Good morning, everyone. Our topic for this hour is counseling with Christ-like love, which I believe is maybe the most important aspect of a Biblical Counseling ministry. When we think about this topic, we look at the Lord Jesus Christ, what He did, and His love. Then, as we consider these souls, most of whom are in the most difficult places ever in their life, we realize that we have this opportunity to walk with them and care for them and communicate the Scriptures to them. What is the motive? How can we love them the way Christ loved us?
So, I’m Wayne Johnston. I am an ACBC fellow. I’m also the Director of Training Center Certification [This lecture was recorded in 2016]. It’s been a great privilege to work with a lot of great ministries as they’ve become affiliated with ACBC. It is such a joy to me to see how God uses His Word and the faithful counseling of ACBC members and other counselors, in so many different counseling ministries, to counsel at the heart level and how God uses His Word to change hearts and lives. It’s a blessing to be here with each of you today.
First, What Is Love?
The answer is in 1 John 3:16. We know love by this, that He lay down His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. Love is defined by the way that Jesus offered His human body to withstand an eternity of God’s wrath for the Redemption of each of our souls. That was the extent of His love. He paid the price for your lifetime of sins and for mine.
What Was the Extent?
Well, in the past, Jesus died that death by crucifixion, and He did that to redeem us. What is His love today? Hebrews 7:25, He’s interceding before God the Father each time we sin so that we’re never separated from God for a moment.
So, He loved with the ultimate love then and now, and so, in our personal walk with Him, we worship Him and we say, “Lord Jesus, Thank you. Thank you for your love”. We are grateful. We love Him and our desire is to bring glory and honor to Him.
What Is My Response to Jesus’ Love?
As a Christian, I am thankful for life. I’m thankful for this relationship with God. I love God because of His kindness, and I also seek to love people, to emulate what Christ did, to love in the way that He loved me. So, because of that, my mission is to lay down my life for others, including the souls that I counsel. In a manner that, to whatever degree is possible emulates the perfect love of my Lord Jesus Christ. Think about Jesus’ love on the cross and Jesus’ love in interceding for us each time we sin, and then you look again at 1 John 3:16 and you think, “he laid down his life for me; I ought to lay down my life for the brothers. I must love in a way that as best I can emulate his love”. This is our task in the counseling room. So, I prepare, I care, I hear, I love, and I speak love and truth to souls in need.
What Place Does This Christ-like Love Have In My Personal Ministry to Souls?
I believe it must be the foundation of that ministry and the content of that ministry.
For us as biblical counselors, that means that we attempt to prepare, study, care for and serve our counselees in a way that can best be described by the phrase laying down our lives. That’s intense. So, I strive to obey Jesus command to love others as He loved, to honor my Lord. That’s my role. He fills the much more difficult role. He causes the bearing of fruit through His work in hearts, through the Scriptures. So, our part is this: love for our counselee in how we prepare and how we communicate and how we serve them inside and beyond the counseling room, but His part is to cause the Word to be living an active; to change hearts and to change lives.
Look at the encouraging results for us when we counsel with our best version of Christ-like love. John 15:9, “we abide in his love,” “As the Father loved me”, Jesus said, “so I have loved you. Abide in my love”. What a blessing this is, as we are bearing the burden of this care for souls, of walking with people through these difficult stages of life. And in the midst of all of that, we are living in Christ’s love. We are needing His help. We are interacting with Him and we are aware of His care. Counseling cases are such a wonderful adventure with the Lord Jesus Christ. As we walk with Him through, as we seek to emulate His love, and as we asked the Father to do what only He can do to change hearts through His Word.
A Benefit from Christ Is Joy
In John 15:9, one of the effects of Christ’s love is that His Joy is in us! Our joy is full. Our joy is made complete because of our interaction with Jesus Christ as we are serving and loving the people He brings into our counseling room, we need His love and courage, and we plead with Him to give hope to people. Then, when He does what only He can do, when He causes change, when the person hears the Word and responds, when the problems are being resolved, when this person is growing in Christ, when He answers those prayers, there is this great joy in this great camaraderie with the Lord Jesus Christ. The result is in in John 15:11, His Joy is in us and our joy is full.
