Category Archives: Counseling

A “Ten Commandments” Prayer

A “Ten Commandments” Prayer

by Paul Tautges | April 17, 2018 7:01 am

Lord, please counsel us by revealing the subtle deceptions of the human heart. We pray:

1. . . . that we will have no other gods before You. That we will not dishonor Your uniqueness. That we will not put anything or anyone in Your place, nor fall prey to the schemes of the devil by replacing the ultimate priority (You) with worldly pleasures, possessions, power, or pursuits (1 Jn 2:15–17). That the use of our time and energy will reflect the Lordship of Christ and that our souls will pant and thirst for You, O God, (Ps 42:1, 2).

2. . . . that we will not provoke Your jealousy by worshiping You through things seen, felt, or touched. That we will not dishonor Your nature as a Spirit being. That we will not get caught up in the elements of worship at the expense of the Person being worshipped. That we will worship You in spirit and truth (John 4:24), and “see” You as exalted and, therefore, get caught up in “worth-ship.” That we will not place our faith in human reason or things seen, but instead walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).

3. . . . that we will not use Your holy Name carelessly. That we will not dishonor Your character. That we will not misrepresent You by using Your Name falsely (Ps 24:3, 4), hypocritically (Titus 1:16), blasphemously (James 2:7), rashly (Eccl 5:2, 3), or irreverently (James 3:8–11), or speak of holy things flippantly. That our talk will not be dominated by meaningless, empty or idle words (Matt 12:36), but always by reverence and prudence.

4. . . . that we will follow your creation principle of rest. That we will honor Your wisdom. That we will not allow the American “rat race” to rob us of stopping to look at the sunset (Ps 24:1). That You will help us to be diligent and faithful workers, but at the same time guard us from becoming slaves to our earthly employments (Col 3:22–24). That we will not allow busyness and worldly pleasures to destroy the immense worth and uniqueness of the Lord’s Day. That corporate worship will be more important than hunting, fishing, or football. That we will realize the most valuable family time is not spent in front of the TV, but in Your house learning Your Word (Acts 20:7).

5. . . . that we will show reverence and respect for our earthly parents. That we will honor Your authority structures. That we will not be like the world—disobedient to parents (2 Tim 3:2), but instead will teach our children to cheerfully obey, with respect. That we will not forget our elderly parents and grandparents, but will gladly accept the role-reversal of becoming their caregivers (1 Tim 5:3, 4). That we will recognize earthly parents as gifts to be honored and treasured, but not more than Christ (Matt 10:37). That we will learn to be submissive and respectful toward the authorities You have ordained (Rom 13:1–7), while at the same time faithfully praying for our leaders (1 Tim 2:1–4).

6. . . . that we will not hate or kill. That we will not dishonor Your gift of life or Your love. That we will not allow the sun to go down on our anger so that it becomes deep-seated hatred, resentment, or bitterness (Eph 4:26), or hate our brother or sister in the Lord and, therefore, be liars that dwell in darkness (1 Jn 2:9, 11; 3:15; 4:20). That we will love our neighbors as ourselves and be lights in a dark world by cherishing the sanctity of human life, young and old and disabled. That we will show the world that children are valuable blessings, not inconveniences or burdens, and plead with You to change the hearts of women who selfishly seek abortions, men who fearfully force them, and doctors who gladly assist them.

7. . . . that we will not lust or commit adultery. That we will not dishonor Your gift of sexuality. That husbands will rejoice in their wives and wives rejoice in their husbands (Prov 5:18), holding the marriage covenant in the highest regard and the marriage bed undefiled (Heb 13:4). That those of us who are unmarried will find our fullest satisfaction in You by fleeing youthful lusts and pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2 Tim 2:22). That all of us would maintain purity of mind by avoiding TV programs, videos, magazines, or Internet sites that stimulate and feed the flesh (Phil 4:8). That we will pray for the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is self-control.

8. . . . that we will not steal from You or from others. That we will not dishonor Your provision. That we will not steal from You by withholding Your tithe from our church because of unbelief or self-centered spending habits (Mal 3:8), but give motivated by grace (2 Cor 8:1-9). That we will not steal from others by taking advantage of them or being habitually late for appointments. That we will flee laziness and pursue hard work (Prov 6:6–11), and avoid all financial dealings that call integrity into question. That we will not steal from government by cheating on our taxes (Rom 13:6), or steal from our family by wasting money on foolish habits (1 Tim 5:8), or buy a lottery ticket or enter a casino (Prov 28:22). That we will learn to be good stewards of the money You have entrusted to our care, faithfully giving our first-fruits to You and wisely managing the rest (Prov 3:9-10).

9. . . . that we will not lie against one another. That we will not dishonor Your truth. That we will not practice perjury (Prov 24:28), bribery (Prov 17:23), slander (Prov 10:18), gossip (Prov 11:13), or flattery (Psalm 12:2, 3). That we will not make false claims about ourselves or wear masks to impress or deceive others, speaking only the truth in love (Eph 4:15), and building our relationships on trustworthiness. That we will tell the whole truth and not reveal only the facts that make us look good. That we will be true friends by honoring confidences (Prov 17:9). That we will not lie in church by singing songs of worship to You from our lips and not from our hearts (Matt 15:8). That we will honor Your truth at all times by pursuing authentic Christian living.

10. . . . that we will not crave earthly belongings. That we will not dishonor Your gifts. That we will not desire what is not rightfully ours and endeavor to acquire it, but instead treat other people’s property with respect. That our hearts will not be captivated by affection for money or this world’s goods (1 Tim 6:8–10). That we will resist the temptation to put trust in credit cards and learn to say “no” to impulse buying. That we will replace envy with gratitude and conscious thanksgiving (1 Pet 2:1), praise instead of complaint, and prayer instead of worry (Phil 4:6, 7). That we will learn to be content in any and every circumstance (Phil 4:11).

Heavenly Father, we pray this for ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ. May You grant all of us the grace to be Your obedient servants! In Jesus Name, Amen.

