95 Affirmations for Gospel-Centered Biblical Counseling

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by Bob Kellemen

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his now famous 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. In doing so, Luther was launching a reformation in how the church understood the gospel of Christ’s grace for salvation.

In 2010, over three dozen biblical counseling leaders gathered together to launch the Biblical Counseling Coalition (BCC). Over the next nine months, they crafted ten drafts of what became the BCC’s Confessional Statement. In doing so, they were seeking to capture in summary form how the church understands the gospel of Christ’s grace for sanctification and one-another ministry—applying the gospel to daily Christian living.

In September 2017, New Growth Press released my book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life. As I explain in the book:

“Martin Luther not only reformed theology; his understanding of the gospel reformed daily Christian living, biblical counseling, pastoral counseling, one-another ministry, and soul care.”

So, it seems only natural for me to combine my appreciation for Luther’s pastoral counseling and my involvement in facilitating the BCC’s Confessional Statement into this document: 95 Affirmations for Gospel-Centered Counseling.

In this document, I’ve taken the BCC’s Confessional Statement and divided it into 95 positive affirmations or thesis statements. My prayer is that you might find these summaries to be a helpful presentation of what it means to apply Christ’s grace to daily living through the personal ministry of the Word—gospel-centered biblical counseling.

One of my fellow BCC Council Board Members, Dr. Heath Lambert, recently released his 95 Theses for an Authentically Christian Commitment to Counseling. I’d encourage you to read Dr. Lambert’s work.

Preamble: Speaking Gospel Truth in Love—A Vision for the Entire Church

  1. Gospel-centered counseling focuses on a central question: “What does it mean to counsel in the grace and truth of Christ?” (John 1:14).
  2. Gospel-centered counseling flows from our calling to equip God’s people to love God and others in Christ-centered ways (Matthew 22:35-40).
  3. The vision for gospel-centered counseling is for the entire church to speak gospel truth in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).
  4. Gospel-centered counseling is dedicated to developing the theology and practice of the personal ministry of the Word, whether described as biblical counseling, pastoral counseling, personal discipleship, one-another ministry, small group ministry, cure of souls, soul care, spiritual friendship, or spiritual direction.

Introduction: In Christ Alone

 The goal of gospel-centered counseling is spiritual, relational, and personal maturity as evidenced in desires, thoughts, motives, actions, and emotions that increasingly reflect Jesus (Ephesians 4:17-5:2).

  1. Personal change must be centered on the person of Christ (Colossians 1:27-29). We are convinced that personal ministry centered on Christ and anchored in Scripture offers the only lasting hope and loving help to a fallen and broken world (Colossians 2:1-9).
  2. We confess that we have not arrived. We comfort and counsel others only as we continue to receive ongoing comfort and counsel from Christ and the Body of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). We admit that we struggle to apply consistently all that we believe. We who counsel live in process, just like those we counsel, so we want to learn and grow in the wisdom and mercies of Christ.
  3. All Christian ministry arises from and is anchored in God’s revelation—which is both the written Word (Scripture) and the living Word (Christ). This is true for the personal ministry of the Word (conversational and relational ministry which our culture calls “counseling”) and for the various public ministries of the Word. In light of this core conviction about Christ-centered, Word-based ministry, we affirm the following central commitments as gospel-centered counselors.

Confessional Statement #1: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Anchored in Scripture

  1. We believe that God’s Word is authoritative, sufficient, and relevant (Isaiah 55:11; Matthew 4:4; Hebrews 4:12-13). The inspired and inerrant Scriptures, rightly interpreted and carefully applied, offer us God’s comprehensive wisdom.
  2. We learn to understand who God is, who we are, the problems we face, how people change, and God’s provision for that change in the Gospel (John 8:31-32; 10:1017:17).
  3. No other source of knowledge thoroughly equips us to counsel in ways that transform the human heart (Psalm 19:7-14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3). Other systems of counseling aim for other goals and assume a different dynamic of change. The wisdom given by God in His Word is distinctive and robust. God comprehensively addresses the sin and suffering of all people in all situations.
  4. Gospel-centered counseling is an insightful application of God’s all-embracing truth to our complex lives (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:6; Philippians 1:9-11). It does not merely collect proof-texts from the Bible. Wise counseling requires ongoing practical theological labor in order to understand Scripture, people, and situations (2 Timothy 2:15). We must continually develop our personal character, case-wise understanding of people, and pastoral skills (Romans 15:14; Colossians 1:28-29).
  5. When we say that Scripture is comprehensive in wisdom, we mean that the Bible makes sense of all things, not that it contains all the information people could ever know about all topics.
  6. God’s common grace brings many good things to human life. However, common grace cannot save us from our struggles with sin or from the troubles that beset us. Common grace cannot sanctify or cure the soul of all that ails the human condition.
  7. We affirm that numerous sources (such as scientific research, organized observations about human behavior, those we counsel, reflection on our own life experience, literature, film, and history) can contribute to our knowledge of people, and many sources can contribute some relief for the troubles of life. However, none can constitute a comprehensive system of counseling principles and practices.
  8. When systems of thought and practice claim to prescribe a cure for the human condition, they compete with Christ (Colossians 2:1-15). Scripture alone teaches a perspective and way of looking at life by which we can think biblically about and critically evaluate information and actions from any source (Colossians 2:2-10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Confessional Statement #2: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Centered on Christ and the Gospel