- Counseling with Christ-like Love: Speaking the Truth in Love to Our Counselee
Here’s our first paragraph. We measure our counsel from Scripture. The preparation, the study, the prayer, the effort, the communication, and the Love, by our motives. Was I doing each of these things with the purposes of honoring God? Am I emulating Christ’s love in my ministry to people?
Next, we love each counselee. We learn each soul, and we gladly walk with them through their difficult times with the same Christ-like love, whether the final result is a soul who responded to God, resulting in growth in God’s love and Word and resolved problems, or the case ends with a warning from Scripture of an important informed person who has heard the truth of the Word and understands God’s love, but their final choice is, “I don’t want that. I’m going to do what I want to do”. Either way, we have the opportunity to love with Christ-like love, and to be thankful for the opportunity to lay down our life for each. What do these things look like in actual counseling cases? We have a few examples. First, I should mention the core of these cases are accurately described here. Some of the details are changed a little bit for the sake of the anonymity of these dear friends.
The Grieving Man
So, this case was interesting. It was a grieving man whose wife had left him for another woman. During the first three times I met with this man, I had no idea what his face look like. If I had run into him the next day at the store, I wouldn’t have known that was him. The whole time we were meeting together, those first three weeks I understood the pattern of his hair and he had a little bald spot that was beginning, but that’s all I saw. I don’t know what color his eyes were. So, he was crushed. When he and his wife married, they were professing believers. It was a great wedding at a church with all the church family and friends. Now, eight years later. She’s left him, and she is intimately involved with another woman with whom she lives.
What an opportunity to communicate Christlike love and how he needed Christlike love at that time. The comfort from God’s promises of hope in the Scriptures was everything for him to realize that no matter how it felt, God’s grace would be sufficient. For him to know that, in this time, he could pour out his heart to God and God would be his refuge.
To think what seemed impossible, that somehow, in the midst of this God would cause it to work for good. So, homework consisted of hope in the Scriptures. It was exciting because what happened along the way was that God did what only he could do: God cause the Word to work in his heart and to encourage him and his focus changed from, “How could this happen? My wife? How will this end? What’s going on now now? To, “but the Lord is here. His Word will equip me for every good work. He is my refuge and He still loves me”.
The next part of this case was to walk with him through a transition from being the victim of serious sin to a loving husband. So, we looked at Ephesians 5, and the idea that the husband’s role is to lay down his life the way Christ did. So now we’re back to the cross. Now we’re back to thinking about Jesus Christ on the cross; paying the price for my lifetime of sins. The worst of them, the recurring ones, all of them, and his intercession before the Father so that we’re not separated from the Father for a moment. Then to consider, what could he do in relation to his wife at this time? That would look like laying down his life. In the midst of all this, for us as counselors, as we prepare, as we encourage, as we send texts and call or spend time during the week, whatever is necessary to communicate Christ-like love. That’s our part during this time.
Well, great things happened. God cause the Word to be living and active. This man, because of the interaction with God, based on the promises of hope, chose that he wanted to honor God and to love his wife in the midst of this situation, and he began to do that. He began to think a lot about Christ on the cross. One of the implications of that in Matthew 18 is where Jesus answers, the question, “How do you forgive when it’s really hard to forgive? What if my knucklehead brother does the same thing that seventh time? Do I really have to forgive him”?
Jesus tells the story of the slave. He is making more than a day’s wage for a low-end worker in that culture, and he somehow advances, and he’s put in charge of somebody’s multimillion-dollar empire. In all the things that he does, he accumulates a debt, that would take him, literally hundreds of lifetimes to repay at his level of income. Then he pleads, and the master says, I’m going to let it go. Then a few months later, the other workers noticed this guy choking a co-worker who owes him three months’ wages. So, you think about that: Probably most of us in this room don’t have 20 million dollars in assets. So, what if somebody owed you three months’ wages, you know, you think about how much money that is and they are not paying you. That’s significant. It’s not as much, as it would take me lifetimes to earn 10 billion dollars to repay what I’ve blown, but that’s not nothing.
