Moral Authority Transformed – by Sheila Krygsheld

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A 21st century response to authority based on I Peter 2:13 would not be a normal response. It would almost be supernatural.  In fact, with the societal challenges facing our culture in the US, I would dare say that any Biblical response to authority in the 21st century that would resemble the words of Peter would have to be supernatural…that it is a believer’s response.  

There is a philosophical concept that has wielded the halls of ethics called Moral Authority.  This phenomenon involves “reasoning right” calling a person to the performance of their duties and exhibiting restraint from doing wrong. 

What role in 21st century culture, would moral authority play?  Do people today have a sense of morality causing them to do right in a situation? Have we been so warped that the bend is too strong?  Does this absence of moral authority within a person seem much more rampant today because our population is getting bigger? Or has social media given us a lens in which to focus on the morality issues or lack thereof that face us today? 

A godly response of submission to authority, which would include moral authority, would include humility, gratefulness and love.  In I Peter 2:11-12, Peter challenges his dear friends in Christ, “…to abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul”.  There is a tiny phrase before that charge which says, “as aliens and strangers in the world”. I have always wondered what it would look like if believers truly grasped that they do not belong here and that their home is elsewhere…to know that someday believers will experience life fulfilled.  Then and only then would Christians be able to change their perspective–to be heavenward–and not self gratifying or self comforting.  Moral issues would not be so difficult here on earth with a heavenly mindset.  

I Peter 2:13, Peter says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men…”.  

If we could rewire our brain to think less of ourselves and more toward humility, gratefulness and love for our Lord and for all he has done for us, it would not be as hard to submit to authority in the world…for this is not our home.  Our moral character would change because we would be in submission to Jesus Christ and “doing the right thing” would not be because we were told as children to do something.  We would submit to the moral authority of Christ in us helping us do the right thing.

Three Views on Hell – Braxton Hunter

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hell

hell

Hell is one of the most horrifying concepts in the Bible. For most of the 20th century there was little question among the people in the pews as to what the Bible taught on this tough subject. You don’t want to go to hell, because you don’t want to experience everlasting fire. Oh, by the way, there’s brimstone too. Let me tell you, as a child I had no idea what brimstone was, but it was still a tortuously frightening word. And then as an afterthought you won’t be with Jesus. There is, though, a renewed debate over this issue and it’s time to define the positions for the layman.

TRADITIONALISTS – Most common among mainline evangelicals is the idea that man will experience eternal conscious torment in hell. For that reason, many have come to refer to this view as the ECT position. The traditionalist or ECT position holds that all who die without Christ will ultimately endure an everlasting existence of pain and suffering in which they not only exist, but are also aware of what is happening. This springs forth from passages like Mark 9:43 & 44 which says,

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

Those familiar with the passage know that it goes on to similarly describe how one should cast off two other body parts if need be to avoid going to hell. Each time, the refrain appears again, “Where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” One would be right to assume that Jesus wants everyone to be clear about that point. Taking Jesus at face value, the majority of the church, for centuries, has believed that hell is an everlasting existence in which one will never be free from some sort of conscious suffering. Nevertheless, within traditionalism there is some latitude.

Some traditionalists believe that while one should take this passage, and others like it, to mean that hell will be a place of eternal conscious torment, one should not interpret the flames themselves to be literal. After all, the word translated “hell” here is the word “Gehenna” and refers to an actual geographical location outside the walls of Jerusalem. It is not the focus of this article to explain the history of the Valley of Hinnom, but it will do to simply say that it was a garbage dump to which Jesus pointed as illustrative of the separation we have come to call “hell.” Advocates of the metaphorical traditionalist view will argue that, for this reason, the burning (of garbage perhaps) should not be taken to indicate that the actual existence of an unbeliever in hell will involve this sort of literal fire. Furthermore, this sort of apocalyptic imagery might involve trappings like this that are meant to point to a reality far worse than the image given. Nevertheless, those in this camp still affirm that those in hell will experience eternal conscious torment, it will simply be a different type of torment.

