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Teaching Counselees to Study Scripture

Truth In Love 448

Why is it important to study Scripture accurately?

Jan 15, 2024

Dale Johnson: I’m excited to have with me today, Lucas Pace. He’s the Associate Pastor of Compass Bible Church in Aliso Viejo, California. He’s the director of Compass Counseling Center, which is an ACBC-certified training center. He’s a professor of Biblical Counseling at Compass Bible Institute. He has a Masters in New Testament from Talbot Seminary, he has a Doctorate in Educational Ministry from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he’s married to his wife, Heather, and is the father of six children. Brother, I’m grateful to have you here on the podcast, grateful for your work there at Compass Bible in Orange County. So, thanks for joining us today.

Lucas Pace: It’s great to be here. 

Dale Johnson: Now, I’m excited about this as we think about teaching counselees to study Scripture. What an important thing it is. I remember hearing in my missions classes, you don’t want to just catch fish for people and feed it to them. You want to teach them how to fish, that’s the concept adapted really in the counseling room. So, I want you to start off by just explaining some particular reasons that Scripture gives that should motivate us to study God’s Word. 

Lucas Pace: That’s a great question, a great analogy to, you know, don’t just give them the fish but teach them how to fish. I think the problem is when a lot of counselees are coming in. They don’t even have a desire to fish. I mean, I’ve been counseling since 2005 and just from my observation the vast majority of counselees who come in do not study God’s Word, and you ask them how often have you been reading the Bible this last week? They might say once or twice and then you ask them what they read and they have no idea what they read. And so, I think part of the motivation is to show them in Scripture what Scripture has to offer them.

I love reading through the Psalms. There’s so much love for God’s Word that is expressed there. Psalm 119 obviously just talking about the Word of God. The psalmist says, how can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your Word. And so, I think counselees come in and they want a life that is pure, they want a life that is hopefully ridden of sin. But how can they do that? Well, they got to know God’s Word, and to help them make that connection between living a righteous life is needed to be grounded in knowing God through His Word that He has given us and so to have that motivation from the Word of God.

Another Scripture that we all know from Biblical Counseling, 2 Timothy 3 that all Scripture is breathed out by God and it’s useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. So that the man may be competent or complete to do every good work. I want the counselees to say, do you want to do good work that God has, as He says in Ephesians, prepared in advance for us to do? Do you want to do that work? Well that’s connected to Scripture, to know Scripture, to understand Scripture, to be in Scripture, to study Scripture. And if I don’t have it as a counselor a passion for God’s Word and if it’s not seen displayed, as the psalmist has that passion for God’s Word, how is my counselee going to be motivated to get into God’s Word? Because when they leave the counseling session, it’s not what I said, it’s what the Word of God said, and they can have that every single day access to it. If they were motivated to open up God’s Word, to spend time, to engage, to pray through it, to understand it, to live by it. It’s going to be worth their time and it’s going to be worth their while to prioritize spending time in the Word of God.

Dale Johnson: You know, so true and one of the things that you mentioned just at the very end is God is the One who’s their wonderful counselor. And when you give the Word that’s what you’re giving them is a consistent counselor in their life that far supersedes what we could accomplish especially in a one-hour session or however long we might go, that’s critical. Another thing that you said I think is really important earlier is you mentioned connection. I think a lot of people especially as biblical literacy really goes away in our country. One of the things that’s really important is helping people to see the connection of their life and how it’s revealed in Scripture. Some people have no idea that the Scriptures even relevant to their life that is even saying anything about their experiences. And so, people are not even looking in that direction. And so helping them as a counselor to see how relevant the Scriptures are to their life. So, how do we go about Lucas? I mean in your experience, how do you help a counselee dig into Scripture, maybe when they don’t want to or when they don’t see it as something that’s important or necessary?

