The Sufficiency of Scripture in Biblical Counseling

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“I am having trouble lusting after other women.”

“I cannot seem to control my spending habits.”

“I hate her!”

“I have problems trusting him now.”

“How can I parent that child?”

These and other questions routinely enter the office of the biblical counselor. What does he or she say? How does he or she respond to these, and more frequently, tougher questions?

As we think about biblical counseling, we have already noted a rough outline. In that post, I presented the key concepts of biblical counseling. I also contrasted those concepts with modern (or, secular) psychology.

In this post my aim is to present the basic understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture for Biblical Counseling. What is sufficiency of Scripture? Heath Lambert offers this brief definition, “the sufficiency of Scripture, means that the Bible contains all that we need to know God’s will and live a life pleasing to him.”[1] Narrowing it down further, Joel James presents this definition, “…the Bible is completely sufficient to address people’s deepest spiritual and emotional problems.”[2]

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These two definitions give us two key insights into what biblical counselors mean when they utilize the phrase sufficiency of Scripture. First, its focus is on the Bible. Biblical counselors are biblical because they live and breathe and have their being in the Word of God. Secondly, its scope is everything that involves the spiritual and emotional makeup of man. As beings created in the image of God, human beings have physical and spiritual aspects. Within these are our emotions. This does not mean that it does not address the physical side of a human being. In fact, one of the most practical benefits involving the physical makeup of a human being is the weekly observance of Sabbath.[3] One need not look long before finding that research demonstrates the hazards to a human being’s physical wellbeing with the neglect of proper rest.[4]

Our first insight is that the Scriptures contain all that we need to thrive as image bearers of God, for His glory and for our good. A few passages of Scripture should help demonstrate this point.

Isaiah 29:13-14 provides a glimpse into the horrific results of neglecting God and His Word. Isaiah presents this prophecy, “Therefore, I will again confound these people with wonder after wonder. The wisdom of their wise will vanish, and the perception of their perceptive will be hidden.” (Isa. 29:14, CSB) Because they neglected God, God would turn them over to their inefficient counsel and understanding. It is not unlike, in my opinion, those who forsake the Word of God for the views of modern psychology.[5] Since God meets His people’s needs (primarily through the Scripture), biblical counselors utilize the Word for the counseling of His people.

Another important passage of Scripture is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. In this passage, Paul reveals how God gave humans His Word (via inspiration), its purpose, and its goal.[6] The goal is “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:17, CSB) That is, whatever the child of God needs to be “complete” is found in “the Scripture” that “is inspired by God.”

A final passage that one must not miss when discussing the sufficiency of Scripture is 2 Peter 1:3-4. Here is the CSB’s rendering of this,

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.

There are several important implications that demand our attention, particularly in light of biblical counseling and the role of the Scriptures in the process. First, we note that God has exclusively provided “everything required for life and godliness.” There is nothing the child of God will lack for life or godliness that God Himself has not provided. Secondly, note the source of this exclusive provision: “through the knowledge of Him.” That is an interesting phrase, and yet, if you were like me, you may wonder where the reference to God’s Word is. It is there, although it is not as direct. That phrase, “the knowledge of Him,” is fascinating. “What does that mean?” Or, to put the question in a format pertinent to this post, “Where do we receive this knowledge?” The answer, as Peter would reveal, is the Word of God. He refers to it in verse four as “very great and precious promises.” Through God’s glory and goodness, He has provided us with His Word. And, when the Word is utilized in a God-ordained and Spirit-empowered way (as Peter phrases it, “through them”), we will be like Christ and avoid sin (“you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire”).

These three references provide a brief depiction of the sufficiency of Scripture.[7] Beeke and Smalley, discussing that sufficiency, write,

“The fact that the Bible is the written Word of God, supremely authoritative and self-authenticating, clear in its doctrines, necessary for the church’s salvation and life, unified in is testimony to Christ, efficacious by the Spirit’s work, and unfailingly rue in all that it declares implies that the Bible is uniquely sufficient as God’s special revelation for us today.”[8] I would extend their thoughts to include the concept of biblical counseling. The Bible, and the Bible alone, is sufficient and alone capable of helping humanity in any true and full sense of the word.

While each question at the beginning of this post, and all unasked questions, need a more substantial and developed answer than “the Bible tells me so,” we need not look anywhere else for that answer than to the sufficient, life-giving Word of God.


[1] Heath Lambert, A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016), 37, emphasis original.

[2] Joel James, Counsel with Confidence: A Quick Reference Guide for Biblical Counselors and Disciplers (Wapwallopen, WA: Shepherd Press, 2018), 27.

[3] I highly recommend Richard C. Barcellos, Getting the Garden Right: Adam’s Work and God’s Rest In Light of Christ (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2017). In this book, Barcellos develops and articulates a biblical theological view of the Sabbath.

[4] For one example, see Kathleen Doheny, “Working Yourself to Death: Long Hours Bring Risk,” WebMD, 16 July 2018, https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/news/20180716/working-yourself-to-death-long-hours-bring-risks, accessed 27 October 2020.

