When Counseling, Don’t . . .

  1. Counsel women alone
  2. Counsel drunks; wait till they sober up
  3. Counsel someone being counseled by another
  4. Counsel without access to a phone, desk, writing materials, etc.
  5. Counsel people who set down conditions
  6. Counsel when a person refuses to do his homework
  7. Counsel by telephone
  8. Counsel by separating spouses from one another
  9. Counsel people so drugged that they can’t reason
  10. Counsel young children; counsel their parents
  11. Counsel unbelievers; evangelize them
  12. Counsel a Christian who will not accept Scripture as a Standard
  13. Counsel on succeeding days, unless absolutely necessary
  14. Counsel without giving homework
  15. Counsel unrepentant persons, who ought to repent, until they do
  16. Counsel during the 6-week period prior to the checkup
  17. Counsel if there is any question of an organic problem
  18. Counsel when a person will not come regularly for counsel
  19. Counsel until you have a PDI properly filled out
  20. Counsel heretics or cultists; evangelize them
  21. Counsel unless a person is willing for you to use the Scriptures
  22. Counsel people who denigrate others when told not to over and over again
  23. Counsel blame-shifters who will not admit it after adequate discussion
  24. Counsel people who insist on running the session their way
  25. Counsel people to return to liberal churches

This list is preliminary. Many other items could be added. There are possible exceptions to some of the items in the list. Donn will be posting his list tomorrow. What would you add to our lists?

Literal Truth

In John 1:14 we read

And the word became flesh, and tented among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as a unique One from the Father, filled with grace and reality.

Notice several things:

  1. This literal, more accurate translation reveals much that the KJV does not.
  2. We learn truth about Jesus’ first advent and person that we don’t learn about elsewhere
  3. These truths are of importance to us in our daily, living relationship to Him.

Notice that His stay among us was temporary: He “tented” among us—He set up no permanent living quarters. He intended to spend only enough time here to accomplish what He needed to do upon His trip. From the time of His anointing as the Messiah (His baptism) to His death, He lived among us for only 3 1/2 years. His entire earthly dwelling was about 33 years in all. He intended not to remain, but to come and accomplish a purpose, and then leave—precisely what He did.

Note also that He was God’s message transformed from words alone into a living person (‘flesh”) so that we could see and hear him do and say what it was that God wanted us to know about Himself, delivered in this form. To see truth in person, in action, is more dramatic, clearer, memorable, etc.

Moreover, He was unique.  He was not only-begotten—all believers are begotten of God.  The word really means (as it does in John 3: 16, etc.) “the only one of His kind.” Only Jesus cold accomplish what He did because as a Person Who was unique in the ways in which He was, only He could do it. Only He, for instance, was God become man while yet remaining God as well.

Finally, He was full of grace (“help” of the sort sinners need)  and reality. There are two words N.T. Greek for “truth”—one for truth over against falsehood (not the one used here); the other reality as over against its shadow.   The Old Testament was full of shadowy types and truths, but no realities.  He was the reality that cast those shadows—the shadows that were but unreal, vague types, or pictures, of the reality that they represent.  He is the reality itself.

Take time to concentrate on each of these items and as you do, you will gain a much clearer understanding of Jesus and His earthly mission. Apart from a literal translation, you miss much of what God wants you to know about Jesus Christ.

God in Heaven and on Earth

Here is how a believer ought to think in the midst of the general confusion that he finds himself surrounded with today:

You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards, you will take me up in glory; Whom do I have I heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You.         (Psalm 73:24)

It really doesn’t matter whether or not we find the answers to the troubles, trials, and difficulties that we face in the present life. It is wonderful when God gives us such a boon! But we have more than the present for which to live and rejoice—we look forward to a trouble-free heaven where all tears will be wiped away, where we will no longer regret our actions because we will never sin again!  That is a place where righteousness will be at home!

So, whether now or later, our lives are sure and steadfast in Christ—and that is something for which we can be eternally thankful, beginning today!