[This article was originally posted January 4, 2012, and is excerpted from Delight in the Word: Spiritual Food for Hungry Hearts]

Source URL: http://counselingoneanother.com/2018/04/17/a-ten-commandments-prayer/

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Barna Update | Americans Feel Good About Counseling

Millions of Americans face mental illness each year. Yet the stigma surrounding mental health and therapy persists, despite the fact that Americans—especially Christians—who see a counselor have overwhelmingly positive experiences with the practice. In a new study, Barna looks at how Americans feel about and engage with counseling.

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18 Questions about Faith and Mental Illness

How should we understand the effects of the Fall on the mind and brain? We know our bodies age and die. We know all of our organs are susceptible to disease and deterioration. We have “norms” for the frequency, duration, onset, and prognosis of these effects of the Fall; what are the equivalent expectations for the mind and brain?

When engaging a difficult and highly personal subject, it is better to start with good questions than a list of answers. The better our questions are, the more responsibly we will utilize the answers of which we are confidant, the more humbly we will approach areas of uncertainty, and the more we will honor one another in the process of learning.

As I’ve read, counseled, and thought about the subject of mental illness, here are some of the questions that have emerged.

The purpose of these questions is to expand our thinking about mental illness. We all bring a “theory of mental illness” to this discussion. This theory, whether we can articulate it or not, shapes the questions we ask. Exposing ourselves to important questions from other perspectives is the first step in becoming more holistic in our approach.

Don’t allow these questions to overwhelm you. All of these questions existed before you read them. Speaking them didn’t create them. Actually, an appropriate response to this list would be the generation of more questions. Take a moment to write down the additional questions you have.

  1. Is mental illness a flaw in character or chemistry? Is this the best way to frame the question? What do we lose when we fall into the trap of either-or thinking?
  2. Why do we think of genetic influences as if they negate the role of the will or personal choice? Substance abuse can have a clear genetic predisposition, but every addiction program – even those most committed to a disease model – appeal to the will as a key component to sobriety.
  3. In the modern psychological proverb, “The genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger,” where is the person? How do we best understand the interplay of predisposition (genetics), influences (environment), and the individual making choices (person)?
  4. What percent of those who struggle with “normal sorrow” are labeled as clinically depressed? What percentage of those who think their sorrow is normal are actually clinically depressed? How do we communicate effectively when the same word – depression – has both a clinical and popular usage?
  5. Would we want to eradicate all anxiety and depression if we were medically capable of doing so? What would we lose, that was good about life and relationships, if these unpleasant emotions were eradicated from human experience? Would that be heaven-on-earth or have unintended consequences that are greater than our current dilemma?
  6. Can we have a “weak” brain—one given to problematic emotions or difficulty discerning reality—and a “strong” soul—one with a deep and genuine love for God? If we say “yes” to this question in areas like intelligence (e.g., low IQ and strong faith), would there be any reason to say “no” about those things described as mental illness? C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity says, “Most of the man’s psychological makeup is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst of this raw material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us; all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first time, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises (p. 91-92).”

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Young Teens and Social Media

Like all of us, teens are made to live in relationship. They are social, interested in peers, and looking for connection in the relationships they build. They are also growing in independence. For many, social media is newly available to them and it is tailor-made made for those who are just entering the social scene. It offers an easy way to connect with people and places a world of information at their fingertips. It can even offer community to those who are shy or more isolated and need a connection to the outside world.

However, this new way of relating can be dangerous to a teen who is unaware of its potential risks. Indiscriminate use of social media can have many negative impacts. It is addictive. It can create a felt need to always be “connected” for fear of missing out on something. Some teens will start to lose sleep and lose interest in other activities. Others will constantly create and recreate themselves online while feeling a false sense of security because of the perceived safety of an electronic screen. This might lead to a lack of discretion about what is okay to post and make them vulnerable to on-line bullying, sexting, and pornography. It can even increase the risk of victimization from online predators.

These problems are serious and, as parents, we need to be in ongoing conversations with our kids about them. Just like teaching a child to handle a stove, a bike, or a car, we must also prepare them to use social media well. We would never let a young child simply turn on a stovetop and begin playing with it, nor would we hand a 14-year-old the keys to a truck and expect them to have the knowledge, skill and good judgement to handle it. Likewise, we should not hand kids a smart phone or other connected device without first proactively shaping how they think about and interact with this new technology.

To start, talk with them about the biblical principle of stewardship. Remind them that we are called to be stewards of what God has created (Psalm 24:1). It is all his and we and are to use it faithfully to serve him. Explain that stewardship extends to all that man creates as well, including electronic devices. Help your kids form the way they view technology. Teach them about its benefits and potential dangers—it’s never too early. Much heartache is avoided when parents are involved in shaping their child’s view on this subject—rather than trying to debunk a wrong one.

Then, to keep the conversation going, develop a working knowledge and understanding of social media. Parents (and youth workers, and counselors) do not have the luxury of dismissing their ignorance as unimportant. What may not be of interest or value to you must become so for the sake of the well-being of our young people. In fact, being well-educated on social media will win you the respect of your children and help you avoid over-reacting or imposing unjustified restrictions when questions arise about specific apps.

Use that knowledge to monitor and limit their activities online. Teens have a false sense of security when hiding behind an electronic screen in the comfort of their own home. They presume they are safe and alone. It is a parent’s responsibility to be sure they actually are safe. Until a young person has the maturity, tools, and skill to protect themselves, it is a parent’s job to do so for them. This will not be met with excitement on your teen’s behalf. It means being on top of their activities. It means being called over-protective, and potentially being told you are “the only parent in school who does ______.”

Teach safety skills online. Personal information should never be requested or given out. Be aware of all sites and passwords your child has, and be willing to check on them regularly. Even if you trust your child’s online activity, be aware that there are others online with your son or daughter who are not trustworthy. Role play uncomfortable situations until your kids can articulate what is wrong with what is being asked of them and how they would handle it. Give “what if” questions to prepare them for the unexpected. “What if someone asked for personal information?” “What if you got a text from someone you didn’t know, what would you do?” “What if your girlfriend/ boyfriend sent you an inappropriate picture?” Make it an on-going conversation, one that does not instill fear but preparedness.