[5] For an excellent discussion of the different approaches, see: Eric L. Johnson, ed. Psychology and Christianity: Five Views 2nd Edition (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010).

[6] For inspiration, see Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology Volume I: Revelation and God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 325-332.

[7] For a fuller treatment, see Lambert, A Theology of Biblical Counseling, 37-59; Beeke and Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, 395-406.

[8] Beeke and Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, 396.

Training for Godliness: Prayer

Training for Godliness: Prayer

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Believers are meant to grow. Like flowers in the field, believers require certain items to help them grow. Flowers need water, sunlight, and rich soil in order to develop and grow. We have already examined one of the means by which believers grow (or, train for godliness), and that is the Word of God. The Word provides the soil, if you will, for the believer’s nutrients.

God, in His goodness, provides an additional means for growth through the form of prayer. The London Baptist Confession of Faith states, “Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one part of natural worship, is by God required of all men.”[1] Prayer, while required, is also a wonderful tool in the box of our spiritual growth.

Don Whitney cites two verses of Scripture that demonstrate this: Colossians 4:2 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Pray without ceasing.

When we consider our purpose, to grow in godliness, we must remember how insufficient we are to the task. We are desperate for God’s help. As Whitney remarks, “When there is little awareness of real need there is little real prayer.”[2] Perhaps the reason we fail to engage in this wonderful privilege is because we are too self-sufficient.

Unfortunately, we are like a child who thinks they can do a certain task on their own, but our Heavenly Father knows how utterly incapable we truly are. He reminds us how necessary He is, through the various trials and difficulties we face, through our shortcomings, and through our defeats. Each circumstance will be a reminder, though painful at times, that we are children that need our Father’s help. Our purpose is not to berate one another. Our purpose, as Paul describes it, is to “train [our]selves for godliness.”[3] The question is, “How do we train ourselves in prayer?”

Thankfully, our gracious Father has provided many tools that help us grow. First, we learn to pray through the Scriptures. They are perhaps one of the most amazing tools offered to us by our Father. Continuing their statement on prayer, the writers of the London Confession state, “But that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of the Spirit, according to His will; with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and when with others, in a known tongue.”[4] As proof, the authors of the Confession provide several references to Scripture (John 14:13-14, Romans 8:26, 1 John 5:14, and 1 Corinthians 14:16 and 17. God’s Word informed their Confession on prayer, and it should ours as well. Jesus tells his disciples to pray like this, and then offers the Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.[5]

This offers us a tremendous prayer. We could also add to the prayer more specific requests. For our daily bread, we could request energy to continue to work, a place at work, and even the blessings of using our earnings wisely. This prayer is tremendous, and we need to train ourselves for godliness through prayer.

Don Whiney offers several suggestions on how to learn to pray: “by praying,” “by meditating on Scripture,” “by praying with others,” and “by reading about prayer.”[6] This provides a good routine (see previous post) for us to engage in prayer for the purpose of godliness.

It would be wise of us to heed the words of John R. Rice,

“Prayerlessness is a horrible sin. For the lost sinner it is a part of his wicked rejection of Christ. For the child of God it is identical with backsliding. Prayerlessness is another name for unbelief.”[7]


[1] LBCF 21:3.

[2] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 69.

[3] 1 Timothy 4:7, ESV.

[4] LBCF 21:3.

[5] Matthew 6:9-13, ESV.

[6] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 70-77.

[7] John R. Rice, Prayer: Asking and Receiving (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1970), 267.


Biblical Counseling Helps

In this post, I want to share some of the recent contributions to biblical counseling. I hope that you find these resources pertinent to your own life and ministry.


Julie Lowe from CCEF wrote two posts that I think are helpful for parents and counselors of parents. As ministers (whether a biblical counselor, pastor, or volunteer), we forget that young people are different than adults. Whereas we may set up a weekly meeting and work through a book with an adult, children and adolescents are different. Their growth and mental capacities change, almost daily, and their ability to think and interact are vastly different. In this post, Julie encourages us to look at things differently.

In another post, Julie discusses four principles to discuss sex with one’s children. As one nearing that time for “the talk,” I appreciated Julie’s approach. She writes, “Whatever the reason, avoiding the topic communicates that you are unable or unwilling (or both) to discuss it, and your children will look elsewhere with their questions.” This startled me, and rightly so. I hope it startles you too, parent, as we have been assigned by our sovereign God for this purpose. We need to discuss sex with our children appropriately, and Julie has provided several principles to guide us.


John Henderson of the Association of Biblical Counselors provided a healthy perspective for the biblical counselor’s worldview. This is an essential aspect of counseling from the Scriptures, and yet it is lacking in many our of textbooks. Henderson writes, There are particular truths and distinctions that make a biblical counseling worldview unique from all the other systems of counseling in the world.” These truths and distinctions are necessary for the work of biblical counseling. Check out his work below.


Gabe Powell of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors offers a wonderful discussion on death. We all, without the direct intervention of God, will die. Gabe reminds us, “In order to live like Christ, we must die like Christ.” As biblical counselors, we deal with death on a regular basis. This resource will help us develop a more biblical view of death, and will enable us to help people better.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Manton’s Clarification for Trials

Thomas Manton, the puritan pastor, and remarkable mind wrote An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer (published by Banner of Truth Trust). It is a wonderful study, not only because he provides an explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, but primarily because he does so as a pastor.

