Believing By Searching

Luke makes it clear that the reason why more Jews in Berea believed than those in Thessalonica is because, being noble in their attitudes, instead of arguing, they searched the Scriptures daily to see whether the things that Paul said were true (Acts 17:11-12).

This is an important fact that every Christian should remember—whenever you can get people to earnestly search the Scriptures as the Bereans did to see if the message you present is true, you will probably begin to see converts .

Don’t settle for telling people about your experience; get them checking up on what you say in their Bibles. It is the through the hearing of the Word that people are saved.

Notice, they didn’t search to see where Paul was wrong, but for where he was right. That was why they were called “noble.”

My suggestion is to get them reading the Gospel of John.

“Why John?”

Because the purpose for which it was written was to bring people to faith in Christ (See John 20:30-31). God uses what He has caused to be written for the purposes He had in mind when doing so. Probably more people have been saved by understanding and believing the teachings of this simple, but profound, Gospel than from any other portion of Scripture.

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Perfected Love

Love that has been perfected casts out all fear.

That is to say, all fear except the fear of God!

The fear of God is a fear that involves love. An element in fearing God is the fear that we will displease Him. To have Him look upon us with dismay because of our faithlessness, our succumbing to temptation, our willful stubbornness, is in one sense to fear God.

We also fear His Fatherly discipline and chastisement, as I said in our previous blog. We fear His words of rebuke. We fear His threats to lose our rewards. We fear God because we want to love Him, and we want Him to love us.

So, think of this—all other fears mean a lack of the fear of God. We fear men because we don’t fear God enough—otherwise, we’d follow Him rather than giving in to men. We fear death because we do not have enough of a love and desire to depart and be with Christ. We fear ostracism because we fear losing the approval of others more than we fear losing the favor of God. Turn all of these things around and you can see what the love of God is. And how it casts out all other fears.

So, if we are to fear God, we need to perfect our love for Him and His Son Jesus Christ. Then other fears will not trouble us. Why? Because we will know that we are in the good graces of God Himself—what else could count as much?

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Biblical Counseling is Like Preaching

Some have had difficulty in equating the two. But let’s take a look at the situation. There are similarities and differences. Here are a few of each.

  1. Both preacher and counselor seek to bring a message from God to those who listen.
  2. Both use the very same Source from which to gather that message—the Bible.
  3. Both confront those to whom they minister with truth that is intended to change their lives.
  4. Both give examples of what the Bible is talking about to show
    a.  What they are talking about.
    b.  How truth can be applied in life.
    c.  Ways in which it may be implemented.
  5. Both are interested in bringing about change through the Spirit using His Word, and not through psychological means.
  6. Both are committed to one end in all they do—the glory of God.
  7. Both use the Scriptures to direct, rebuke, urge, persuade, inform and convince their listeners.
  8. Both speak differently when addressing believers and unbelievers.
  9. Both are interested in one end for those to whom the minister—that their lives may please God.
  10. Both avoid using gimmicks to bring about the desired results.

How do they differ?

  1. One speaks in a louder volume than the other (ordinarily).
  2. One addresses a wide variety of people at the same time, whereas the other addresses a specific person or persons at one time.
  3. One speaks, but does not receive, verbal feedback as the other does.
  4. One does not discuss matters, while the other must do so.
  5. One is more general in what he says that the other who can be more specific and personal.
  6. One is concerned with the same basic issues over a period of time, while the other takes up a variety of topics during the period.
  7. One involves written assignments while the other usually does not.
  8. One speaks as a part of a worship service, while the other deals only with the problems presented in a less formal setting.
  9. One acts more as a herald while the other as a coach.
  10. One may seek immediate interaction among those present while the other expects eventual change of that sort.

These items are only a few of the similarities and the differences between the two. But you can see from them that they are very much alike in goals and methods, and that the differences are due largely to the distinct settings in which the communication of God’s truth takes place. Clearly, the two supplement, support and complement each other, each supplying a dimension that the other cannot. The two, in tandem, approximate each other and each is deficient apart from the other.

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Schism

How about a discussion of schism? Does that sound interesting? Among other things, in my discussions with a group of pastors recently, we touched on the subject. One of the comments made was the fact that, in some cases (I’d guess in most), congregations wait too long to act, and, therefore, end up having someone split their churches. It is always bad to put up the traffic light after the fatal accident!