  1. We believe that wise counseling centers on Jesus Christ—His sinless life, death on the cross, burial, resurrection, present reign, and promised return.
  2. Through the Gospel, God reveals the depths of sin, the scope of suffering, and the breadth, length, height, and depth of grace.
  3. Gospel-centered counseling gets to the heart of personal and interpersonal problems by bringing to bear the truth, mercy, and power of Christ’s grace (John 1:14).
  4. There is no true restoration of the soul and there are no truly God-honoring relationships without understanding the desperate condition we are in without Christ and apart from experiencing the joy of progressive deliverance from that condition through God’s mercies.
  5. Gospel-centered counseling points people to a person, Jesus our Redeemer, and not to a program, theory, or experience (John 14:6).
  6. We place our trust in the transforming power of the Redeemer as the only hope to change people’s hearts, not in any human system of change (John 2-4).
  7. People need a personal and dynamic relationship with Jesus, not a system of self-salvation, self-management, or self-actualization (John 14:6).
  8. Gospel-centered counselors seek to lead struggling, hurting, sinning, and confused people to the hope, resources, strength, and life that are available only in Christ.

Confessional Statement #3: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Grounded in Sound Theology

  1. We believe that gospel-centered counseling is fundamentally a practical theological discipline because every aspect of life is related to God.
  2. God intends that we care for one another in ways that relate human struggles to His person, purposes, promises, and will. Wise counseling arises from a theological way of looking at life—a mindset, a worldview—that informs how we understand people, problems, and solutions.
  3. The best gospel-centered counselors are wise, balanced, caring, experienced, practical theologians (Philippians 1:9-11).
  4. Gospel-centered counselors seek to relate the Scriptures relevantly to people’s daily lives and relationships (Hebrews 3:12-19).
  5. All wise counseling understands particular passages and a person’s unique life experience within the context of the Bible’s larger story-line: God’s creation, our fall into sin, His redemptive plan, and the consummation of all things. Thus gospel-centered counselors engage in person-specific conversations that flow naturally out of a comprehensive biblical theology of life.

Confessional Statement #4: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Dependent Upon the Holy Spirit and Prayer

  1. We believe that both genuine change of heart and transformation of lifestyle depend upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-16:16; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
  2. Gospel-centered counselors know that it is impossible to speak wisely and lovingly to bring about true and lasting change apart from the decisive, compassionate, and convicting work of the Spirit in the counselor and the counselee.
  3. We acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the One who illuminates our understanding of the Word and empowers its application in everyday life.
  4. Wise counselors serve in the truth that God reveals and by the strength that God supplies. By the Spirit’s work, God receives glory in all the good that takes place in people’s lives.
  5. Gospel-centered counselors affirm the absolute necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit to guide and empower the counselor, the counselee, and the counseling relationship.
  6. Dependent prayer is essential to the work of gospel-centered counseling (Ephesians 6:18-20). Wise counselors humbly request God’s intervention and direction, praise God for His work in people’s lives, and intercede for people that they would experience genuine life change to the glory of God (Philippians 4:6).

