Psychology and theology both deal with the same fundamental issues of meaning and value. Many modern approaches have unscriptural presuppositions and practices. This opening session introduces biblical counseling and the importance of approaching these issues from a Christian perspective.
What are some common Christian approaches to counseling in our day? Why might it be useful to learn about psychology? This session explores several Christian approaches to counseling including integration and synergism.
So, what is biblical counseling? First of all, biblical counseling is God-centered. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “In all things, we want to be pleasing to him.” He writes also that whatever you do should be done for the glory of God. And this is a real break we would make with secular psychology. When someone comes to a secular psychologist, kind of like what can we do for you? What is your goal in our meeting with you? And the counselee would set the agenda. I had a woman come to me one time who was an exotic dancer living with a Muslim boyfriend, and she wanted me to help her get along better with her Muslim boyfriend. By the way, later I’ll mention I do not counsel women alone; there’s one reason why. Her goal, and there might have been some communication techniques or problem solving techniques you could have told her that should could get along better. And that would have been what she wanted.
But my job as a biblical counselor is what would God have to say to this woman. And first of all, if she professes to be a Christian, there are things about her life that she needs to repent of. And to come in subordination to God. She certainly doesn’t want to be yoked to nonbelievers. She doesn’t want to be involved in fornication of tempting others. So, it’s not about the happiness of the counselee. It’s not about the counselee achieving in life what he or she wants.
- The Bible is a fully sufficient textbook for counseling.
- Key Concepts in Biblical Counseling Part 1
- Key Concepts in Biblical Counseling Part 2
- Key Concepts in Biblical Counseling Part 3
- Who is qualified to counsel?
- Is there any value to Secular Psychology?
- How should unbelievers be Counseled?
- Does biblical counseling ever fail?
And as we read the pattern, especially in the New Testament, the Biblical pattern, the Bible typically begins with the indicative, that is what God has done for us in Christ as the ground for the imperative, and that is what we do as a result. And you see this most clearly in the epistles of Paul where, for example, in Ephesians, chapters one to three, are description of the gospel, what God has done for us in Christ. And it’s a magnificent description of the gospel. Then, chapters four to six, it’s okay, therefore, and then it’s our call to be united and to love, and to put off and to put off, and to work these things out in our families. Likewise in Colossians, the first two chapters are description of what God has done for us. And then, three and four, put that into application. And Machen, J. Gresham Machen, says “Christianity begins in the indicative, not what we do. What God has done provides the foundation for what we do.” And I’ve been fascinated as well, in Ephesians, for example, where typically people will say, “Oh, well, the first three chapters of Ephesians are the doctrinal part, and chapters four to six are the application part.”
But when you read the application parts, when you read the very practical parts, these, too, are founded in the gospel, after Paul had presented the gospel in chapters one to three, when he starts giving these commands, he keeps going back to the gospel. And when he begins the put off, put on section, how we should not walk as the gentiles walked in all of their sin, then he says, “But you did not learn Christ in this way.” So the way we are to walk is the way we learn Christ. That’s the gospel. In verse 24, “As we put on the new self and the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” He’s talking about how this new self has been created by the new birth when we believe, when God made us alive, which he talked about in chapter two, in verse four, and likewise in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other just as God and Christ has also forgiven you.” So even in the very practical section, he keeps going back to the fact, “How can I forgive?” It’s because God and Christ has forgiven me, it’s the gospel that enables me to do this.