Like someone juicing an orange, Thomas Manton squeezes out each drop of goodness and help from this brief Prayer. He incorporates Scripture examples, earthly analogies, and witty phrases to help us get as much out of this wonderful prayer as possible.

In Matthew 6:13, Jesus prays, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (KJV) As Manton begins to develop the thoughts, he provides a helpful discussion on trials. These thoughts would be beneficial for all believers to read and embrace.

First, Manton informs us that “God’s tempting is not to inform himself, but to discover his creatures to themselves and others.”[1] That is to say, God tests us for us to know ourselves better. God already knows everything there is to know, including about his creatures. We are like men standing on the banks of the river, as Manton describes God’s knowledge,

“As a man that is up in the air may see a river in its rise, and fountain, and course, and fall of it—seeth it all at once; whereas another which stands by the banks can only see the water as it passeth by. God seeth all things in their fountain and cause, as well as in their issue and event—he seeth all things together; therefore it is not for his own information.”[2]

We need to have our eyes open. At times, we have sin that has crept into our hearts. Trials produce a magnifying glass to that infection. At other times, we need to have our faith strengthened. When astronauts return from space, they are often weaker because gravity has not tried their muscles. Trials are to the faith of the Christian what gravity is to the muscles of the astronaut.

Second, Manton writes, “God’s tempting is always good, and for good; his tempting is either in mercy or in judgment.”[3] Christians love the first phrase, but often we find ourselves saddened by the latter. The testing of God is an extension of His goodness. Petrus Van Mastricht defines God’s goodness as, “nothing but that perfection of his through which he can communicate himself and deserves to be desired, and must be.”[4] That is, God communicates through goodness, and therefore by extension, through testing. This in no way implies that testing is enjoyable, for as Manton notes God’s testing often comes in the form of judgment. But even this, notes the pastor, is for good. Referencing Hebrews 12:10, Manton uses the punishments of parents as an example of the goodness of God’s trials for the believer. God’s tests are always good.

Third, Manton mentions that “God tempts no man, as temptation is taken properly for a solicitation to sin.”[5] Citing James 1:13, he reminds us that we are never tempted by God to sin. At times, we can be guilty of imagining God’s temptations as temptations to sin, but this is not so. Again, he offers wise pastoral advice, “In temptation, we must distinguish between the mere trial, and the solicitation to sin; the mere trial, that is from God; but the solicitation to sin, that is from Satan and ourselves.”[6] This aligns perfectly with Scripture.

Fourth, and perhaps to remove a potentially harmful understanding, Manton pens this, “When we say, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ we do not beg a total exemption from God’s trials, but only a removal of the judgment of them.”[7] While we do not go about seeking pain and difficulties, we should in no wise attempt to avoid them. We can, as we grow in our understanding of both trials and God’s sovereignty, learn to embrace them.[8] Manton provides excellent pastoral insight at this point, “Prosperity tries us, to see if we be then mindful of God when all things succeed well; and adversity tries us, to see if we can patiently depend upon God.”[9] We should take advantage of each possibility that the sovereign Lord brings into our path.

Fifth, Manton writes, “In passive evils, which are the usual trials of God’s people, we are not to seek them, but to submit to them when they come upon us.”[10] This may cause us to cringe. It goes against our natures. When we are in pain we seek alleviation. For example, when we have a headache, we take Tylenol. If have acid reflux we take an antiacid. But passive evils, that is the difficulty caused by others or simply the byproducts of living in a fallen world, are to be utilized. Manton notes, “Afflictions are not to be sought and desired, but improved.”[11]

Jerry Bridges discusses this important and painful experience of the believer, writing,

Fortunately God does not ask us how or when we want to grow. He is the Master Teacher, training His pupils when and how He deems best. He is, in the words of Jesus, the Gardener who prunes the branches of His vineyard….God does not delight in our sufferings. He brings only that which is necessary, but He does not shrink from that which will help us grow.[12]

Therefore, when God brings passive evils into our lives, let us not seek deliverance but understanding and growth.

Sixth, Manton describes the mercy and grace God provides His children during trials and temptations. “When God tempts us, or trieth his people in mercy, he hath a great deal of care of them under their trials,” he writes.[13] It seems that, at times of trials, we forget the supreme love of God for His children. Christian, He loved us enough to send His Son to die for our sins (see 1 John 3:1; 4:8-10). Yet, for some reason, believers forget this. Manton, in his pastoral way, reminds us that “The Lord will observe his people when they are under trial, how to moderate affliction, how to refresh them with seasonable comfort, that all this might better them, and bring them to good.”[14] Like a master goldsmith, Manton reminds us, He knows how much heat to apply, how long to leave the metal in the flames, and when to pull to the metal out of the flame.[15]

