In the previous blog we addressed the tendency to drift from biblical counseling to pragmatism and attempts to help people in difficult seasons. I have found that having some reminders to keep me clear-headed and heart-focused in biblical counseling is essential to help keep my counsel biblical. We discussed four reminders in that post:
- One: Remember the Bible Is the Grounding Authority and Sufficiency for All Your Counseling
- Two: Remember the Bible Is the Story That Interprets All Stories
- Three: Remember the Bible Is the Definer of the Counseling Relationship
- Four: Remember the Bible Is the Word of the Spirit
Here are four more reminders that help me stay faithful to the practice of biblical counseling.
Five: Remember the Bible as Applied Indicatives
When you consider how to bring the Bible into the counseling conversation are you tempted to motivate through commands? Too many times I’ve offered a legitimate command or warning to someone, but left them bereft of courage to obey. All true biblical counsel recognizes that faith is required for authentic obedience, so faith is what we must speak to first. Are we helping people grasp the promises of God for themselves?
Do: Here’s an interesting practice: I’ve found that the best way to encourage obedience in the commands of Scripture is to counsel the promises of God first. And the best way to counsel the promises of God is to counsel them to yourself first. Cultivate a grateful heart through meditation on the promises of God for yourself. A grateful counselor will speak in a way that stirs faith in the heart of a counselee.
Six: Remember the Bible as Applied Imperatives
Sometimes we become so focused on helping people with their motivations that we develop a subtle posture that people can’t obey God without a perfect heart. The reality is that the motivation to obey doesn’t come from our hearts, but from the Word of God, in which obedience is commanded. There is always something a true Christian can do in the form of obedience, even as they are wrestling with sin in their hearts. Grace makes obedience possible (Titus 2:11-12). Are we calling people to obedience to the Scriptures in response to grace?
Do: Is there something in your heart that you know God is trying to change? Don’t wait for some future degree of heart change to encourage someone to practice biblical obedience. Obey by faith, obey through grace, obey because God calls you to, and receive God’s help when it is hard and God’s forgiveness when you fall short. Let your heart change be fed by obedience.
Seven: Remember the Bible as Sound Wisdom
We can make a mistake by drawing a false separation between biblical counseling and practical advice. The Bible searches hearts, but it also guides steps. God’s Word is filled with sound advice on relationships, money, time, speech, work, possessions, suffering, and the myriad other topics people face. Its advice is timeless and fully applicable. The Bible offers wisdom to those who seek it and predicts folly for those who resist it. Bible people are not perfect people, but they tend to become surprisingly wise over time. We can help people live wisely in confusing times by helping them get wisdom from the words of the Only Wise God.
Do: Help people reason through their situations from the pages of Scripture. Take them to Proverbs and the wisdom books of the Old Testament to glean good advice. But take them to the Law to see how God makes his people distinct in their actions and choices. Take them to the histories to see how wise and foolish people make decisions. Take them to the prophets to see how actions have consequences. Take them to the epistles to see how New Kingdom people are to live in a fallen world. And take them to the Gospels to see how Jesus, our Wisdom, teaches and shows us perfect wisdom in a foolish world.
Eight: Remember the Bible as a Daily Dose of Reality
Think about this – the average person spends every moment of her waking hours in a world hostile to God. It’s a world full of lies and false promises and temporary happiness, but eternal pain. The only sanity in this world is found in the pages of Scripture. It is in Scripture where life makes sense, where the universe is ordered, and where light overcomes darkness. Yet many Christians depend entirely on a once-a-week Sunday exposition of God’s Word to function sensibly in the chaos. People who don’t read their Bibles regularly often complain that God seems distant and unreal. That’s not because He withdraws or hides. It’s because their view of life is far more shaped by the ways of the world than by eternal realities. It’s hard to think God’s thoughts after Him when the noise of the world fills our minds. Wouldn’t it just make sense to give ourselves a few minutes of daily sanity through reading the Bible?
Do: Give people homework that will have them reading or studying the Bible in regular spiritual disciplines. Don’t make this a way to get close to God. Make it a way to reorder emotional and mental brain space. Tailor the assignments to connect with a person’s life circumstances and spiritual maturity. Talk about what they are learning and hearing and thinking based on what they read. Be merciful if they are inconsistent but diligent in your approach. And don’t start them in Leviticus.
Join the Conversation
How do you keep your head clear and your approach faithful to your biblical counseling convictions in the complicated experience of personal ministry? What reminders will help you be consistent in your practice of biblical counseling?