There are some people who would have stopped this talk after the first half and just said, “Great, just look to Christ, believe in him, and don’t do anything else.” And that is not a biblical perspective either. And there’s some who seem to break out in hives if someone uses the imperative and uses a command even though the Bible is full of these commands as well, including commands to believers. And they’re so fearful of what they call molism that they, I think, shy away from the biblical imperatives. They will even say, both in preaching and in counseling, just tell people what Christ has done for them, not what they should do for Christ. Well, it’s not either or, it’s both and. Tell them what Christ has done for them. Don’t neglect that. Even if they’re already Christians, keep telling them. But then because of what Christ has done for them, they need to respond. An example of I think the wrong kind of counseling. This is an actual case that happened to me. A couple came in and the husband was enslaved to pornography of a very perverse type. He was neglecting his wife sexually and they went to their pastor and the pastor who had this mentality said, “All I can tell you is look to Christ.” And the wife said, “Well, do we need to like, “cut off the Internet, or put a filter on, “does my husband need some accountability?” “Just look to Christ.” Now, I think we should tell the guy to look to Christ but I think the Bible says a lot more than that as well, like flee youthful lust, if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. In the same way… I heard one time, again, someone of this mentality preaching through the Book of Ephesians. And as he came to the section, very practical section in four and five, he took a really big chunk. Immorality, impurity or greed should not be named among you, no filthiness or silly talk, let no one deceive you, don’t be a partaker of darkness, don’t participate unfruitful deeds of darkness. And he’s going through all of these commands that Paul is making, and he said, “All you need to know is that Christ has fulfilled this for you.” Now I would agree with the guy that it’s important for us to know when we proclaim the law that Christ has fulfilled the law for us or we’d be in despair because we fall short. But I don’t think Paul would have agreed that’s all we need to say about that passage.
Now, peace is kind of a funny thing because everybody says he’s in favor of peace, right? Even the President of Iran will say he’s in favor of peace and yet peace is hard to come by. We live in a world full of conflict, among nations, throughout the world. There are wars, there are revolutions, there are divisions. And among individuals, our courts are full of lawsuits, divorces, people in neighborhoods fighting, couples fighting, abuse taking place, shouting, hitting. Churches have divisions. Conflict sometimes over important doctrine and sometimes over the color to paint a room or the addition of another musical instrument that some people don’t agree with or a different kind of worship. Pair church organizations often have a lot of trouble with divisions that can take place there. Actually, one of our missionaries, I was checking during a break, and he’s teaching in a seminary abroad, and he’s concerned that the seminary, which has been there for many decades, may dissolve because of a conflict taking place right now among the leadership of the seminary. And he’s been teaching there for some years and he may have to go find another place of ministry.
Peacemaking begins with confessing your own sin. Jesus said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. In the way you judge you will be judged, and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? For how can you say to your brother, let me take the speck out of your eye and behold, the log is in your own eye. You hypocrite. First take the log out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” In almost every conflict which I’ve ever tried to mediate, when you get the parties together, what do they want to talk about? The other person, and what they did wrong. And the accusations begin to fly. Well Jesus is telling us that before you can deal with the sins of others, you must first deal with your own sin. He says, later you can get the speck out of his eye, but first you need to deal with the beam in your own eye.
He has a passion that His church be pure. A person who calls himself a Christian and is cheating people in his used car lot, or in his insurance or investment business, is troubling the reputation of the church to the entire community. I actually got a call one day from a pastor friend and he said one of my deacons is on the front page of the local paper today, but it’s not good, he’s been caught embezzling. The church has to take action as well. So sins which can damage the Lords reputation, sins which endanger the purity and unity of the church. Paul warns about those who cause dissensions. He also warns about a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. So if you have someone in the church, and this can also be a doctrinal issue, we talked earlier about differences of eschatology but we actually had in our church at one time two people who claimed that Christ had already come and was not coming back. That was it. And people who believe nutty things like that wanna share it with everybody else. And we had to clamp down on it and finally tell them to leave and they were no longer welcome here to protect the church from their influence. In a moral instance, that if you have, it’s just sadly so common today, people from Christian homes, young people claiming to be Christians and they’re living in fornication. A man and a woman not married to each other, take a cruise together or a vacation together, they’re gonna be in the same room, or it’s known that they’re living together and the church has to take action. What’s gonna happen if you don’t intervene? It’s going to spread and other people think it must be okay. And so there has to be again, loving confrontation but if they will not repent, that’s where it begins, you have to say, this is not right, you cannot do this and be a member of a church.
And as you read in the Bible, trials are the ordinary experience of believers. People like in their families, people have these kind of idealized dreams of multigenerational peace and everybody’s on the same page. This isn’t what happens in Scripture. The very first couple, Adam and Eve, have one of their sons as a rebel against God who kills the other. And as you go through the rest of the people in Scripture, you have many, many trials. Abraham and Sarah where Abraham puts his wife’s purity at risk and then sleeps with her maid Hagar and there’s conflict in the home and Ishmael is kicked out with his mother. And on and on you go. In Jacob’s family, two wives and a brother beaten, tossed in, you know, Joseph tossed into a pit by his other brothers who were jealous and favoritism and on and on we go. In Ezekiel, you actually have an interesting chapter in chapter 18 where you have multiple generations. You have a believing generation followed by an unbelieving generation then another believing generation. The same thing happens in the books of the Kings where some righteous kings then they have wicked sons and vice versa. We’re going to have sometimes even in our own families. Jesus warned in Luke 12, From now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They’ll be divided father against son and son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, the daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. The Gospel itself will bring us, attract more trials of persecution. People have trials, as I said, so many of their trials are in their families.