And of course, the point of it is, when we evaluate our own lives in light of what Jesus did on the cross, everything else is so small. The fellow slaves say, “what is wrong with this guy? He was forgiven so much and he’s not forgiving of this? So, this man, he had spent time as I encouraged him based on that passage to think about Jesus Christ on the cross and the vantage point from below and how it seems from there when you think about the worst sins you ever committed, and there’s the Lord Jesus Christ. He paid for that sin. Lord, thank you. The second worst thing I ever did in my life. There’s Jesus. He paid the price for that. Lord, Thank you. So, he thinks through these things, he thinks through the ten billion dollars part and then he comes back to his wife. That’s still a hard thing that your wife is not home with you and that she has a relationship with someone else, but in light of this, of the 10 billion dollars of what Christ did on the cross for the 10 worst sins in every other one, wow. How does it seem then? “Lord, thank you for this life. Thank you for your love”. That’s the definition of love. That’s what love is. He laid down his life for us. So, this man’s conclusion was, “Lord, how can I honor You by loving my wife today? How can I love her in a way that is my best impression of laying down my life”?
So, in the midst of all this, he’s interacting with these truths of hope and he’s believing that God’s grace will be enough, the Word will be sufficient, and he is seeking God’s help to do this. So, he communicated to his wife his love for her, his forgiveness, his desire for her to come back. He sent to her detailed descriptions of his own sins in the marriage, which he had repented of, and how if she did return to the Lord and to him, how he would be different if she came back. He honored God by seeking to love her and lay down his life for her all through that process. She didn’t return to the Lord, or to him. I spent time with him on the day that the divorce became final and we talked and his comment was, “I just pleaded with the Lord and I hope so much that she would return to him and that I would have the opportunity to love and serve her in our marriage again”. But that didn’t happen. “Yet, because of what has gone on between the Lord and I, I have no idea what’s ahead in life, haven’t really thought about it, but I’m looking forward to it because of what’s going on between the Lord and I and so I’m grateful for His love and His grace”. By God’s grace, he did his best to emulate Christ’s love and he knew the joy of walking with God in that way.
An Unbelieving Married Couple Dealing with Adultery
A married couple, both unbelievers, one of whom committed adultery. There was a co-worker of the wife who had heard the story and invited this couple to our church for counseling. So, here we are on a Sunday morning in one of the rooms at church, and here are these two unbelievers who have never been in a church before, and that’s the setting. There’s the husband, there’s the wife. She’s pregnant. First child. So, we verify the facts:
“Did you have sex with another woman”?
“Yes, I did”.
We talked about the gospel. We went through it in some detail. Her response to the gospel: she committed her life to Jesus Christ. She believed in the facts of the gospel and began that day, a life of walking with Jesus as her Lord. Wow, God is good. His response to the gospel: I don’t want that.
Then we talked a bit more, encouraging her with truths of beginning to walk with the Lord in her new life with Him, great promises of hope from the Scriptures. Joy. In talking, with the husband, one of the questions I asked him was, “If you were in the same circumstances, would you do that again”? He said, “Yeah, absolutely”. So, in thinking about that, it was my judgment to encourage the wife to separate from him. She did separate from him, but she remained married to him. Her view was that she wanted him to have the best opportunity to come to Christ. So that was her choice. Speaking the truth in love and Christ-like love in this situation, it looks like communicating the gospel to this man, but then it’s also warning him. It’s looking at Romans 1:19-21 and helping him to realize, he’s heard the gospel and he understands it; he’s even seen the beginning of some amazing change in his wife, and he sees the effects immediately. He knows from what he sees and where we lived of the big sky in the huge mountains, the creation of God. He knows that God exists, but this is another time that his choice is, I don’t want that.
So, there’s that warning in love. Looking him in the eye and telling him, “This is the gospel and one day, you will stand before God and either your sins will be removed because of what Christ did and it will be a great day of joy, or it will be a day when you remember days like this, where you heard and understood the gospel and your choice was, “I want to do what I want to do”.