CONDITIONALISTS – The conditionalist view says that the soul, like the body, is not innately immortal. That is, one’s soul will not exist and live for all eternity unless God grants immortality to an individual’s soul which He will only do in the event that one becomes a believer. In other words, immortality is conditional. This is why conditionalism is paired with what is called annihilationism. On the conditionalist/annihilationist view, those who go to hell will suffer for a period of time (or not – this is something annihilationists are divided about) before being annihilated (or ceasing to exist). Such a state can be called everlasting death, since the person in hell will remain dead everlastingly (that is to say, he won’t be resurrected). He is not conscious. He does not feel. He is, body and soul, dead. This view is based upon passages like Matthew 10:28. This passage flatly explains, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” We understand the killing of the body to entail what we commonly think of as physical death, and this passage includes the death of the soul in the same context. Little comment at all is needed to see why annihilationists understand Psalm 37:38 to support their view. It says, “But transgressors will be altogether destroyed; The posterity of the wicked will be cut off.” Therefore, says the annihilationist, the soul will ultimately meet its end, as will the body.

Now, in fairness, the gut reaction might be to think that these proponents reject the authority of Scripture, or are driven merely by emotion. To this, John Stott explains,

I am hesitant to have written these things, partly because I have a great respect for longstanding tradition which claims to be a true interpretation of Scripture [eternal punishment in hell], and do not lightly set it aside, and partly because the unity of the worldwide Evangelical constituency has always meant much to me . . . I do plead for frank dialogue among Evangelicals on the basis of Scripture. I also believe that the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment” [1]

UNIVERSALISTS – The universalist takes a different approach altogether. While some universalists have aligned with unitarians (who deny the Trinity) many simply argue that either (1) there is no hell, or (2) hell is a place of reformation for sinners before they are allowed into the presence of God. This is partly because they see the love of God overpowering His wrath, anger and justice. Scripturally, though, they understand passages that speak to universal atonement (1 Timothy 2:6, 1 John 2:2 etc.) as implying that every individual not only can be saved, but will be saved.

Now, I find it difficult personally to imagine that, in the case of the universalist, the early church martyrs would have been willing to die such grizzly deaths knowing that all men would ultimately be saved regardless. With respect to the Conditionalist I remain unconvinced. The biblical data regarding the horror and everlasting nature of hell still leads me to believe that it is referring to eternal conscious torment. Nevertheless, these are issues that are now rising to the surface in the evangelical church, and conservative traditionalists need to know what their opponents are saying.

1. John Stott and David L. Edwards , A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue, p. 319-20

Keys to Communication! – by Jennifer Habert

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For effective ministry to exist, one cannot undermine the role of the Holy Spirit. As I work in ministry, my qualifications will simply not matter if I am not hooked to the Holy Spirit in everything I do. When you walk in the Spirit, God will equip you to do His work at the right place and time. As Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, He explained that he didn’t preach with eloquent words but in the power of the Spirit. He states:

“When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.” (I Corinthians 2:1-5)

Paul had his focus right as he did not want honor for himself but wanted listeners to see God’s power at work through him. In everything we do as ministers, may we never forget that all the credit goes to the amazing God we serve.

As the Holy Spirit works through you and prepares you to preach, next we must recognize the importance of good preparation and planning. To put it simply – to speak well, you must plan and prepare well. This process involves detailed planning when researching a message, developing a message, and delivering a message. While researching a message you will spend great time in prayer and thoroughly analyze the Scripture you plan to preach on. Write down your own thoughts and look at commentaries and other publications on the subject. So often I don’t spend enough time with research and at the end I simply feel rushed. There is no excuse on my part for preparing at the last minute and then expecting all the details to fall into place.

When developing a message you must also spend a great deal of time in prayer. Look for ways to point to Christ in the message. Consider your people and where you want to take them with the message. Begin to construct the message making sure that you define the main point, purpose, proposition, and application you will cover. Ask yourself what type of sermon you want to deliver and develop the important parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. Don’t forget to be creative and use everything you have to pull the listener into what you are saying. Use illustrations, wordsmithing, and creative reading to capture your audience. Paint a picture so clearly that listeners will never forget the image you placed in their minds.