Confessional Statement #5: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Directed toward Sanctification

  1. We believe that gospel-centered counseling should be transformative, change-oriented, and grounded in the doctrine of sanctification (2 Corinthians 3:16-18; Philippians 2:12-13).
  2. The lifelong change process begins at salvation (justification, regeneration, redemption, reconciliation) and continues until we see Jesus face-to-face (1 John 3:1-3).
  3. The aim of gospel-centered counseling is intentional and intensive discipleship.
  4. The fruit of gospel-centered counseling is spiritually mature people who increasingly reflect Christ (relationally, rationally, volitionally, and emotionally) by enjoying and exalting God and by loving others well and wisely (Galatians 5:22-6:10).
  5. Gospel-centered counseling seeks to embrace the Bible’s teaching regarding God’s role and human responsibility in spiritual growth. God’s strength and mercy call for our response of faith and obedience.
  6. A comprehensive theology of the spiritual life provides the basis for applying relevant biblical methods of spiritual growth. Gospel-centered counseling helps believers to understand what it means to be in Christ (Romans 6:3-14). It equips them to apply the principles of progressive sanctification through renewing their minds and actions based on Scripture with a motive of love for God and others (Romans 12:1-2).

Confessional Statement #6: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Rooted in the Life of the Church

  1. We believe that we best reflect the Trinity as we live and grow in community (John 17; Ephesians 4).
  2. Sanctification is not a self-improvement project, but a process of learning to love and serve God and others.
  3. Wise counseling embeds personal change within God’s community—the church—with all God’s rich resources of corporate and interpersonal means of grace (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
  4. We believe that the church should be both the center and the sender of Gospel-centered counseling (Romans 15:14).
  5. By example and exhortation, the New Testament commends the personal, face-to-face, one-another ministry of the Word—whether in one-to-one or small group relationships (Hebrews 3:12-19; 10:19-25).
  6. God calls the church to mutual wise counseling just as He calls the church to public ministries of the Word in preaching, teaching, worship, and observing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
  7. God desires His people to love and serve each other by speaking His truth in love to one another (Ephesians 4:15-16).
  8. The primary and fullest expression of counseling ministry is meant to occur in local church communities where pastors effectively shepherd souls while equipping and overseeing diverse forms of every-member ministry (Ephesians 4:11-14).
  9. Other like-minded counseling institutions and organizations are beneficial insofar as they serve alongside the church, encourage Christians to counsel biblically, and purpose to impact the world for Christ.

Confessional Statement #7: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Founded in Love

  1. We believe that Christ’s incarnation is not just the basis for care, but also the model for how we care (Hebrews 4:14-16; John 13:34-35).
  2. Gospel-centered counselors seek to enter into a person’s story, listening well, expressing thoughtful love, and engaging the person with compassion (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
  3. The wise and loving personal ministry of the Word takes many appropriate forms, from caring comfort to loving rebuke, from careful listening to relevant scriptural exploration, all while building trusting, authentic relationships (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15; 1 John 4:7-21).
  4. Gospel-centered counseling takes into account all that people experience (desires, thoughts, goals, actions, words, emotions, struggles, situational pressure, physical suffering, abuse, injustice, etc.) All of human experience is the context for understanding how God’s Word relates to life. Such awareness not only shapes the content of counseling, but also shapes the way counselors interact so that everything said is constructive, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to the hearer (Ephesians 4:29).

Confessional Statement #8: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Attentive to Heart Issues

  1. We believe that human behavior is tied to the thoughts, intentions, and affections of the heart. All our actions arise from hearts that are worshipping either God or something else; therefore, gospel-centered counseling emphasizes the importance of the heart and addresses the inner person.
  2. God fully understands and rightly weighs who we are, what we do, and why we do it. While we cannot completely understand a person’s heart (even our own), God’s Word reveals and penetrates the heart’s core beliefs and intentions (Hebrews 4:12-13).
  3. Gospel-centered counseling seeks to address both the inward and outward aspects of human life to bring thorough and lasting change into the image of Christ.
  4. The Bible is clear that human behavior is not mechanical, but grows out of a heart that desires, longs, thinks, chooses, and feels in ways that are oriented either toward or against Christ.
  5. Gospel-centered counsel appropriately focuses on the vertical and the horizontal dimensions, on the inner and the outer person, on observable behavior and underlying issues of the heart (Matthew 23:23-28).
  6. Gospel-centered counselors work to help struggling people to learn wisdom; to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength; to love one’s neighbor as oneself; and to endure suffering in hope.