That is something that those who do not know Him as their Savior cannot appreciate or affirm.  If it sounds too good to be true, read the Scriptures in which you can find God’s counsel, and the life of faith here and complete joy hereafter.

Women at Each Other’s Throats?

In the church at Philippi there was a division. This was headed up by two women—the worst sort of split any church can have! There’s always the possibility that it can become a real shin-kicker and hair puller!

Their names might easily have been Odious and Soon-touchy, if they were anything like what we find in churches today. Their actual names are found in Philippians 4:2.

Before Paul mentions any names, he makes clear two principles that must be at work when bringing unity to a divided church. In Philippians 2:3, 4, he sets these forth:

  1. Get rid of selfishness or vane thinking about your own worth, while at the same time considering others better than your self.
  2. Instead of being all—fired concerned with your own interests, for once in your life begin to put the interests of other before your own!

You can always find some way in which others are better than you—if you’re willing to prayerfully take an honest look (of course, as his words indicate, Paul would have you to look away from yourself in order to do so).

And, if you are concerned about furthering others’ concerns rather than your own, again, you’ll find ways of doing so.

The two principles are not hard to understand-just hard for quarreling people to follow. Repentance may be in order to be able to do so.

On those two points, he goes further in the verses that follow to show how that’s exactly what Jesus did for us. He selflessly put us first, going so far as to put our interests (salvation) before His manifested glory as the second Person of the Trinity. He was willing to stoop to becoming a man, to becoming a slave, to becoming a criminal who died on the cross—all for our sakes.

Think of His condescension the next time your foot gets stepped on, the next time someone disagrees with you, the next time you’ve been insulted, the next time . . . simply the next time! It isn’t a matter of who is right. The point is—how are you handling the relationship? Follow these two principles, and you will certainly be doing much to bring about unity. In unity, you can work out the differences!

Assurance

John Calvin’s emphasis was upon certainty. He abhorred the way in which Romanism kept people wondering whether or not they were saved. In his Defense of the Reformed faith, p. 256; Eerdmans, Grand Rapids (1958), he wrote:

Thus nothing is left but constant disquietude, and slow torture, and perplexing doubts, which will wear out the soul not less effectively than open murder.

In speaking of Roman confession, he also said,

The Apostles did not discharge their office of binding and loosing by hearing Confessions, but by preaching the gospel . . . And the reason why they strongly urge Confession is, because they wish to make the world obsequious to them, and to hold it in subjection . . . yet to color Confession, and hold it forth as a thing necessary to salvation, is neither expedient nor lawful. Conscience cannot be squeezed by the chains of such laws, without being strangled. (Ibid., p. 257, 258).

He was concerned about poor, wretched people, deluded by the traditions of men, who were enslaved to a system purporting to be Christian, but in reality, anything but.

There is salvation neither in works of penitence, nor in any other ceremony or human action. Salvation—with the assurance it brings—is in Christ alone. It is because by His death and resurrection He satisfied God once for all, that those who believe can have assurance of salvation. In what are you trusting—that which brings certainty or that which brings confusion and terror?

Ready to Enter

According to the writer of Hebrews the saints listed in chapter 11 among the faithful all died in faith

 “without receiving the things that were promised.”

As the last verse in the chapter makes clear, this is the point of the words written about them. They believed, their faith led to extraordinary works, they went to be with Christ (which is far better than anything they knew here), but they still were waiting—waiting for the coming of the One Who would finally die, once for all, that they might be assured of life eternal. God was waiting for us to arrive on the scene—and believe. How wonderful that He and they patiently waited for us.

But patience is one of the great biblical virtues; it is not merely another piece of the Spirit’s fruit.  How good God has been to us (as He was to them) to postpone the fulfillment of the promises so that we too could cash in on them. The day when we rise to meet the Lord in the air, and all that occurs subsequently, is yet in the future, but we have come right up to it. We could not be closer without being inside enjoying the festivities of Hebrews 13:22-24! It’s as if we were standing in the vestibule looking through the glass doors at the joyous gathering inside. As we die, the door opens and we join the crowd!

THANKS FOR THE WONDERFUL PICTURE OF THAT DAY FOUND IN THIS CHAPTER!