Have you ever stood in front of an audience and been afraid to put yourself out on a limb for fear that you will look just plain dumb? That is how I am with illustrations. I know they are powerful but I am so afraid of getting the details wrong that often I avoid them. This summer at camp I used an illustration about a hand. One of the kids was saved that night and a week later his mom told me he came home and said “I’ll never forget the story about the hand!” Something I feared so much, God used to get the attention of a 13 year old kid. God is truly amazing.

Last, as you prepare to deliver the message plan, think, and re-write. Get yourself in the mood to preach! Deliver the message with passion. Show your listeners you love them and care! Make sure they clearly understand the main points and have an idea of what you are challenging them to do. Don’t forget to go back over the sermon after you have delivered it and reevaluate. Critique yourself and the response you gained from your listeners. Developing a great message takes time and planning. It is important to not lose sight of your relationship with the Lord and the role the Holy Spirit plays in your life. Focus on the Lord, love Him, follow Him, and listen to the Spirit guide you as you prepare. The Lord will continue to surprise you in the ways He will use you and bless your ministry!

The Importance of the Resurrection for the Christian Faith – By Hanson Rogers

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The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons. First, it witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, He has power to raise the dead. If He does not have such power, He is not a God worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting that is death and the victory that is the grave’s (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.

Second, the resurrection of Jesus is a testimony to the future resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Unlike all other religions, Christianity alone possesses a founder who transcends death and who promises that His followers will do the same. All other religions were founded by men and prophets whose end was the grave. As Christians, we take comfort in the fact that our God became man, died for our sins, and was resurrected the third day.

The resurrection was not only the supreme validation of His deity; it also validated the Scriptures which foretold His coming and resurrection. It also authenticated Christ’s claims that He would be raised on the third day according to John 2:10-21. If Christ’s body was not resurrected, we have no hope that ours will be (1 Corinthians 15:13,16). In fact, apart from Christ’s bodily resurrection, we have no Savior, no salvation, and no hope of eternal life. As Apostle Paul lamented, our faith would be useless and the life-giving power of the Gospel would be altogether eliminated.

Because our eternal destinies depend on the truth of this historical event, the resurrection has been the target of Satan’s greatest attacks against the church. Accordingly, the historicity of Christ’s bodily resurrection has been examined and investigated from every angle and studied endlessly by countless scholars, theologians, professors, and others over the centuries. And even though a number of theories have been postulated which validate anything other than His literal bodily resurrection. On the other hand, the clear and convincing evidence of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is overwhelming.

The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of redemption—both for mankind and for the earth. Indeed, without Christ’s resurrection and what it means—an eternal future for fully restored human beings dwelling on a fully restored Earth—there is no Christianity. The Resurrection proved that Christ was divine.

The fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross does not prove in itself He is God. Jesus proved His deity by fulfilling the prophecies of His death and by His return from the grave. The Bible declares that “by being raised from the dead [Christ] was proved to be the mighty Son of God, with the holy nature of God Himself.” (Romans 1:4, The Living Bible).

The Resurrection proved Christ’s power to forgive sin. The Bible asserts, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17). By rising from the dead, Jesus proved His authority and power to break the bonds of sin and to assure forgiveness and eternal life to all who accept His gift of salvation.

The Resurrection revealed Christ’s power over death. The Bible records, “Christ rose from the dead and will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.” (Romans 6:9, TLB) The Resurrection secured our victory over death as well and “lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 2:6)

The Resurrection defeated God’s enemy. From the moment of his original rebellion until the day of the Cross, the devil fought viciously and cunningly to overthrow the kingdom of God. Satan must have thought he had dealt the final and decisive blow in this age-old war. But this was the devil’s most serious miscalculation. The Cross was heaven’s triumph. And when Jesus Christ arose, the power of sin and death was forever shattered. Because of the Resurrection, Christians need never fear Satan or death again!

