Thursday, March 26, 2015

Counseling & Chapters 14-20

Most people have a concept of what counseling is, but what is this reference to "Chapters 14-20"?  We have been discussing aspects of counseling and theology, mainly using the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.  Thus far, my aim has been to show that a). theology matters in counseling (yes, the use of the Scriptures in counseling, but even beyond that, a systematic understanding of doctrine/theology as well) & b). confessions help accomplish that goal.

One of the main privileges of my counseling work is to be able to share the gospel, apply the gospel, and connect the gospel to the problems, issues, hurts and pains that counselees have.  However, in our day, the word "gospel" is fraught with a plethora of definitions.  I pastor a local Reformed Baptist Church.  I counsel within this body as a pastor. However, in a very part time capacity, I still counsel at a local Christian counseling center.  In this location, I counsel believers and non-believers alike.  Usually it is persons who claim Christ that I end up counseling.   However, I have found that when I use the Word gospel (*how the gospel serves as a model in marriage, *how the gospel drives our freedom from guilt and shame, *how the gospel fuels our parenting of children, *how the gospel provides hope in the midst of depression that doesn't seem to go away, *how the gospel is a sure foundation even in the midst of experiencing delusional thoughts, or sometimes, psychosis, *how the gospel defeats our bitterness...etc.), I have to "re-teach" it.  This I do not mind doing.  However, for so many who come in for counseling, the gospel means something like "praying a prayer and asking Jesus to come into your heart", or "God, through Jesus allowing us to clean our lives up".  While elements of these two definitions may be offshoots of the gospel, they are NOT the gospel.

I have found that I need to teach about God's just wrath for sin, His holiness, and his perfect justice.  I need to teach about Jesus taking the wrath of God on behalf of all those who would ever trust in Jesus.  I need to teach in simple words what propitiation means.  I also need to talk about Christ's perfect record of righteousness being imputed to us...about Christians being seen through the righteousness of Christ.  I need to teach about how we are not saved by keeping the law, but rather, the moral law is now something with which we are free to glorify God.  Often, at the end of a counseling discussion which has encompassed these truths, the reaction on the part of the counselee is both shock and comfort.  Shock in that they say they "had never heard it that way before."  Comfort in that, perhaps for the first time, the gospel has become a message that was about more than religion or heaven when they die, but about continued standing before God. 

Chapters 14-20 of the Baptist Confession (LBCF 1689) are so helpful in getting believers, pastors, scholars...and counselors into the "nitty-gritty" of the gospel.  Written as theology, there are also soul-counseling components.  Just look, and rejoice in some of these theological truths:

"This faith, although it be different in degrees, and may be weak or strong, yet it is in the least degree of it different in the kind or nature of it, as is all other saving grace, from the faith and common grace of temporary believers; and therefore, though it may be many times assailed and weakened, yet it gets the victory, growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith."-LBCF 14.3

"Such is the provision which God hath made through Christ in the covenant of grace for the preservation of believers unto salvation; that although there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation; yet there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation on them that repent; which makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary."- LBCF 15.5

"Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity."- LBCF 17.1

"This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it...yet are they never destitute of the seed of God and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due time be revived, and by the which, in the meantime, they are preserved from utter despair. "- LBCF 18.3-4

LBCF-19 -God's moral law is not a burden, but a safeguard, a freeing delight, and a means of rejoicing in the gospel.

"The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life, God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, as the means of calling the elect, and begetting in them faith and repentance; in this promise the gospel, as to the substance of it, was revealed, and [is] therein effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners. " LBCF 20.1

In these there is truth of theology, and yet very practical application to the believer's life.  Counselors, we will not always discuss theology directly.  We may not even have the opportunity to use the word "gospel", but when we do, let us be reminded and remind our counselees as well,  that theology ushers forth praise, and comfort comes in rightly understanding what God has done in the gospel, and we dare not think that a deep understanding of the gospel is not profitable in counseling.  God's people are so hungry for the food of God's Word...and Confessions help in the eating.