Living Right?

Christians often wonder about their lives—“Am I living the sort of life that pleases God?” some ask themselves (sometimes every day!). They think “I know that I still sin frequently; I haven’t by any Scriptural standard become all that God wants me to be.”  They wonder, “How does God see me when He sees my heart and my works?”

There are a number of indices by which you may begin to find answers to your questions (see especially 1 John), but there is one in particular that I wish to mention. Listen to Psalm 97:10:

You who love the Lord, hate evil.

How strongly do you hate? If there is no hatred in your life, there is something dead wrong.  Hatred for evil is a determining factor in whether or not you love God as you should. In some ways, the strength of your love for God is your hatred for evil—especially in yourself!

If evil doesn’t disturb you, and you have become cavalier about it, so that when you encounter evil not even the slightest bit of anger whelms up within—then something is wrong: dead wrong! You’d better begin examining your true love in terms of a true hatred—for sin and its effects.

Your love for God is determined by your hatred for evil (in part) because God hates evil. If you are not moved to anger, let alone hatred, over evil, it is time to do something about it.

“How can I change?” you ask. By beginning to think God’s thoughts after Him.  Until you think as He does about sin in His world, you will not love Him as you ought. How can you begin to think His thoughts? By studying the Bible—more and more to discover How He thinks!

There Are Options

There is a sort of legalistic view that misunderstands and, therefore, misapplies the doctrine of predestination by failing to allow for human agency. It turns out to be very close to fatalism.

I’m talking about the sort of teaching that says, “Well you’ve got to find the right girl (fellow)—the one God has for you. If you don’t, you’ll be in misery the rest of your life for having missed out on “God’s perfect will” for you. You will be saddled with a second rate existence as the result.”

You see, there just isn’t any such thing in Scripture as “missing out on God’s perfect will.”

God’s decretive will is always accomplished. And it is established by the use of responsible, human agency. Sure, many Christians make bad choices about their life companions—and some do live in misery. But they are not “stuck” in some lesser-than-best situation about which nothing can be done to remedy it!

No genuine Christian is doomed to live on some sort of a second level existence. There is always the possibility for change through repentance, sanctification, and the blessings that accrue from it. If I didn’t believe in such possibility for radical change, so as to turn bad choices into good outcomes by the grace of God, I wouldn’t have counseled anyone. There is no perfect one for you—the options are always there so long as the other persons considered are genuine believers.

But even then—if one happens to be married to an unbeliever (not a legitimate option) God, according to 1 Corinthians 7, can save and transform the unbeliever. And if He doesn’t, a repentant believer, living according to the Word of God, can lead a joyous life.

Tulipburger

Some time ago, I wrote an article for RC Sproul’s little monthly magazine Table Talk. In it I wanted to stress some aspects of the so-called “Five Points of Calvinism.” As you know, the word T-U-L-I-P is used as a means of remembering each of the points. T stands for total depravity; U for unconditional election, L for limited atonement, I for irresistible grace, and P for perseverance of the saints.

Now, many people find no difficulty in accepting four of the five points, notably, the first and last two in the word. I wanted to stress the fact that in leaving out the L, they not only mess up the word TULIP, but their own theology, and at the same time, miss what is, in many respects, the main doctrine of the five. So, I devised the TULIPBURGER.

Let me explain. The T and the P are like the two pieces of bun that hold a burger together—absolutely essential, but, in themselves, hardly a burger at all. I liken the U and the I to the lettuce and the tomato. Better, but still not a burger. Lastly, I suggest that the L is like the meat in the center. Truly, the idea of limited atonement is the “meat” of Calvinism. To hold to the fact that Jesus didn’t die for “mankind,” or, as that means, persons in general—but for persons in particular, is essential to having a “Personal Savior.” I’m delighted, that with the apostle I can say, “He loved me and gave Himself for me.” I agree with Luther who, when commenting on the first verse of the 23rd Psalm said, “Thank God for personal pronouns.”