Imaging the Wonderful Counselor – By Patrick Van Hoecke

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What images or thoughts come to your mind when you hear the word “counseling”? What does counseling entail and who can do it? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines counseling in its simplest terms as “giving advice.” One might argue that everyone in some form gives counsel to others, whether they realize it or not. Jesus gave counsel as he taught the multitudes, only the counsel He gave was much more than mere advice- He shared the “words of life”. It was often in the form of warnings, guidance, admonishment, exhortation, encouragement, commands, imparting wisdom, and rebuking. He warned of the failure and consequences of being “hearers” of His words, but not putting them into practice as “doers” as well (Matthew 7:24). When a pastor shares the Word of God on a Sunday morning he is providing “biblical counseling” to His Congregation.

As a biblical counselor I have encountered a number of churches who make it clear that they do not do counseling. When a church makes this statement about counseling it often means that they do not provide personal counseling to individuals struggling with some of the common issues of life like marital problems, anger, depression, anxiety, etc. Many in the church believe that these issues are better left up to the professional secular counselor. There are certainly legal risks in offering “counseling” to individuals today and many churches prefer not to assume them. But what might be the implications of not offering personal biblical counseling to members of the flock and to those involved in the wider ministry of the local church?

Hopefully we believe Peter’s promise in 2 Peter 1:3-4 that God has granted to us “all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” Implicit in this passage is that the Gospel does more than call us to make a salvation decision.It is the offer of life and peace- now and in the hereafter. Jesus came that we may have life and peace, and that we may have it abundantly (John 10:10). These are not some vague promises made by Scripture that the church should only espouse collectively to the body in a sermon on Sunday morning. They are very real and specific promises and principles that should be shared, admonished, encouraged and exhorted both to the body collectively by the pastors, and personally by the body, one to another, individually as each member grows in their knowledge and faith in the Lord Jesus and His words. Shall we say to the body of believers in the church, and to those who are yet to believe, that God’s only answer and provision for the plague of sin is in His atonement for it? No. Please do not get me wrong, for this I am foremost and eternally grateful. However, He not only spared us from the penalty of our sin, He set us free from the enslaving and suffering nature of it. In Christ we are justified and free. This is awesome news when shared collectively on a Sunday morning or in a small group Bible study. It is also news that the individual captive needs help to hear and understand when wrestling to break free from specific personal struggles and sin. Jesus counseled collectively to the masses and He also compassionately ministered at the personal level as He counseled the woman at the well.

As believers we are all called and equipped to counsel one another biblically from the scriptures (Colossians 3:16). We can debate how formal this ministry ought to be, but it is a vital part in bringing hope and growth to the body of Christ and to those who need to know Christ. How vital you may ask? I have previously counseled with individuals who left their church in despair because they sought such counseling from their shepherd and were turned away. In fulfilling our mission to share the Gospel and make disciples, we need to be able to guide people beyond the despair of life’s struggles.I believe imaging Christ through biblical counseling is vital to the ministry of the church.

Jesus is More Than Up to the Task – By Toby Moore

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Definitions:

Challenge: a demand to explain, or justify

Riposte: quick, sharp return in speech or action; counter-stroke.

After reading the various challenge/riposte situations in Matthew 12:9-13 and Luke 20:18, I am convinced the Jesus is a perfect model to use in handling modern challenges/riposte situations. How He handled these situations was a stroke of genius. When they challenged Him in these situations with a question, he responded with a questions of His own, then gave an answer that was steeped in wisdom and armed with the Word of God. This left His challengers speechless or without a response.

Let’s examine that principle in Matthew 12:9-13. The Scripture said that almost immediately afterward, on that same Sabbath day, Jesus entered their synagogue where there was a man with a withered hand. Now, eager to again accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (vs. 9–14). Before healing the man, Jesus answers their question by asking which of them, if his sheep falls into a pit on the Sabbath, would not lift it out. If, then, it is lawful to relieve the misery of a sheep on the Sabbath, how much more is it lawful to relieve the misery of a fellow human being who is more valuable than a sheep? The Pharisees had no response, but only to go off to gather together to find a way to destroy Jesus.

I believe by following the above model that I am better equipped to handle modern challenge/riposte situations. I have listed some modern examples below that I had to deal with:

Challenge: There is no such thing as sin

Riposte: Sin is doing what is wrong before God; it is breaking his law (1 John 3:4). But, to say there is no such thing as sin is to say there is no God. But, if there is a God, then it makes sense to say that he is the Lawgiver–the one who reveals what is right and wrong like do not murder, do not steal, etc. Are you willing to bet your life that there is no God? Are you absolutely sure that how you have behaved in this world will mean nothing when you face God in the next?