Seventh, the purpose of trials is to develop Christlike growth (see Rom. 8:29). Manton connects the purpose to the trial by declaring, “Though in our trials we manifest weakness as well as grace, yet that weakness is to be done away.”[16] As fallen human beings, we are being restored into the image of Christ. This is a process of restoration, though, and many are our weaknesses. The Shepherd of our souls can help bring our attention to these weaknesses in trials. Our attention to them, however, is only part of the process. We are to weed the gardens of our hearts. We are, Manton reminds us, “You must remember that weakness is manifested that it may be removed…”[17] Bridges refers to this as pruning, and he helpfully adds,

In the spiritual realm, God must prune us. Because even as believers we still have a sinful nature, we tend to pour our spiritual energies into that which is not true fruit [i.e., weaknesses]. We tend to seek position, success, and reputation even in the body of Christ. We tend to depend upon natural talents and human wisdom. And then we are easily distracted and pulled by the things of the world—its pleasures and possessions.[18]

Seek to determine your weaknesses in the trial, and then seek to destroy them.

Eighth, we would do well to remember the point of our existence, even amid trials. Manton remarks, “God permits us to be tempted of Satan and his instruments for his glory and our good.”[19] One of the wonders of the Christian life is that one can glorify God while simultaneously experience good growth. We far too often neglect the glory of God to our detriment. Paul, as Manton mentions, experienced trials at the hand of a “messenger of Satan.”[20] To keep Paull humble, God allowed a severe trial in his life. Even after praying three times, God refused Paul’s request, replying “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”[21] Our existence is meant to bring glory to God, and Manton states, “We should be glad that God be gloried, though with our great inconvenience. And it is for our good; to correct our pride and vainglory.”[22] Amid trials, even painful trials, we should seek to glorify God, and this will result in our good.

Ninth, and finally, Manton writes, “When God permitteth Satan to exercise us, though he suspends the victory, yet if he give us grace to fight and to maintain the combat, it is a great mercy.”[23] This one is a little difficult but is true and helpful nonetheless. In our trials, those times where Satan and his minions attack us, we often pray for deliverance. Yet, even in a no from God, we can see that His no is accompanied by grace to stand firm. We noticed Paul’s prayer in the previous point. What was God’s reply? “My grace is sufficient for you.” Paul was reminded that God’s grace was present in His struggle. “So if God give strength to the soul, it is an answer, though he do not take off the trial,” writes Manton.

Manton offers us a treasure trove of pastoral and practical wisdom concerning this request. The Lord’s Prayer is a bottomless, remarkable passage of Scripture. The next time you find yourself praying the Lord’s Prayer, remember these words from the puritan preacher Thomas Manton.


[1] Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton Volume I (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprint 1993), 202.

[2] Manton, Works, 202.

[3] Ibid., 203.

[4] Petrus Van Mastricht, Theoretical-Practical Theology Volume 2: Faith in the Triune God, trans. By Todd M. Rester, ed. By Joel R. Beeke (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2019), 331.

[5] Manton, Works, 203.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] To help you grow in your understanding of God’s sovereignty, I highly recommend you read chapter 5 of the London Baptist Confession of Faith and the accompanying proof texts.

[9] Manton, Works, 204.

[10] Ibid., 204.

[11] Ibid., 205.

[12] Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 187-189.

[13] Manton, Works, 205.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Bridges, Trusting God, 193.

[19] Manton, Works, 205.

[20] 2 Corinthians 12:7, ESV.

[21] 2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV.

[22] Manton, Works, 205.

[23] Ibid.


For more by Manton, please visit this link.

Check out some of my other posts:

How did God create man?

This post was originally published at warriorcreek.org, used with permission. QUESTION Q. 13: How did God create man? A. 13: God created man, male and female, after His own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures. (Genesis 1:26-28; Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24) EXPLANATION In this question of the Baptist Catechism, we…

What is Biblical Counseling?

What is Biblical Counseling?

For those familiar with the Scriptures and the practicality of God’s Word, biblical counseling may be familiar. With others outside of this realm, or those individuals not part of churches that teach the sufficiency of Scripture, this phrase may cause some confusion.[1]

Biblical counseling, simply defined, is counseling from the Bible. This, of course, is a brief, simple definition. For the most part, most people have a general idea of what counseling is. In their minds they picture a well-educated, sophisticated man or woman sitting in a nice, leather chair. The counselee lays on the couch in the counselor’s office, telling all their problems and struggles.[2] The counselor, then, offers constructive feedback, encouraging the counselee to develop their own process for healing or progression.

I realize this is highly simplistic and not at all consistent.[3] I hope that the reader will, however, acknowledge that this is the popular conception of counseling. Biblical counseling follows a similar approach. A counselee comes to the biblical counselor with a problem or question. After asking questions, the biblical counselor then provides advice based on the Scripture for the issue at hand.[4] There are several key points that deserve mentioning. First, the biblical counselor is one who studies and applies the Bible. While secular psychologists/psychiatrists utilize research and methods based on naturalistic ideologies, the biblical counselor functions within the realms of the sacred Scriptures.[5] In addition, the counselee comes to the biblical counselor with issues that he or she cannot solve on his or her own. These problems can be related to sin but are not always are moral issues. At times, they come to the counselor for help in discerning their progression in life. Finally, the Holy Spirit is involved in biblical counseling as the agent of change.[6] As the biblical counselor opens the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit utilizes God’s Word to produce change. This change, as has already been mentioned, can come in the form of victory over sin, direction for life, or developing spiritual growth.

