Eternal Directives…

The inspired Word of God is very specific about its directives to all born again believers in Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 28:19,20 we are directed to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and to teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us.

In Mark 16:15 we are directed to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

In Luke 24:46-47 we are reminded that the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.

Why is it then that there are so many born-again believers in Jesus Christ who pay more attention to “worldly” nonsense than to the “eternal” message of Jesus Christ?  Why are there so many believers who would rather “preach” a message of “abundant life” than the message of “repentance and forgiveness of sins”?

If not for the “cross of Christ” we would all still be lost, condemned, cursed and eternally separated from God.  This is the message that we are instructed to tell people; this is the message that brings hope into the life of every person wanting to be reconciled to God.  Why aren’t born again believers doing what the Lord has commanded them to do, now that they have received the gift of the Father’s grace?

Don’t be complacent because you are “saved” and “redeemed”.  Don’t be insensitive to the condition of those who are still “lost” and “separated” from God.  Walk in the shadow of the compassion that was shown to you by the Father and Jesus Christ; walk in the gratitude of the love that was demonstrated by Christ on the cross.  Pay more attention to the message that holds eternal consequences and less time on the messages of this world that have no significance.

Show the love for your neighbor by preaching to them their need for repentance so that they too may receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and redemption; and be more willing to teach them in the way of sanctification.

Remember: The Lord is not wanting for anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance. (2Peter 3:8-9)

Nouthetic Confrontation

For some reason, it appears as though many Christians do not believe they can speak out against sinful thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors they see manifest in other Christian’s lives.  Well, I believe this is a dangerous position to take.

You see, desensitization to the Word of God is a dangerous thing.  Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines desensitization in this way:  to make emotionally insensitive or callous; specifically to extinguish an emotional response to stimuli that formerly induced it.  (Such as fear, anxiety, or guilt)

Now in the context of a brother or sister in Christ sinning, it is the emotional response of guilt that makes them aware of their offenses and transgressions against God and/or their neighbor.  Without guilt, a person has no ability to experience remorse, regret, or sorrow over what they have done.

Now we know that man is not perfect.  Man will always make mistakes.  Man will always fall short of God’s moral standards, so it is critical then, that man remains conscious of his shortcomings.  It is critical that man has a heart, a mind and a will to correct those shortcomings and minimize their occurrences in his life.  Desensitization to guilt prevents this from happening.

Scripture mandates every Christian to confront one another through a process of confrontation called Nouthesia.  It is a Greek noun.  It is defined in the lexical dictionary as “an admonition, a warning, or an exhortation.   Any word of encouragement or reproof which leads to correct behavior.”

Now the Bible is our utility tool, our manual, our guide for providing Nouthetic guidance because it is God’s Word of moral instruction to us as it pertains to living holy and righteous lives in the body of Christ.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us:  “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

God has given us a moral compass to use in our daily interactions with each other.  The Holy Bible. Therefore, by it, we can have accountability to one another so that we can be a “facilitory agent” in each other’s lives for spiritual growth and maturation.  Our responsibility to ourselves and to others is to live by God’s moral compass.

However, many born-again believers are failing and even running away from fulfilling this responsibility.  Instead of spiritual growth and maturation, there is spiritual retardation and adolescence as it pertains to living holy and righteous lives, because of the failure to execute nouthetic confrontation in the lives of those who demonstrate wayward actions.  They are not held accountable to the Word of God.  No one warns or admonishes them by the Word of God and consequently, they remain outside the will of God; living defeated lives with an immature faith.

Let me take a moment and show you how accountability will facilitate obedience.

If I find myself doing something that is not in accord with God’s standard, then you would be correct in saying that I am off center or missing the mark.  Now the longer I remain there, the more rooted I will become there and the more distant I will remain from God’s moral expectation of my life.

If no one confronts me for being off the mark or holds me accountable for my wayward conduct, then I will continue to be disobedient to God’s morality and will remain off center. Something has to motivate me to move back in line.  Something has to awaken my sense of guilt for being off the mark. That something is nouthetic confrontation from another brother or sister in Christ.

Proverbs 27:17 tells us: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”.

The lexical definition of “sharpens” in this text of scripture means to make something stronger or to improve. Therefore, to state this proverb using this definition would sound like this:  “As iron strengthens and improves iron, so one man strengthens and improves another.” This is through the process of Nouthetic confrontation.