Think about it. Saying there is no such thing as sin doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Besides, if you have you ever told a lie, cheated, or stolen, then according to the Bible, you’ve sinned.

How do you “know” there is no such thing as sin? After all, you’d have to “know” there was no God, too. Are you sure you “know” there is no God… or do you just “believe” there is no God? There is a big difference

Challenge: I can’t believe in a God that will send people to Hell

Riposte: Denying it or not liking it doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

Hell was originally created for Satan and his angels. In the future it will contain those who join Satan in rejecting God. If you reject God’s provision for the forgiveness of your sins, then you will join the Devil who rejected God from the beginning. Is that what you want?

Could you believe in a God who would become a human, suffer at the hands of humans, and be killed by them, all so that His death could be the payment for their sins? That is extremely loving. God is saving people who deserve to go to hell–and we all deserve that. Remember that the same God that sends people to Hell also died for them. If they reject what God has provided, then what is God left to do? He would have to judge them.

Whether you believe in something or not does not change the fact of its existence. Jesus spoke often of hell (Matt. 25:41-46; Mark 9:47-48; Luke 16:19-31), and warned us so we would not go there. Would you say Jesus didn’t know what He was talking about?

Are you implying that it is unjust for God to send people to hell? If so, then you accuse God of injustice. Sin is wrong, and it must be punished. What would you have God do to those who oppose Him and do evil? Do you want Him to ignore that which is wrong? Do you want Him to turn His head and not be holy and righteous?

Mopeds and Morality: A Really Short Story – by Braxton Hunter

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moped

moped

“Today will be different,” I think as my legs spill out of the bed and into the coziest of slippers. Half way to the kitchen I see that Rob ignored my mandate to clean his room yesterday. It’s fine. I’m a new man. The disobedience looks different now. Passing the kitchen counter the program from last night’s event creeps into view. “The End of Morality,” is displayed in a stylistic font on the cover. I’m sold. The atheist convinced me. Morality is just a social development – a myth – a useful fiction. Nothing is objectively right or wrong. Today will be different. Today I will be the first skeptic to actually attempt to live a life consistent with the belief that there are no absolute moral standards. And hey, I’m proud of myself for not tearing into Rob over not cleaning his room. He did what he wanted, and while it may not be what I would prefer, it isn’t wrong. It isn’t right… it’s nothing. One stiff cup of coffee later, I head for the shower and prepare for the day.

Grabbing the keys and heading for the door I shout to Cindy, “I’m taking off, sweetie!”

She answers with, “Sam… I meant to tell you, I won’t be home until about 8:00 tonight! I have to stay late!” Stay late? Why would she need to stay late? More to the point, why has she needed to stay late so often lately? No matter. She can do what she wants, and I won’t hold it against her. I’m a new man with a fresh outlook. She may not always choose to do what I’d like, she may do the opposite, but she’s no worse for it. Nothing is right or wrong.

The drive to the office challenges my new worldview, but it’s fine… it’s fine. I wander two feet in my lane and the guy on the dumb moped flicks me off. Worse still, that’s the same jerk I let cut in front of me at Starbucks. It’s fine… it’s fine. I’ve got to remind myself that justice is just an illusion anyway. Words like better or worse don’t have any meaning either. Recalling last night’s lecture I’m reminded that since there is no God, there is no objective or absolute grounding for morality. Words like better, worse, good, bad and progress have no meaning. Oh well. It’s fine… the moped guy is fine…

Punching the power button on the car stereo I try to escape my annoyance by immersing my thoughts in the morning news. “Twenty dead in the middle east,” the reporter announces. It’s fine . . . it’s fine. After all, wars have been waging forever. It’s still a good idea… wait, can’t use the word “good,”… it’s still the best… no… it’s still the safest idea to eliminate the enemy.