In the weeks ahead, we spent time helping this gal, getting her connected with other ladies in the church, and helping her, begin her life with Christ and walk with him. We prayed for the man and God’s redemption of him. In times like that, it’s a lot easier to love her than him. I mean, how can your heart not go out to her? Even just hearing the story, she’s not even here, and you want to hug her, and you want to care for her and encourage her and send her cards during the week. But how do you, how do you love that guy? You know, it takes us back to the cross. It takes us back to. Okay, who am I? I’m the sinner saved by grace. I was him. That brings us back to this thing of love. So, we choose to pray for him. We work with her, and by God’s grace, she grows, and she becomes this wonderful strong Christian woman. Then four years later, that man became a Christian.
He saw the Lord in his wife, and as the baby was born and then grew during those years. They had some interaction each month, and he knew the gospel was true and he came to Christ. About two years after he had come to Christ and been reunited with his wife and they were living together and going to church together, he invited me to lunch. We had this wonderful time of fellowship. The only time before that, that we had a personal conversation was that day of communicating the gospel to him and then, you know, telling his wife to separate from him and warning him from the Scriptures about what was ahead if his response to the gospel didn’t change. The Lord is so good. What a wonderful time of fellowship with this man, now redeemed with the same view of himself and Jesus Christ and what happened on the cross.
In the midst of all that in those times of the unexpected where you walk into the counseling room, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. We need to be prepared between our interaction with the Lord so that we are prepared to whatever happens to be able to love the way Christ loved, to be able to respond to whatever happens, not with something other than wanting to lay down our lives for these souls.
Two Concurrent Cases of Professing Believers Refusing to Repent
This was an interesting one. So, this is about a decade ago. There were two counseling cases at the same time, and I’m just going to tell you about the husbands in each of these. The first was an uncaring husband who loved projects in his workshop. I know some of us in this room probably, as men, we like the projects in the workshop, but I hope what this guy did is beyond what you do or what I do. That workshop was where he lived, except when he was sleeping or eating. So everything was about the next project he was working on. This couple was in their early 50’s, and her sense of it was that for the last 20 years, she really didn’t know who he was, and they didn’t have a relationship.
So, we looked at Scriptures about love and marriage and the husband loving the way Christ loves, what are some of the components that would be involved if his relationship with his wife was one of laying down his life for her and knowing her and showing love in a variety of ways that we discussed and he understood it all, but his decision was, “I don’t want to do that”.
That was one of those times where the last time we met was this warning from Scripture. So, I hope that person is a believer living just living in sin. I have that kind of person read Hebrews 12:5-11. If you are a believer, well, this is what’s in your future: God will knock you down and when He does, it will hurt. Then, when you’re on your back, you will realize, “Lord, I have been sinning against you. I have been stubborn. I knew the truth of the Word and my choice for 20 years was, I don’t care. I’m not going to love the way you loved”. Then you will repent, and then you’ll have a wonderful time of serving God and loving your wife. That’s the good news. Then, I have him read Romans 1:19-21, that’s the other option. You’re the tear among the wheat, you’ve been around the church a lot, you know, all the Christian stuff, but you have never come to Christ in the way that Romans 6:4 to 14 describes. I think that’s an important passage where it describes salvation as dying to sin and living in Christ. He uses the Greek word baptizo. So, it’s being “immersed” in Jesus’ death and now being “immersed” in his life. There are a lot of church-going people like this man who had never come to Christ in that way. He knew the facts of the Gospel and he didn’t want to go to hell, but he hadn’t been immersed in the death of Christ, and he wasn’t immersed in the life of Christ, where his purpose was honoring the father.
In the other couple, the man had committed adultery, and he and his wife were meeting together with us. He had not continued the adulterous relationship, which was good, but he also was not reconciling with his wife. The end of that case was a similar warning to him. We had with each a number of weeks, and I believe each man understood the Word well. So, we prayed for them often as the days went by after that.
In situations like that. It’s so vital for us to interact with the Lord enough and think enough about his love that we don’t ever for a moment hate this counselee who is sinning but want them to be restored to the Lord or to come to Christ, in the case of the unbeliever. I think that’s really important because in developing the relationship with each of these souls, most people that. Most people that we went through this time of counseling, especially the extreme situations, when you talk later, you find out what their perception of what your relationship was. God is honored and glorified if what they saw in us was that we loved God enough and we loved Christ enough that they think we were emulating his love. They knew that we would do anything for them. They understood that and they understood our care and compassion, even when we were confronting them with the Word, but they also understood the care and compassion, in our personal care for them, even before they repented.