Lucas Pace: I think Scripture has a lot to say about that as well, you know 1 Peter. It says, like newborn infants, to desire, to yearn for the spiritual milk, which is at the Word of God. So you can grow up into your salvation. And this is if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. And so, there’s a command in Scripture right there to desire, when you don’t desire it, desire it. I tell my counselees all the time, “Do the thing that you don’t want to do because you want to do it.” if you really are in Christ, you really have the Holy Spirit indwelling in you. You do want to know God, you do want to spend time in His Word. And so, do it even though you might not feel like you do it and we do that all throughout our life, right? We don’t want to get up but I get up right because I know I need to get up. So even though I don’t want to do it. I do it. I don’t want to go into work today, but I do want to go into work today because it’s the right thing to do. So I do the things that I don’t want to do because I really do want to do it, as it corresponds with what God would want me to do, and so, to the counselee, you have to do the things that you know are the right things to do because that’s what you really want to do.

Again going back to the psalmist, he says, “I will delight in your statues.” It’s the commitment. I will do this regardless of my feelings regardless if I want to on the surface or not, I will because I do want to that’s the cry of my heart and to help counselees really make that connection. Do you love Jesus? Is He your Lord? Is He your Savior? Do you want to please Him? Well, if you want to please Him, you got to spend time getting in His Word. So let’s do what you want to do, even when you don’t feel like doing it. 

Dale Johnson: I appreciate that. I think as we talk about getting people to want to do this where they see, you know, this is a place where they change what they’ve been doing, insanity is described as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, we’ve got to start doing something different and you’ve talked about the idea of getting them to want to be in Scripture and they see the need of that, but it’s an altogether different thing from a person wanting to be in Scripture and then gleaning things out of Scripture. It’s very important that they read the Scripture in context that they understand what God is actually describing so they can begin to put that into practice. So, talk a little bit about how it’s important or why it’s important to read biblical passages in their context.

Lucas Pace: The context, as we get into Scripture is so important because if we read Scripture out of context, we’re going to make God’s Word say whatever we want it to say, and that’s not what it really says. You know, I was just discipling a young man at our church who has a friend who was a Christian. He goes to a different church and he said that his church they tell them to open up the Bible and whatever page it goes to point your finger down at a verse. And that’s your verse for the day. That is so dangerous because you are not understanding Scripture and the context, who wrote that epistle or who wrote that gospel, who was it written to, and what do we need actually be able to take from that?

So, I think the context, you know, Jesus says in John 14, ask whatever you want in my name, and it’ll be given to you, and ask the Father whatever you want in my name, and I will be given to you. There are people coming in for counseling that are saying, hey I have asked God for a million dollars or I ask God for something more sincere for my mom to be healed from cancer or I asked God for this person to get saved and it hasn’t happened. I can’t trust your God, I can’t trust the Bible. I don’t even want to read anymore because they took one verse out of context and they made it to say something that that verse does not say, and to be able to understand it in context. I mean to figure out what does it really mean to ask in Jesus’s name? Whatever corresponds with Jesus’s name, whatever would be pleasing to Jesus asking that His will be done, not our will be done, that there’s more to be understood in the context and ripping one verse out and saying well, that’s what it means to me. And so, that’s what I should expect from God. No, what did God mean in His Word and then that’s what we should expect from God. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah. That’s right. I mean, He’s the one who defines reality and certainly not us in how we think about it, taking His words and putting it into our world. It’s really discerning our own hearts according to His Word and what He says in His Word. Now, in order to accomplish that somehow most of our counselees who maybe they’re not super connected to church or they’re may be a little bit more immature, or maybe they just never been taught how to study the Bible, talk about some helpful methods that you can use to help counselees study God’s Word?

Lucas Pace: A helpful method that we do in our church at Compass is through discipleship program and the Bible study method, our Senior Pastor came up with it, it’s just an acronym that’s T A N, so we tell people in our church in Southern California get your TAN on, we’re not really talking about the body physical color there. But we’re talking about getting into God’s Word, get your TAN on and what it stands for is the T is the “then” we’re trying to understand what Scripture said then. Again, who the author was, who they’re writing to, what’s the context? What’s the background? What’s the situation?