And finally, teach them personal responsibility and godly fidelity in whatever they doIn Colossians 3:23-24, Paul writes: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” We want to encourage young people to engage in daily life with godliness and the conviction that they are living for the approval of the Lord, not the applause of their friends.

Our children are growing up in a world that thrives on technology, and we must be faithful in helping them engage with it. As with many things, technology can be a useful tool and a source of enjoyment, connection, and education. It can also become an addiction, idol, or tool for malice. The more we build strong character in our children, and the more we actively teach them to steward technology, the more likely they are to handle it with skill and wisdom.

The post Young Teens and Social Media appeared first on Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation.

Seminar: Finding Your Confidence, Identity, and Security in Christ (Podcasts)

The audio segments below were taken from the live presentation of the “Finding Your Confidence, Identity, and Security in Christ” seminar. For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

Chapter 1.
If Not Self-Esteem, Then What?

https://player.pippa.io/brad-hambrick/episodes/finding-your-confidence-identity-security-in-christ-part-1?theme=white

Chapter 2.
A Portrait of Christ-Honoring Identity

https://player.pippa.io/brad-hambrick/episodes/finding-your-confidence-identity-security-in-christ-part-2?theme=white

Chapter 3.
A Portrait of Christ-Honoring Purpose 

https://player.pippa.io/brad-hambrick/episodes/finding-your-confidence-identity-security-in-christ-part-3?theme=white

Chapter 4.
A Portrait of Christ-Honoring Confidence

https://player.pippa.io/brad-hambrick/episodes/finding-your-confidence-identity-security-in-christ-part-4?theme=white

Chapter 5.
A Portrait of Christ-Honoring Security

https://player.pippa.io/brad-hambrick/episodes/finding-your-confidence-identity-security-in-christ-part-5?theme=white

Chapter 6.
A Portrait of Christ-Honoring Wisdom

https://player.pippa.io/brad-hambrick/episodes/finding-your-confidence-identity-security-in-christ-part-6?theme=white

If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Self-Esteem” post which address other facets of this subject.

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3 Ways We Judge Wrongly

“Don’t judge me!” Who hasn’t heard these words? But should you judge another person? If so, how? What does the Bible say? This guest post by Pastor Paul Tauges, an ACBC Fellow, first appeared here on his website Counseling One Another, and is used with permission.

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Jesus instructed His disciples to judge righteous judgment (John 7:24), but He also said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt. 7:1). Is this a contradiction? No.

We are called to use biblical truth and wisdom to discern rightly, but we are foolish when we make judgments based upon appearance or only one side of the story. We are called to maintain a balance of grace and truth, but avoid a judgmental attitude.

This bad attitude is, as Matt Mitchell defines it, “a heart disposition meant to be condemnatory and censorious.”

So, where do we go wrong? When and how does judging become sinful? Mitchell explains three ways.

3 Ways NOT to Judge

1. Rush to Judgment – To form a conclusion about a person based upon hearsay, without going to him to hear the other side, is utterly foolish and destructive. It is folly and shame to answer before listening, to rush to judgment about another person without loving them enough to take the initiative to start a conversation (Proverbs 18:13). Instead we should believe the best about the other person, rather than assume the worst.

If one gives an answer before he hears,
    it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18:132.

2. Prideful Judgment – The deeper problem behind and beneath judgmentalism is pride. Pride is the elevation of oneself not only above other people, but above God’s law (James 4:11). But there “is only one Lawgiver and Judge,” and it’s not us. When we rush to judgment, we play God; “we act as if we are omniscient when we are not.”

3. Unloving Judgment – The opposite of being judgmental is the virtue known as charitable judgment. “Charity” is the old word for love (1 Cor. 13:4-8), which compels us to believe the best about another person.

Loving People Don’t Sinfully Judge

Therefore, Mitchell counsels us well with these words: “If you and I are loving people with this kind of charity, we won’t sinfully judge or gossip about people. We won’t delight in the evil that we hear has befallen someone else. We won’t believe the worst about others. We will always hope for something better.

“Love is tenacious. Love does not pretend that all is well and sweep things under the carpet, but it does hang onto hope for others and believe the best.”

Instead of sinfully judging others, and then tearing them apart through gossip, the gospel obligates us to put on love, which bonds everything together perfectly in harmony (Col. 3:14).

 

The post 3 Ways We Judge Wrongly appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

Lonely During the Holidays? Here’s Help

During the holidays, lonely folks are as numerous as snowflakes in a Minnesota blizzard. Still, knowing this fact doesn’t take away the emptiness, does it? So what helps? Pastor Paul Tautges shares part of the booklet Help! I’m So Lonely by biblical counselor Deborah Howard, RN, an article that appeared first here on his website. He is the editor of the Help! series.

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Loneliness takes many forms and its causes are almost endless. There’s loneliness from. . .

Losing a spouse or other loved one.

Being alone in a new environment.

Being single in what seems like a world full of couples.

Being in a loveless or troubled marriage.

Being married to someone who, through debilitating illness, is a shadow of his/her former self.

Being elderly, often starved for companionship or a friendly touch.

Being exceptional—whether exceptionally beautiful or plain, exceptionally intelligent or cognitively challenged, exceptionally fat/skinny, exceptionally tall/short, exceptionally famous or seemingly invisible.

Anything that sets us apart from others can cause us to feel disconnected and isolated.

Not only are there different causes, but loneliness varies in other ways. Some loneliness is temporary; some is long-term. Some is deep and aching; some is merely unsettling. Some causes minor discomfort; some causes major dysfunction. Deborah Howard, RN, penned the wonderful mini-book HELP! I’m So Lonely. In it she explains why loneliness is an age-old problem and how God ministers to us in our loneliness.

10 Practical Suggestions

But what practical suggestions could help us in our loneliness? And what help could we give to lonely people? Howard gives the following bits of counsel in her final chapter. The following is a brief summary of her counsel.