Proud of myself, I develop a lopsided grin and breathe, “See, Sam, it’s not so hard to deny morality.” No sooner do the words pass my lips than I hear the reporter explain the arrest of a local man who brutally raped and murdered a twelve year old girl who lived next door. “You gotta be kidding me,” I say.

***

On the drive home I contemplate the day. Work was alright. I lost my promotion to Richard. Richard! Seriously? I almost confess that it isn’t fair. But then, fairness has no meaning in my new worldview. If I’m honest, my resolve is weakening.

After the moped, the news reports, and Richard’s promotion, I decide not to turn on the TV. I can’t take any more. Perhaps, this is just the way it is when you try to look at the world in a different way. Maybe it isn’t always going to be like this. I’ll learn to control my emotions and see things the way they are. Everyone can do what they want. If people get hurt that’s just the way life is. If I get hurt, I may not like it, but it isn’t wrong… nothing is… wrong. I devour my reheated spaghetti in what must appear to be a disgusting manner, but I don’t care. Besides there isn’t anyone here to see it. The meal is mediocre. Well, I can’t use that word can I? mediocre is a value statement. I’ll just say, I’m not enjoying it very much.

Something creeps almost organically into my thoughts as I eat the tasteless noodles. Is Cindy having an affair? Speaking the word out loud I let it hang in the air almost as if I can see and examine it, “affair.” Two hours pass and the word is still hanging there tauntingly in the same spot. Paranoia, jealously… whatever it is that holds the thought in place also drives me to my car and down the street.

In fifteen minutes I find myself at Cindy’s office. As I drive, it is as though all of the there’s-no-morality self-help talk I’d been feeding myself all day falls away piecemeal with every passing mile. Bursting into her office I see it. Is it… it can’t be. It is. It’s the moped guy. The word escapes my lips a second time, “affair.” Again, it hangs there as my anger swells to a fever-pitch. Cindy and moped-man begin trying to explain. Useless. I attempt to calm myself with the truth that what she has done, heck, what moped-man has done here is not wrong. Nothing is wrong. Then it happens. I realize the absurdity of what I had been telling myself all day. Of course it’s wrong. It’s extremely wrong. At the moment it reveals itself to be the most wrong thing that has ever happened to me. Morality is absolute, and this is absolutely immoral. End.

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 17:6

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. – Romans 2:14-16

Biblical Counseling As Discipleship – by Kirk Kimble

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I believe that the whole Body of Christ, existing in any local church, can benefit from biblical counseling as a part the process of becoming fully devoted and reproducing disciples. First, let me explain why I say that from my own experience. Then, I will expound on some “how to” ideas that I would love to have you reflect on, critique, and add to!

My journey in developing this belief goes back to a Sunday morning several years ago when I, as an elder, was asked to fill the pulpit. As I taught the Word that morning, I took notice of the people in the pews. My thought was something like this; “Some of these people have been believers much longer than I. They should be teaching, or leading, or faithfully serving… but they seem to be spiritually stuck!”.

Since I often have conversations with myself, I asked the simple question… “Why?”. Over the next several months God began to answer that question. I could tell you the stories, some of which are exciting, some of which are very sad, and some of which might cause us to have a lengthy and possibly heated discussion regarding the influence the enemy can have on the mind of the believer. Instead of the stories, let me distill it down to a list of the most common “stick agents” that I discovered over many months. Here they are, in no particular order:

BITTERNESS
UNFORGIVENESS
HIDDEN SIN
FEAR
BAD DOCTRINE
UNBELIEF
WOUNDED SOULS
SELF DECEPTION
FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS (CONTROL)

I had an opportunity, along with my wife and another ministry couple, to travel to a church with a well developed counseling or “pastoral care” department. As we talked and did some practical interaction with staff in the Pastoral Care department, our eyes were further opened to the impact these issues could have on an individual.

We discussed two primary areas of ministry that they focused on, “power encounters” and “truth encounters”.

I would describe a truth encounter as the process of helping a person realize that something they believed about God, about others, or about themselves was out of line with what the scriptures teach. Gently and prayerfully helping a person discover the Truth, and how to walk in it, was seen as a powerful tool to help a person become “unstuck”.