What is depression and how are we to understand it? Many secular psychologists see mankind as merely physical and therefore tend to see depression as a physical problem with a chemical solution. Christians recognize the dual nature of mankind – body and soul. What are some important things for biblical counselors to keep in mind when handling cases of depression?
The implication there is, the real cause of worry, ultimately, is unbelief. They were not trusting in God. Oftentimes, the person who worries is desiring something in God’s place. They’re wanting their health. I had a person who was terrified of getting cancer, she doesn’t even have cancer, but she’s terrified of getting cancer. There are different issues going on. You could argue with her, well, statistically, it’s unlikely, you don’t have a lot of cancer in your family, you’re still fairly young. But can I tell her from the Bible, she’s not gonna get cancer? No, I can’t. Can I tell her she’s gonna live to see her children grown and married and grandchildren? No, I can’t make those promises. What can I tell her? I can tell her that God, Who is sovereign, has His plan, which is perfect for your life, and no matter what happens, whether He gives you cancer or not, that you can trust Him to do what is best, including taking care of your family. Some people, it’s financial security. They’re worried they’re gonna lose their house, they’re worried they can’t pay the bills.
And worry can become very life-dominating. That’s where all these things are together. A person who’s worried can get angry, when they’re threatened, they can become depressed. Worry can affect you physically. Laura talks about this, how when someone is really stressed on the inside, and they’re worried about a relationship, they’re worried about circumstances in their life, it’s going to affect you somehow, organically. Lack of sleep, tension in your stomach, digestive problems. Stress, worry, fear, all are related. And there are ways that we deal with worry sinfully when something concerns us.
Psalm 23 is a good verse for fearing people, I’ve got an outline on that in your notes, I’ve got audios on that, to learn to trust God. That He cares for you as a shepherd. He’s the one who protects you. You can’t ultimately protect yourself. Those who are trusting God are characterized by boldness. Proverbs 28, the wicked flee when no one coming, pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. And when facing fears, especially OCD type fears, the critical question is what would God have me to do? I can’t, quite frankly, if God wants you out working, it’s safer to get out of the house than to be in defiance of God, watching TV all day. That safety is found in doing God’s will. There’s famous quotes by Stonewall Jackson, who said I feel as safe on the battlefield as I felt on my own bed. Now, there may have been a bit of unbiblical fatalism in some of what Stonewall Jackson said, but there’s also some truth in the sense that he had this trust in God that, for him, he was doing his duty. And if he’s doing his duty, he’s as safe as a man could be. Not to mention the fact that when the bullet finds me I’ll be with the Lord anyway. So safety is in doing the will of God.
Some people are fearful because of fear of imperfection. I may mess up, so I won’t even try. Yeah, you’re gonna mess up. Only God is perfect. You have to trust Him. Only God possesses certainty. Only God has absolute control. He is to be trusted. And that means you need to stop trusting in yourself. The Scripture says as we look to Him, then you will walk in your way securely and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid. When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden fear, nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. That’s Proverbs, chapter three, verses 23 to 26.
And David here what he’s doing with Bathsheba is such an act of ingratitude. The Lord’s said, “I’ve given you everything. How could you do this?” And I think if you were to know, and we don’t know for sure, but I doubt if David had written any psalms lately. I think, what he’s saying, is he had drifted from the Lord, drifted from the delight he had even when he’s dancing and rejoicing when the Ark of the Covenant comes into his capital. It appears that his heart has grown cold. He’s also guilty of neglecting his duty as king, verses 1 and 2. It says, “When kings go off to battle that he sends his underlings to go.” And in the context of that time in the rainy season you couldn’t fight. Now it’s spring, go fight. Another little detail in verse 2. Now when evening came David arose from his bed. Does that sound good to you? It’s not when I usually get up, in the evening, I don’t know. But you see what happens to David.