At this point, a graphic distinguishing the individuals/support involved in biblical counseling may be helpful.

CounselorCounseleeHoly Spirit
An individual who studies the Scriptures to address the various problems faced by human beingsAn individual with a problem, confusion, or other issues unable to progress on his or her ownThe third person of the Trinity, equipping and empowering the biblical counselor to use the Word of God for the people of God to produce change for the glory of God
Individuals in Biblical Counseling

The biblical counseling process can be illustrated like this:

Counselee comes to Counselor with problem (or, issue)Counselor listens to problem, asks follow-up questions, and proceeds to offer biblically-based adviceThe Holy Spirit applies the Word-based advice to the life of the counselee to produce lasting change
The process of biblical counseling

Several assumptions are observed. First, the counselee is assumed to be a believer. That is, the one coming for help can only enjoy biblical change if they are a follower of Jesus Christ. Another assumption is that the biblical counselor is familiar with the Scriptures in such a way that he or she can take the problem or issue presented and direct the counselee to the way for hope. A third assumption is that the Holy Spirit is active in the process. Additionally, it is assumed that the counselee responds to the counsel in a positive manner.

While more could be said, this provides us with a brief overview of what biblical counseling is. Over the next few months, we will use this information as a basic outline to flesh out some of these ideas in greater detail.


[1] In the future I hope to provide a post discussing the sufficiency of Scripture. The sufficiency of Scripture is an important aspect of biblical counseling and needs its own post.

[2] A “counselee” is the one (and at times, several) receiving counsel.

[3] For example, the methodologies of secular psychologists and psychiatrists (secular distinguishing between the biblical counselor’s acceptance of God’s revelation and His supernatural work in the world), differ widely.Thus, their approaches, while consistent within their respective approaches, are in no wise consistent across the board.

[4] This process of asking questions in the initial sessions is referred to as “data gathering.” See: Joel James, Counsel with Confidence: A Quick Reference Guide for Biblical Counselors and Disciplers (Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 2018), 32-35; Jay E. Adams, Critical Stages of Biblical Counseling: Finishing Well, Breaking Through, and Getting Started (Stanley, NC: Timeless Texts, 2002), 59-64; and Paul David Tripp, Instruments In the Redeemer’s Hands: People In Need of Change Helping People In Need of Change (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), 161-181.

[5] Besides the rejection of supernaturalism, secular psychologists/psychiatrists work to help their counselees determine what steps they need to take, rather than offering advice or constructive criticism. See Gerald Corey, Marianne Schneider Corey, and Patrick Callahan, Issues and Ethics In the Helping Professions 8th ed. (Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning, 2011), 76-111 for a representation of this view.

[6] At this point, the reader would do well to read Adams’ chapter on “The Holy Spirit and Counseling” in Jay E. Adams, Competent to Counsel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970), 20-25.

Training for Godliness: The Bible

We have been focusing on Paul’s encouragement to Timothy, “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV). We began by looking at the purpose of the believer’s training: growth in godliness. We train, we work hard, we discipline ourselves, to be godly. Our ultimate goal is expressed in Paul’s words in Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Did you catch that, “conformed to the image of his Son?” Our goal is to be like Christ, or, to put it another way, godliness.
Over the next few posts, we will examine how we do this. If we are to train ourselves for godliness, then we must have a plan in place. Bodybuilders use weightlifting routines.

​​ They figure out what works, what areas need more focus, and what their body responds to best. Likewise, Christians must have a plan in place. They must know what tools are available for their spiritual growth, just as the bodybuilder must know the types of machines and weights available for his physical growth.
We could view this initial post as the barbell of spiritual training. The barbell is a simple piece of equipment. It is a bar with some sort of stopper at the ends. One can slip weights onto it and do a variety of lifts: squats, bench press, military press, and barbell rows, to name a few. What is the barbell of spiritual fitness?

Like the barbell, the Bible is the most basic (and necessary) piece of equipment for the​​ 

The answer is undebatable: the Bible. Don Whitney, who’s book I recommend you purchase and devour, writes, “No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There simply is no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture.”[1]

The spiritual bodybuilder’s barbell is the Bible. Perhaps no other passage of Scripture displays the glory and wonder of the Bible than Psalm 19:7-11,

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

The Bible, more than any other piece of equipment for our training, is the barbell. Like the barbell, the Bible has many different ways that believers can utilize it. Don Whitney discusses these:

  • “Hearing God’s Word”
  • “Reading God’s Word”
  • “Studying God’s Word”
  • “Memorizing God’s Word”
  • “Meditating on God’s Word”
  • “Applying God’s Word”[2]

These are all ways that believers should be utilizing the Bible. Unfortunately, we often leave the barbell of our Bible on our table, in our car, or the pew without ever using it again. If that is you, then simply repent and move forward! Recently a friend reminded me, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” If you have not been reading your Bible, then start today!