Knowing this, tell me why so many born-again believers in Jesus Christ are not confronting one another?   What is the reason for tolerating ungodliness in another Christian’s life?  Well, I believe it has to do with one of two things: either apathy or fear.

If you find that you fall into the category of apathy, then I say this to you-you are sinning against the second command given by Jesus, which states we are to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

This love is agape love.  The love that esteems others, cherishes others, favors others, honors others, respects others, accepts others, prizes others, relishes others, is devoted to others, is loyal to others, and is concerned for others.  If you are apathetic toward your neighbor how can love them in this way?

If you find that you fall into the category of the fearful who are afraid of man’s possible repercussions from confrontation, which might involve verbal accosting, ostracism or even physical assault, then I say this to you-you are not trusting God for the veracity and wisdom of his word.  You are not trusting God for the truth of his instruction.  You do not have the conviction of:

Psalm 56:3, which states, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”

Psalm 56:4 which states, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?”

Or

 Psalm 118:8, which states, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”

You see, to confront is to love openly.  Not to confront is to be unloving.

Proverbs 27:5 tells us “better is open rebuke than hidden love.”

Therefore, it is time you started practicing your faith and demonstrating Christian love one to another from the perspective of obedience to the mandate in Scripture of nouthetically confronting your neighbor when you see sin abound in their lives.

Let me give you one last illustration of the how the Lord expects us to love one another through nouthetic confrontation.

In the world when someone commits a crime, it is because they have done something outside the boundaries of the law. They become wanted criminals and walk around ever mindful the police are looking for them.

One day they are spotted by the police and stopped.  The officer has grounds to search them and does so by “frisking” them down to see if there are any illegal items they might be carrying on their person.  If the officer finds something, he takes it away – he confiscates it.  It is no longer in the possession of the person.

Well in the kingdom of God, we are mandated to do to each other what the police officer did to the criminal suspect.  We have been given legal grounds to “frisk” one another down.  We have been given legal grounds to use the Word of God to search for any ungodliness in the lives of one another when they have committed sin.  When we see the ungodliness, we are to be a facilitory agent in the confiscation of it.

By that, I mean we are to teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness through the use of God’s instructions as mandated in the Bible; to bring to light the ungodly contraband our brother or sister may be carrying in their lives.  We are to use the authority of the Word of God when we “frisk”.  Only using the truth of the Word of God will bring conviction, and only conviction will birth the awareness of guilt that will be the catalyst for change.

If we all can become proficient in utilizing the process of Nouthetic guidance one to another, we would see great strides made in the lives of every born-again believer as it pertains to their spiritual growth and maturation in the body of Christ.

You Need To Be Ashamed Of Yourself…

Let me speak to my professing Christian brothers and sisters who are struggling with issues of forgiving.

Can you tell me what is it about forgiveness that causes so much upheaval in your soul?  How come you find yourself wrestling and struggling so hard with the notion of having to let someone “off the hook” who has offended you?  What is there that is so valuable in getting “your pound of flesh”?  Is punishing someone because they have offended you really so rewarding and satisfying?  Please, help me understand your pattern of thinking.

I mean, I understand that you profess to be a Christian, meaning you have entrusted your life to Jesus Christ by inviting Him into your heart.  I understand He forgave all of your sins and redeemed you back to the Father; rescued you from eternal damnation and separation and gave you the gift of eternal life.  I understand that you are “born again”, from above, by the incorruptible seed of the Father and you are a new creation – old things have passed away and behold all things have become new in your life.  Is this true?

Well, if so, then tell me why you struggle with giving to someone else that which you received so freely?  Wasn’t forgiveness given to you for all of your sins? Yet you say you cannot forgive someone for his or her sin against you?  Why is that?

What makes you more worthy to receive forgiveness over your brother or sister in Christ? Are you any better than they are?  Have you not also been guilty of hurting others or doing wrongs in the sight of God?

In 1Corinthians 6:9-11 we are told this –

“Don’t you know that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God?  Don’t fool yourselves.  Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers-none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God.  There was a time when some of you were just like that, but now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God.  You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you.”

Did you get that?  At one time in your life you also were not worthy of the Kingdom of God, remember?  Have you become so holy and sanctified until you believe you can dictate to the body of Christ who is and who is not worthy to receive forgiveness?  Are you suffering from some form of dementia where you cannot remember that it is only a result of God’s divine forgiveness that you are justified by faith in Jesus Christ?