Five years later in the same week, one day I’m at Home Depot walking along and here comes the first guy and he’s like walking quickly,
“Hey, great to see you”
We talked for a couple of minutes and so I asked him,
“What’s going on between you and the Lord, what’s happened during all this time”?
He said, “I’m still doing the same thing. But I know, I know, the Word says this and this and this”.
That was interesting. I think there were two good things about that and one really bad thing. I think one, good thing was that five years later, he remembered the Scriptures that applied to the issues of his heart. I’m happy with that. Lord, thank you for doing what only you could do you cause the Word to be living and active, because that was my part. God’s part is changing the heart and so there isn’t anything else I could have done anyway, and I’m glad that he still has the Word as the basis of his interaction with God and that his conscience is aware. I hope he is a believer who repented and was restored to God and became great at loving his wife.
The other encouraging thing in that was I’m glad that he viewed our relationship positively. I’m glad that he understood enough of Christ-like love in the midst of the confrontation of the Word, along with all the other things, really getting to know him and understanding him and being at his house and seeing the shop and connecting with him, I’m glad that God used that so that he viewed me as a brother with his best interest at heart, despite the content of counsel. Why is that? Because that’s our goal. Our purpose is to emulate, Christ’s love and if you think about it, if we do that, what is even the unbeliever realize? John 13:34 and 35. They think you’re an actual Christian and your God is real. What more can we hope for than that? God’s part is changing the heart, but if they think, “Wow, you are a Christian, and that Bible, wow, that is God’s Word”. Praise God.
The other man I ran into at the city park, and it was a different story. Well, of course, with the first man, the bad news was he is still standing apart from God. That was the one bad thing. But the man at the park, he told the story of Hebrews 12. He said it was just like Hebrews 12:5-11. He said, yeah, two years later. He said, “I was in a car accident and when I was in a lot of pain laying on my back in the hospital bed, I realized Lord, what have I been doing”? He repented, he repented he began to walk with God again. He confessed his sin to his wife, he showed love to her, he cared for her, he grew in Christ, and some months later they were reunited, and that had been about three years before that time that we saw each other again. What a joy it was to see the result and how God had worked. The Lord is good. I offered that is an encouragement to you as counselors. The last day that you meet with the counselee who didn’t respond isn’t the last day that the Lord is interacting with their soul through the Scriptures.
2. Counseling with Christ-like Love: The Extent of Our Love for Our Counselees
Paul says, an interesting thing in 2 Corinthians 12:15. He says, “I am gladly spent and will be spent for your souls”. If it was the Philippians, okay, we’d all get that. You have the church that supported him, and they came to Christ. They have this great testimony that they’re honoring God so greatly as a group… but this is the Corinthians, and this is 2 Corinthians. Think of all the things that have happened with this, this difficult church, and how difficult it’s been. But here’s this Christ-like love. He says, “I gladly spend and be spent for your souls”.
My friends, that is what we must be as biblical counselors. It doesn’t matter how many times we need to go to this house or talk in the middle of the night or be patient or serve in some other way. God gives us the opportunity to interact with people, often at the most difficult times ever in their life. Sometimes in times when they are not believers yet or not seeking to honor God, but this is our part to emulate Christ’s love and that’s what he did. He laid down his life. His motive was love and so we are gladly spending our souls for the care of others, and we’re glad to be spent for the honor of Jesus Christ.
So, we counsel souls from within the environment of our lives in the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved and redeemed our souls by dying for our sins. We consider regularly, Jesus’ love for us and we seek to emulate that love in counseling relationships. Then out of love and worship for God, we strive to emulate Christ love by attempting to serve people, including how we counsel from the Scriptures at a level that we believe equates laying down our lives for them. When you think about that and it sounds like that’s a lot of work, and sometimes it is. Sometimes there’s so much time in just preparing or caring for one particular counselee. But if this is what we’re doing in, this is our motive, what are our options?
We’re not the person who, when the 45 minutes are up, “I’m going to close the door now and goodbye”. That’s not us. We’re Christians and our purpose is emulating Christ’s love. If we need to communicate with the counseling director or pastor, “what I need to do to care for this person at this time is to not take on any more cases or can somebody else work with these two cases that are going so well”, that’s what we do. Because of love, we can serve to the point of laying down our lives for each one, whether that requires much or little service time, concern, sacrifice, study, or anguish.