Paul was clear about the urgency of the matter:

Reject a factious man after the first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

In Titus 3:10 he made it clear that quick action is called for when someone is noticed in the corner with a number of persons in secretive discussions. He said whenever a factious person is discovered, counsel once or twice, and if there is no positive response, get rid of him. There was to be no delay or long drawn out process in which there is time for him to continue his nefarious work. He is to be confronted, and unless there is a positive response (which I assume means repentance), there is to be no more delay.

Take to heart what Paul advises. Few things can be as devastating to a church than when someone succeeds in splitting it.

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Adams, You Are Too Simplistic!

Sorry, your charge doesn’t hold water. Just because I refuse to use the jargon of the field, because I write for pastors and elders in language they can easily read, and since I do not hide ignorance behind half-understood or esoteric terminology, there are those who think that what I have to say is simplistic. I claim that my writings are simple, not simplistic.

I have spent a lifetime attempting to put difficult matters into easily understood language. My students at two seminaries will vouch for the fact that I always strongly urged simplicity and clarity in preaching. I have taught that the second cousin to truth is clarity and the brother to lying is obscurity! It is my belief that by hard work, anything—once understood—can be made simple and intelligible. It is with that conviction in mind that I always sit down to write.

Because I do not theorize, speculate, or hypothesize, there are those who think what I say is unscholarly. I admit to the charge, if that is what scholarship is all about. But, wait a minute! Ask yourself, “Would Jesus have stood up to the charge?” His clear, simple language was so different from the rabbis that people were amazed at what He had to say. But because what He said was simple, that does not mean that it was simplistic. It was at once simple and profound. I try to be a speaker and writer who is as fully in that tradition of Jesus as possible.

The same concern drove Paul who, in writing to the Colossians, asked for prayer so that “I may proclaim” the truth “clearly, as I ought to.” I consider myself equally obligated to set forth God’s truth clearly. I think that it may be fairly said that though others may not always agree with me, they understand why they don’t because they understand what I have written.

Akin to the charge of simplicity is the companion charge of proof-texting. Apart from the fact that there is a correct way to proof-text, as Jesus and the apostles showed us, I deny the charge as made. What I deny is the claim that I give the Scriptures short shrift, taking passages out of context, making them say what they were never intended to say, and the like. That is what is usually meant by proof-texting.

I ask you, does the charge stand under scrutiny? How many other counselors have translated the entire New Testament, the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Psalm 119? How many others have written commentaries on all of these books? When you look at the shoddy exegesis that is so prevalent among eclectic “Christian counselors,” you will find more than enough proof-texting together with poor exegesis at its worst. I cannot accept this irresponsible charge from those who, themselves, are prime examples of what they decry. Indeed, it is time for those who hurl these missiles to reconsider their own feeble efforts at using Scripture.

When Scripture is so casually handled, when its teaching is equated with the flawed statements of men without any recognition that the two are radically different, when hermeneutics is not only a word hardly understood but a science whose fundamental principles are persistently violated, it is time for the practitioners of such an “art” to cease and desist calling names!

In other words, I challenge those who love to bypass the teachings of Nouthetic counselors on the basis that what we write is too simplistic, to come to grips with the major arguments that we set forth. That is certainly a fairer, and more “scholarly” way to go about things than to ignore these as “too simplistic” to give the time of day. It is amazing how often objectors use the ad hominem approach rather than grappling with the issues. Let’s stop that sort of thing and begin to talk sensibly, simply. One, not so insignificant issue, is how to present truth! Another has to do with the target audience for whom we write. Should we write to impress other “scholars,” or to help those who are ministering to God’s flock? Think about it!

The Basis for Christian Counseling

The Christian’s basis for counseling, and the basis for a Christian’s counseling is nothing other than the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The Bible is his counseling textbook.

“Why?” you ask. “After all, the Christian doesn’t use the Bible as his basis for scores of other activities in which he engages—such as engineering, architecture, music—so why should he insist that the Scriptures are the basis for counseling?”

