Christ-Reflecting Biblical Counseling: Part 1

bibleIn preparing for a Biblical Counseling Conference, I stumbled upon a blog from a woman who had been raised in a fundamentalist Christian Church.  In reading her experiences as well as some experiences of others who have been raised in a fundamentalist church, I am grieved by how many people who are “put off” by supposed “Biblical counseling” and even moreso grieved at the misuse and abuse of God’s Word, especially by fundamentalism Christianity.  Let me share a few thoughts on how, I believe, true Biblical Counseling reflects Christ:

1. True Biblical Counseling is administered by humble individuals who are willing to come alongside the sufferer as a fellow sufferer.  Philippians  2 reminds us how Christ humbled himself, became like us, and walked with us on our level.  He did not stand above us to condemn us (even though we deserve this), but came along side of us, even becoming a servant and considering us better than himself.  In humility, there is listening more than advising.  In humility, there is love for the person and not judgment over the person.  In humility, there is a willingness to enter the person’s world.  In humility, there is also biblical instruction, but the instruction is always clothed in love.

2. True Biblical Counseling is about counseling God’s Word as it is intended.  God’s Word is not a set of rules and standards in which we must  live so that God will be pleased with us.  Therefore we must not use God’s Word in such a way (the 10 Commandments were to show how salvation can only come from God and not from obedience to the law).  The Scriptures are God’s inerrant & inspired Word that share how a holy, loving, and righteous God demonstrates His grace (unmerited favor) on us through Christ.  That through faith, we may have a relationship with Him.  Though we pursue Christ-likeness, this can only be achieved by Him working in us through His grace and Spirit, and not through heart-less actions of obedience.  God’s Word must be used in Biblical Counseling, but it must not be used as a book of standards to force upon people, but as God’s book which reveals His holy character and abundant love to us so that we may be in relationship to Him through grace, by faith.

3. True Biblical Counseling is not simply about sharing God’s Word, but it is about the manner in which it is shared.  When we look at the life of Christ and his interactions with people and sufferers, we see several things: 1) His interactions with those who were seeking God (Zaccheus, Peter, Mary (who washed his feet), etc.), involved in sin (Woman at the Well) and even those who have been caught in sin (woman caught in adultery) as compassionate and loving.  Yet, at the same time, 2) though Jesus made himself available to the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, and He even ate with them at times, his harshest words were for them…for the self-righteous who were not compassionate and loving towards others and who saw His Word as a Law to uphold to earn the favor of God.  In counseling, most people who enter our offices or churches are those who are involved in sin.  Yet they are also seeking God (Why else would they come to a biblical counselor?).  Therefore, our counsel must be clothed in compassion & love.

These are only some thoughts on how Biblical Counseling must also be Christ-reflecting.  Stay tuned for Christ-Reflecting Biblical Counseling: Part 2 for more thoughts.   What would you add or challenge to these thoughts?

SUCCESS!

When I was in Jr. High School, one of the cheerleaders accustomed to the cheer “S-U-C-C-E-S-S, that’s the way we spell SUCCESS!” spelled the word “success” wrong on her spelling test.  She was not successful, at least not in spelling that word.  Many years have passed and I’m sure she ismore successful now.  What about you?  Are you successful?  Are you successful in life? In marriage?  In parenting?  In your job?  What are the standards in which you measure success?  Here are a few standards that were sent to me by my spamfather (aka father-in-law) Bob:

At age 4 success is not peeing in your pants.

At age 12 success is having friends.

At age 16 success is having a drivers license.

At age 35 success is having money.

At age 50 success is having money.

At age 70 success is having a drivers license.

At age 75 success is having friends.

At age 80 success is not peeing in your pants.

We all have different standards of success in life.  Success may mean different things to different people.  But what does success mean to God?  Does God define success by our standards of having 2.5 kids, a white pickett fence, spouse, dog, cat, and a job that pays well?  No.  I believe He might define our success as being

S-inners

U-nder

C-hrist’s

C-ross

E-very

S-ingle

S-econd.

Success in His eyes is to believe in Christ’s death on the cross and have our lives demonstrate this belief through our actions.  We will not be perfect in this.  Being perfect is what Christ had done.  That is His success.  Not ours.  Ours is to believe and live out our beliefs through obedience.  And when we fail, we return to the cross and believe.  His success in living, dying, and raising from the dead will always trump our failings.  It is all that matters.  Did your marriage fall apart?  Did you lose your job? Did you only have 1.5 kids?  Don’t let these things bring you down.  Only the Accuser wants to point out your failings.  Only the Accuser calls you a failure.  The present and future chapters have yet to be lived.  So partner with Christ to live your life successfully!

Meeting the Standard

Standard:  An acknowledged measure of comparison for quantitative or qualitative value;  A degree or level of requirement, excellence, or attainment; A requirement of moral conduct (www.thefreedictionary.com).

Setting a standard.  A standard of measurement.  Standardized tests.  Certain standards have been around, it seems, forever.  In the Old Testament, God had given Moses the Ten Commandments to express to the Israelites His standards that they were to meet.  The Ten Commandments were God’s law that was to be obeyed in love and fear of Him.  As none could follow the law, the law pointed to something greater:  Grace given through Christ.

Because of our sinful nature, we have a tendency to want to live according to certain standards as well as to set standards for others.  Where did these standards come from?  These standards may be originally mentioned through Scripture, they can be the standards of others for us, like parents or other authority figures or loved ones; or they can be standards that we set up for ourselves.   When we fail to meet these standards, we will be punished by those who made those standards (whether ourselves or others).  If, as a child, my parents set the standard of me not painting the cat, blue, and I painted the cat, blue, then I would be punished (I should have painted the cat red, instead!  Just kidding, we never had a cat) for not meeting that standard.  If I failed to meet the standard of my own making, I would punish myself by sulking and getting down on myself (followed by comfort food).

We regularly make standards for ourselves and for others to meet.  We call them expectations.  These expectations vary depending on our mood, the time of day, the person, and the location.  For example, when some wives are upset, they may expect their husbands to talk to them, to cuddle, or to leave them alone to figure things out.  These are the expectations that vary according to moods and situations.  These are the standards.  These are the law.  When they are not met successfully by their husbands, there is disappointment, hurt, and possibly expressed anger for not meeting the expectations.

All of us have standards for others and ourselves.  The problem is, they are like God’s law (10 Commandments) in that they cannot be met all the time.  Sometimes, yes…but all the time, impossible.  Instead of them being God’s law, however, it is our law.  We have raised ourselves to like God (as king) who has the right to punish others and ourselves for not meeting the standards we have set.

In striving to become like Christ, we must recognize how God responds to us when we fail to meet His standards. What does He do but give us grace.  He does this through Christ who willingly took the punishment for our sins upon himself.  Now, when we fail to meet God’s standards, we seek His forgiveness and receive his forgiveness through Christ.

But when others fail to meet our standards and expectations, how do we respond?  Is it in recognizing Christ’s sacrifice for them, too, in the forgiveness of their sins against us?  Can we recognize the grace that we have received in failing to meet His laws and give that grace to others who have not met our standards and laws?

Think about your own standards and expectations of others.  What will you do when they fail to meet them? Ask yourself, what did Christ do for me that he hasn’t done for them?  Will you look to give punishment that you have not received from God or will you look to extend the grace that you have received through Christ?  Think about it.