by Todd A. Sinelli
“To whom shall we go?”
The Apostle Peter asked this question rhetorically almost 2000 years ago. Yet, this question is still being asked frequently, sincerely, and desperately by men and women who are hoping to find answers to many of life’s riddling questions.
“To whom shall we go?”
Where and to whom shall we go for answers? Who can help us in times of despair? How can we help those who have been sexually abused? What do you say to a suicidal person? What should your response be to losing a child, financial misfortune, or an adulterous wife?
“To whom shall we go?”
This article will directly answer the aforementioned question and strongly encourage the regenerate Christians to follow the Scriptures and to travel upon the narrow and straight road that leads to life everlasting and to avoid the broad and open path that leads to destruction.
Myth vs. Truth
Life presents us with many choices. Cable TV now offers over 100 channels. If you would like a beverage, you can purchase a Coca Cola with a lemon twist, vanilla or cherry flavored Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Light, Caffeine free Diet Coke, and the list goes on and on. Choices can be overwhelming in many areas; however, there are more important questions to answer other than which cable show to watch or what beverage we should drink.
Where do we turn to receive answers for life’s eternal questions like: Why am I here? For what purpose was I created? What happens when I die? The bible gives us clarity of thinking and provides a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path.” Without the light of God’s Word shining into our lives, we literally will walk in the darkness and attempt to seek answers to these questions in some other media or through some self prognosed medium.
The Bible warns us not to seek counsel outside of God’s Word. In the book of Colossians it states, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”
Christians need to be encouraged to read their bibles because God’s “divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” It is through the Scriptures that we have hope, understanding, and knowledge for life and godliness. The Bible further states that a true knowledge of God, namely Christ, contains all “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.”
We all want answers. We want truth. Yet, sometimes just like Jack Nicholson expressed in the movie A Few Good Men, many people believe that “we can’t handle the truth.” This is not true because Jesus said, “If you believe in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Truth sets us free. Knowing Jesus and abiding in His Word allows us to express our love to Him through obedience.
In today’s society, more and more people are hoping to find answers to life’s most difficult questions through psychology and hollow and deceptive practices that depend on the teachings of this world rather than according to Christ.
Everyone seems to be asking the same question, “To whom shall we go?” As this question is asked the response for the Christian is always the same, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” The One True Living God named Jesus wants to restore people into right a right relationship with Himself and others by living according to His Words. It’s really that simple and that clear.
Now, let’s look at the permeating myths and lies that our society wants us to embrace over the teachings from the Scriptures.
Myth #1: Psychology is the Antidote
Truth #1: For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
America has great confidence in “experts.” We turn to experts for almost everything. Dr. Phil has grown prominence as an advice expert. Oprah Winfrey is an interviewing expert. Jeff Gordon is an auto racing expert. Almost everyone seems to continually gravitate toward experts. Author Ed Bulkey writes, “We have ‘experts’ to tell us how to lose weight, stop smoking, raise our children, have happy marriages, and be cured of every mental disorder. The universal acceptance of specialization has intimidated many pastors into accepting a secondary role in the ministry of souls.
“Because Americans have accepted the need for experts, we have also accepted their interpretations of human needs and behaviors. Research has confirmed what common sense knew all along: that most personal problems can be solved merely by talking with someone and taking personal action.” There are at least three reasons most professionals reject this research. First, the professional training of psychologists has convinced them of the ‘expert’ myth. Secondly, if psychologists accept the validity of lay counseling, the legitimacy of their profession becomes questionable. Thirdly, if people realize they can get equal results from nonprofessional counseling, the personal income of psychologists will be jeopardized for they depend on a continual stream of paying clients.
The Bible gives us clear instruction from whom we should obtain counsel. Romans 15:14 declares, “you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to admonish one another.” Furthermore, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” With the Word of God, we study diligently to present ourselves as workman approved so that we can correctly handle the truth and encourage others with sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
Biblical counselors must confront, challenge, teach and pray for the counselee to follow Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit ministered through God’s Word, “not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” Sin must be called sin. Repentance must be applied. Forgiveness must be extended. Whatever the spiritual problem is, the Bible gives clear instruction for restoration. Turning to a psychologist to give a non-biblical solution toward a topic that is spiritual in nature cannot yield a solution. Fearing the Lord and obeying His commands are the first steps toward freedom, wisdom, and understanding. Steps must be taken toward doing things God’s way vs. the teachings of men and their hollow and deceptive philosophies.