The answer to that question is at once both simple and profound (because of its simplicity don’t miss the profundity of its implications). The Bible is the basis for a Christian’s counseling because it deals with the same issues that all counseling does. The Bible was given to help men come to saving faith in Christ and then to transform believers into His image (2 Tim. 3:15). The Holy Spirit uses it as an “adequate” instrument that He says has the ”power” to do so. That, in substance, is what these verses say.

But note, too, in these verses God assigns this life calling of transforming lives by the Word to the “man of God” (a phrase Paul picks up from the Old Testament designation for a prophet and uses in the pastoral epistles to refer to the Christian minister). And, let me repeat, the Holy Spirit strongly declares that the Bible fully equips him for this work.

So then, it is because counseling—the process of helping others to love God and their neighbors—is a part of the ministry of the Word (just as preaching is ) that it is unthinkable to use any other text (just as it would be unthinkable to do so in preaching). A ministry of the Word is not when it is based on substitutes.

The Bible is the basis for a Christian’s counseling because of what counseling is all about (changing lives by changing values, beliefs, relationships, attitudes, behavior). What other source can provide a standard for such changes? What other source tells us how to make such changes in a way that pleases God?

That is why other foundations for counseling must be rejected. Not only are they not needed (the Bible is adequate—the unique One, Who is the counselor proved that by His own counseling ministry), but since they seek to do the same sorts of things (without the Scriptures and the Spirit), they are also competitive.

God doesn’t bless His competition! Nor does He bless disobedience to His Word by His servants.

As future ministers of the Word, be just that—only that, and nothing else but that—ministers of the Word! Do not forsake the Fountain of living water for the cracked cisterns of modern counseling systems.

This short article first appeared in Kethiv Quere, the student publication of Dallas Theological Seminary, in 1977.  It was later reprinted in Jay’s book Theology of Counseling.

Adams, J. E. (1986). A theology of Christian counseling: More than redemption (xiii–xiv). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resource Library.

Worry

My worry is sin
__I cannot excuse it;
__I confess it and seek Your pardon, Lord.
__You have told me not to worry
__but (rather) to pray,
__to thank You (even for this trial),
__to work on today’s responsibilities
__and to rely on You
__for the outcome.
That’s hard under the present circumstance,
__You will have to help me
__to learn how
__to do these things,
So that
__by practicing
__what You have taught
__through Word and deed
I too may be able
__to count it a joyful thing
__when I fall
__into every sort of testing.
May I learn to see the sun
__shining above the storm,
__and by the eye of faith
__discern those shafts of light
__that break through the clouds
__to beam
__knowledge, self-control, endurance,
__godliness, brotherly-kindness
__and love
__into my dark life,
_________________for Christ’s sake,
_____________________Amen

Drift or Decision

Most marriages develop their characteristic patterns not by design but by drift. Courses of least resistance, following one’s own desires and the like, in time develop into patterns. But you will never drift into God’s pattern. It will come only by repentance, by prayerful understanding, and by conscious decision to follow it. That decision must be backed by a continued, daily awareness of what you are doing and a repetitive effort to realize God’s design in all you do.

You must choose between drift and decision. Decide now to reshape your marriage according to God’s great plan set forth in the pattern of Christ and His church. If you do, your marriage will be blessed more and more as it grows (not drifts) into the shape designed by God.

  • Conclusion of a chapter Jay was invited to write for a book on marriage that was rejected by the book’s editor. It was eventually published in the Journal of Pastoral Practice (Vol. X, No. 1, 1989, pp. 38-44).

To Pray or Not to Pray—That is the Question

In 1 John 5:16, John wrote that if you see someone committing a sin that leads to death (the KJV goes on to say) I don’t say you should pray about that. On the surface, that sounds strange, doesn’t it?

Well, it is strange. Why shouldn’t you pray for him?

Because of the kind of sin he committed-one that leads to death. What sin is that? To answer that isn’t the purpose of this posting. I want to concentrate on that word “pray” or “ask,” as some have it.

There are two distinct words in the Greek—

One, aiteo means “to ask for, or pray.” That’s not the word used here.

The other is eratao, which means “to ask about, inquire.” It is used here.

The verse doesn’t say not to pray, but rather not to go about trying to dig up all the dirt behind his sin unto death! A very important exhortation we need to stress often to overly curious people and gossips.

For more information about this passage and 49 others (shameless plug alert), see my recent book, Fifty Problem Passages Explained.

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