HEARING GOD’S WORD

To begin with, one of the best ways you can use the Bible for your training in godliness is to hear it. This refers to the regular preaching and teaching of God’s Word. God has provided His Church with His pastor-teachers to feed them the Word.[3] Church members, in turn, show up and actively listen to the Word preached. They actively listen. Any parent knows the difference between active listening and passive listening. The child has performed an action that the parents do not like and proceed to provide instruction.

​​ After the brief lecture, the parent asks the child, “Did you hear me?” The child’s answer, almost every time, is, “Yes!” And then before the parent can say anything else the child is gone. Then, to the parent’s surprise, the child performs the forbidden action. “Did you hear me?” the parent asks. “Yes, I did!” the child replies, and then proceeds to quote, verbatim, what the parent said. In other words, the child was listening, just passively.

This is how many of us listen to sermons. We passively listen. We hear the words, and we may even take sermon notes. But active listening requires us to engage with the words of both the preacher and the Scriptures. We pray as he preaches, asking God to reveal sins that we must repent of, areas we need to release control, and many other responses. We listen to the Word.

READING GOD’S WORD

The second spiritual exercise that we can do with our Bible barbell is reading the Bible. Don Whitney provides “the three most practical suggestions for consistent success in Bible reading.”[4] They are “find the time,” “find a Bible-reading plan,” and “find at least one word, phrase, or verse to meditate on each time you read.”[5]

​​ 
Like everyone, we are all busy.[6] However, busyness is not an excuse to fail to read the Bible. Whitney remarks, “In no more than fifteen minutes a day you can read through the Bible in less than a year’s time. Only five minutes a day takes you through the Bible in less than three years. And yet the majority of Christians never read the Bible all the way through in their whole life.”[7] We all have 24 hours a day. How we use them, in some part, is up to us. Let us use them to read the Scripture!
But we also need to have a plan. There are many plans out there. Like a bodybuilder choosing their weightlifting routine, we must find out “routine” for Bible reading. There are multiple ways we can engage in the systematic reading of the Bible.
Here are a few possibilities:

Bodybuilders develop a plan and stick to it, but they also make changes to keep their muscles shocked for optimal growth. Likewise, the wise Christian will vary his or her reading plan to keep things fresh and spiritually invigorating. The main point, though, is to pick a plan and stick to it.

STUDYING GOD’S WORD

We may believe that “studying God’s Word” requires a depth of knowledge in history, language (including Greek and Hebrew), geography, and theology. While they certainly help, all that is necessary for Bible study is, as Don Whitney remarks, “a pencil and a piece of paper.”[8]

Writing down main thoughts, questions, and even important verses/thoughts provides insights into passages of Scripture that you may be “familiar with”. You will learn about the individuals in Scripture. You will see interconnected words and themes that simply reading the Scriptures will not provide. Ezra offers us an excellent example of the outline for Bible study:

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. (Ezra 7:10, ESV)

This verse also reminds us of the purpose of Bible study: to be like Christ. As with the Bible reading plans, there is a multitude of Bible study tools. Many are available online for free.[9] Likewise, study Bibles abound. My personal favorites are The MacArthur Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, and the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Journaling Bibles are also useful, as they provide ample space in the margins of the Bible for note-taking. Regardless of how you study, study for godliness.

MEMORIZING GOD’S WORD

Memorizing Scripture provides the believer with an arsenal of encouragement, armament, and worship material. Noting one of the benefits of Scripture memory, the psalmist states, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11, ESV). When we memorize Scripture, we store up God’s Word in our hearts and enjoy the privileges of victory over sin, encouragement during difficult times, and a ready-made liturgy of worship.

Often, however, we find ourselves bemoaning the work of Scripture memory. Whitney describes our present predicament, “Many Christians look on the Spiritual Discipline of memorizing God’s Word as something tantamount to modern-day martyrdom.”[10]

As with each of the preceding methods of utilizing the barbell of Scripture, Bible memory has many methods and plans. I encourage you to purchase Whitney’s book because he offers some helpful insights.

MEDITATING ON GOD’S WORD

As we worked through Psalm 119, we came across a passage that discusses meditation in general. Here is the link to that study. Since I have already devoted a great deal of attention to this subject there, I will let the reader listen to that.

APPLYING GOD’S WORD

Finally, we must apply God’s Word. Up to this point, we have purchased our “gym membership,” we have developed a routine to utilize the barbell of Scripture, and now comes the hard part: putting in the reps.

You see, we can boast of the greatest equipment, we can sport the most expensive clothing, and we can have the greatest array of supplements, but if we fail to lift the weights consistently, we will fail at bodybuilding. Similarly, we can have the most expansive library, perfect knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, and all theology, but without applying the Word of God, we will not grow in godliness.

James, the practical one, phrases it in this way, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22, ESV). The difficulty lies in the application. It is hard, at times, to apply God’s Word. Whitney remarks, “Despite our occasional struggles to understand parts of Scripture, understanding it isn’t our chief problem. Most of Scripture is abundantly clear. Much more often our difficulty lies in knowing how to apply the clearly understood parts of God’s Word to everyday living.”[11] Though not a perfect resource, the Life Application Study Bible, or the Life Application Commentaries provide help in this endeavor. In the New Testament Commentary, the editors state, “Application is putting into practice what we learn.”[12]

Will you put your hand to the bar? Will you stretch and tax your spiritual muscles to grow in godliness? The hardest part of working out is working out. The hardest part of growing in godliness is growing in godliness. Our gracious Lord has provided us with the greatest piece of equipment: the Word of God. Are we willing to use it?