1: Spend Time with People When You’re Lonely

Spend time with people. Whether you realize it or not, you need people. Loneliness and grief shouldn’t be kept to yourself. But perhaps you don’t want to be in big crowds. Fine. Then spend one-on-one time with someone you care about. Schedule lunch with a friend and notice the taste of the food, the décor, the waiter/waitress—try to live “in the moment.”

2: Listen Closely

Listen closely to your lunch companion’s conversation. The first few times you do it may seem empty and unfulfilling. But keep listening.

3: It’s OK to Cry When You’re Lonely

Don’t be afraid or ashamed to cry. In fact, crying can be therapeutic. It may make other people uncomfortable, but that’s their issue, not yours. Tears are a healthy response to loss, too. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust the Lord or that your faith is weak. It just simply means your heart is breaking and your body is responding appropriately for you!

4: Spend Time Outside

Enjoy some peace and quiet in nature. If you prefer spending time alone, don’t do it locked up in your house. Instead, get outside. Surround yourself with nature. It’s amazing how the Lord ministers to us through His creation. Even something as simple as sitting outside, enjoying the sunshine or a gentle breeze can be amazingly restorative and uplifting.

5: Take Care of Yourself When You’re Lonely

Take care of yourself. Basically, this means doing the things that ensure your overall physical well-being. Grieving people sometimes forget or skip the simplest tasks. Eat regular, healthy meals. True, cooking nutritious meals for one isn’t easy.

But don’t just eat “easy” stuff—take-out, fast food, or microwave meals—and miss out on important nutrition. (In fact, watching a person’s weight is a good way to determine how well they are coping with loss). So try to eat regularly, even if food seems to have lost its taste and appeal. You need it to get better.

6: Try Something New!

Cultivate new interests. Get involved in meaningful activities. This may mean taking a cooking or art class. Helping others can be fulfilling, so you might consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, church, hospital or hospice. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn another language, or how to garden, play tennis or the violin. Do it now.

7: Journal When You’re Lonely

Keep a daily journal of your thoughts. Set daily goals and meet them. No one else has to ever see your work. But writing is a way to express the inner workings of your heart/mind. It can be therapeutic to put your thoughts on paper, to review them periodically and see the progression of the healing process.

8: Hello, Fido! Hello, Fluffy!

Consider getting a pet. It’s amazing how much company a pet provides. Pet ownership provides unconditional love, a reason to get out of bed, something to be responsible for, and a continual source of amusement.

9: Hang with Your Church Family When You’re Lonely

Don’t abandon the people of God. The church can be of significant value to those who are hurting and lonely. In a way, the body of Christ (His church) is like arms that can embrace you, hands that can serve you, expressions of empathy that can comfort you. So don’t turn your back on that kind of support. Sometimes a person becomes angry at his circumstances and angry at God. As a result, he becomes lonelier.

10: Stay in the Word

I’ll end this list of suggestions with this one. Even if you know the Bible well, you’ll need to stay in the word. It reminds us of truths we need to meditate upon. The scriptures also help us keep the big picture in perspective. And we must constantly remember who we are and Who He is! We must constantly be reminded of His love, His justice, His sovereignty, His patience with us. By keeping our minds focused on His word, we can do this. Stay in the word. Devour it. Trust it. Lean upon it. It will provide all we need to live our lives responsibly, lovingly, and obediently.

Resources!

If you are struggling with loneliness (or are concerned about a friend), seek counsel in Deborah’s mini-book, HELP! I’m So Lonely.
You also may like to check out all of the books in the Help! series. Click here to see them.

The post Lonely During the Holidays? Here’s Help appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

95 Affirmations for Gospel-Centered Counseling

Luther’s 95 Theses for Salvation and the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s 95 Affirmations for Sanctification 

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 theBiblical 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.

Note: 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).
  1. 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).
  1. The vision for gospel-centered counseling is for the entire church to speak gospel truth in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).
  1. 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 

  1. 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).
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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; 10:10; 17:17).
  1. 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.
  1. 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).
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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).

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You can continue reading the rest of these 95 Affirmations and download the entire document here: 95 Affirmations for Gospel Centered Counseling.

If you would like to share the link to the PDF with others, you can use this shortened link: http://bit.ly/95Affirmations

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14 Free Resources for Counseling Under the Cross

Counseling Under the Cross Releases Today!

Today, September 11, 2017, is the official release date by New Growth Press of my latest book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life.

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.

Through Counseling Under the Cross, learn how Luther richly, relevantly, robustly, and relationally applied the gospel to suffering, sin, sanctification, and our search for peace with God.

Through lively vignettes, real-life stories, and direct quotes from Luther, you will be equipped to apply the gospel to yourself and others—finding hope and help in Christ alone.

Counseling Under the Cross guides pastors, counselors, lay leaders, and friends toward a rich understanding of the gospel that will directly impact their personal ministry to others.

14 Free Resources for Counseling Under the Cross 

You can download all of the following resources here. If you want to send this link to a friend, here’s a shortened version: http://bit.ly/LutherResources

  1. Read and download 95 Martin Luther Quotes of Note (PDF Version)
  2. Read and download 95 Martin Luther Quotes of Note (Word Document Version)
  3. Read and download 15 Martin Luther Quotes of Note on The Sufficiency of Scripture/Sola Scriptura
  4. Read and download 15 Martin Luther Quotes of Note on Comforting the Suffering
  5. Read and download 15 Martin Luther Quotes of Note on Looking at Life through the Lens of the Cross
  6. Read and download 15 Martin Luther Quotes of Note on Preaching the Gospel to Yourself
  7. Read and download 15 Martin Luther Quotes of Note on Growing in Grace
  8. Read and download 20 Martin Luther Quotes of Note on Salvation by Faith Alone/Sola Fide
  9. Enjoy 15 Q&A Responses by Author Dr. Bob Kellemen on Counseling Under the Cross
  10. Download PowerPoint Slides: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Suffering (PowerPoint Presentation from Wittenberg Germany on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation)
  11. Download Outline Notes: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Suffering (Lesson Handout/Notes from Wittenberg Germany on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation)
  12. Download PowerPoint Slides: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Sin and Sanctification (PowerPoint Presentation from Wittenberg Germany on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation)
  13. Download Outline Notes: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Sin and Sanctification (Lesson Handout/Notes from Wittenberg Germany on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation)
  14.  Read Endorsements for Counseling Under the Cross. 

