilitating consequences. In the words of Jeremiah we will be like a tree in the wilderness that is fearful and fruitless when the heat comes.
The Bible Is the Source; What Does It Look Like?
A survey of the Scripture for an answer to this question is revelatory and wonderfully freeing. When we consider how God counseled people, we find innumerable variations. He confronted and exhorted Cain. He comforted and cared for Elijah. He challenged Esther’s faith and used a story to expose David. He disciplined, pled with, and punished the Israelites.
The New Testament offers more of the same. When Peter challenged Jesus, He reprimanded him, but when he had failed in his commitment to remain loyal, Jesus reassured and restored him. He convicted Saul of Tarsus of his sin, and He completely reoriented Peter and Cornelius. The bottom line—He engaged with people—knew what they needed—shaped His words according to the need—always moved by a deep love to see them live in light of His glory. Not only do we learn this by observation; Paul instructs us in this precise manner: “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak …” (1Thessalonias 5:14).
Ah! But Here’s the Catch
When Jesus was commissioning His church (a great place to begin when we are thinking about how we are to live as the church), He instructed us as to how we are to counsel each other (He was giving us counsel regarding counsel). The role of the church is to make disciples by teaching them all that He commanded us. As we seek to guide people as to how they will navigate life, we will look to wisdom that has already been spoken and written down and demonstrated in His life. It is not up to humanity to come up with something new. The wisdom needed has already been given.
For further insight we can look to John’s detailed record of Jesus’ last address to those closest to Him. It is intimate and infused with deep emotion. As the reality of His ‘leaving’ begins to take root in their understanding, He seeks to comfort them with this truth: it is actually to their advantage that He go away because when He does, He will send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to indwell them. (John 16:7) His role would be to bring to their minds all that Jesus had taught. (John 14:26) The inference of course, being that what He taught needed to be remembered. The words He had spoken in their midst were not just helpful; they are God revealed; essential for life in the world He created.
Earlier in His ministry, Jesus was challenged by His listeners when they were astonished with His teaching. In His response, He contrasted those who speak from themselves and those who seek God’s glory (John 7:15-18). Let that sink in. The contrast is … we speak from ourselves … or … we seek God’s glory.
So, what does biblical counseling look like? It looks like any and all of the ways God has spoken into this world but it will ‘look like’ God.
I can’t help but see this in light of Adam and Eve’s experience in The Garden—so much liberty— one prohibition. What does the biblical counseling God is into look like? It looks like Him in all of His many characteristics because, as His people drink deeply from the well of Living Water and eat the Living Bread, He will be the life flowing out from us.
We will know not to look to any other source of wisdom because our ways and thoughts are immeasurably inferior to His (Isaiah 55:8). But neither will our counsel be stifled by specific methodologies or steps. It will be expressed in real relationships, through real love and understanding. We will listen to understand and speak the wisdom of God into each other’s lives and God will be glorified and He is definitely ‘into’ that!
The counsel God is “into” will look like Him. His truth. Offered in love. With speech tailored to the needs of the moment.
Join the Conversation
What is your answer to the question, What Does the Biblical Counsel God Is “Into” Look Like?