Dale Johnson: Today on the podcast, I’m delighted to have with me a very special guest, my pastor Dr. Rick Holland. He was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee and became a Christian in high school. He served as a youth pastor in Georgia. Michigan, and California. Then he spent 25 years at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. While at Grace, he pastored Crossroads, the college and singles ministry and served as the executive pastor under Dr. John MacArthur. Rick is the author of Uneclipsing the Son and he’s contributed chapters in other books as well as articles in theological journals. He serves on the faculty at the Expositor Seminary, where he teaches homiletics and expository preaching. He’s earned degrees from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, The Master’s Seminary, and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as here, The Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rick has served as Senior Pastor of Mission Road Bible Church since August of 2011. He and Kim have three sons sons, Mark, Luke, who’s married to Annie, John, who is married to Mianna, and they also have two grandchildren, which if we give Rick opportunity, I’m sure he’ll talk about a lot. Thank you for being here on the podcast and I look forward to our discussion today. Our conference begins today and we’re really excited about that opportunity. You’re going to be discussing this topic in one of our plenary sessions “Our Sufficiency in Christ.” I want you to describe: “What’s the most important aim in any counseling and discipleship relationship?”
Rick Holland: I think the most important issue in counseling is something that should be obvious, but we can easily miss and that is that we’re trying to connect people with God, with Christ. It’s so easy for us to think about giving help, which is the burden of anybody’s heart when we’re counseling, discipling. But if we give help without giving them the Helper, council without giving them the Wonderful Counselor, I think we’re missing something and defaulting into behavior modification, a code of ethics, becoming a social alternative to the world instead of having a relationship with Christ.
Dale Johnson: That’s so helpful and I appreciate, from your role as a primary teaching pastor at our church, just your shepherding, the way in which you are involved in people’s lives. You’ve been doing this a lot of years, you’ve seen a lot of good ways to do things, maybe even a lot of bad ways to do things. I want you to describe what you believe to be the most overlooked dimension in shepherding, counseling and discipleship.
Rick Holland: That’s a related answer to what we just talked about and, as my ministry has matured and developed over the decades, I’ve seen a dramatic shift from thinking, when you have someone across the desk from you, or sitting on our couch in our living room, that you want so badly to solve problems, to give help, to give aid, which is certainly a goal. But I’ve noticed that it’s actually possible to give principles and help sometimes without giving a connection with God, with Christ and that He is sufficient. That connection, strange as it sounds, is almost easy to overlook when you’re when you’re trying to help someone.
Dale Johnson: People come in counseling and it’s easy for us to, even in our shepherding, focus on problems that we need to fix, sort of like the age-old struggle between married couples, where the wife has an issue and the husband just wants to fix the problem. Pastors have some similar difficulties at times because when they’re counseling, the person’s coming in because a bit of a particular problem. How do you seek to change the mindset of the person who comes in, the one who’s struggling from solving a problem to now seeking the Lord himself?
Rick Holland: I borrow this, this phrase from Dr. Tom Schreiner. I think every Christian is inclined to have a natural over-realized eschatology. What I think he means by that is that we so long for heaven, and cessation of struggle of sin, that we have this intuition that we want to make life and our circumstances as close to that eternal state. Now, as might be then, not realizing that man is born for trouble and evil men will proceed from bad to worse. This world is not going to be, and our lives ultimately are not going to be, trouble free. And yet I think, not only instinctively, but in my own heart, I want to have cessation from issues and problems. And yet, to be able to walk with our Savior, our living, resurrected Lord Jesus, through these troubles, actually takes us away from that over-realized eschatology of trying to make earth heaven and makes us look forward to and long for that day when faith will become sight. But remember, that we are walking by faith and these struggles are intended to sanctify us and make us more like Christ, not to have us turn earth into heaven.
Dale Johnson: It’s really at this level when we’re dealing with the particular struggle of an individual that if we make it about the problem itself and fixing the problem, we miss the beauty and the grandeur of Christ Himself. We missed the beauty of the sufficiency of the scripture in all that he provides. So as we think about that, what is the difference or even overlap between the sufficiency of scripture and the sufficiency in Christ? And why does that difference matter?
Rick Holland: Yeah, there is a difference, and it matters, but there’s a lot of overlap between the sufficiency of the scriptures and the sufficiency of Christ. As a pastor and ongoing counselor, it’s really easy for us to use the sufficiency of the scriptures almost as a manual for problem-solving, and for living, which frankly it is. But if we can get problems mitigated and solved, yet miss the intimacy of walking with our Savior, we’re really doing no more than the psychological model: just trying to get tomorrow better than today. So it’s relational. Jesus says in John 17:3 this is eternal life that they will know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. Meaning that the essence of eternal life is not living forever but it’s knowing God through Christ.
Dale Johnson: All of this that we’ve been talking about relative to sufficiency and Christ and the scriptures, it’s all done within the context of the local church body and the context of body life. Rick, I want you to talk for a second about how can biblical body life promote reliance on Christ’s sufficiency?
Rick Holland: That’s the context for a Christian’s life is the local church. I was thinking about this recently, looking at a list of prayer requests that I’ve been given and I pray for these things but it was interesting to look at how many of the details on that list were related to physical ailments, physical problems, temporal issues, which are all important things to pray for. If I’m having those issues, please pray for me. But when you see Paul, for example, in Colossians 1, he’s praying for an insight and a spiritual wisdom, in a knowledge of God in Christ that transcends the momentary problems, doesn’t ignore them, but it gives a context for understanding and knowing God. So I think our prayer requests and our interaction and our small groups, our care groups, I just wonder if we could all turn up the volume a little bit with each other by saying, not just, how can I serve you by helping with the temporal challenges that we’re all having? How can we know Christ better? How is this situation motivating and launching me into a greater understanding of who God is, how He thinks about me, how I think about Him? It’s relational, not just problem-solving. I don’t want to downplay problem-solving, we all want those to solve. But to solve the problems in the context of body life, I really think it ought to be how we are moving each other toward more intimacy with the living, resurrected Lord Jesus Christ who knows, who cares, who sees.
Dale Johnson: This has been so helpful; it whets my appetite for what’s coming later this week. You’re speaking on Wednesday at our conference and I’m really looking forward to that. And for all of you who are virtual attendees or attendees in person, I look forward to introducing you to my Pastor Rick Holland. So grateful for the discussion today, and this is a very small portion of what we will hear during his plenary session at our Living and Active: Biblical Counseling and the Sufficiency of Scripture.
So, brother, thank you for being here with us grateful for the time we can spend together and looking forward to our time this week at the conference.
Rick Holland: It’s my joy. Thank you.
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