Enjoy Your Autographed Copy at 25% Off

You can purchase an autographed copy of Counseling Under the Cross on sale at 25% off for just $14.99 at the RPM Bookstore.

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Biblical Preaching and Biblical Counseling: What Makes Them “Biblical”?

My friend, David Murray, wrote a piece for The Gospel Coalition in 2012 that was re-posted this past week: How Biblical Is Biblical Counseling? In it, David shares the following analogy about what makes “biblical preaching” “biblical.”

Take, for example, “biblical preaching.” “Biblical” here does not mean we only use the Bible in sermons. Biblical preaching expounds the Bible, but it also draws from non-biblical sources—some of them authored by unbelievers—such as syntactical, grammatical, lexical, and textual guides and commentaries. We often incorporate historical, geographical, sociological, and cultural research. We regularly draw from current scientific findings and the modern media to teach, explain, or illustrate a point. Even the form and communication style of most modern sermons has been derived largely from ancient and modern philosophical and political speech forms. However, although some of the content and form of biblical preaching is drawn from outside the Bible, we believe that God has provided a Bible that is up to the task of filtering out the false and admitting the truth of God that he has graciously placed in the world.

Related to this analogy, David writes:

For some in our family, “biblical” means “Bible only.” For them, biblical counseling could be more accurately renamed “Bible counseling.” In principle, it means they use only the Bible in counseling people; nothing else is helpful, and anything else is compromise.

The Ministry of the Word 

In the spirit of friendly dialogue, I’d like to follow-up on David’s analogy. I don’t believe his analogy captures the concerns of biblical counselors. Before I make that analogy, consider a comparison: both biblical counseling and biblical preaching are ministries of the Word.

  • Biblical Preaching: The pulpit ministry of the Word, the public ministry of the Word.
  • Biblical Counseling: The private ministry of the Word, the personal ministry of the Word.

When the pastor preaches from the pulpit, he focuses on relating God’s truth to life. When the pastor shares in interactive, conversational ways in the pastoral counseling office, he focuses on relating God’s truth to life.

The question I want us to consider is, “Should extra-biblical worldviews have a role in biblical preaching or biblical counseling?”

Is It “Biblical Preaching” If the Content, Foundation, and Worldview Are 95% Secular?

Here’s the first analogy that biblical counselors would use. Some counselors say they are doing Christian counseling when they open and close in prayer and perhaps sprinkle in one verse during the 60-minute meeting. To use the preaching analogy, is it biblical preaching if the content, foundation, and communication of the message is composed of 95% secular worldview with an opening and closing prayer and one verse mentioned but never developed? If 95% of the message contains the viewpoints of 20th Century atheistic philosopher Bertrand Russell, and Gandhi, and liberal theologians, is it biblical preaching?

This is the concern of biblical counselors: is the authority basis for the Christian life built upon biblical theology? Or, is the authority basis for the Christian life built upon the theories of secular philosophy, secular psychology, and secular sociology? The key word here is theories—worldview, the source of understanding of people, problems, and solutions.

Now, some may say, “You’re using an outlier, Bob. No Christian counselor would be 95% secular.” I recently read a major Christian Integrative Counseling text. The index of sources was multiple pages—with the majority of those sources being secular. The Scripture index consisted of 3 verses—covering over 750 pages of text. I love my Christian Integrative Counseling friends, but I would humbly encourage them to consider if sometimes there is a lack of theological richness and biblical robustness.

Is It “Biblical Preaching” If the World’s Authority and Wisdom Are Placed Over the Word’s Authority and Wisdom?

But let’s assume the first analogy is an outlier. Here’s a second question: “Is it biblical preaching if the secular worldview holds sway over the Bible’s worldview?” Both are quoted in a sermon (the world’s wisdom and the Word’s wisdom), but when there’s a discrepancy, the world’s wisdom trumps the Word’s wisdom. How many of us would attend a church where an entire 12-week series placed the world’s authority over the Word’s authority?

And yet, some models of integrative counseling do that. This is where biblical counselors are concerned. The analogy is not about syntax, but about worldview and the source of authoritative wisdom for life.

Is It “Biblical Preaching” If the World’s Authority and Wisdom Are Seen as Equal to the Word’s Authority and Wisdom?

Again, David or others may say, “But the committed, well-trained Christian Integrative Counselor is not going to place the world over the Word.” So, let’s ask another question. “Is it biblical preaching if the world’s authority and wisdom are seen as equal to the Word’s authority and wisdom?” Both are quoted an equal amount. Both are seen to have areas or spheres of authority. Bertrand Russell’s secular worldview is given equal credence in matters of faith and practice as Peter, Paul, James, John, or Jesus.

How many of us would listen to sermons for 12 weeks when worldly wisdom for living is given equal footing with the wisdom of the Word? How many of us should attend 12 counseling sessions where the counselor gives worldly wisdom for living equal footing with the Word’s wisdom for living?

Is It “Biblical Preaching” If the Word’s Authority and Wisdom Are Seen As Superior to the World’s Authority and Wisdom, Yet the World’s Wisdom for Living Is Still a Major Foundation and Component of the Preaching? 

Again, David and others may say, “Wait, Bob. The Christian Integrative Counselor uses God’s Word as the grid by which anything from the world is evaluated.” I would respond, “Remember, we’re not talking about syntax. We’re talking about worldview. We’re talking about whether a fallen world has comprehensive wisdom to explain people—humanity, anthropology, who we are, and how we are designed in our souls in relationship to God.”

I’d continue, “And we’re talking about whether a fallen world has comprehensive wisdom to explain sin—the fall, hamartiology, what went wrong, how our souls are in rebellion before God and lack shalom.”

