Oasis in the Desert – Good Counsel in the Fellowship of the Saints – Purity 716
Purity 716 04/27/2022 Purity 716 Podcast
Today’s photo of a colorful collection of desert fauna in front of an outcropping of rock underneath a clear blue sky comes to us from a friends recent visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix Arizona back on April 7th.
Hey what, can I say my friend took more than one photo at the botanical garden that have been “share worthy” and when I saw this colorful display in front of that “desert hump” of rock, I knew I had a good photo to represent the midpoint of the work week. So happy “hump day”.
But I also thought this desert display of vibrant life in the most hostile of environments also was a good choice to represent “the church”, that gathering of believers where we can celebrate our lives in Christ and encourage one another in the dry, dusty, and hostile environment of our post Christian society.
They say there is protection in numbers and there is joy in the house of the Lord and this morning I am rejoicing in the wake of revisiting my previous home church last night where I attended a class on biblical counseling. Rock Solid Church in Hudson NY hosts a satellite campus of Vision Christian Bible College and Seminary and last night they began a four week introductory course on Nouthetic Counseling and I was thrilled to be a part of the class as I got to meet some new people and got to see some old friends as we came together to learn and encourage each other in our efforts to provide others with good counsel that was based on the word of God.
Nouthetic Counseling, aka Biblical Counseling, is different from the secular world’s view of psychological counseling in not only it’s standard for truth but also in its focus and methods of implementation.
Where psychoanalysis and other forms of secular counseling are atheistic in their world view, Nouthetic Counseling uses the word of God, the Bible, as its absolute standard for truth. Where as secular counseling has no absolutes and can be a quagmire of confusion born out of its penchant for relativism, Nouthetic Counseling is clear because the Bible is clear on what is right and wrong and it is according to that standard of Biblical morality from which and to which we would counsel people to go.
Whereas a secular counselor may counsel a client who is having an extramarital affair to consider how they feel about their girlfriend and their wife and to consider whether they can manage both relationships or who they should be with based on their feelings, a biblical counselor would stand on the truth of word of God and confront their client with their sin and encourage them to repent of it. Where a secular counselor would be concerned with helping the client to feel good about themselves regardless of their behavior, a biblical counselor would direct their client to change their thoughts and behaviors to align with the truth of scripture. Whereas a secular counselor would sit idly by to allow a counselee to decide what “feels good” or “what works for them”, a biblical counselor would direct their clients to do what was right according to the word of God.
Not only does this biblical standard, from which Nouthetic Counselors work from, set a standard or morality to which one can work toward, it also establishes a different protocol for treatment.
Where as traditional psychoanalysis and other forms of psychotherapy tend to seek root causes of behaviors and allow their clients to endless vent their frustrations with no expectation of resolution to their problems, biblical counseling puts the responsibility on the client to accept the things of the past that may have led them to be where they are but also directs them to work to overcome their problems by changing their thoughts and behaviors to align with the wisdom of God’s word. Whereas secular counseling tends to help clients cope with what happened to them and to accept who they are, the biblical counselor would encourage their clients to forgive those who have harmed them and to endeavor to change by growing into the person God intended for them to be, a person whose life is filled with the fruit of the Spirit rather than the sins of the flesh.
Obviously, as a unlicensed Christian Counselor, I was positively elated that Rock Solid Church hosted this class because often the “hospital for sinners” motif is emphasized in our churches to the exclusion of the victory that we have in Christ. Unfortunately, the church can be a place where people come to vent and complain about their besetting sins and receive prayer for healing, but then don’t have the faith enough to apply their faith to their problems. In some circles our Christianity is treated as a form of magic as people vehemently pray for deliverance from their problems but are not obedient to the call to be disciples. Disciples are to learn the word of God, believe what it says, and to apply to their lives. Instead of accepting defeat to a besetting sin or negative mind state, as Christian we are to repent of our sins, turn from them – stop doing them- and check our emotions and negative mind states with the truth of what the word says about who we are in Christ.
To say that the instructor, Dr. Kimberly Keys, was “preaching to the choir” in me last night would be an understatement. I seated beside my good friend and mentor Bob Costello and more than once I looked his way with eyebrows raised as Dr. Keyes described the necessity of personal responsibility of the believer and the difficulties of counseling people who refused to heed the wisdom ad be obedient to the word of God.
I was greatly encouraged by the gathering of saints last night and pray that this class will lead the participants to be encouraged to apply its wisdom to their own lives and to give good biblical counsel to others. The truth of God’s word and it’s application is the focus of Nouthetic counseling and I know when we understand that we play a part in our own sanctification it can be a game changer. When Christians realize that their obedience to the word of God can significantly change their lives and the lives of others, we can know the truth of Philippians 4::13 here on earth.
Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
That’s why we do what we do. We have learned that when we follow the Lord, He is good and faithful to lead us out of the darkness.
So keep walking and talking with God. Examine your experience and what you were taught by the world by the standards and principles set forth in God’s word. When we challenge the lies of the world, the flesh, the devil, and our past experiences, we discover that we were deceived and that we were living a lie because we were living according to false information. When we start living according to the truth of God’s word, we discover that we are no longer alone. If God is for us who can be against us? And we also discover that we more than conquerors, as those of us who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, have received the power of the Holy Spirit and that we can utilize it by agreeing with what the Bible says about who we are in Christ and by doing what the word tells us to do.
