No one seeks counsel because his or her life is going as planned. People seek counsel because they have a self-perceived problem. These problems include everything from conflict within marital relationships to personal attitudes and actions which lead to serious consequences. As a Christian, my main objective is to teach others to view their lives from a Gospel-centered, thus biblical, perspective. The crux of biblical counseling can be stated by a single pastoral principle which was taught to me by my professors.
“Listen for unbiblical thinking and counter it with biblical truth.”
A majority of those seeking biblical counsel claim to be born-again believers in Jesus Christ; however, their thought patterns and actions have more in common with the “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the summation of truth, and biblical truth challenges worldly philosophies (Colossians 2:8). When speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus stated, “You are from below, I am from above, you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He [the Light of the world], you will die in your sins” (John 8:23-24). Jesus never mixed his words. With clarity he expressed the stark contrast between a surrendered life (as a disciple) with that of a life devoted to self (as a rebel), “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free . . . Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:31-32, 34).
Within the pages of Scripture, Jesus’ disciples do not look very different from us. At times they experienced fear (Matthew 8:23-26), confusion (Matthew 17:4-6; 20:21-22) and heartache (Matthew 26:75; John 11:21). Other times they demonstrated selfishness (Matthew 20:24-27) doubt (John 20:25), and downright denial (Matthew 16:22-23). Before sending the twelve disciples out “as sheep in the midst of wolves,” Jesus instructed them not to forget their place in God’s economy with these words found in Matthew 10:24-28, NASB:
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!
Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
As believers, most of our difficulties and problems can be traced back to the fact that we no longer consider ourselves disciples (from the Greek μαθητής meaning “learner”). This term has become antiquated in our twenty-first century context. Yes, we may call ourselves disciples in the halls of our churches, but we function as though we are the source of knowledge. When biblical discipleship is disregarded, Christ as the Teacher and Master is dethroned by the disciple who becomes consumed with self-interest, self-motivation, self-esteem, which ultimately leads to self-worship. Only by reorienting our lives on biblical truth can we begin to properly make decisions, respond to difficult situations, think past our innate selfishness, and glorify God with the totality of our lives.
Through Christ’s teachings on discipleship, I guide my counselees in taking a personal inventory of their current ways of thinking and living so they can discern where their thinking has gone wrong and how their heart has become hardened to biblical truth. In some instances, it becomes obvious that the counselee has never made a confession of faith leading to salvation and repentance (Romans 10:9-11).
A Disciple of Jesus Christ is Not Above His Teacher (Matthew 10:24)
Many of us operate out of emotions that are ruled by “Self” and not Jesus. The first step in submitting to his instruction and authority is to recognize our rightful place at the feet of the Teacher. This is where belief must meet practice, where faith and works are joined together in harmony and double-mindedness is rejected (Matthew 23:25-28; James 1:8; 4:8).
A Disciple of Jesus Christ is Becoming like his Teacher (Matthew 10:25)
Counsel based on an unbiblical anthropology cannot offer a comprehensive soteriology. Without a biblical lens in which to view the world, and thus their lives, these people will end up being tossed about on the waves of unstable thinking and pragmatic explanations. The Word of God teaches that all men have a God-ordained purpose which is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-30).
A Disciple of Jesus Christ Does Not Fear Man (Matthew 10:26)
Fear of man is a major stumbling block, but in many ways it is the natural result of self-centered thinking. When a disciple attempts to supplant his teacher, he is making a claim of self-reliance. Attempting to operate without Jesus leaves man dependent on foundations of his own making and will ultimately lead to his ruin (Matthew 7:24-29).
A Disciple of Jesus Christ Does Fear God (Matthew 10:27-28)
A righteous fear of God provides a clear path of obedience for the faithful disciple. If our decision making, interpersonal relationships, and heart motivations are guarded by a high view of Scripture and a correct theology of God, we can be confident that Christ will be honored by the course of our lives (Colossians 3).
As faithful pastors and committed members within local churches, we have been given the most comprehensive and sufficient source of truth in which to guide those who find themselves laden with problems, the Word of God.