Confessional Statement #9: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Comprehensive in Understanding

  1. We believe that gospel-centered counseling should focus on the full range of human nature created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28).
  2. A comprehensive biblical understanding sees human beings as relational (spiritual and social), rational, volitional, emotional, and physical.
  3. Gospel-centered counseling takes the whole person seriously in his or her whole life context. It helps people to embrace all of life face-to-face with Christ so they become more like Christ in their relationships, thoughts, motivations, behaviors, and emotions.
  4. Gospel-centered counseling recognizes the complexity of the relationship between the body and soul (Genesis 2:7). Because of this, gospel-centered counselors seek to remain sensitive to physical factors and organic issues that affect people’s lives.
  5. In our desire to help people comprehensively, we seek to apply God’s Word to people’s lives amid bodily strengths and weaknesses.
  6. Gospel-centered counselors encourage a thorough assessment and sound treatment for any suspected physical problems.
  7. Gospel-centered counselors recognize the complexity of the connection between people and their social environment. Thus we seek to remain sensitive to the impact of suffering and of the great variety of significant social-cultural factors (1 Peter 3:8-22).
  8. In our desire to help people comprehensively, we seek to apply God’s Word to people’s lives amid both positive and negative social experiences.
  9. Gospel-centered counselors encourage people to seek appropriate practical aid when their problems have a component that involves education, work life, finances, legal matters, criminality (either as a victim or a perpetrator), and other social matters.

Confessional Statement #10: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Thorough in Care

  1. Gospel-centered counselors believe that God’s Word is profitable for dealing thoroughly with the evils we suffer as well as with the sins we commit.
  2. Since struggling people usually experience some combination of besetting sin and personal suffering, gospel-centered counselors seek to discern the differences and connections between sin and suffering, and to minister appropriately to both (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
  3. Gospel-centered counseling seeks to address suffering and engage sufferers in many compassionate ways. It offers God’s encouragement, comfort, and hope for the hurting (Romans 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 1:3-8). It encourages mercy ministry (Acts 6:1-7) and seeks to promote justice.
  4. Gospel-centered counseling seeks to address sin and engage sinners in numerous caring ways. It offers God’s confrontation of sins, encourages repentance of sins, presents God’s gracious forgiveness in Christ, and shares God’s powerful path for progressive victory over sin (1 John 1:8-2:2; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11; Colossians 3:1-17; 2 Timothy 2:24-26).

Confessional Statement #11: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Practical and Relevant

  1. Gospel-centered counselors believe that a commitment to the sufficiency of God’s Word results in counseling that demonstrates the relevancy of God’s Word.
  2. Gospel-centered counseling seeks to offer a practical approach to daily life that is uniquely effective in the real world where people live and relate (1 John 3:11-24).
  3. By instruction and example, the Bible teaches foundational methodological principles for wise interaction and intervention (Acts 20:26-37; Galatians 6:1-5; Colossians 1:24-2:1).
  4. Within the Bible’s overall guidelines for the personal ministry of the Word, there is room for a variety of practical methods of change, all anchored in applying scriptural truth to people’s lives and relationships.
  5. The Bible calls us to use wise methods that minister in Christ-centered ways to the unique life situations of specific people (Proverbs 15:23; 25:11).
  6. We are to speak what is helpful for building others up according to the need of the moment, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29).

Confessional Statement #12: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Oriented toward Outreach

  1. Gospel-centered counselors believe that Christianity is missionary-minded by its very nature.
  2. Gospel-centered counseling should be a powerful evangelistic and apologetic force in our world.
  3. Gospel-centered counselors want to bring the good news of Jesus and His Word to the world that only God can redeem.
  4. Gospel-centered counselors seek to speak in relevant ways to Christians and non-Christians, to draw them to the Savior and the distinctive wisdom that comes only from His Word (Titus 2:10-15).
  5. Gospel-centered counselors want to present the claims, mercies, hope, and relevance of Christ in a positive, loving, Christ-like spirit (1 Peter 3:15).
  6. Gospel-centered counselors seek to engage the broad spectrum of counseling models and approaches. We want to affirm what is biblical and wise. Where we believe models and methods fall short of Christ’s call, we want to critique clearly and charitably.
  7. When interacting with people with whom we differ, gospel-centered counselors want to communicate in ways that are respectful, firm, gracious, fair-minded, and clear.
  8. When we perceive error, we want to humbly point people forward toward the way of truth so that we all become truer, wiser, and more loving counselors.
  9. Gospel-centered counselors want to listen well to those who disagree with us, and we want to learn from their critiques.
  10. Our mission to spread the truth and fame of Jesus Christ includes a desire that all counselors appreciate and embrace the beauty of a Christ-centered and Word-based approach to people, problems, and solutions.