A Suffering Woman and a Faithful Counselor
There was a lady who had suffered much due to the sins of others against her when she was young. This woman had had an extremely difficult life. Her response to the shame and to the pain of being sinned against was escape. When this woman first came across our path, it had been over two decades where she had not been without drugs for more than two weeks at a time. That was the escape. So, my wife had the privilege of communicating the gospel to her and by God’s grace, she responded. What a joy to see God redeem this gal. So, there was a long road though from being sinned against so horrendously, and as a twelve-year-old deciding to escape, and now, 25 years later, a lot of time went by and not much interaction with life or people. It was a long road and there were a lot of different stops along the way. What does Christ-like love look like there? It’s different for each and that’s our great opportunity is to do our best to figure out with the Lord, what does that look like here, and what happens next?
So, with her, there were things of connecting her to other great gals in her age range from the church, connecting them and their ministry to her, offering accountability to help her stick with what her decision had been which was where she could get to the point where did not have the immediate or the long-term effects of all the drug use and alcohol. There was a time when there were so many stages in this. For a long time, for a year and a half, she didn’t want to leave her grandmother’s home, but it wasn’t a good place. There were all the temptations and a lot of hate, but she wasn’t at a place where she could go anywhere else when she could my wife Julie invited her to stay at our house, and during that time, it was such a wonderful thing to observe God’s work. But Julie would tell you, there were a lot of different stages in all of that to, I mean, some of them were, you know, hygiene and she was so afraid of men that it took a long, long time for her to not be uncomfortable if I was walking through the room at the other side.
So, a lot of the things that happen were just her seeing how Julie and I are related to each other every day and you know, we’re sinners too, but overall, if we do sin, we repent and we asked each other’s forgiveness and the majority of the time she just saw this, his love and a man who didn’t hate Julie or hate her. But there were other things, like money and work and how to communicate with people. Think of how that was a new thing. The last time she did that, she was 11. So, God did what only he could do. Through the church, through the Word, all along the way, through so many different great gals on the church, he worked. What do we think about that? So many times, at the beginning, we don’t know what Christ-like love will require in our relationship with people that God brings into our lives, and sometimes we can’t do it and God has someone else in the church, who can. The important thing is that it gets done.
Big Men and Men Out of Control
Here’s a good man story for you guys in the room. This counseling case was a man who had been a bodybuilder and an enforcer at a bar. He was an unbeliever, and he married a Christian woman. Now, it’s 12 years later and they had some marriage problems. So, the beginning was the gospel. We’re in our house and when we were meeting with this couple, so Julie and I are sitting here and the man and woman are sitting there, and he had his own version of the gospel and he explained it and of course, like most unbeliever gospel versions, the conclusion of it was, “so I’m going to heaven for sure”. So, I communicated the gospel to him, and he understood, and he looked me in the eye and he said, “are you saying that if I believe what I believe, I’m going to hell”? I said, “that’s exactly what I’m saying because that’s what the Word of God says”.
It was scary. I’m not going to lie. I think that it would have been different if I wasn’t committed to, you know, love, laying down your life. Okay, there’s no fear in that, right?
But it was great because he woke up at 4 instead of 5, because 5 is when he goes to the gym that week, and he read through the Scriptures on the gospel every day and on Wednesday he became a Christian. The Lord is so good. Oh, man. Yeah. He’s a great friend. He’s a fun friend and that was exciting. So we all have difficult times in caring for people but if the foundation is this commitment to Christ-like love and we think about it a lot and we’ve interacted with God a lot. Then when the unexpected comes, it’s not that hard to figure out what to do.
3. Counseling with Christ-like Love: Commitment to Scripture
This is such a vital part for us as biblical counselors because it’s the Word that God is going to use to equip the believer for every good work. It’s the Word that God is going to use to be living and active and get to the heart so that we’re not dealing with changing surface behavior, but we’re dealing with whatever that is, you know, the whether it’s the idol or whether it’s the effects of shame that have never been dealt with or whether it’s just, you know, not knowing if I can trust anyone and that’s the reason for the distance. So, we need to communicate and relate to people in a way that they can see clearly that our motive is Christ-like love.