And I’d keep going, “We’re talking about whether a fallen world has comprehensive wisdom to explain solutions—salvation, reconciliation, sanctification, recovery from suffering, victory over sin, who God is, who Christ is, what the gospel is and how it makes a daily difference.”

So, yes, a preacher might quote from a movie—but illustratively to help describe a biblical principle. But if that preacher, even if he talks about the authority of the Word over the world, builds the thesis of his sermon from the movie, or builds major points of his sermon from a liberal theologian’s understanding of life, or builds components of his sermon from a secular philosopher’s worldview—for 12 weeks in a row—how many of us would keep attending that church?

This moves us to the heart of the issue. Do we have confidence that God’s Word has robust, rich, relevant, relational, profound wisdom and insight for the soul issues we face every day? Or, do we believe that the fallen world, in rebellion against God, has robust, rich, relevant, relational, profound wisdom and insight for the soul issues we face every day?

Biblical Counselors and Biblical Worldviews 

Biblical counselors are concerned about a biblical worldview—about building our understanding of people, problems, and solutions from a rich, robust, Christo-centric, gospel-centered, God-glorifying foundation. We are “Bible only counselors” when it comes to biblical worldviews about people, problems, and solutions—living whole, healthy, and holy lives in a fallen and broken world.

Biblical counselors are not “Bible only counselors” when it comes to understanding medical science, neurological research, or descriptive psychological research. (For a robust presentation of the biblical counseling view, see the Biblical Counseling Coalition book Scripture and Counseling, and for a summary statement see the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Confessional Statement). A couple of examples might help—first, neuroscience. Dr. Charles Hodges, an MD and a biblical counselor, wrote the book, Good Mood Bad Mood where he quotes many neuroscience articles. They were all placed under a biblical grid. Neuroscience, when it “stays in its lane” of doing neurological research, is not a “worldview.” There’s a worldview behind it (often an evolutionary one) that must always be considered. But neither Dr. Hodges nor I would have a problem with a legitimate neurological finding being shared with a counselee. That may be more like the syntax analogy that David Murray uses.

What about psychological research? Again, even worldview perspectives creep into how one does research. Yet, biblical counselors have expressed openness to descriptive psychology—a description of what happens, not a diagnosis of why and not a prescription of what to do. When descriptive psychology “stays in its lane,” I could potentially use a finding under the authority of Scripture. For example, in God’s Healing for Life’s Losses, I briefly introduce one descriptive model of the grief process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It’s one way of describing how people stereotypically respond to loss in a fallen world. It is not prescriptive. In the rest of God’s Healing for Life’s Losses, I explore what the Bible’s wisdom communicates to us about a Christ-centered way of moving through grief—prescriptive, theoretical, theological biblical counseling. The description comes from research. The diagnosis and prescription comes from the Word.

The Takeaway

Biblical counselors do not want to integrate a biblical worldview with a secular worldview. Neither does a biblical preacher. That’s the central analogy. That’s the central message of Colossians 2:8:

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

Biblical counselors do not want to integrate biblical counseling theory with secular counseling theory—ideas about people, problems, and solutions—because those are fundamentally theological issues—yes, biblical issues. In theory-building (theology-building), yes, biblical counselors are “Bible only” without apology. Just like preachers who build their messages on the exegesis of the text of Scripture and on a comprehensive biblical worldview are “Bible only” preachers—without apology.

Join the Conversation 

So, what do you think—what makes biblical preaching and biblical counseling biblical? 

Note: As my post was going “live,” I noticed that David also has a more recent post on this topic: Do We Need More Than the Bible for Biblical Counseling? I think his argument in this more recent post is similar to the analogy David used in his 2012 TGC post.

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Martin Luther, Pastoral Counseling, Sola Scriptura, and the Sufficiency of Scripture

In Biblical Preaching and Biblical Counseling: What Makes Them Biblical?, I dialogue with my friend, David Murray. My focus in that post is on how biblical counselors use God’s Word to build the foundation for our counseling model—our biblical counseling worldview, our theology and theory of people, problems, and solutions. It is from God’s Word that we find foundational wisdom for life for building our way of thinking about helping hurting people in their daily lives.

Talking with a Counselee 

But what about the practice of pastoral counseling? When I’m sitting across from a hurting person who is struggling either with an issue of suffering in a fallen world, or with an issue of sin and sanctification, what is the relative role of Scripture in our conversation? Does Scripture only control my thinking about understanding the person, diagnosing the problem, and interacting about wisdom-based solutions?

Or, can and should God’s Word play a central role in our actual conversation? Am I confident as a pastoral counselor in the power of God’s Word in the counseling conversation? Am I competent as a pastoral counselor in using God’s Word to comfort and encourage the hurting and to reconcile and guide the person struggling against sin?

In light of this practical issue, I thought it might be instructive to consider Martin Luther’s practice of pastoral counseling. What did sola Scriptura—Scripture alone—look like as Martin Luther interacted with parishioners?

Luther and The 14 Consolations 

One of Luther’s benefactors and protectors, the Elector Frederick the Wise, was seriously ill. Frederick’s chaplain asked Luther to write Frederick some words of consolation. They have come down to us as The 14 Consolations. In the superstition of the day, a shepherd had claimed to see a vision of 14 saints. As a result, sick Christians began praying to these 14 saints.

Luther took the motif of the number 14, and moved it from superstition and saints to Scripture and the Savior. He presented the Elector Frederick the Wise with 14 scriptural images—7 images of Christ crucified and 7 images of Christ resurrected.

Luther kept Jesus on every page of his counseling.

The English version of The 14 Consolations is 45-pages long. In those 45 pages, Luther quotes 169 passages. The average small book today is about 5 times that size. So, had Luther written Frederick a small counseling manual today, he would have quoted, developed, and discussed nearly 850 passages!

This is not to say that Luther’s focus on Scripture means he would have ignored science—see below on that. It is simply to say that sola Scriptura and sufficiency of Scripture played a central role in Luther’s actual practice of pastoral counseling.

Luther’s words of pastoral counsel were Word-saturated.