Conclusion: Unity in Truth and Love

  1. Gospel-centered counselors are committed to generating a unified effort among God’s people to glorify Christ and multiply disciples through the personal ministry of the Word (Matthew 28:18-20).
  2. Gospel-centered counselors trust in Jesus Christ in whom grace and truth are perfectly joined (John 1:14).
  3. Gospel-centered counselors cling to God’s Word, in which truth and love live in perfect union (Ephesians 4:15; Philippians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:8).
  4. Gospel-centered counselors love Christ’s Church—living and speaking gospel truth in love, growing up in Him who is the Head, and building itself up in love as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:15-16).
  5. Gospel-centered counselors desire to encourage unity in truth and love through a fresh vision for biblical counseling. When people ask, “What makes biblical counseling truly biblical?” gospel-centered counselors unite to affirm:

“Gospel-centered biblical counseling occurs whenever and wherever God’s people engage in conversations that are anchored in Scripture, centered on Christ and the Gospel, grounded in sound theology, dependent upon the Holy Spirit and prayer, directed toward sanctification, rooted in the life of the church, founded in love, attentive to heart issues, comprehensive in understanding, thorough in care, practical and relevant, and oriented toward outreach.”

  1. We invite you to join us in seeking to equip God’s people to promote personal change centered on the person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word—gospel-centered biblical counseling.

About the Author: 

Dr. Robert W. Kellemen, Th.M., Ph.D.: Bob is the Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries. Bob was the founding Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Bob and his wife, Shirley, have been married and served in ministry together for over thirty-six years; they have two adult children with three granddaughters. Dr. Kellemen is the author of fourteen books including Gospel-Centered Counseling.

Original Post: 95 Affirmations for Gospel-Centered Biblical Counseling from Counseling One Another October 16, 2017 Used with permission.

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9 Truths to Guide Your Day

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The following nine truths come from David Powlison in his new book, How Does Sanctification Work? He uses these as a list of statements which at times have individually been suggested as, “This one thing is the secret key that will unlock your Christian life!” He correctly points out that not just one of them will unlock your Christian life; however, as you meditate on all nine truths, you will find much help and hope throughout your day today. These are great truths that the Spirit of God can use to provide you spiritual encouragement, emotional benefit, and creativity for serving.

  1. Remember that God is sovereign and is working all things for good in those who love him; The meaning of your troubles changes as you realize that he has called you into his saving purposes in Christ.

  2. Rehearse and remind yourself of your identity in Christ. Union with Jesus Christ is the anchor of your salvation. All other identities are secondary.

  3. Make sure you are in honest accountability relationships. None of us is meant to bear our burdens alone. God so works things that we can truly help one another as servants of Christ.

  4. Avail yourself of the means of grace. Sit under good preaching, participate in corporate worship and sacraments, and maintain daily Scripture reading and prayer. To flourish, you need truth that is in Jesus to fill your heart.

  5. Wage spiritual warfare against the predator of your soul. Clothe yourself in Christ. Put on God’s weaponry of faith and love. Resist the enemy’s lies, accusations, temptations, and aggressions.

  6. Get busy serving others with the gifts the Lord has given you. Get out of yourself. Do something constructive with your life today.

  7. Remember that you are accepted by God as his child and that he fully forgives your sins through the shed blood of Jesus. Past grace affirms that God is forever for you.

  8. Ask the Lord to give his Holy Spirit that you might walk in his ways. Present grace daily strengthens you in the reality that God is with you.

  9. Set your hope fully on the grace to be revealed at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Future grace carries you forward through affliction because God will come for you.

Every one of these tells us something true and good. Each highlights a facet of the many-splendored gospel of Jesus. We need every one of these things–and many other things as well. These nine assertions become problematic only when we lapse into saying, “Just remember this one thing … Just rehearse … Just make sure … Just ask … If you will just do … ”

Our nine items capture some of the promises, revelations, purposes, commands, perspectives, providences, and helps that our God reveals in revealing himself to us. None of these stands supreme, relegating the others to the shadows. None of these is magic. And you could never remember all of these at anyone time. Not one of them means the end of the struggle-not even all of them put together. They speak in different ways to how we struggle. And the Lord makes different truths meaningful at different times to different people.

Today, God can use these nine truths together to benefit you in many ways. For the best result, you will need to add your own story to each one of them. How has the truths above mapped themselves out in the specifics of your life?

Once you think through your own story, share it with someone.

Join the Conversation

What are some of your favorite passages that fit each of these ten truths? Take time today to look some of them up and consider them.

Pastor Kevin’s Blog | Walking together through life as friends in Christ sharing wisdom along the journey

© 2017 PASTORKEVINSBLOG.COM

 

Off to Boot Camp – A Personal Letter

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Off to Boot Camp – A Personal Letter on the occasion of my nephew Clayton going to basic training with the Marines. This letter is to him and shared on the blog for anyone else who can benefit from it.

We, your family and friends, are so proud of you as you begin your new military career. It takes a brave and courageous person to volunteer to protect the people and the Constitution of the United States. As you begin this incredible journey, we want you to know that we support you and admire your willingness.

Sacrifice is a term that is often used either sparingly, because not many people are willing to do it, or carelessly, because what many consider sacrifice truly isn’t. However, thank you for your sacrifice! As you begin on the first day of boot camp, you choose to give up many personal freedoms in order to serve sacrificially for all of us.  We enjoy relative freedom every day while you choose to limit your freedom for the sake of military order and structure. We get to choose where and when we get up, what we eat, where we go, what we do, with whom we spend time, and when we go to bed.  Whereas, your sacrifice does not begin on a battlefield; but rather, it begins every day when you do not get to make those same personal choices.

There are a few key verses that I want to remind you of as you begin this new journey.

1 Corinthians 10:31

Whether therefore you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Although there will be times you feel like you have no choices, there is always a moment-by-moment choice you must make throughout your day.  That is, you must in every decision of your day decide whether or not you are going to use that moment and that decision for the glory of God. In other words, you have to decide, regardless if it is in your thoughts, your attitude, your motivation, your words, or your actions, will I honor God?  Does this response to my current circumstances point people to the worthiness of Jesus Christ? (Also consider 2 Corinthians 5:9)

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

The good news is this…God’s grace is yours every step of the way. God is for you and is faithful in every moment of pressure. Regardless of what pressure-filled circumstance you face (temptation), God provides you grace that is up to the challenge. There is enough grace to ensure that you do not have to sin. Grace guarantees that you can bear up through the pressure without sinning. How exciting to know that God limits the pressure and maximizes the grace so that in every circumstance this is true, which is why Paul calls these pressures “common to man.”

James 1:13-18

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

In those moments when you are tempted to sin, never forget the problem lies within you at the “desire” level. Quickly remind yourself that desire not dealt with biblically – which means you will want to repent, ask God for forgiveness, and recognize God’s grace to help you through the pressure – will bring sin, and sin ultimately brings destruction. You do not want to walk down that path. Ask God for wisdom to help you respond to the pressure-filled circumstance so that you grow and change in Christ (cf. James 1:2-5; Romans 8:28-29).

Psalm 119:63

I am a companion of all who fear You,
And of those who keep Your precepts.

The people you choose to hang around as friends matter. The psalmist – probably Daniel – had two standards for friendships. First, the friend had to fear God, which means to stand in awe of Him, trust Him, recognize He is in control, and respect Him. This is the first and most important standard as you begin to make friends. The second is similar and really flows out of the first…only make those people your friends who obey God’s commands. These two standards will provide you the kinds of friends like Daniel’s three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

Proverbs 1:8-19

My son, hear the instruction of your father,

And do not forsake the law of your mother;

For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,

And chains about your neck.

10 My son, if sinners entice you,

Do not consent.
 . . . . . .
15 My son, do not walk in the way with them,

Keep your foot from their path;

16 For their feet run to evil,

And they make haste to shed blood.

Pay special attention so that you are not living for attention, acceptance, or favor from others. There will be those who desire to do what is unwise, foolish, and who lack a desire to honor God in everything. They will either have never learned or have soon forgotten what Solomon teaches. However, God’s way is to remember the Word of God and apply it diligently (cf. James 1:21-27). Do not walk with those who refuse to follow God and obey Him. Instead, recall what you have learned, pay attention to those around you and their path, and make decisions for yourself.

Daniel 1-6

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…

Daniel determined to honor God and not the king. He was willing with his friends to follow God over anyone or anything else. He and his three Hebrew friends were away from home, away from their place of worship, away from their other friends, and away from their family. Yet, they still chose to do what God desired more than what the king demanded. They wisely dealt with their superiors and with other peer pressure around them to choose God over everything else.