To realize that Jesus’ death was 100% effective; that He didn’t die for people in general, but that He knew His sheep, and called them by name, and gave His life for each one of them individually is a blessed truth, not to be omitted from the burger. Because He did, therefore, every one of them will have eternal life. It is a rich doctrine not to be lost by focusing on buns, lettuce and tomato alone, while forgetting the meat.

Jesus didn’t come to make salvation possible—He came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” God was satisfied with His death for everyone for whom He died. He didn’t die needlessly for millions who would reject Him. He knew all that the Father had given Him, and said that not one of them would be lost. They would all be saved. After all, if Jesus’ death for sin really did satisfy God’s justice for any, it would also do so for all. So, if He died for all—all would be saved. Of course, we know that isn’t true. Yet, if universal atonement were true, then God could hardly punish men and women for eternity for whom Christ had already suffered the punishment. There is no double jeopardy. And therefore, there is no burger unless it is a TULIPBURGER!

Drive Away?

Then, there’s the elder who, by his words and actions, has driven off the last three pastors.

It seems that he’s as actively at it in his old age as he was when he was young. Age hasn’t mellowed him; it has just provided him time to dream up new and more effective ways of doing what he does best.

Now, you come as pastor to the church. Rapidly, you discover the fact that the last two men remained as ministers of the church for only two years; the one before them leaving after two months. The word is out that elder so-and-so “drove them off.” You have a problem on your hands. Because you won’t encourage gossip, you seek no more information. Rather, you have decided to deal with any problems that may be forth-coming if and when they happen.

It isn’t long before elder S&S provides you with your first opportunity. It really isn’t important to go into the matter in any depth. The details of the issue are not important to the present discussion. What we want to focus on is the dynamics of the interchange that brought them to a head—and what occurred thereafter.

Elder S&S was opposed. The fact, in itself isn’t all that important; he was often opposed to much that the pastor and other elders wanted to do. Sometimes, the group allowed him to stifle ideas and suggestions; less often, they stood up for their views—especially when little was at stake! He’d become angered, but not hot-headed over such matters. But the issue at hand was, on the occasion in view, one in which much was at stake. The future growth of the congregation seemed to inseparably bound up in it. As pastor, you are anxious to see it happen for the welfare of all concerned—including elder S&S. Most of the seven other elders agree with your judgment. But four of them are weak and unwilling to stand for what they believe if it comes to a fight. They just “don’t have the stomach for it,” they say. Yet, they believe the project is necessary for the church’s welfare.

But old S&S doesn’t see it that way.

And, it isn’t long into the meeting before he lets everyone know it. Characteristically, he expresses his will in such a way that there could be no doubt where he stands. That’s OK. But, then, in addition, he begins to berate the pastor—you—who presented the matter to the board. Without elaborating upon the offensive manner in which he does so, what he says is, “This simply won’t happen! I’ll see to that. If a young, newly manufactured seminary product thinks he can come into this church and change things, he’ll find out differently.” All of the other elders freeze and look at you. How will you respond?

You say (calmly, but firmly), “Elder S&S, you are certainly welcome to your opinion—and I’m glad that you express it so strongly—but you are not going to get away with insulting anyone here—including me! I expect you to ask for forgiveness before we go any further. You know, I’m sure, what Paul said to Timothy: “Don’t let anybody despise your youth. . . “ (I Timothy 4:12). I have been ordained by the church of Jesus Christ—just as you have—and we must both respect that authority. I have not mentioned the fact that you are an aged elder, though that too is a fact. Indeed, I should respect your gray head, as the Scriptures indicate, and I intend to do so. Now, I’m ready to forgive you as soon as you ask for it.”

I shall not continue the scenario, although that would be of interest. The question is, will you, when faced with such an insult and challenge to your authority—as the three previous pastors did—allow the church to be run by one man who, by insults and threats, has dominated the scene so forcefully that not only pastors, but over the years, elders and members as well, have found more congenial quarters elsewhere. If you were to submit to the domination of elder S&S, you too would be out of there before you know it. It is time for someone to stand toe-to-toe and eye to eye with such a person. And that somebody is YOU.