Luther was confident in the power of God’s Word. Luther always pointed people to the Word of God as their ultimate hope and primary help in suffering, sin, and sanctification. The Scriptures, for Luther, were sufficient to comfort the hurting, confront the sinning, and cheer the saint.

Luther and the Sufficiency of Scripture for Comforting the Suffering 

Consider just a few examples from Luther’s various writings, where he highlights the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling the hurting.

“You have the Apostle Paul who shows to you a garden, or paradise, which is full of comfort, when he says: ‘Whatever was written, was written for our instruction, so that through patience and the consolation of the Scriptures we might have hope’ (Romans 15:4). Here he attributes to Holy Scripture the function of comfortingWho may dare to seek or ask for comfort anywhere else?[I]

“Comfort yourself with the Word of God, the pre-eminent consolation.”[ii]

“It is thus very true that we shall find consolation only through the Scriptures, which in the days of evil call us to the contemplation of our blessings, either present or to come.”[iii]

“I have learned by experience how one should act under temptation, namely, when any one is afflicted with sadness…. Let him first lay hold of the comfort of the divine Word.”[iv]

“Christ heals people by means of his precious Word, as he also declares in the 50th chapter of Isaiah (verse 4): ‘The Lord hath given me a learned tongue, that I should know how to speak a word in season to the weary.’ St. Paul also teaches likewise, in Romans xv 14, that we should obtain and strengthen hope from the comfort of the Holy Scriptures, which the devil endeavors to tear out of people’s hearts in times of temptations. Accordingly, as there is no better nor more powerful remedy in temptations than to diligently read and heed the Word of God.”[v]

“Those who are tempted by doubt and despair I should console in this fashion. First, by warning them to beware of solitude and to converse constantly with others about the Psalms and Scriptures.”[vi] 

Luther and the Sufficiency of Scripture for Overcoming Sin and Temptation 

Consider just a few examples from Luther’s various writings, where he highlights the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling people dealing with sin and temptation. 

Nothing helps more powerfully against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts than occupying oneself with God’s Word, having conversations about it, and contemplating it.”[vii]

“Therefore, whenever any one is assailed by temptation of any sort whatever, the very best that he can do in the case is either to read something in the Holy Scriptures, or think about the Word of God, and apply it to his heart.”[viii]

“If you now attempt, in this spiritual conflict, to protect yourself by the help of man without the Word of God, you simply enter upon the conflict with that mighty spirit, the devil, naked and unprotected.” Such an endeavor would be worse than David against Goliath—without God’s supernatural power helping David. You may, therefore, if you so please, oppose your power to the might of the devil. It will then be very easily seen what an utterly unequal conflict it is, if one does not have at hand in the beginning the Word of God.”[ix]

“Let us learn, therefore, in great and horrible terrors, when our conscience feels nothing but sin and judges that God is angry with us, and that Christ has turned His face from us, not to follow the sense and feeling of our own heart, but to stick to the Word of God.”[x] 

“No man should be alone when he opposes Satan. The church and the ministry of the Word were instituted for this purpose, that hands may be joined together and one may help another. If the prayer of one doesn’t help, the prayer of another will.”[xi]

“For one has to instruct consciences that the comfort of the gospel is directed to each individual particularly; therefore, as you people who understand these matters know, the gospel has to be applied through the Word to each individual particularly, so that each individual in his conscience is tossed about by the questions whether this great grace, which Christ offers to all men, belongs to him too.”[xii]

“So we also labor by the Word of God that we may set at liberty those that are entangled, and bring them to the pure doctrine of faith, and hold them there.”[xiii] 

Scripture for the Soul, Medicine for the Body 

Luther’s doctrine of sufficiency was robust enough to make room for the appropriate use of medication.

“Accordingly a physician is our Lord God’s mender of the body, as we theologians are his healers of the spirit; we are to restore what the devil has damaged. So a physician administers theriaca (an antidote for poison) when Satan gives poison. Healing comes from the application of nature to the creature . . . . It’s our Lord God who created all things, and they are good. Wherefore it’s permissible to use medicine, for it is a creature of God. Thus I replied to Hohndorf, who inquired of me when he heard from Karlstadt that it’s not permissible to make use of medicine. I said to him, ‘Do you eat when you’re hungry?’”[xiv]

On the other hand, when convinced that an issue was spiritual in nature, Luther did not hesitate to call for spiritual, rather than medicinal cures. Scripture is God’s prescription, God’s choice medicine, for soul sickness. Luther writes to his friend John Agricola concerning John’s wife:

“Her illness is, as you see, rather of the mind than of the body. I am comforting her as much as I can, with my knowledge. In a word, her disease is not for the apothecaries (as they call them), nor is it to be treated with the salves of Hippocrates, but by constantly applying plasters of Scripture and the Word of God. For what has conscience to do with Hippocrates? Therefore, I would dissuade you from the use of medicine and advise the power of God’s Word.”[xv]

Note: The preceding quotes from Luther came from my recently-released book,Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life.

[i]Luther, LW, Vol. 49, p. 16.

[ii]Tappert, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, p. 63, emphasis added.

[iii]Luther, LW, Vol. 42, p. 124.

[iv]Nebe, Luther As Spiritual Adviser, pp. 175-176.

[v]Nebe, Luther As Spiritual Adviser, p. 179.

[vi]Tappert, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, p. 117.

[vii]Luther, The Large Catechism, p. 187, in Krey, Luther’s Spirituality.

[viii]Nebe, Luther As Spiritual Adviser, p. 178.

[ix]Luther, Commentary on Romans, pp. 179-180.

[x]Luther, Commentary on Galatians, pp. 333, 126.

[xi] Luther, LW, Vol. 54, p. 78.

[xii]Luther, LW, Vol. 50, p. 77.

[xiii]Luther, Commentary on Galatians, pp. 333, 126.

[xiv]Luther, LW, Vol. 54, pp. 53-54.

[xv]Smith, The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, p. 402.