This world can seem like a desert where we are all alone but when we walk with the Lord, we can find others that others that our following Him too and when we agree with His word and decide to live by it, the living waters of the Holy Spirit can produce an oasis of healing, strength, and love in even the most hostile places.
Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.
This morning’s meditation verse is:
4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Today’s Bible verse reminds us that God’s economy is different from that of the world and that humbleness is considered to be greatness in God’s eyes.
The secular world is concerned with self-esteem. We are to esteem ourselves as “Good enough, smart enough and, doggone it”, someone that people like! This “Stuart Smalley” daily affirmation may seem harmless but actually is the root of idolatry and can easily lead to depression because it sets ourselves as someone special, according to ourselves, and is based on measures of performance that we can’t control and will almost definitely be contradicted by reality.
If you are anything like me, you will repeatedly discover that in some areas you are “not smart enough”, “not good enough”, and gee whiz some how people don’t like me!
Self-esteem is subjective and idolatrous. Esteem means to respect and admire. So self esteem means that we respect and admire ourselves and it is not contingent on our being someone we should respect and admire.
We can respect and admire the way a car thief can be “Gone and 60 seconds” by hotwiring a car but it doesn’t make it right!
Likewise, we can admire and respect the way we “did it our way” and golly gee I like me “just the way I am” warts and all, but God wants you to be worthy of respect and admiration by living a good and righteous life.
As Creator God assigns worth to His creation, not us. He also determines the standards by which we are to be judged.
He demonstrates our worth to us, by sending Christ to die for us. If we accept our “redemption”, we were bought for a high price. In Christ, we are worth a “priceless” amount as God loved us enough to pay for us with the life of His only begotten and beloved Son. In Christ, we are worthy.
However, the life we have, if it is not redeemed, is a waste! If we don’t realize our worth in Christ, our lives will be lost, we will be punished for our sins, and we will be separated from God for all eternity.
One of the most painful things we experience in life is seeing someone needlessly suffering. Someone who could be helped but refuses it. When we see that we think: What a waste! And when we don’t have peace with God though faith in Christ, that’s what our lives become: a waste.
Our worth is realized in Christ. It isn’t something we establish. So as today’s verse indicates, we should be humble as a little child because no matter how we esteem ourselves, our worth is only realized in Christ. When we are humble, we make Jesus our Lord and Savior and that is how the humble can become one of the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.
Today we continue sharing from John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life”.
As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase John Pipers’ books for your own private study and to support his work. This resource is available on many websites for less than $5.00.
4 -Magnifying Christ Through Pain and Death
Living to magnify Christ is costly. This is not surprising. He was crucified. He was treated like a devil. And he calls us to follow him. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). He says it will probably not go better for us than for him. “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:25).
But suffering with Jesus on the Calvary road of love is not merely the result of magnifying Christ; it is also the means. He is made supreme when we are so satisfied in him that we can “let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also” and suffer for the sake of love. His beauty shines most brightly when treasured above health and wealth and life itself. Jesus knew this. He knew that suffering (whether small discomforts or dreadful torture) would be the path in this age for making him most visibly supreme. That is why he calls us to this. He loves us. And love does not mean making much of us or making life easy. It means making us able to enjoy making much of him forever—no matter what it costs.
We Boast Best in the Cross When We Bear It
And it costs us dearly. The normal Christian life is one that boasts only in the cross—the blazing center of God’s glory—and does it while bearing the cross. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). Bearing the cross is the means by which we are increasingly liberated to boast in the cross. Suffering is God’s design in this sin-soaked world (Romans 8:20). It portrays sin’s horror for the world to see. It punishes sin’s guilt for those who do not believe in Christ. It breaks sin’s power for those who take up their cross and follow Jesus. And because sin is the belittling of the all-satisfying glory of God, the suffering that breaks its power is a severe mercy.
Whatever makes us more and more able to enjoy making much of God is a mercy. For there is no greater joy than joy in the greatness of God. And if we must suffer to see this and savor it most deeply, then suffering is a mercy. And Christ’s call to take up our cross and join him on the Calvary road is love.
Bonhoeffer’s Radical Book for My Generation
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a gift to my generation of students. I pray that his costly message will be rediscovered in each generation. Even though he died at the age of thirty-nine, his life was not wasted. His life and death continue to speak with power. He was hanged in the concentration camp at Flossenbürg, Germany, on April 9, 1945. He had been a pastor and teacher and leader of a small training school for the confessing church and had participated in the Protestant resistance movement against the Nazis.
The book that set fire to the faith of thousands in my generation was called The Cost of Discipleship. I read it on Christmas break during my senior year in college. Probably the most famous and life-shaping sentence in the book was, “The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Fleeing from death is the shortest path to a wasted life.
Bonhoeffer’s book was a massive indictment of the “cheap grace” that he saw in the Christian Church on both sides of the Atlantic. He believed in justification by grace through faith. But he did not believe that the faith that justifies could ever leave people unchanged by the radical Christ they claim to believe. That was a cheap response to the Gospel. “The only man,” he said, “who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”
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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship