Category Archives: Biblical counseling

Gospel Awareness and Self-Analysis

“The Puritans and [Jonathan] Edwards had the highest view of the mercy of God. In a sense their high view of the mercy of God is what gave them the courage to be self-analytical. But I think people reading them who are not grounded in a high view of the gospel can become depressed and introspective.”

David Powlison, CCEL podcast: “Biblical Counseling and the Puritans.”

History of Biblical Counseling

New podcast featuring Dr. David Powlison…

Powlison on Self-Pity

“Feeling sorry for yourself is one of the strongest, most addictive narcotics known to man. It feels so good to feel so bad. Self-pity arises so easily, seems so plausible, and proves so hard to shake off.”

- David Powlison in the newest Journal of Biblical Counseling (Summer 2007, Vol. 25, No. 3) p. 7.

Antidepressants on the rise

CNN is reporting that antidepressants are now the most commonly prescribed drug.

“In its study, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at 2.4 billion drugs prescribed in visits to doctors and hospitals in 2005. Of those, 118 million were for antidepressants. … The use of antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs — those that affect brain chemistry — has skyrocketed over the last decade. Adult use of antidepressants almost tripled between the periods 1988-1994 and 1999-2000. Between 1995 and 2002, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the use of these drugs rose 48 percent, the CDC reported. Many psychiatrists see this statistic as good news — a sign that finally Americans feel comfortable asking for help with psychiatric problems.”

What strikes me is that apparently we all know instinctively that we can and should be happier than we really are. We were created to enjoy pleasures forever (Ps. 16:11).

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Related: Dr. Peter R. Breggin, the International Director of the Center for Study of Psychiatry and Psychology writes: “In reality, science does not have the ability to measure the levels of any biochemical in the tiny spaces between the nerve cells (the synapses) in the brain of a human being. All the talk about biochemical imbalances is sheer speculation aimed at promoting psychiatric drugs. … Despite decades of research, thousands of research studies, and hundreds of millions of dollars in expense, no marker for depression has been found. To this day, the individual’s personal feelings remain the basis for diagnosing depression” [Peter R. Breggin, The Anti-Depressant Fact Book (Perseus: 2001) pp. 21, 22].

Review: Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul David Tripp (P&R: 2002) is one of the best contemporary Christian books. For more information, read my review posted today at TakeUpAndRead.com. To celebrate, Monergism Books is running a special deal (50-percent off!). But it will not last long.

If you plan to attend the Banner of Truth Minister’s Conference next month, let me know (click here for more info).

Blessings! Tony

‘Of my own accord’: The Eager Redeemer (pt. 2)

‘Of my own accord’: The Eager Redeemer (pt. 2)
by Tony Reinke

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:17-18a)

Last time we discovered that Jesus must be more than a suitable Redeemer; He must also be a willing Redeemer. In the light of His willingness and eagerness we learn the depth of our Savior’s love.

The most common phrase of Jesus willingness to lay His life down for sinners is to say Jesus “gave Himself” for us (Gal. 1:4, 2:20; Eph. 5:2, 5:25; 1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 2:14). The phrase drips of volition and purpose and of knowing exactly what He was getting Himself into. This willingness is so precious.

Today we look specifically at John 10 and the consequences of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. I call this section “The Heartbeat of an Eager Shepherd.”

Personal pronouns

One striking feature of John 10 is the emphasis on the individual sheep. Listen to how personally Jesus explains the relationship between the sheep and the Shepherd. Jesus says,

“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out … A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. … If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture … For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. … My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

We cannot miss the context of Jesus’ willingness to die. He was willing to die because He personally loved each one of His sheep. When we forget about the willingness of the Shepherd to die, we think of Him as a “hired hand” who came to die by the command of another, dying an impersonal death for some faceless, nameless sheep. Never! Jesus contrasts His own heart with that of a “hired hand” who does not care individually for the sheep (John 10:11-15). “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus lived and died for His specific sheep.

Couched within the willingness of Christ to redeem sinners is the demonstration of Christ’s love towards His individual sheep. Charles Spurgeon writes, “Love delights in personal pronouns … He died for his flock, and for each one of his sheep in particular; so that we may each one say to-day, ‘He loved me, and gave himself for me’ [Gal. 2:20]; and each one know that for himself, with special intent, the Lord Jesus bore the agony and bloody sweat, the cross and passion” (sermons, vol. 35).

If you are one of His sheep, know that the Shepherd Himself willingly gave Himself for you. He knew you, loved you, died for you, suffered for you, bore your wrath, and now protects you and comforts you! Christ was eager to redeem each of His sheep. Be moved by the personal pronouns.

Christ willingly pursues us

Notice what motivates the free willingness of the Son. The Father takes pleasure in the Son’s free offering of Himself (John 10:17). This alone is worthy of much reflection. The Father finds delight in Christ for His willing offering of Himself. Amazing!

