What counsel would I give new counselors? As I pondered the topic of counsel for new counselors, I asked myself, “What is the most important piece of advice I could give?” The immediate answer that came to mind:
“Point them toward Christ and His Word that they may point their counselees toward Christ and His Word!”
Christ came not just to redeem us, but to show us how to live. He gave us His Word that we might hear directly from our Creator who we are. And we might also know for what purpose we were created while on this earth. Unless biblical counselors point the hurting to the source of both eternal and temporal help, we are no different from secular counselors who can offer only temporal meaning to life’s struggles, or from those who offer pie in the sky but no temporal hope of change and freedom while here on earth. The Bible offers both.
Modeling after our Lord, this must be done in love rather than judgment (John 3:16-17). Biblical counselors must compassionately guide others to the cross and to the Word. Here they’ll receive comfort, guidance, change, and maturity. This involves teaching them how to put off the old man in the deeds of his flesh and to put on the new man in the likeness of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4). We must help them to model their life and emotions after what motivated our Lord, His Father’s glory, and to adapt to their culture with a biblical worldview as the foundation.
Why Point People to the Word?
The essence of our counseling is just opinion apart from the Living Word revealed in the written Word. Without the Word we would have only natural revelation (Psalm 19:1-6) versus special revelation (Psalm 19:7-14; 119). The written Word points us to Christ as redeemer, savior, and Lord. Romans 8:28-29 tells us that all things in our life as believers come through Him to do a work in us (conforming us to the image of Christ). Or, God does a work through us (using us to accomplish His purposes in His world and to bring others to the cross).
How does the Word accomplish its purposes in us? Paul answers that question in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. God’s divinely inspired Word is powerful and alive to mold and change us (Hebrews 4:12), and it accomplishes this through four means.
Doctrine or Teaching
This is how the Holy Spirit uses the Word to comfort and guide us, teaching us what we need to know to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3-10).
Reproof or Conviction
This is how the Word shapes our moral compass, showing us what we need to put out of our life and renounce as sinful thoughts, words, attitudes, and behaviors (Romans 1:18 -2:16;1Timothy1:5, 19; 4:1-2, 15-16).
This shows us h
ow to correct the thing of which we are convicted by putting on godly thoughts and behaviors in place of the old habits so we can permanently change (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:5-16)
Instruction in Righteousness
This is a coaching term that promises our 24/7 “personal trainer” in the person of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, continually teaching, convicting, and correcting us that we may become more like Christ (John 14:16-17, 26; Romans 8:26).
The biggest comfort to me and to my counselees is that He never gives up on us! We can walk in confidence that once He has begun to work in us, He will never quit (Philippians 1:6).
I recently had a counselee who had failed once again in the area of her struggle and came in ready to quit counseling, convinced she had disappointed the Lord and me as her counselor and that she was no longer worthy of wasting our time. I took her to these passages and she cried with joy that the Lord would never kick her out of His love and counsel. Neither would I. She is growing in learning of His grace and mercy.
Romans 8:38-39 is a passage she can cling to as she progressively makes steps toward Christlikeness, especially in the whole context of Romans 8. She gained hope through Romans 5:1-8 that her trials were maturing her in God’s love and grace.
How Do We Give People Hope for Change?
The truth of God’s Word moves a counselee from hopeless despair to hope for victory through Christ (Romans 8:37). Often our counselees really don’t understand that sanctification is a gradual, lengthy process of growth, but the goal is holiness. They know they should be holy, and often express shame that they are not. But they have little idea about how to change and mature in Christlikeness. In 2 Peter 1:3-10,
Peter explains the process for sanctification. And he promises success and fruitfulness to the degree we following biblical wisdom principles (if we do “these things”). Our counselees must be taught these wisdom principles to mature and have victory over their struggle with sin.
Foundation, Hard Work, Payoff
Since I am a visual learner, I use charts and diagrams often to explain truths to those I counsel. I’ve diagramed 2 Peter 1:5-7 under three categories: Foundation, Hard Work, and Payoff.
When we lay the right foundation (building upon faith, virtue, and knowledge). Then we consistently do the hard work (growing in self-control and perseverance). Finally, the payoff (godliness, brotherly kindness and love) will come. We will look more and more like Christ in our mind, character and lifestyle, enjoying the fruit of the Spirit that increasingly characterizes our lives!
The goal of biblical counseling is to help our counselees reflect Christ is all they think, say and do. And the Word directs and empowers each of us in this continued growth in very practical ways.
I’ve been vocationally counseling from the Word for almost twenty years now, and I’ve seen hundreds of counselees change from sinful patterns and begin to reflect Christ in a whole new way in marriage, in parenting, in the work place, and in their very private and personal lives. I’m convinced that biblical counseling works as we point others to Christ.
And I’m always excited to share the power of God’s Word to change lives with those just beginning to counsel.
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