A Life of Healthy Repentance

by James Rudy Gray

James Rudy GrayMartin Luther noted that the Christian life is a series of repentances. Our day and our culture are infiltrated with postmodern ideology so pervasive that we are affected by it almost unconsciously. In order to repent of anything, a person must first know he or she has missed the mark in thought and behavior.

That is the problem in our culture today. Sin is no longer regarded as sin by many. How can we help persons struggling with any number of emotional problems if they have eliminated the possibility of sin?

The answer to the question is found only with God. As stewards of His truth and ministers of His grace we cannot deny the truth nor compromise essential doctrine. Counselors can be tools in God's hands but we cannot be little gods. Quite often we will counsel with people who will make no substantive changes in their values, beliefs, or behavior. That can be frustrating, but it does not mean you are failing as a Christian counselor. Our calling, like that of any minister, is to be faithful. We always run the risk of trying to do too much for a person. When we do too much, we have failed. When we do too little, we have failed. But when we follow the guidance of God, rely on the Word of God, and in good faith do our best with clean motives, we will be faithful.

Sometimes I have found that if I can relay to a person some observations from accomplished people in the psychological world and then relate that information to what the Bible says, I have planted a seed of truth into their thought patterns. They may not want to hear the Bible but they may listen to a leading voice in the field. Once I have gotten a hearing with them at a level they accept, I can then introduce the Scriptures that speak about the same thing. Please understand that our authority is not any researcher or counselor, but God's Word. But in order to best help people who are not where we are scripturally or theologically, we can build bridges to them, win their confidence, and move forward into God's Truth.

An example of this is Dr. William Glasser. He has stated the deadly habits for a relationship are: criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and rewarding in order to control. He says: "Exhibiting them in any relationship will damage that relationship. The most destructive habit is criticizing; next comes blaming." If I am dealing with a person who is not open to someone just quoting Scripture to him, I can take his observation and couple it with, for example, the blaming tactics of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I could then move into the Proverbs and mention several verses that would support Glasser's observation. Once the connection is established, I have at least opened the possibility of the person accepting the Word. When that happens, all kinds of positive and healing things can follow.

Glasser's strategy is actually very similar. "I suggest," he writes, "that you replace the deadly habits with what I call the seven connecting habits: caring, trusting, listening, supporting, negotiating, befriending, and encouraging." Don't wait for trouble. Start acquiring the connecting habits right away." All of his "connecting habits" can find biblical correlation. Christian counselors can use this kind of information from someone accomplished in the field to gain a hearing and build a bridge to God's truth.

There are many things we may read by secular researchers and counselors that we absolutely cannot use. However, there will be some things that are not anti-biblical or untruthful. In these areas, we can use what is legitimate in our work of reaching and helping people with God's truth. Larry Crabb wrote about "spoiling the Egyptians" many years ago. The idea was to take what is useful and good from our culture, sanctify it, and use it for God's glory.

In our age of postmodern thought, we must heed the words of Jesus to be gentle as doves and wise as serpents. Our God is sovereign. We can use what is legitimate for godly ends in helping people.

James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the
National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the
American Association of Christian Counselors. He pastors
Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C.

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