Secondly, Christ is moved to eagerness because He loves His sheep. How do we become His sheep? If I understand the context of John correctly, there is nothing you can do to be one of His sheep. This designation rests upon the free, unmerited sovereign grace of God. Jesus said, “but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock” (v. 26). Belief or unbelief are not the determining factor. The determining factor was God’s electing will in placing us in one sheepfold or another. To put it another way, my faith, my obedience, my sinful wretchedness, my love, my character, my successes, my failures do not determine or undermine Christ’s love for me. His was an unconditional love for each sinful sheep in His care.

Because Christ loves depraved sinners like us, calls each of us by name, and willingly gives Himself, we can safely conclude: The Good Shepherd pursues each of His sheep. It’s here that we see the eagerness of the Son. He was motivated to pursue me willingly and of His own freedom. He pursued me. Say that out loud … “He pursued me!”

In Luke 15 the Pharisees came to Jesus and ridiculed Him for “receiving sinners.” They were wrong. Jesus does not receive sinners, He pursues sinners. He pursues sinners like a shepherd pursues a lost sheep (vv. 4-7), like a woman pursues her lost coin (vv. 8-10), like a father runs after his lost son (vv. 11-32). With binoculars and a flashlight in hand, Jesus runs in pursuit of sinners.

Horatius Bonar writes, “in his work of saving, Christ is aggressive and compulsory. He goes out in order to find them. He is ever on the outlook. He does not merely sit above on his throne, willing to receive the applications of those who come. He comes down amongst us. He goes to and fro in the earth; He walks up and down in it. His daily, hourly work is going in quest of sinners” (Light and Truth).

The willingness of Christ reveals the deep love of Christ for you and I. Willingly, eagerly, freely, and aggressively He is in quest of sinners like me. This is grace in its purest form.

Deepest love, deepest comforts

The willing pursuit of your soul by Christ is the source of all comfort in this world. There is no dark cloud that can hide the sun of Christ’s love.

Octavius Winslow writes, “Are you wounded? Does your heart bleed? Is your soul cast down within you? Is your spirit within you desolate? Still Jesus is love, is loving, and loves you. He has suffered and died for you; and, were it necessary, He would suffer and die for you yet again. Whatever blessing He sees good to take from you, Himself He will never take. Whatever stream of creature love He sees fit to dry, His own love will never fail. Oh, can that love fail — can it cease to yearn, and sympathize, and soothe, and support, which brought Jesus from heaven to earth to endure and suffer all this for us? Be still, then, lie passive and low — drink the cup, and let the surrender of your sin, your obedience, and yourself to Him be as willing and as entire as was the surrender of Himself for you. Then shall you, in a blessed degree, be ‘able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, filled with all the fullness of God’” (Daily Walking with God).

Conclusion

We must grasp the willingness of Christ. In His willingness we comprehend the depth of Christ’s love. He pursues sinners. If we are of His sheepfold — found resting in His righteousness alone, saved when He found us drinking from polluted cisterns and lost on the path of destruction — there can be no life situation too dark or too hopeless.

In one of my favorite contemporary books, Instruments in the Redeemers Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change, Paul David Tripp writes, “Biblical personal ministry is more about perspective, identity, and calling than about fixing what is broken” (p. 185). To say it another way, helping others see the willingness of Christ to endure the Cross and His relentless pursuit of His sheep may be one of the most life-transforming, problem-clearing, darkness-breaking truths you will bring to a counseling situation.

Dwell frequently upon Christ’s eagerness.

Calvinism and the redemption of counseling

David Powlison
Calvinism and the redemption of counseling

“Most of the Christian counseling world is not Calvinistic. Most often, ‘Christian counseling’ consists of lightly reworked versions of secular theories and practices, embedded in a professional fee-for-service structure indistinguishable from the mental health system. Though practitioners of a Christianized psychotherapy sincerely profess Christian faith, they too-often ignore basic implications of biblical faith … Wise Calvinism is the hope of counseling. Practical Calvinism! The varied wisdoms necessary for curing what needs curing come into their own via a world view and modus operandi that operates in terms of the Lord of heaven and earth. Theocentricity, coram Deo, the Five Points [of Calvinism], the solas, and the rest will prove to be the redemption of counseling.”

- David Powlison in The Practical Calvinist (Mentor: 2002) pp. 497, 504.

Title: The Practical Calvinist: An Introduction to the Presbyterian and Reformed Heritage, In Honor of D. Clair Davis’ Thirty Years at Westminster Theological Seminary
Author: 29 contributors; edited by Peter A. Lillback
Reading level: 3.0/5.0 > Moderate
Boards: hardcover
Pages: 584
Volumes: 1
Dust jacket: no
Binding: glue
Paper: normal
Topical index: yes
Scriptural index: yes
Text: perfect text
Publisher: Christian Focus, Mentor
Year: 2002
Price USD: $37.99 / $27.99 at CBD
ISBNs: 1857928148

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Click here to access previous posts in the Humble Calvinism index.

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