In October, the reading of a BCC blog caused me to critically reexamine my counseling. “The Holy Spirit in Counseling: Our Great Advantage that is Often Overlooked” by Lee Lewis, pressed readers to make sure we were not “minimizing our need for the Holy Spirit” in our counseling. I admitted that my counseling has room for improvement but certainly not in this area! I distinctly remember the second chapter in Jay Adam’s Competent to Counsel entitled “The Holy Spirit and Counseling.” That’s good, but am I practicing what is in the chapter?
An Original Homework Assignment
With the above referenced article and chapter in my hands and freshly read, I looked at one of my past counseling homework assignments to see if it pointed my counselee to the Holy Spirit for change in life. For my consideration and yours, here is a copy of the assignment.
- In your Journal, record 3 thoughts or actions that you want to put-off, because they are self-centered desires and negatively impact your marriage.
- Corresponding to each put-off, record a thought or behavior to put-on, which are the same as Jesus would have done if He were in your circumstances.
- Write a prayer asking God for help to exercise each put-off/on (Phil 4:13; 1 Tim 4:7b-8).
- Record how you did with each put-off/on.
Not too bad—or is it? Yes, put-offs and put-ons, mentioned in Scripture, are assigned and then to be evaluated. In fact, there are 3 to be worked on – the more the better. Even prayer to God is assigned in step #3. But couldn’t this assignment be more pleasing to our God (2 Cor 5:9) and Spiritually helpful to the counselee? Yes, it could be.
A Revised Homework Assignment
Here is an attempt to make the above assignment point toward reliance on the Holy Spirit more than the original one did.
- In your journal, write a prayer asking the Spirit of God, who indwells you to help you exercise put-offs and put-ons this week that are pleasing to Him and good for your marriage (Philippians 4:13; 1 Timothy 4:7b-8; 1 Peter 3:1).
- After wrestling with God, in your journal, record 1 self-centered desire (James 4:1-3) that you’re certain He wants you to work hard to put off (Ephesians 4:22; Galatians 5:19-21).
- Corresponding to this put-off, record 1 thought and corresponding behavior to put on that is “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24; Galatians 5:16-18, 22-25; Colossians 3:12-19).
- From your heart, write in your journal at week’s end a psalm-like commentary on how life went while exercising these put-offs and put-ons for God’s glory and your own good (Psalm 32; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 3:18). In your commentary include a thanksgiving to God.
Is this better? Now prayers pointing to a total reliance on God for help act as bookends to the assignment. Also, more pertinent verses are provided to guide the counselee’s thinking as the assignment is completed. This time only one put-off and corresponding put-on is to be worked on. Focusing effort on one heart characteristic is more reasonable at this beginning stage of the sanctification process. Also, thoughts, which the Spirit works on, are shown to be related to behavior. The adage is still true, “We are what we think” (cf. Proverbs 4:23). Finally, the counselee is to express thankfulness to God from the heart. Yes, this assignment is better in pointing toward the Spirit as the heart transformer (2 Corinthians 3:18), but still there is room for improvement.
How About Your Own Counseling?
For your own counseling, are you fully relying on the Holy Spirit for change in yourself and in your counselee? Is your counselee hearing and seeing this reliance expressed? As you look at one of your past homework assignments, does it read like a Betty Crocker brownie recipe for better behavior like mine sometimes can? Or is it a more humble roadmap directing your counselee to the Spirit for help and guidance from the Scriptures? May the Spirit continue to help each of us more fully rely on Him as we Spiritually coach our counselees from His Word (Heb. 4:12) toward being more godly.