Don’t Give Up!

Paul didn’t (see 2 Cor. 4:1, 16 HCSB). He didn’t, even though he had greater reason than you probably do for giving up (see vs. 7-15).

What kept him going on and on and on in spite of his trials? He tells you later in the chapter. Even though trials were wearing him out physically, inwardly he was being “renewed day by day (v. 16).”

Now why would God pour strength into him that way? Because he had the proper outlook, for one thing.

Here’s what he said:

What is happening to me is momentary, light, affliction.   (v. 17).

How could he say that after all he underwent? He compared it with what was yet to come.

What was that? In contract to each of those three words, he looked forward to

an eternal weight of glory.

That’s what we all need—the belief in what God says awaits those who serve Him.

Greetings . . .

Peter opens his second letter with these words:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you

He wishes for blessings for his readers using the Greek (grace) and Hebrew (peace) salutations. What a marvelous introduction to what follows!

But how does this come about? Here Peter launches out beyond any ordinary salutation saying,

Through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord 

Thereby, he doesn’t leave us a vague hope of sorts—no, he gives direction as well: we can receive grace (unmerited favor, mercy, help) and peace (tranquility and well-being) through knowledge.

Ah . .  Christians need knowledge.  Probably one of the greatest lacks in our day is genuine knowledge.  Too many try to get along with a sheer paucity of it. How much knowledge do you have?

But it’s not just any old kind of knowledge he has in mind—what is in view is knowledge of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. First, the knowledge of the Gospel (how that Christ died for all those who would trust in Him as Savior) and then, knowledge of all the things that Jesus has commanded (Mt. 28: 20).

Have you even checked out the commands of Jesus? To go through these over a year or so in a Sunday school class would be following a truly biblical curriculum. Why not try it?

Perfect Peace

You will keep in perfect peace the mind that is dependent on You (Isa. 26:3)

That’s what you want—eh?  Perfect peace—that is, peace that passes all understanding which guards your heart and mind!

You have enough troubles, worries and heartaches—you need peace.

How may it be attained? The passage tells you: it comes to those whose minds (heart—inner being) depend on God!

Fine, but how is that achieved? By faith—listen to the next verse:

for it [the mind] is trusting in You.   (v.4  HCSB)

When we cast our cares upon Him in dependent trust, He, Who cares for us, removes the worry and frustration from us.  Do you need such peace? Take heed.

God’s Timetable

calandar1Listen to what Isaiah the prophet said (13:23) about mighty Babylon when it seemed to everyone that there was no hope to escape her ruthlessness:

Babylon’s time is almost up; her days are almost over.

God has a timetable! Things in our world—no matter how desperate they seem—are not out of hand. He is waiting to deal with the murderous, destructive forces at work at present until the time He has set to remove those who perpetrate them. When that time comes, He will “give rest” to His people (14:3) and cause them to sing a “song of contempt” (14:4) over those cruel, iniquitous oppressors who now have the ascendency over the just.

Take heart. Wait patiently and prayerfully. Remember, God has a timetable! His calendar may even now be in His hand!

Relationships . . .

Jay AdamsSome teach that a counselor must first develop a good relationship with his counselee in order to successfully minister to them.  Fine, if it happens, but is it necessary to work at it? To counsel effectively? No.

Those who propagate the idea rarely, if ever, give Scriptural evidence for the view. And, just as seldom do they fail to explain what they mean by the term. After all, don’t we all know?   NO!

Let’s consider Jesus’ relationships for a moment. He often had a compassionate relationship to them—healing, feeding and teaching them, as poor sheep who had no shepherd. Then, there were the Pharisees and the Sadducees—to whom He spoke words of woe!

Toward the twelve He sustained a special relationship—spending quite a bit of time with them. Of the twelve, there were the three whom He allowed to accompany Him to the Mount of Transfiguration. And, of course, there was John—the one He especially loved! What different relationships all of these, and many others, were! Surely, with his counselees, a counselor’s relationship would vary greatly.

