A counselee’s salvation is fundamental to effective counseling. The Holy Spirit brings about real heart change in the hurting person. Written by Ed Hines, this article was originally posted on the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry’s blog, and is republished with permission.
We understand that God, working through the Holy Spirit, is the one who brings about change in people’s hearts. (Ephesians 4:22-24]. Therefore, one of the important steps I take in starting a new counseling session is information gathering. Since the Holy Spirit is key to counseling and bringing about change in all of us, it is important to assure that our counselees have the Holy Spirit indwelling.
Since we receive the Holy Spirit at the time of salvation, it is important to assure that our counselees are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and have accepted Him as their personal Savior and Lord.
2 Diagnostic Questions About Salvation
One of the ways I do this is by using two diagnostic questions from Evangelism Explosion. [i]
- If you were to die tonight, do you know for sure you would go to heaven?
- If you were met at the gate of heaven by Saint Peter, and he asked you, “Why should I let you into heaven?” – how would you answer him?
The answer to those questions usually gives us a fairly accurate assessment of where people stand with the Lord. Either saved or lost. (Sometimes further examination is needed.)
What I found out early on, through experience, is that you can spend time with one person to assure yourself (as best as possible, only God knows for sure) of their salvation. Then when you turn to the other person and ask the first question, you get the answer “Yea, I believe that too.”
That leaves many questions. Did they fully understand the questions? Do they understand the importance of each person personally accepting Christ as savior? What does that response mean – exactly?
As a result, I approach the situation differently now. I will ask one person one set of questions, and then use a different approach with the second person. Usually this will help draw out each person’s personal story of their relationship with the Lord.
Drawing Out the Story of Salvation
For example, I may use the two questions above for the first person I speak with. Then I will use a different approach with the second person. Following are some examples I have used.
- I may say to the second person “I hear about this idea of salvation, what is that? (Allow them to answer.) “That sounds like something I should do – how do I do that?” (Allow them to answer.) The answers to those two questions may help us discern if the person is saved or not – or at least if they understand Biblical salvation. I usually close out that line of questioning with this closing question, “Have you done that personally?” Knowing and doing are two separate issues of life. God expects us to know and do His will (James 1:23-25).
- I may say to the second person “God says we are all sinners. What does that mean?” (Allow them to answer.) “He also says the wages of sin is death – that scares me. How can I avoid this death?” (Allow them to answer.) “What do I need to do to avoid this death?” (Allow them to answer.) This line of inquiry will help determine their understanding of salvation. Then, of course, we assure they have personally made that commitment of faith.
- Genesis gives us a great opportunity to inquire of their salvation also. We might start by saying “You know, God created everything perfect – but man sinned and brought pain, suffering and death into creation. God is perfect in His love and also perfect in His justice. He cannot ignore sin. Is there any way that I can escape His judgement?” (Allow them to answer.) “What do I need to do?” (Allow them to answer.) “Have you done that?”
I’m sure, with some creative thought, you can develop examples that are even better than this.
3 Ways to Explore Salvation Experience
Once they explain their salvation experience, there are three ways that we can explore this issue closer. God tells us there are ways we can know we are saved. We can know for sure we are saved if all are true:
- Theologically: We were saved the way the Bible says we are saved (Romans 10:9,10).
- Historically: We know there was a point in time when we prayed the “sinner’s prayer.”
- Experientially: There is a change in our thinking, desires, and motivation – off self and onto God and others (Matthew 7:16-20).
God says we are a new creature; all is made new. There is no condemnation – for the believer.
The most concerning verse in the Bible, in my opinion, is Jesus saying:
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Matthew 7:21-23
This refers to those who mistakenly believe they are saved when they are not. They will be the ones “left behind” when Christ comes to rapture His people. It is very important to assure that individuals have confessed the Lord, and are living for Him. This affects all of life – including counseling progress.
With this basic issue settled we can move on to introducing God’s Word into people’s lives to help them with their life goal – to be pleasing to God in all of life (1 Corinthians 10:31, 2 Corinthians 5:9, Romans 8:28,29).
[i] D. James Kennedy, Evangelism Explosion 4th Edition Paperback, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996, 179 pp, ISBN-13: 978-0842307642