But then, the Word is going to be God’s tool to interact with them at the core of their being and help them realize the truth about His love and the truth about the gospel for the unbeliever and the truth about the implications of His love for the hurting. So, we communicate the truth of the Word and we’re confident that God will do His part. He’ll cause it to be living an active, He will expose the thoughts and intentions of the heart, and at that level, they will understand the truth and have the opportunity to respond to Him. I do think it’s so vital that all of that is occurring in an environment where they think, “you probably are a Christian because the way you care about me is different than the world does, and it may be different than I’ve seen before”. But at this point with this commitment to Scripture, what does the Bible say about that? That’s the question that I asked God and myself in each of these difficult or complex cases, and sometimes, it’s really hard to figure it out because there are a lot of different components to it.
One of the great blessings for me over the years in this wonderful adventure with the Lord in trying to answer that question has been just reading through the New Testament over and over and over and just interacting with God with passages, seeking to be a doer of the Word in them and understanding them more and more. That’s been such a blessing because when you’re sitting there with your open Bible thinking, “I need to figure out what’s going on with him and what does the Word say about that? There are these three things that I understand so far, what does the Word say? And how do I communicate that”? The more familiar we are with more and more of the New Testament, the easier it becomes to have five choices and then pray and evaluate those with the Lord. There’s no alternative to that and there aren’t books that tell you, “Oh, you know, everybody who’s in this situation, here are the four steps”, because each person is different and the situations and the factors, the guy in the workshop, we probably all have 10 of those in our church, but they all got there a different way, so getting out of that is not going to be, “here, the three steps for the guy in the workshop”.
Studying systematic theologies has been an incredible blessing to understand as clearly as we possibly can the framework of the big ideas of theology, so that we see how individual passages fit into that, which helps us to be able to communicate them much more clearly and therefore, more effectively. Read the great biblical counseling books. We can learn so much from the great men and women who have counseled effectively for a long time. Original language studies: sounds pretty obscure, but sometimes the core of what’s going on is a particular passage and to be able to explain that, with all the different elements that God puts in His Word is essential.
So I think it’s also good to create studies for particular couselees. I don’t think the one-size-fits-all thing is always a good one. It’s a great starting point, but you know, this person who’s struggling with this has these differences, how can I have them interact with the Word in a way that’s most beneficial for them. This level of study and preparation takes time, especially at the beginning and sometimes other points in the case, and it’s a part of love. We’re laying down our lives for this person. We’re willing to take the time to interact with the Lord, however long it takes so that we have the best version of what we can do at this point in time. The sovereign God has had you counseling this person now, what do we need to look at together the next time we meet and what homework fits the way they learn and study and fits this aspect of what’s going on?
Divorced Christian Woman Who Is Fearful
Now a couple of counseling case examples. Here was a woman who was older than her husband, and she did not view herself outwardly as successful. She had a low view of her appearance and her income, her husband divorced her. They had a seven-year-old son and the husband married a younger woman who made lots of money and, in her view, was much more attractive. So, fear dominated her life. She cried for like 50 minutes of the first hour that we met the first three times. For her, it was hope from the Word, the basic Scriptures of hope. She had them on cards. She had them in her car at her desk, at work in her house, so that all she thought about all day was, I feel like this, but the Word says God’s grace is going to be sufficient. Her fear was what’s going to happen to the son? By God’s grace, she had such a great relationship with the son that he ended up coming to Christ.
Another interesting and extreme case, a hearing-impaired woman who had been sinned against greatly and how just a lot of time of considering, “what does the Word say about that”, was helpful for her particular need. So, the bottom line is that this Christ-like love encompasses everything else. It must be the core of why we do what we do and the reason for the way we interact with the Lord as we walk with hurting souls through the most difficult times of their life.
So, the question for us is what does that look like for me? How can I emulate the love of Jesus Christ in how I lay down my life, how I serve, and prepare to counsel in the way that as best I can do emulates laying down my life for the soul? So may the Lord bless you in your efforts to love the way Christ loves.