__________
[1] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 28.
[2] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 29-61.
[3] Ephesians 4:11-13 and 1 Peter 5:2.
[4] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 33.
[5] Ibid., 33-34, emphasis his.
[6] If you are too busy, I recommend Kevin DeYoung’s little book Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).
[7] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 33.
[8] Ibid., 37.
[9] I would recommend The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Ligonier, and Grace to You.
[10] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 41.
[11] Ibid., 56.
[12] Bruce Barton, et. al., Life Application New Testament Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale Publishers, 2001), viii.

Training for Godliness: Its Purpose

We read in 1 Timothy 4:7, “Rather train yourself for godliness.”

Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, offers helpful advice throughout this letter. This particular encouragement comes at the heels of a warning against “irreverent, silly myths.” We could say much about this, but for now let’s simply view it as useless issues.[1]

Compared to that, Paul encourages Timothy to train himself for godliness. The word train is a fascinating word which has connection to physical training. But Paul uses the analogy of physical training for spiritual purposes, namely, godliness.

We need to ask ourselves two questions. First, what is godliness? When we answer this question, we are afforded with insights into a clear command of Scripture. And second, how do I train for it? Answering this question provides the means to obtain godliness through training.

We must first answer the question, “What is godliness?” The simple answer is that when one is godly they are like God. Thus, when one is godly they think, speak, and act like God. An outsider observing a godly person would conclude that they are like Jesus. And we learn who Jesus is from the Scriptures. We could answer the question, “What is godliness?” in another way. A godly person is a biblical person. This will become more apparent as we study the spiritual disciplines. But for now, I want to consider what our present situation is.

Donald Whitney, author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, writes, “So many professing Christians are so spiritually undisciplined that they seem to have little fruit and power in their lives…. Spiritually they are a mile wide and an inch deep.”[2] Sadly, this is the state of much of the church. Many people watching Christians do not see godliness. But what does this say about us? How many of us have grown up in church, but could not be properly called godly? How many of us could recite theological truths, but when asked about our lives, would fain to answer that we were like Jesus?

And it is that point that brings us to the purpose for godliness. We train for the purpose of godliness. We want to be like Jesus. When I was first beginning to lift weights, I wanted to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I tried to eat like him, lift like him, etc. That was my goal. In a greater way, our goals as followers of Jesus Christ should be to look like Jesus. But, like so many others, we become distracted with the lesser things of life. We focus on careers and family rather than on Christ. We center on preparing for retirement (or, enjoying it, as the case may be), instead of being intentional with our time.

We are to train for godliness. We are to put in the hard work and consistent determination to grow in godliness. It does not happen by osmosis or laziness. Godliness is developed through intentionally striving to be like Jesus as we read about Him in the Scripture.

As we learn about the spiritual disciplines (i.e., the methods God has provided for growth in godliness), I hope we all keep our purpose in the front of our minds: for godliness. May it be said of us, “they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”[3] How? Because they thought, spoke, and acted like Jesus. Let us train for godliness.

__________

[1] Ralph Earle describes it as “Jewish legends.” See Ralph Earle, “1 Timothy,” in Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary Volume 2: New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 902.

[2] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 21.

[3] Acts 4:13, ESV.

Test the Spirits (Part 7)

We began examining the two temporal aspects of the antichrist last week. We observed the that that the antichrist is already in the world. He is referred to as the serpent, and we examined him particularly in the Garden of Eden.

Photo by Alu0451sha Lamkinson on Pexels.com

John writes, “This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming…” (4:3). That is, there is currently an antichrist in the world (not only Satan, but also the many antichrists who work to disprove the deity of Christ), but there is an antichrist who is coming as well.

Now, there is much discussion and disagreement when it comes to the End Times. This post is not seeking to present a case for either. Instead, it is a reminder of what the apostle John reveals, as well as what Paul. In 2 Thessalonians chapter two, Paul offers an in-depth discussion of this dastardly man,

For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

Thisindividual is described as:

  • A man (notice the words “man” and “son,” and masculine pronouns)
  • An individual who cares not about the Law
  • An individual characterized by destruction
  • An individual who hates gods and religions
  • An individual who assumes worship as God
  • An individual who will be revealed

We see here the principle of the perspicuity of Scripture.[1] That is, the clearness of Scripture in light of other Scripture. Or, as the London Baptist Confession of Faith helpfully states, “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly.”[2]

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

Paul’s words help provide additional insight into John’s statement. Paul fleshes out John’s verse, if you will. Like a picture that is out of focus, Paul’s information helps remove the blur and clears up possible confusion.