Let me repeat to you what God has told you in Romans 3:21-26 –

 “But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight – not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago.  We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins.  And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.  For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty.  He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.  For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us.  We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.  God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times.  And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus.”  

How then can you think you have any power or authority to impute righteousness or justification on anyone?  Are you God?  How can you have the audacity to say to an offender that they are not worthy of forgiveness?  Have you lost your mind?  Do not forget that you too were a sinner forgiven and redeemed only by the grace of God.

Who has deceived you into thinking you have the right to refuse an offender forgiveness?  Who told you that was the will of God for you as a believer?  I know it wasn’t the Father; I know it wasn’t the Holy Spirit, and I certainly know it wasn’t Jesus.  Therefore, it could only mean that it was the devil himself who darkened the counsel of God in your mind.  Do not allow yourself to be duped into his lies.  Do not get so puffed up with righteous indignation and resentment toward an offender that you fall out of God’s grace.

You know, there was a great English Poet by the name of Alexander Pope who penned the famous phrase:  To err is human, to forgive divine.  He had insight into God’s will concerning forgiveness that you need to assent to.  That is, humans will err – all the time; it is their nature.  But the nature of God is to forgive.  God’s will is that you love one another and that you leave no debt outstanding between one another except the continuing debt of love, which you can never repay.

As a Christian, a born-again redeemed believer in Jesus Christ, this should be your pulse.  Like your physical pulse reflects the rhythmic beating of your physical heart, love should reflect the rhythmic beating of your spirit.  If you profess to be a Christian, your walk must be in accordance with God’s will, which exemplifies his divine character.  That character is love.

You owe it to your Christian brothers and sisters, seventy-times-seven, to forgive them when they offend you.  God demands it of you.  He is so emphatic about the command that he reminds you in Matthew 6:14-15 –

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Therefore, stop struggling with granting forgiveness.  Rise above your carnal desires and honor God.  Let the fruit of your redemption be exemplified in the way you trust him and follow his righteous commands.  Stop playing the part of a Christian and start being the Christian.  Ask God to give you grace to walk in his wisdom; ask God to search your heart for anything that is not clean and to purge it from you.  Do not be a fool and despise the wisdom and instruction of God.

Always remember this: Christians are forgiving people because they have been forgiven.

An Admonition to the Biblical Counselor

The Lord in His Word is very specific in His admonition to the believer concerning the progressive societal decline that is to come.

2Timothy 3:1-5

But mark this:  There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power…

 2Timothy 4:3-4

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Anyone who has eyes and ears can testify to seeing this happening today in their own backyard and must agree that the fruit of this produces a societal culture of unorthodox lifestyles that are growing larger and larger and that contribute to the decline of biblical morals and values with each succeeding generation.

The biblical counselor is in the trenches with people who come to them as by-products of this societal degradation carrying problems, concerns, and crises that need attention; that need to be resolved but cannot because the societal solution only leads them deeper and deeper into degradation.  It is challenging therefore to the biblical counselor to transform the ungodly patterns of thought that pervade the hearts and minds of their counselee.

I therefore give the following admonition to the biblical counselor who is called to be a facilitory agent in the life of someone who needs guidance from God’s Word.

It is purposed to have the prospective counselor take inventory of his or her own motivation and intent of wanting to become a vessel of the Lord to be used in the arena of a counseling session.

Be prepared for the head-to-head combat of biblical counseling.

I chose this statement because I want to convey to you a very important truth about counseling from a biblical perspective.  A truth that is only experienced by the counselor who is actively engaged on the proverbial battlefield of the counseling session.

Therefore, this truth is an experiential truth.  That means it is experienced or lived out; not studied in the classroom or in a lecture hall; but experienced or lived out in the mind of the person or persons the counselor is counseling.

You see, the counselor finds out very quickly that the counselee’s mind is a fortified bunker that protects and feeds into something of an eternal value that is deep inside the counselee.   The counselee’s heart.

The truth therefore, that I want you to come to know and understand is this:

The counselor must first strategically overcome this bunker in the mind of the counselee before any pursuit can be undertaken to destroy any stronghold found in the heart of the counselee.

You see, there is a direct link between the bunker and the heart. However, before any release of hostages is made in the heart of the counselee, the counselor, must first understand and embrace this truth, and then, overcome the bunker in the only method of engagement he has: that is head-to-head combat.

Notice I said head-to-head and not hand-to-hand.