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Martin Luther, Pastoral Counseling, and Mental Illness

A Word from Bob: It is vital that we minister with love and wisdom in all situations related to mental illness and the church. For an expanded look at this issue, please download my free resource Mental Illness and the Church. This resource explores how God calls us to compassionate, comprehensive care for those struggling with deeply distressing and chronic emotional and mental health concerns.

The Gospel and Mental Health 

In my previous post, we examined Martin Luther, Pastoral Counseling, Sola Scriptura, and the Sufficiency of Scripture. We might think:

“Well, sure Luther could use Scripture for the easy, spiritual stuff. He didn’t have to deal with modern issues that we would now label mental illness. Had he done that, then he would not have found gospel-centered counseling to be sufficient.”

Let’s take a look at the historic facts…

Luther’s Compassionate, Competent, and Comprehensive Pastoral Counseling

Winfried Schleiner examined 500 years of the treatment of schizophrenia, psychosis, and melancholy from the Renaissance through the Reformation. Schleiner concluded that “medical writers of the period rarely show any sympathy for such delusive conditions.”[I]

Renaissance doctors delighted in mocking psychotics (persons thinking themselves other than they were—a clay jar, a cock with flapping wings). They were considered comic fools. “The sense of ridicule overcomes pity. Of course the pain and inhumanity resulting from unsympathetic attitudes towards psychotics have mostly gone unrecorded.”[ii]

Schleiner set as his task finding some source whose treatment and healing methodology might be more compassionate.

If, then, a certain kind of psychotic case tended to attract medical ridicule and …did not lead to serious consideration of therapy, we may have to look elsewhere in the Renaissance for a glimpse of what has become so strikingly obvious in our times: that a knowledge of the patients’ histories, empathy with their condition, and endeavors to understand their particular thought processes are important in the treatment of psychotics, whose suffering and pain are beginning to be fully recognized.[iii]

According to Schleiner, “one must look to theologians…to find sympathetic treatments of the condition” (of schizophrenia).[iv] Only in Luther did he find someone manifesting “an encompassing sympathy for the psychotic.”[v]

Redemptive Relationships 

Schleiner’s work bears examination because it highlights what was so important to Luther—personal encounter or cure by redemptive relationships. He called Luther’s cure, the cure by charity and company—“societas.” Schleiner summarizes his findings by noting that compassionate care was a major part of the cure in Luther:

“Indeed it can be said that this sense of caring becomes a vehicle of therapy.”[vi]

And Schleiner notes that “clearly human company is the essential ingredient in the cure of the melancholic.”[vii]

3 Difficult Cases 

What sort of strugglers does Luther interact with? One was a “melancholic who refused to eat and drink and hides in a cellar. He rebuffs any charitable helpers with the words ‘Don’t you see that I am a corpse and have died? How can I eat?’”[viii] Here is a person who is both depressed and psychotic—thinking he is dead.

In a second case, Luther dealt with an individual who thought he was a rooster “with a red comb on his head, a long beak, and a crowing voice.”[ix]

What was Luther’s care and cure for these two individuals? Schleiner says the two elements common in every one of Luther’s cases were “the consideration of the psychotic’s past and the role of societas (company, relationship) in re-integrating such a person into the community.”[x]

Reintegrating the soul through compassionate relationships was an essential element in Luther’s soul care. He used his personal relationship as a way of encountering another person on behalf of God so that the other person’s image of God and relationship to God could be altered in ways which brought integration to their personality. In fact, Schleiner even labeled Luther’s approach “compassionate reintegration.”[xi]

In his conclusion, Schleiner writes:

Luther shows none of the dehumanizing amusement that often animates even learned physicians when they report certain kinds of cases. The “cure” is brought about not by trickery but by friendly persuasion, by appeal to common humanity, by company. The entire story is informed by a strong sense of sympathy for a patient who becomes stigmatized by society.[xii]

Luther believed that spiritual wholeness or integration was achieved through personal encounter. This was true in his ministry to others and in his openness to being ministered to by others. After reading 1,000s of pages of first-hand accounts of Luther’s interactions, August Nebe said of Luther, “He never regarded himself as all-sufficient, nor as highly lifted up above all others; humbly and urgently he besought help in hours of trial.”[xiii]

Schleiner discussed a third case that Luther addressed. This person was labeled a “voluntary retentive”—someone who refused to urinate. In most Renaissance cases like this, no history was taken or given. Not so with Luther. In talking with this person, Luther traced the beginning of this disorder to a sermon this person heard about works-righteousness. The person came to believe that if he could perfectly control his body and soul, that he would be accepted by God.[xiv]

Having gleaned this history, Luther then gives an etiology or cause as he calls this person a “iustitiarius”—someone attempting to justify himself by works rather than by faith.”[xv] His cure was redemptive/gospel-centered—pointing the person away from works of righteousness to the righteousness of Christ. His interactions with the voluntary retentive person helped him to see that his behavior was rooted in the pride of self-sufficiency. Luther also helped this man see that he must put on renewed images of God in Christ as a God of grace.

This vignette is one of many examples of how Luther encouraged his followers to reinterpret life by exegeting it from a gospel perspective. He cared for souls by promoting the curative attitude of spiritual insight into the redemptive meaning behind events and experiences: cure through looking at life through the lens of the cross of Christ.

Note: I excerpted the preceding material from Chapter 7 of my recently-released book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life.

[i]Schleiner, “Renaissance Exempla of Schizophrenia: The Cure by Charity in Luther and Cervantes,” 157-176.

[ii]Ibid., 159.

[iii]Ibid., 158.

[iv]Ibid., 163.

[v]Ibid., 163, 165.

[vi]Ibid., 163.

[vii]Ibid., 163.

[viii]Ibid., 173.

[ix]Ibid., 166.

[x]Ibid., 172 .

[xi]Ibid., ibid.

[xii]Ibid., 172.

[xiii]Nebe, Luther as Spiritual Advisor, 13.

[xiv]Schleiner, 164.

[xv]Ibid. 164.

The post Martin Luther, Pastoral Counseling, and Mental Illness appeared first on RPM Ministries.