But that’s not bad—because it is impossible to treat everyone as his John the apostle!

Nor does he need to.  With most, Jesus had a brief encounter—nothing prolonged.  Yet, He was able to help them. Counselor, so can you.

Let’s Be Careful Out There

imagesA popular cop show in the eighties began each episode with the officers assembled in the briefing room where the Sargent would give out assignments for the day. At the end of each briefing the officer in charge would exhort his officers with the admonition, “Let’s be careful out there!”

Biblical counselors would do well to embrace that exhortation as well. Today’s biblical counselor is blessed with training opportunities and resources we could not have imagined 30 years ago. The first NANC conference I attended was held in a church Sunday School room. At the first February conference I attended in Lafayette I was one of 35 students. The books available to me that dealt with biblical counseling fit on less than two feet of bookshelf.

Today, thousands attend these conferences every year, the books I own on biblical counseling fill an entire wall, most people can find training in biblical counseling within one or two hours of driving time, dozens of theological seminaries now have courses in biblical counseling, and our Institute has hundreds of students studying under Dr. Adams on every continent around the world. We have much for which to be thankful as God’s people have come to embrace the doctrine of the sufficiency of the Scriptures.

With all these successes and opportunities for learning, however, we will quickly find ourselves disqualified and our ministries impotent if we do not embrace the words of Sargent Esterhaus to “be careful out there.” The august responsibility of the ministry of the Word to hurting people should fill us with a sober desire to minister the Word carefully, accurately, and skillfully. God’s Word is not magic. We do not simply tell counselees to “read God’s Word and He will bless you.” Before the counselor can minister the Word to his counselee he must first be a student and exegete of the Scriptures and become skilled at using them as God intended them to be used.

I was reminded of this again as I read a blog recently at a biblical counseling website. The author’s purpose was worthy—he was seeking to show how counselees can be encouraged in their suffering by understanding that our Lord Himself endured suffering. Sadly, his use of the Scriptures to make his point served only to confuse and, even worse, taught some very bad theology which, if understood rightly, would discourage a counselee about the ability of Christ to meet the need of the hour.

The author began by asserting, in spite of the clear teaching of Philippians 4:6, that anxiety is “not necessarily” sinful. He made his case by quoting a bizarre translation of Mark 14:33 (the Amplified Bible) and concluded that Jesus had a “panic attack” in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The author then moved to Hebrews 2:10 which he claimed teaches that Jesus’ sufferings were “part of His maturing and perfecting for our sake.” He later added that “as Jesus was perfected through various sufferings, including anxiety, so are we.”

The biblical counselor should be careful to understand that the word translated “perfect” here is used in the sense of “complete” as it is in Hebrew 10:14. Christ’s sufferings completed His task as the “Author of their salvation.” They did not serve to mature Him in a sanctifying process as they do for us. The idea of a Christ who is just like us and in need of “maturing” is, well, sub-orthodox.

The task of exegesis is of primary importance. Do not neglect it. Handle God’s Word with care and sobriety. From behind my podium in our briefing room here in our little corner of the internet I plead with my fellow counselors—let’s be careful out there!

 

A Level Path

Tough going? The way seems rugged, hilly, twisted and crooked? Well, no matter what the problems are, your Christian walk need not be hindered by it. If you are sinning; if your life is confused, and you don’t know which way to turn next, that need not happen. How do I know that? Because I read these words from in God’s Word:

The path of the righteous is level; You clear a straight path for the righteous.—Isaiah 26:7.

But what does it mean to be righteous? To put the word in simple terms it means to be “right” in God’s sight.

Ah, but how can one be right? First, he must be justified. This takes place by a once-for-all judicial act in which God declares a person “righteous” before Him. But how can that be, since we are all sinners?

A person is justified by faith. Faith in what?

In Jesus Christ. When he hears about the Good News and believes it, it is faith that makes the difference. The good news is that Jesus died, taking the punishment for all those sinners who would believe the good news. The good news (or Gospel) is that Christ died for sinners and rose again from the dead (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Believe that He took your punishment for your sin and you will be justified before God.