The A is the “always.” There are principles in Scripture, those eternal truths that translate from one generation to the next generation that are timeless truths. And so, we want to understand what principles are being communicated to us. And then, the most important part which we fail to get to a lot of times when we we read our Bible, read faithful to read our Bible and we understand things and we grow in our knowledge, but what do we need to do with it? How do those principles apply to us today? And so that’s the “N” for the “now.” What am I going to do now because of what God’s Word has said? So when I study it in the context I read through it, I understand who wrote the book of the Bible, who was written to. I get that principle from it. And now, how am I going to apply to my life today? How am I actually going to be a doer of God’s Word and not just a mirror of God’s Word? 

Dale Johnson: That’s sˆuch an important and critical piece because sometimes we think about studying the Bible. We just think about getting knowledge. But the Bible makes very clear that warrant against just a simple hearing of the Word, now we got to end this Bible study that the whole point is that we understand it so that we can now do something that’s a demonstration of faith both in Matthew 7 and in James chapter 1. So, Lucas, in speaking of the doing of the Word, I want you to just one final thing and I have a whole lot of time here, but I want you to take us into the couch. Sing room where you’ve utilized this opportunity to teach a counselee where you’ve seen the Word itself do it work on their part where they’ve learned to study the Word. They’re feeding themselves back to our original analogy where they’re catching the fish, if you will, and you’re seeing them grow tremendously from this type of work in the counseling room. 

Lucas Pace: Yeah, I think of the book of James, just in that first chapter talking about trials and the purpose of trials in the way that God uses trials but to help the counselees understand that they are not unique in their situation just as he starts off the epistle of James, the servant of Christ, servant of God in our Lord Jesus Christ is connection. There is not the half-brother of Jesus. It’s “I’m a servant of God,” and he’s writing to these twelve tribes that are scattered all throughout the region and what’s going on that they’re being persecuted. They’re losing their jobs. They are outcasted. They’re in a horrible situation, and our counselees are coming in difficult trying situations that we can weep with them and care about them and for them to understand Christians have gone through this beforehand. And what is God say to them, “To count it all joy, my brothers, when you face when you meet trials of various kinds because you know that the testing of your faith is going to produce perseverance, you’re going to be mature. You’re going to be complete.” God has a purpose in this and so giving a counselee and say, okay, we’re going to TAN through the book of James and we’re going to start. I’ll say, I want you to read the whole book, you know, three or four times, but then I just want you to focus in on the first three verses, understand the context of what’s going on. And then I want you to write that always statement, that eternal truth. How does that apply to the way that you are going through your trial right now and your difficulty right now? What does God want you to do about it? After a counselee spends a week meditating on, studying God’s Word, and finding joy in it there’s hope because our hope is not in themselves, their hope is not in the trial, their hope is not in escaping the trial, their hope is in God, and what is God doing in them through the trial for His glory.

And so, as the counselor, there’s great joy once you see the lights of their eyes go on and go, “Oh, actually, Scripture does have something for me. It is valuable for my life right now.” And so yeah, that’s just one example of a counselee. Just giving them hope through the Word of God as they read in context. They understand it, they’re studying it, and then they get it and apply it to their life right now. 

Dale Johnson: You know, this is one of the distinctive, Lucas of biblical counseling itself is we believe that the Spirit works through His Word. It is the sword of the spirit and that’s why this topic is really critical and it has to be a key part of our methodology that we’re teaching people we are training people we are comforting people but we’re doing it with the Word and then we’re teaching them how to study as well.

This has been a helpful topic and one that you know, it’s easy for us have been doing this a long time to maybe even forget that how important this is. We need to revisit, this is one of the principles. This is one of the keys. This is one of the distinctives is make sure that we’re helping our counselees know where to find the food so that they can learn to walk faithfully with the Lord through the difficulties of this life. Lucas, we’re grateful for you, brother. Thank you for your work in Orange County at Compass Bible, and thank you for being here on the podcast with us today. 

Lucas Pace: It’s my pleasure.

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