But this brings us back to our thought of testing the spirits. You remember that this is John’s focus at the beginning of chapter 4. He is providing additional support to his command for believers to test the spirits: because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

The difference between a true prophet and a false prophet, at least in this portion of John’s letter, centers on the prophet’s view of Christ. A failure to present Christ as a having a body denotes the falsity of the prophet. The energizer of this prophet (and others like him) stem from the spirit of antichrist, and John reminds his readers that the antichrist is already present but is also still to come.

Brothers and sisters, we must beware of the antichrist. He is coming, and he hates God and opposes Him at every turn. We must be aware of the false teachings that beset the church. We must test them.


[1] For a helpful article, see Burk Parsons, “The Perspicuity of Scripture,” Table Talk Magazine, October 1 2015, Ligonier Ministries, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/perspicuity-scripture/, accessed 8 September 2020.

[2] LBCF, I:9.

Training for Godliness: Introduction

Disciplines for a Godly Life

One of my God-ordained goals is to see you (a fellow church member) grow into Christlikeness.[1] The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith summarizes the biblical teaching on the role of the pastor like this,

“The work of pastors being constantly to attend the service of Christ, in his churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer, with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him; it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things according to their ability, so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs; and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others; and this is required by the law of nature, and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” LBCF 26:10

One method the Lord has graciously provided His Church comes in the form of discipline.

In fact, it could be called spiritual discipline. Discipline is an excellent quality that every human being should cultivate. They should be disciplined in their health, in their various occupations, in their relationships, as citizens, and the list could expand.

Discipline, simply put, is “orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.”[2] While discipline is helpful in all areas of life, it is particularly beneficial in the life of a Christian. In fact, it is biblical. Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, encourages him with these words,

“Train ourself for godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV)

Perhaps you are wondering why I use the word discipline when Paul uses the word train. The concept is the same. Train, or discipline, yourself to godliness. Be orderly in your conduct or pattern of behavior. We must ask ourselves, “What is our pattern to follow?” Paul answers simply, “for godliness.” Be like God, brothers and sisters, through training, discipline.

In this series of posts, we will discuss this idea of discipline and the Christian life. There are a multitude of ways that you and I can grow. Thankfully, we will learn from an expert. I would highly recommend you purchase Donald S. Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. It is a wonderful book of only 249 pages. In this book, Whitney discusses the basis for our discipline as believers. He also provides chapters fleshing out the various disciplines available. It is not an exhaustive work, but it is a helpful one.

As you and I grow into the image of Jesus Christ, we must discipline ourselves for godliness. Lazy Christians will never progress in godliness. Only disciplined Christians will grow. We will look at these spiritual disciplines over the next few posts. I hope that you will, like Timothy, train yourself for godliness.

__________

[1] If you are not a member of our church, it is not that I do not want to see you grow. I do! However, God has assigned me to the good people of Warrior Creek Baptist Church. My focus is on them, and biblically so (see Hebrews 13:17). I would encourage you to prayerfully seek out a biblical church to join.

[2] “Discipline,” Merriam-Webster Online (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline, accessed 10 September 2020).

Training for Godliness: Introduction

Disciplines for a Godly Life

One of my God-ordained goals is to see our church grow into Christlikeness.[1] The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith summarizes the biblical teaching on the role of the pastor like this,

“The work of pastors being constantly to attend the service of Christ, in his churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer, with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him; it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things according to their ability, so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs; and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others; and this is required by the law of nature, and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” LBCF 26:10

One method the Lord has graciously provided His Church comes in the form of discipline.

In fact, it could be called spiritual discipline. Discipline is an excellent quality that every human being should cultivate. They should be disciplined in their health, in their various occupations, in their relationships, as citizens, and the list could expand.

Discipline, simply put, is “orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.”[2] While discipline is helpful in all areas of life, it is particularly beneficial in the life of a Christian. In fact, it is biblical. Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, encourages him with these words,

“Train ourself for godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV)

Perhaps you are wondering why I use the word discipline when Paul uses the word train. The concept is the same. Train, or discipline, yourself to godliness. Be orderly in your conduct or pattern of behavior. We must ask ourselves, “What is our pattern to follow?” Paul answers simply, “for godliness.” Be like God, brothers and sisters, through training, discipline.

In this series of posts, we will discuss this idea of discipline and the Christian life. There are a multitude of ways that you and I can grow. Thankfully, we will learn from an expert. I would highly recommend you purchase Donald S. Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. It is a wonderful book of only 249 pages. In this book, Whitney discusses the basis for our discipline as believers. He also provides chapters fleshing out the various disciplines available. It is not an exhaustive work, but it is a helpful one.

As you and I grow into the image of Jesus Christ, we must discipline ourselves for godliness. Lazy Christians will never progress in godliness. Only disciplined Christians will grow. We will look at these spiritual disciplines over the next few posts. I hope that you will, like Timothy, train yourself for godliness.

__________

[1] If you are not a member of our church, it is not that I do not want to see you grow. I do! However, God has assigned me to the good people of Warrior Creek Baptist Church. My focus is on them, and biblically so (see Hebrews 13:17). I would encourage you to prayerfully seek out a biblical church to join.

[2] “Discipline,” Merriam-Webster Online (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline, accessed 10 September 2020).