I would describe a power encounter as the process of helping a person see how the enemy has exploited a sinful lifestyle, or a wounded soul, or an attitude of unforgiveness to build a stronghold in the person’s life. The counselor in this situation might lead a person through a process of realizing how the stronghold was affecting their Christian life, and lead them to repentance, or forgiveness, or renunciation of wrong choices. The counselor would also help the person being ministered to recognize the lies the enemy used to construct the stronghold, and teach them to reject the lies and choose to walk in the biblical Truth… “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV

Our experience visiting this pastoral care ministry launched us into developing a process of prayer and counseling, and the application of biblical truth that we walked well over 100 people through yielded some powerful and lasting results! However, long term success seems to be directly tied to self discipline and accountability with others in the body. This is why I see it as intimately tied to the overall process of discipleship.

Biblical counseling, used as a key part of a local church’s overall disciple making process, can be like a huge discipleship booster, setting people free from their “stuckness”, and allowing them to continue to become fully devoted followers of Christ.

I would love to hear your feedback, and field your questions, so that we may all become more effective at helping others to move from “stuckness” to freedom and fruitfulness in Christ.

Educating Church Members to be Apologists – by Alistair King

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I have often been challenged by the need to equip church members so that they are all able to evangelize rationally and intelligently. What many Christians do when in a difficult position when discussing their faith with an unbeliever is to refer that person to a ‘higher authority’. I find it unsatisfactory when a relatively mature (in years) Christian says ‘I’ll speak about this to my pastor and get back to you.’ Or ‘Come speak to my elder.’ While, of course, in any church fellowship, there will be those of greater and lesser maturity, those more equipped to give account of the faith and those less equipped, it is surely the goal of church leaders that all of the members be enabled, empowered and emboldened to give an account of their faith.

Evangelism is more than telling unbelievers: ‘Come to Jesus and you’ll be happy; all your troubles will disappear!’ and the awful line – ‘Smile, God loves you!’ In the case of Saul of Tarsus, his troubles seemed to begin when he met the Lord Jesus!

I once heard a young Christian lady speaking to an unbeliever, whom she was zealous in seeking to bring to Christ. She kept repeating more and more loudly: ‘But you MUST believe! You must take these things on faith!’ The unbeliever said something like; ‘you can yell all you like, but that doesn’t convince me. Can’t you present any rational argument? You might have blind faith, but I don’t.’ This lady was trying to evangelize without Apologetics. It seemed to me that this was Fideism at its lowest level.

Fideism is rather common. When we are in a cozy church fellowship, we all (hopefully) believe the same things, so we are not called upon to give an account/defense of the hope that is in us. We can use our favorite phrases and Bible verses, knowing that there will be no challenge. Outwith the fellowship, alone with unbelievers, the situation is often very different and the challenges hard.

While Ephesians 4:11-12 notes the evangelists as one among several ministries, I would suggest that all need to be equipped to an adequate degree, if we are to follow 1 Peter 3:15. While Evangelism and Apologetics are not synonymous, there is a very strong connection. Apologetics refers to having the doctrinal base from which to be able to speak of one’s faith; this could be when engaging with either believers or unbelievers. Evangelism refers to bringing the good news of salvation to unbelievers. When we seek to propagate our beliefs unto the salvation of those outside of Christ, we need to be sure of what our beliefs are.

Ultimately, for an individual to be adequately grounded in doctrinal issues, he/she needs to be in a meaningful and independent relationship with God. An independent relationship with God means that study of Scripture and personal application and assimilation in our lives of what Scripture reveals about God is at the foundation of a dynamic faith which we can share with others. While Apologetics is an academic, theological area of study and discourse, it is also about the individual’s personal relationship with God and engagement with Scripture. Thus, a Christian seeking to bring the good news of salvation to the unbeliever need not have a PhD in Theology, but he/she must have a life typified by a love for God and a desire to delve deeper into Scripture.

I would suggest that to teach church members the differences between the arguments (cosmological, ontological, etc) for the existence of God and how to use them is the easy part. The challenge is, as mentioned above, to nurture our people into a life typified by a love for God and a desire to delve deeper into Scripture. Once these are firmly in place, there are receptive foundations for education.