Joshua 1:7-9

7 “…Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

When Joshua had a hard people to lead, an incredibly difficult task to do, and big shoes to fill, God told him to be courageous. He challenged Him to stick with His Word without turning to the left hand or the right hand. Do what God commands and rest assured that God never leaves him or forsakes him. Just as God promised never to leave Joshua, so also Christ promises to never leave you or forsake you too (cf. Matthew 28:20). There is never a time or place when Christ is not with you.

Philippians 1:27-2:18

27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, …

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Finally, strive to live every moment with one thing in mind – live worthy of the Gospel. Live for Jesus. He is worth all your effort. As He is holy, you strive to lovingly be holy too. He provides you the strength to live for Him. Jesus is your example. In every moment, He considered what God wanted Him to do, and He lived for the honor of God, even to death on the cross. So as you go about every day, living moment-by-moment, live with one thing as your goal: living worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are so many more verses I could share. These are a good starting place. Remember them. Write them on the table of your heart. When you face pressure like you have never faced before, just know that God is for you, Jesus is with you, and the Holy Spirit provides you the strength to get through it. The Gospel is worth it. Your testimony matters to God, to the other Christians that observe you, and to those around you who need Jesus as their Savior as well.

We love you and are proud of you. You do not just go with our support; you go with our love. And most importantly, you go with Christ’s love.

Blog-Going-Away-Party-10.10.17

Pastor Kevin’s Blog | Walking together through life as friends in Christ sharing wisdom along the journey

© 2017 PASTORKEVINSBLOG.COM

 

Why is the Reformation Important for Daily Living?

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As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I have heard people ask, “Why is this important to us?” The five main doctrines around which the Reformers united stem from the very gospel that impacts daily living. In the midst of turmoil with the Roman Catholic Church, many Christians chose to die for the sake of the gospel rather than to accept the false teaching of Roman Catholicism. Five hundred years later, these same doctrines impact us as well.

Sola Gratia (by grace alone)

Grace alone is at the heart of the Christian life. It occupies a fundament position in the truth we confess and the lives we live in Christ. As Paul so soberly wrote, our world is corrupt and broken, under the influence of the devil who walks around seeking whom he may devour. Mankind is broken, living according to the lusts of the flesh (Eph 2:1-3). In spite of this, God demonstrated grace toward us, “…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7). God saves, sustains, and grows us by grace. As we live by grace, we must be committed to sharing it with others who need it. We cannot face the pressures, difficulties, and burdens of a broken world outside the grace of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we celebrate grace and seek to live by it daily in service to Christ and others despite our weaknesses and limitations.

Sola Fide (by faith alone)

The Catholic Church taught that faith, although essential, was not sufficient for salvation; salvation requires faith plus works. However, the Reformers boldly pronounced it was faith alone that saved. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:8-10). Salvation and daily living are contingent upon faith in Christ. As we face life’s daily challenges, we must constantly remind ourselves, the answer to life’s difficulties always begin with faith in Christ. The writer of Hebrews proclaimed, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). Therefore, the answers to life’s problems must focus on faith in Christ alone.

Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone)

The conflict between the Reformers and the Catholic Church dealt with the authority in the Christian life. Rome taught that the authority for the Christian life was in Church’s tradition and teachings (known as the Magisterium), plus the Bible. The Reformers taught that the authority for daily Christian living was in Scripture alone. The Bible exclusively maintains the authority for the Christian’s all matters of faith and life. Where there are many sources of helpful information, only the Bible maintains authority. Regarding the Scriptures, Paul wrote, “All Scripture was given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). Therefore, in all matters of living, the Scriptures maintain formal and functional authority.

Solus Christus (by Christ alone)

Jesus Christ is the person behind all the other solas. Salvation comes only by and through Jesus, as He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Paul wrote, “But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many” (Rom 5:15). Peter preached, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Christ alone is the mediator between God and man. He is the message we preach. He is the person we trust. Jesus is the center of the Christian life. Therefore, Jesus alone is the heart of daily living.

Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone)

Christians are to proclaim and live for God’s glory alone. God is glorious (Ps 138:4-6). Jesus manifested the glory of God among men (John 1:14). As Christians, we are to live our lives in bringing glory to God (1 Cor 10:31). God receives the glory for anything good, honorable, and notable that is done. All fruit of righteousness is produced through Jesus Christ for the glory of God (Phil 1:11). Our salvation and sanctification resound to the praise and glory of God alone (Eph 1:3-14). Therefore, we live daily in the power of Christ for God’s glory.