I chose this metaphor because it graphically depicts the dynamics of the initial engagement you will have with a counselee’s presentation problem.

No, they do not come at you swinging their fists; they come at you swinging their intellectual arguments and intellectual persuasions; their justifications and rationalizations concerning their morals, beliefs, thoughts and conduct.

At your first introduction to the counselee, you will step onto a battlefield where you become directly engaged and entangled in the mind of someone whose is under the influence of an ungodly persuasion of the adversary.

Now do not be deceived by some erroneous thought about why people come for counseling; especially professing Christians.  Not everyone you see in session is eager to hear from God. Not everyone you see in session is eager to do what God instructs.  Many times the counselee’s arguments and persuasions are contrary to God’s, and submitting to God and His Word would be to go against the deeply rooted persuasions and arguments the adversary has planted in their hearts.

This is a known fact. If it were not true, there would be no need for them to seek out counseling.  They would not have to seek you out for help.  They would know to be obedient to the Holy Spirits’ leading in their life and would be malleable in allowing Him to transform them in their present circumstance, so you would not be needed.

However, you will discover that many who come into session are truly perverted in their theology, and in need of transformation due to their illiteracy of God’s Word or either their rebellion towards it.

So let me say to you again:

Be prepared for the head-to-head combat of biblical counseling.

As a vessel of the Lord, you will be tested and tried by the counselee. You will be stretched, pressed, and pushed by the counselee into a proverbial corner many times in your encounters until you overcome the resistance put up from counselee’s bunker.

You see, if the truth be told, every counselee has an opinion concerning their situation, and that opinion is fortified in that bunker.  For many, it is fortified and under girded by perverted morals and values that the adversary has deceived the counselee into believing are true.

And though you may not agree with their opinions, if not careful, those very opinions will strike you like flak from an artillery barrage and you may find yourself consequently expending an unexpected and unplanned amount of energy keeping your own flesh under subjection during the barrage than you would have ever imagined.

Therefore, let it be known that it is imperative for you, the counselor, to be prepared spiritually before you engage any counselee.

Well, what do you mean by that Elder?

I mean this: if you, the counselor, are not rooted, anchored, and committed to the Word of God, and willing to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit, then you should not go into battle with any counselee. Do not be deceived.  The devil is more than a worthy opponent to the unstudied and uncommitted babe in Christ.

In order to survive any head-to-head encounter with the adversary, the counselor must be committed to letting the Holy Spirit work through them.  The counselor must not only have God’s Word inside of himself or herself, but they must be proficient in rightly dividing the Word of truth and speaking what God wants them to speak.

The counselor’s convictions, arguments, and persuasions must be the same as the Lord’s as it pertains to holiness, righteousness and purity.  The counselor must have a faith that is strong enough and rooted enough in the Lord Jesus Christ to allow themselves to be used at all cost in the battlefield of the counseling session.

Understand one thing.  Scripture reminds us that we do not struggle against flesh and blood.  That means we are not engaged or entangled in physical warfare.  Scripture tells us we struggle against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  That means we are engaged and entangled in spiritual struggles against the adversary and his kingdom.

Therefore, the counselor must be prepared spiritually to do battle against the counselee’s bunker as the Lord directs and leads.

Again, I say:

Be prepared for the head-to-head combat of biblical counseling.

I leave you with this thought:

People will believe what they want to believe, not necessarily what they need to believe.

With that in mind, know that you will be on a journey with the Lord in moving from the counselee’s head or bunker, where you will battle the presentation and pattern of thinking levels, to entering his or her heart, where you will fight the final battle of the performance and preconditioning levels.

Be a weak vessel for the Lord that loses the battle of the bunker and you will never engage the adversary’s foothold in the counselee’s heart.

Remember and never forget that you are the conduit for the Holy Spirit. You are the vessel for the Lord.  You will be the mouthpiece for the Lord.  You will be His soldier on the battlefield of the counseling session.

Will you be prepared for the battle?  Will you be able to stand firm and strong for the Lord when you come up against the counselee’s bunker?  Will you be able to bring every thought that is contrary to the knowledge of God under subjection and make it obedient to Christ?  Do you have enough compassion for your counselee to persevere the hardships of the struggles you will have in overcoming the bunker as the Lord has?

I pray for the sake of the counselee that you are prepared.

I close in stating to you again:

Be prepared for the head-to-head combat of biblical counseling.

Now may the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.