Biblical counseling is a process by which one Christian restores another to a place of usefulness to Christ in His church. Nouthetic counseling is done by applying the Scriptures “to change through confrontation out of concern. It presupposes, firstly, that there are sinful patterns and activities in the life of the counselee that God wants changed; secondly, that this change will be brought about through a verbal confrontation of the counselee with the Scriptures as the counselor ministers them in the power of the Holy Spirit, and thirdly, that this confrontation is done in a loving, caring, familial manner for the benefit of the counselee.”
In his book Ready to Restore, Jay Adams writes, “The ultimate goal behind all Christian activity, including counseling, is to glorify God (Col 3:23). Adams continues, “Lay counselors must be willing to receive instruction in counseling from the church, just as they would be willing to receive instruction in evangelism or in family living. No one should take it on himself to hang out a shingle and do counseling apart from the church. All lay counseling must be done as part of one’s church activities and under its authority.”
In a study done by J.A. Durlack entitled Comparitive Effectiveness of Paraprofessional and Professional Helpers he writes, “The research reviewed forty-two studies that compared professional counselors with untrained helpers. The findings were ‘consistent and provocative.’ Paraprofessionals achieve clinical outcomes equal to or significantly better than those obtained by professionals . . . The study, on the whole, lent no support to the major hypothesis that . . . the technical skills of professional psychotherapists produce measurably better therapeutic change.”
At the conclusion of this study, psychologist Gary Collins reluctantly admits, “Clearly there is evidence that for most people, laypeople can counsel as well as or better than professionals.” The Word of God instructs that God has given us the ability to counsel one another through His Word.
When looking for a competent counselor, the following essential qualifications must be met: “One must have an extensive knowledge of the Scriptures (Romans 15:14), a good measure of divine wisdom (Colossians 3:16), goodness consistent with a humble attitude (1 Peter 5:5), an ability to relate to others (Colossians 4:6), an ability to communicate (Titus 2:8), and a genuine desire to help others (1 Thessalonians 5:14).”
God wants His people to turn to Him as the Wonderful Counselor and the Lord uses ambassadors as heralds for His Word. His way is straight and narrow and the ways of this world are broad and open. Therefore, we make it our duty and joy in “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”
There are many psychologists that mix Biblical principles with psychological theory. This concept is known as integration. “Integrationists seem to believe that there are counseling issues about which the Bible is silent and which therefore require psychological insights. It is true that the Bible does not specifically speak about cocaine addiction, but it deals with the principles of substance abuse (Proverbs 23:21; 26:11; Romans 6:12; 13:13; Ephesians 5:18). The Bible does not specifically address pornography, but it does deal with mental and spiritual purity (Psalm 119:9, 11; Matthew 5:27,28; Ephesians 4:19; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). There is no single mental / spiritual issue upon which the Bible is silent.”
In his book Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology, Ed Bulkley does a great job of differentiating psychological techniques like “stress management” and “coping methods” which were not known to man before man developed these concepts through the development of psychology. Mr. Bulkley clearly writes, “The Bible, however, dealt with those issues centuries before Wilhelm Wundt, William James, or Sigmund Frued came on the scene. The Scriptures offer many solutions for stress in passages such as Matthew 6:25-33, Philippians 4:4-9, and 1 Peter 5:7. Rather than telling us to learn to cope, the Bible tells us to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) because we have a trustworthy God (Psalm 118:8; Proverbs 3:5; Isaiah 26:4) who loves us (Psalm 32:10) and will give us inner peace (Isaiah 26:3). We are told that if we are in the darkness we should ‘ trust in the name of the Lord’ (Isaiah 50:10), but we are not told to seek psychological insights.”
Psychology can prove very helpful to discern patterns and behavior that result from emotional responses as well as traumatic events; however, as Christians it is wise to take every thought captive and be sure if aligns with what God has to say on the topic through the Scriptures (2 Cor 10:4-5).
As Christians we must be able to answer this question for ourselves and for other Christians that are seeking counsel, “To whom shall we go?”
If we want a cure for a moment, we should grab a candy bar. If we want a cure for an hour, we should go see a movie. If we want a cure for a week, we should take a vacation. However, if we want a cure from the Almighty God of the Universe whose kingdom will have no end, then we should go to Him and to His fully devoted followers with whom His Words dwell.
As Solomon concludes Ecclesiastes after reflecting upon life, “The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”
To find out more about biblical soul care through a model based on grace and truth, visit: http://littorch.com/counseling/