THIS IS AN ADAPTATION FROM MY POST THAT INITIALLY APPEARED IN THE OCTOBER 2017 TRIBUNE, “THE RIGHT ANGLE: BIBLICAL WISDOM FOR A CONTEMPORARY WORLD.

Pastor Kevin’s Blog | Walking together through life as friends in Christ sharing wisdom along the journey

© 2017 PASTORKEVINSBLOG.COM

Book Review: Counseling Under the Cross

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Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life
Bob Kellemen
New Growth Press 2017

This month the world celebrates the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation when Luther pinned his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. As part of your celebration, you will want to take time to read Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life by Bob Kellemen. Bob tells the story of Luther in a fresh way. As you travel with Bob through the life and writings of Martin Luther, you will be challenged, encouraged, emotionally engaged, and provoked. Along the journey, Bob observes Luther’s ministry and helps you see how you can also serve those in and around your life as well.

Book Summary

The book contains two sections: the first section relates to Luther’s personal life story, and the second section follows his ministry to others. In section one (chapters one and two), Kellemen shares the life and story of Martin Luther. Chapter one tells of the constant terror and spiritual trials of Luther early in life. In chapter two, Kellemen describes the dramatic change salvation and the cross of Christ made in Luther’s life and ministry. He focuses on justification (forgiveness in Christ) and reconciliation (acceptance by the Father).

In section two, Kellemen uses a historical focus of pastoral care and spiritual direction to evaluate Luther’s life and ministry. He helps focus the story of Luther’s work in four primary content areas as they relate to suffering and sin: comfort for suffering – sustaining and healing, confrontation for sinning – reconciling and guiding. He uses this four-part model, alongside Luther’s own writing, to challenge Christians to consider how to both live and minister the Gospel too.

Kellemen’s Voice

Kellemen approaches Luther’s story as his friend, admirer, and student. On the opening page you learn of Bob’s indebtedness to Luther. He writes, “I ADMIT it. This is an unusual title for an introduction: ‘Martin Luther Reformed My Life and Ministry.’” He continues, “More than a play on words, this is an honest confession. Martin Luther reformed my Christian life and my counseling ministry.”

As you read further, you read the observations of a pastor-counselor who has been blessed by Luther’s work as a theologian-reformer and pastor-counselor. Because of this, Kellemen’s voice is both warm and compassionate as he evaluates Luther and his works. The result…Luther’s story is personal, touching, and challenging.

“Counseling Through the Lens of the Cross”

Chapter three is my favorite chapter in section two as Kellemen sets the stage for the rest of the book. In this chapter, he tells the story of Luther’s mom as her son ministered to her on her death bed as evidenced in a published personal letter from him to her dated May 20, 1532. Martin’s letter to his dear mother introduces key elements of Kellemen’s counseling model, through which he observes Luther’s works.

Luther’s heart of gospel-saturated compassion shines through the lines of this personal letter. Concerned Martin sent a prayer for his mother to rehearse whenever she was discouraged in her sickness. In response to John 16:33, Luther encouraged his mom to pray this prayer against Satan, sin, and death. He writes,

I shall cling to him, and to his words and comfort, I shall hold fast; regardless of whether I remain or go yonder, I shall live by this word, for he does not lie to me. You would like to deceive me with your terrors, and with your lying thought you would like to tear me away from such a victory and savior. But they are lies, as surely as it is true that he has overcome you and commanded us to be comforted.[1]

Kellemen continues, “Luther exhorted his mother toward confidence in Christ alone and in Scripture alone: ‘By such words and thoughts, and by none other, let your heart be moved, dear Mother.’”[2]

Recommendation: Read It

As you begin to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, you should consider reading this book to learn more of Martin Luther’s life, struggles, victory in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and his ministry of the Word. As you read excerpts of Luther’s over 2,500 extant letters, Table Talks, and other writings, you will grow in appreciation for his view of the centrality of Christ and the Scriptures. Furthermore, Luther demonstrates how a pastor’s concern for proper theology flows out of a compassionate desire to help people with their suffering and sin. In the process, may all of us who read Counseling Under the Cross be challenged to make Christ the center of our life and ministry.

[1] Kellemen, p. 43

[2] Ibid.

Pastor Kevin’s Blog | Walking together through life as friends in Christ sharing wisdom along the journey

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