But it isn’t forensic (declared) righteousness about which the passage is speaking—it is talking to those who have already been justified (declared righteous), who can actually become righteous before God in their daily walk because they are His children, and are doing His will. This righteousness is actual righteousness by which one, through the help of the Holy Spirit, more and more obeys God, day by day becoming more like Jesus.

Live righteously—doing what Christ commanded—and you can expect a level path. That doesn’t mean trouble will be removed, but that, as you face it, God will clear your way through it.

PARRESIA–The Church’s Need Today!

The Book of Acts ends with Paul awaiting trial, yet preaching the Word as he could from some rented quarter:

He preached God’s kingdom and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ with great boldness (parresia) . . . Acts 28: 31.

There is one word that runs through the entire book of Acts. It is that great Greek term parresia which here is translated “boldness.”  However, it is not the ordinary word for boldness.  It is a word that puts the emphasis not upon courage—though that lies behind it—but upon a particular kind of courage and boldness.

The word means “courage to speak without fear of consequences.”

Too many Christians (and preachers as well) lack this God-blessed quality which is why so little progress has been made in recent days in evangelizing a nation that is rapidly going down the drain. We complain about the fact that we have been remiss as a nation when it comes to truth, holiness and the like, but we are loathe to do what needs to be done about it, namely, to proclaim the one message that is capable of transforming a degraded society into one that pleases and serves God. Science won’t do it, technology can’t, politics is incapable, and only the Gospel has the power to do so. But if we remain afraid to open our mouths honestly and forcefully—as the preachers in Acts did—things will continue to go from bad to worse.

Read the book of Acts again, focusing upon this bold preaching of the apostles and others, and you will see how it was what made it possible for them to “turn the world upside down” as those opposed put it (Acts 17:6).  Actually, they were turning things right side up, but unbelievers always get things upside down.

Self-Deception

It is a genuine possibility for Christians to deceive themselves. There are many ways in which they might do so—for instance, that’s why we are told to make our calling and election sure (to ourselves, of course: God already knows—in fact, He knew it from all eternity past). There are many other ways to deceive ourselves but, today, I want to mention but one. James is the biblical writer who brings up the matter.  He says:

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.      (James 1: 22).

How timely is this command since there are those who would question the fact that we should obey God by doing something to improve our Christian lifestyles.

For some, any effort on the part of the Christian to do what God commands is wrong.  In one way or another—contemplation of the cross is a current one—we are told not to make efforts on our behalf (that’s the arm of the flesh), but wait for the Spirit of God (or Christ within us) to do what needs to be done to conform to the “word” for us instead of us. That is to say, according to them, sanctification is not a joint effort by the believer and the Spirit to obey the truth, but a submission on the latter’s part, while the Spirit of God takes over completely.

Certainly, progress in the Christian’s life isn’t made apart from the Spirit, Who perfects His truth in us, but His fruit comes only to those who “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), which he defines as “living by the Spirit” (v.25). To do so, each must “”examine his own work” (6:4), “work for the good of all (6: 10), and be sure he is carrying “his own load” (v.5), since the Spirit won’t do so for him, instead of him.

The self-deceiver is the one who thinks that it is enough to know the truth, and forgets the many biblical exhortations to “do the truth” (cf. John’s writings in particular).

Psychologically-Oriented Dentist!

Let me piggy-back on Donn’s last article by telling you a true story.

I had just moved to California, and I had a toothache. No longer able to get to my previous dentist in Georgia I began to hunt for a new one. So I called the first one—who turned out to be full of the current pop psychology. He informed me over the phone that on my first visit we would spend time getting acquainted, since I would be a new patient.

I protested, “But my tooth really hurts!”

“Yes, but we’ll get to that on the next visit,” was his answer.

Mine: “No we won’t. Sorry, I’ll find another dentist,” which I promptly did.

Just add this to Donn’s article as a footnote—a counselee wants help, not to get acquainted!

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