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Counsel Is Meant For The Church, Part 2

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“Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” ”Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3)
“You believe in him and rejoice [...], obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1)
“We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1)

What is counsel, anyway? We’ll get more to this later, but I want to blur the lines some. For sure, it is useless to say that counsel is everthing and that everything is counsel, but it is equally damaging to say that counsel is confined to a couch, a notepad, a soft voice, and a sobbing patient. I want to guide this by looking at what starts salvation, what propels salvation, and what finishes salvation. If the start, means, and goal of counsel do not agree with the start, means, and goal of God’s mission, then we counsel with the wrong message in the wrong way for the wrong purpose. Two events converge to start salvation for each of us: (1) God is displayed in the gospel and (2) we hear it with genuine faith. We have something to do with the first part, while the second is a mighty act of a sovereign God. It turns out that the same two things propel salvation along, and the same two things protect it until the end.

I want to submit the idea that counsel is the skillful display of God in deed and in word to the suffering and the addicted. It (1) lifts another’s eyes to the God who is and (2) praysdesperately to God for faith to spring up in their heart. Does this sound like something to be exported solely to a ministry? Or does it sound much more common and familiar? Rather than downplaying the weightiness of counsel, I want to add weightiness to our common and informal lives. Counsel lives in our display of God, and its goal is “hearing with faith.” Also, note that we are all suffering and addicted.

I remember the first time I heard a biblical teaching on church discipline. It confused me at first, but I ultimately felt emboldened and relieved. The vast majority of church discipline should go under the rader of the church’s elders. Did you know that? I didn’t at the time, but think about it. Proactive self-discipline. Reactive confession. Brothers and sisters meeting one-on-one covering blind spots. Confronting a brother or sister hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Loving and restoring them gently. Reminding one another daily of grace. Think of counsel in a similar way: most of it should happen outside the “office.” It starts and lives most in self-counsel (meditating on the gospel in our own minds and desires). And it thrives in small groups.

I want to leave with one final thought from Exodus 19 and 1 Peter 2. In Exodus 19, God makes promises to Israel. They are promises that we know today as New Testament promises, but in Exodus 19, they were conditional on Israel’s obedience. God says: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples [...]; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Israel disobeys, displaying reality for all of us: that we cannot obey without a rescuer because of sin that lives in us. Instead of being a kingdom of priests, they became a kingdom with priests, largely separated from God and plagued by uncleanliness. Christ, however, obeyed where Israel (we) could never obey, and He won these promises for us! We see them repeated in 1 Peter 2: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” Christ won these promises for us in order to make us a nation of priests, that each of us “may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

As a nation of priests, each of us display God and proclaim His excellencies. Counsel is not that far removed from our call to meditate, to remind, to exhort, to restore, to preach, and to comfort. It springs from our identity as individual priests of reconciliation and display, bound together by our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. It bleeds into all of God’s mission: both to sanctification and to evangelism. Counsel belongs in the church. Take two weeks to think about what this means for your community group. How can you reshape and leverage life’s seemingly small, trivial times to display God to yourself and your community. How can you “deformalize” counsel in your group and foster bolder, more frequent, and more creative displays of God? Do you rely on Spirit-given faith to build your confidence and kill your anxieties as you display God to your community?

Posted by Matt Norman with

Re-purposing the Blog + Counsel is Meant for the Church, Part 1

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Repurposing the Blog

The blog is being re-purposed toward Legacy’s community group leaders to equip, encourage, and embolden biblical counseling in the life-on-life relationships of community groups. I want to encourage you that this is not an added chore for leaders and members alike. Think of this approach to counseling in the same way that our approach to mission seeks to take opportunity through life’s already existing patterns and leverage gospel intentionally in them. I want to encourage you to biblically strengthen and reshape the devotions, prayers, and relationships already present in your life and to leverage them toward the Ephesians 4 mutual church growth we see pictured in the Bible.

This post is the beginning of what I hope reshapes your own view of counseling in the church. We’ll start by going over a series of posts, grouped by a common theme each month, that are meant to get you thinking, reading, and checking against the Word. The reason for a blog is so that you can read it in your own time so that this doesn’t overly burden you and you can remain flexible with your family, community, and mission. Don’t consider this an added responsibility but a leveraging of what you (hopefully) already do, and if need be, an increasing of that effort as you see and trust God more fully.

