These are adapted from our church’s Practical Ministering tweets. Just some quick thoughts about applying the Gospel and God’s Word to the troubled spots in a believer’s life:
1) Most people in our culture don’t have a problem with loving themselves too little. A good underpinning for most Christian counseling would be “eyes off self, eyes on the holy God.” In our counseling let us talk of, be in awe of, worship, and apply the truths of the Lord “who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him” (from Zechariah 12:1).
2) Encourage single Christian women to ask of a potential husband “Will he lead me closer to my Savior or further away?” “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (from Ephesians 5). Encourage single women to ask about men, “We will he help me be holier?”
3) “Then Abraham fell on his face” (Gen 17:3). That was in response to the Gospel promises of God (Galatians 3:8). Many in this culture need a little more that, and a little less self-focused therapy. Let us counsel Christians to spend as much or more time in worship of God than they are self-analyzing.
4) Never overestimate your own power to change yourself, and never underestimate Christ’s power to change you.
5) A stubborn refusal to submit to God-sanctioned authority is usually a sign of something deeply sinful in the heart. Within certain limits, the Old and New Testaments command Christians to submit to governing authorities, slaves to submit to masters (though I believe both Testaments sow the seeds of human slavery’s final end), wives to submit to husbands, children to submit to parents, church members to submit church leaders, Christians to submit to each other, and all of us to submit to the Lord God. Submitting to evil is not commanded, but submitting to God-ordained imperfect authority is a part of the Christian earthly life. To be generally stiff-necked with unbending knees is a sign of some sin that needs to be repented of and forgiven.
6) There is a great tonic for the soul that’s almost never offered in modern counseling: Repentance. While we do certainly need love, acceptance, affection, help, conversation, and many other good things, our primary need as individuals is forgiveness from Almighty God for our sins against Him and others. Without that, everything else is like taking Tylenol for a brain tumor: You may treat a symptom or two, but what’ll kill you is still in there.
7) Heart change cannot come through purely secular therapeutic methods. Only God can change what and whom you love. It is not simply our behaviors that need to be changed but what/whom we love and what/whom we worship. We are not merely broken; we are also idolaters.
8) Most Christians need to be reminded that we are both more valued and less worthy than we think, and that we are more furiously loved but less indispensable than we think. Almost all of us have an inflated view of ourselves, which gives us a deflated view of God’s grace. It’s impossible to feel redeemed, forgiven, rescued, and saved when you think you were a pretty good person whose skills and abilities are vital to the Divine mission. Self-esteem is a far less effective, less eternal fix than repentance and faith in Jesus Christ’s grace.
I hope this list was helpful, but in no way was it meant to be exhaustive. We will continue to blog on practical ways to minister God’s Good Word to hurting, sinful, or confused Christians (I am at times all three) in the future.