As I write, today happens to be my 40th birthday. If I live to see 80, then I’m exactly halfway. More or less, I’ve reached the midpoint of my life. In anticipation of this day, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit over the past year about my life, and about some of the major lessons I’ve learned. A few weeks ago, I began jotting some of them down. As I looked over the first few, it occurred to me that these lessons form the foundation for my approach to counseling and shepherding. It was encouraging to note that in my day-to-day labor, I get to live out of some deeply held convictions that have been 40 years in the making.
The Centrality of the Bible
I was greatly blessed to have parents who started following Jesus before I was born. They have loved God’s Word for as long as I can remember. They endeavored to instill that same love for the Bible in my siblings and me. I recall seeing them read the Bible on a regular basis. We often talked about the stories in the Bible. My dad preached verse-by-verse through the Bible. And the Holy Spirit was gracious to give me a love for His Word as well.
By God’s grace, since I was 16, I’ve spent time reading the Bible almost daily. I’ve memorized hundreds of verses. There is no single practice that has shaped my life more than devotion to the Scriptures.
The Bible is central not merely because it is a guidebook for life and an incredible source of practical wisdom. While it is “the only rule for faith and practice,” it is worth devoting our time to reading it, studying it, memorizing it, meditating on it, and obeying it because it reveals the character and nature of God!
The Bible is not about information; the Bible is about transformation. The Bible is meant to foster a relational encounter with the living God. It’s meant to foster worship. If, while reading the Bible, we do not end up with a vertical heart posture, with “our eyes fixed on Jesus,” we have missed the point, and we will not experience transformation. We are changed when we experience the living, glorious God (see 2 Corinthians 3:18).
And all of this matters greatly in counseling because we cannot simply apply the wisdom of the Scriptures to hurting people. We cannot use the Bible as a rule book or a handbook. We must use the Scriptures to help lead people to an encounter with Jesus, who is the Hero of the Bible.
Identity in Christ
There was a season in college when I struggled to find real purpose in my life. I was involved in all kinds of Christian activity and experienced healthy relationships with people, but it all felt like meaningless repetition. The Holy Spirit met me during those days, impressing on me the importance of both purpose and identity. He showed me that purpose can only flow out of identity—that we must know who we are before we can know why we are here.
God provided Galatians 2:20 as a simple, clear declaration of my identity.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
As one who’d placed my faith in Jesus as a young child, my identity was now “follower of Jesus.” Jesus lived in me, making me one with Him and the Father, and all of my worth and value was based on that fact alone. Any effort to define myself by my accomplishments was futile.
My life has never been the same since. I have meditated almost every day on Galatians 2:20. The truth of my identity in Christ has guided me through many major transitions, emboldened me in major conflicts, lifted my spirits in times of suffering, and provided a deep well of good news from which to draw for other fellow strugglers.
And all of this matters greatly in counseling because so many of the challenges people face are identity issues. I believe that every human wakes up every day asking the question, “Who am I?” and the gospel alone provides an answer sufficient to steady us through the inevitable storms of life. Our worth and value is always in question, and we must lead people to the refuge of identity in Christ.
All of Life Is Worship
The second question that I believe all humans wake up every day asking is, “Why am I here?” During that same season in college, the Holy Spirit also provided a succinct answer to this question of purpose. In 2 Corinthians 5:8, Paul is describing the desire believers have to be “absent from the body and at home with the Lord.” Then, in verse 9, he says, “Therefore, also, we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to him.”
The Holy Spirit used this passage to help me understand that the goal of my life is to live a life that’s pleasing to God. Because Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please him,” we know that this purpose for our lives is not primarily about our works, about what we do. Rather, purposeful living is about living all of life by faith. 1 Corinthians 10:31 states our purpose in these terms:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
So when we live all of life by faith (work, rest, play, eat, learn, serve, talk, create, etc.), God is pleased and God is glorified. In this way, all of life becomes worship!
This reality has impacted my life as much as the truth about my identity. I have meditated almost every day on 2 Corinthians 5:9. Despite my persistent desire to live for myself, I continue to learn how to make everything about God and His glory, to walk by faith in all of the mundane aspects of life, and to worship Him in joy and in suffering. Because Jesus lives in me (my identity), and because He glorified the Father in all of His life (John 17:4), I can now pursue the same purpose for my life.
And all of this matters greatly in counseling because one of the biggest challenges I see in hurting people is radical self-focus. We are utterly convinced that life is about us. Jesus said this perspective leads to death (Matthew 16:25). His life was all about the Father, and He now lives His life through us. A God-centered purpose for our existence pulls our gaze upward, off the trouble and turmoil of our circumstances, and onto the beauty of the living God.
Join the Conversation
How often does the Bible lead you to worship, to a vertical heart posture?
Other than connection with Jesus, what things define you, give you a sense of worth and value?
Practically, what does it look like to worship God in all of life?