Counsel is Meant for the Church, Part 1

This month, I want to begin by displaying the idea to you that counsel is meant to be infused in the church and not exported solely to counseling ministries. This is not, by any means, to say that Redemption Groups are no longer serving those who need a safe place to grow for a while. Those are still happening alongside Community Groups. Also, nobody is discounting serving the body with dedicated one-on-one biblical counselors at some point, though this is not done now. What I am saying boldly is that the vast majority of counsel belongs within the body, in everyday informal life. When you know someone well who is struggling under sin or suffering, it is primarily you who will impact them most with the gospel.

This week, let’s be spurred by an analogy from nature and from Ephesians 4. Most of us know the kind of damage a severe weather front can do. The same front, sweeping across the U.S. can dump snow in one place, destroy towns with winds and blizzards, flood other areas with rain, and produce tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. It’s quite impressive, and what our eyes see on radar is a continental-scale monster with results that boggle the mind. But do you know where most of the actual work is done? It’s done by molecules. All of that monster storm, all of that damage, the chaos — it is done by simple, unassuming, innocuous molecule-on-molecule collisions. Think of us as “molecules on a mission,” wielded not for damage but for redemption. We are coordinated, propelled, and guided by God’s wisdom, power, and love to accomplish His mission.

This analogy can go wrong quickly, but I want to use it to focus on three things. First, redemption lives and breathes in seemingly minor “collisions.” The most immense suffering of a lost child or repeated abuse, the most luring of sins in its wildest intensity, though they seem like monsters, they live in the details of life. We think real thoughts, engage real longings, fantasize real “movies” in our heads, say real things, do real things, and make real plans. These “collisions” guide counsel and redemption in community. And we are the molecules colliding in community, guided by God to accomplish His mission. It’s best to think of counsel in this way rather than always being at a Starbucks or in an office with a notepad and book. The very thoughts you’re thinking right this moment, the longings of your heart this moment, have something profound to say for your community’s growth in the Lord. Each body part affects the body.

Counsel is looking at your brother or sister when they grumble and displaying God to them in that moment. “Where is your heart’s thankfulness? Are you trusting in ease more than in God working this annoyance for your good? Grumbling grieves and defames Him, and He loves you despite your grumbling so much that this very moment Christ is pleading for you, and the Father is calling you beloved child.”

Second, counsel makes no sense at all outside community. The goal of counsel is ultimately God’s mission to lift Himself up in all the world, that those from all nations would gaze on Him in trust-fueled obedience and be satisfied spreaders of God. Unless Christ binds us into a collective front, how can we ever hope to impact Knoxville and beyond, as mere molecules? When you collide with a believer in community who needs help, it is you, who are in relationship with them, who will ultimately best help them: life-on-life. It’s better that you enter into their life’s mess with Godly counsel (speaking truth in love) than to merely offload them to a book or a more formal counselor. The same is true, maybe even more so, with our lost friends. And where we need help and are weak, we have community to collide with us and perpetuate the mutual growth of the body into Christ while on mission. We must do this as a body, a united front in Christ.

Third, and we’ll get to this more later, if you’re intimidated by the idea of biblical counsel and change, you probably should be. Change is no small task, impossible by our human means, way beyond our influence. We indeed are in over our heads! Only God can change a heart’s desires and continue to kill sinful desires with ones that long for God Himself alone. But how about trusting and obeying in the everyday? How about changing your collisions by faith, trusting Him to organize the front and accomplish the real work with His body? Can you speak the gospel relationally and personally into one aspect of someone’s troubles at a time, hear them speak into one of your own? Will you live in child-like trust and obedience? Our call in counsel is to trust and obey in our collisions: to speak the truth in love. We do not do this ignorantly or lazily. No, we do it with great effort. But can you rest that God’s plans don’t depend on your effort, current knowledge, or skill. Does His sovereignty free you to obey hard by faith even if not “perfectly?” There is a reason we are called to an olympic-level striving that Jesus characterizes as restful. I long to embolden you to see that counsel lives in everyday obedience and is ultimately worked with power by His hand. Will you strive? Will you trust?

Read Ephesians 4:1-16. Are there leaders? Are they the only ones who counsel? What is counseling? Where is there mutual building? Who is the one ultimately building? Does any body part act independently? What is the result of this goal of maturity?

Take two weeks to think, discuss, pray, and write about this. Don’t work anxiously under intimidation. Rather, enjoy what He reveals to you and trust His hand to work this over time as you work hard by faith.

Posted by Matt Norman with