Counseling the Words of Christ: Where Else Can We Go

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

Can the Bible truly address life’s most complex issues?

I am convinced it can and I believe biblical counseling is the vehicle God uses to minister to broken people. Counseling from the Bible is simply a specific avenue of discipleship and the great commission.

There are some who are skeptical of biblical counseling because it seems too simplistic. Maybe you resonate with the following concern: biblical counseling seems to repackage all their solutions into a simplistic two step formula – repent and believe.

Perhaps this is how you think about biblical counseling:

  • “Are you struggling with anorexia? Repent and believe.
  • Are you struggling with depression? Repent and believe.
  • Fear? Repeat.
  • Anxiety? Again.
  • Anger? One more time.
  • Repent and believe.”

I actually think this caricature of biblical counseling is too simplistic. It does not offer a full picture of faithful counseling. I would be concerned if this was all of the biblical counseling I received!

Biblical counseling is more than telling people to pray, read their Bible, and trust in Jesus. But it is nothing less than this. Biblical counseling is both simple and complex. In a very real way, discipleship is taking the two categories of “believe” and “repent” and seeking to apply them in all the right and varied ways.  Does this bother you? It doesn’t have to.

Simplicity vs. Sloppiness 

I think one of the reasons simplicity is a turn off is because it gets confused with sloppiness. Simple and sloppy are not the same thing.

If we aren’t careful and caring, lazy counseling has the potential to feel like offering a bandaid to someone who has fractured their femur. Biblical counselors must be “sophisticated” in their ability to listen, diagnose, and administer the Bible.

Our society may call this “sophistication”, but the book of Proverbs calls it wisdom. No matter what you label it, biblical counseling requires seasoned skill, scriptural knowledge, and Spirit-infused intuition.

An infinite God can be studied for one thousand lifetimes and yet never be fully known. And yet, a young child can truly have a relationship with the God of the universe. The Bible is simple in it’s message and yet complex in it’s application. (Matthew 3:2; Romans 12:2)

Is Simplicity Shameful? 

I want to emphasize that simplicity is not inherently negative in counseling. In reality, simplicity indicates clarity. This is a wonderful blessing from the Bible.

The biblical counselor shouldn’t be ashamed of the truth that the gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16) In our quest to be sophisticated we should not seek to be accepted by the world and sound like a psychology textbook. Jesus’ mission was not to impress the elite and educated. The solutions to problems of “life and godliness” can (and should) be boiled down to issues of faith and repentance. (2 Peter 2:1-3) There are nuances to be said and complex problems to be examined, but at the end of the day we must counsel faith and repentance. This wasn’t too narrow-minded for Paul who determined to know nothing other than Jesus Christ crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Simple Means Solutions

As biblical counselors, we can take heart in the simple message of the kingdom. We don’t have to go anywhere else except the Scriptures for wisdom in counseling. In reality, we can’t go anywhere else.

Our counselees don’t have to despair trying to find some secret knowledge that a psychiatrist possesses. They don’t have to wander around for years needing weekly therapy. They can be assured that change is possible and a real solution is within their grasp.

When we counsel from the Bible, we can actually be guaranteed to accomplish the will of God. We can be sure that his word will accomplish everything God intends for it to do. The mission cannot fail because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to the Risen Counselor. (Matthew 28:18-19)

Let us spend our lives learning how to call people to repent and believe the gospel in a wise and timely manner. We should agree with the disciples of Christ: where else can we go? Jesus has the words of eternal life. (John 6:68)

For more information on the medical components of counseling, there are several videos on the counseling and medication from ACBC. 

An Invitation to Renew

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

     
    The Book of Revelation can intimidate many Christians. The Apostle John intended the book to propel us forward in godliness instead of paralyzing us. I pray these short messages (approximately 25 min each) will peak your interest in the final book of the Bible.

     

    Eight Reasons to Renew Your Heart | Revelation 16 | A sermon on conversion 

    Powerful Pictures to Renew Your Mind | Revelation 17-19 | A sermon on sexual immorality 

    New Worlds to Renew Your Strength | Revelation 21 | A sermon on suffering 

    Imagery to Ignite Your Soul | Revelation 4 | A sermon on spiritual apathy 

     
     

    These messages where given at First Baptist Church in Versailles, Kentucky at a Disciple-Now Retreat.

    Finally Free

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    by Sean Perron

    Pornography is a big deal. Satan uses porn to steal, kill and destroy. And the church is not exempt. Pornography is a big temptation. The flesh desires to lust, linger and live in sexual immorality. And Christians are not exempt.

    How should the church respond? How should a struggling Christian deal with this massive issue?

    The call of the hour is for the church to think deeply, critically and practically about pornography.

    There was a season in my life when I read every book I could on sexual temptation I could find.To the shame of some authors, I read their books and they did me more harm than good. I read other authors who were quite helpful in engaging the issues, but simply did not go deep enough. I wanted more help in the battle against sexual immorality.

    I do not endorse books often on this blog, but I cannot help but recommend the book Finally Free by Dr. Heath Lambert.

    Finally Free gives ten biblical ways to battle sexual temptation. I am thankful for this book because it is all about the Bible. Heath Lambert does not drift off into statistics or ramble on about some psychological jargon that is detached from dungeon of addiction. Instead, each chapter offers a dagger that has been sharpened by the Scriptures in order to cut pornography out for good.

    I also love this book because it is ultimately not about pornography. That might seem strange to a reader who notices the word pornography on every other page. But the fact of the matter is this book is of incredible help in fighting many sinful desires. If I replaced pornography with the word anxiety in chapter ten, I would be just as helped in my walk with God. If I replaced pornography with the word complaining in chapter nine, I would find help for my grumbling. Change the specifics and alter the practical application and this book can be used to fight a variety of sins. Why? Because Lambert grounds his wisdom in power of the Scriptures that enable sinners to have lasting change in Christ.

    Consider chapter three on accountability and pornography. Here are just three out of seven points:

    • Effective Accountability Is Involved Early Rather than Late

    • Effective Accountability Involves Someone with Maturity

    • Effective Accountability Should Avoid Explicit Details

    I guarantee I would have been a different person years ago if I had known these three points from this chapter. I found myself calling my “accountability partners” only after I would sin. I rarely called them during the midst of my struggles. I also fell into the trap of confessing sin to those who were struggling with the exact same things I did! How much more effective would it have been if I had a more mature man in my life? Or how much more could I have honored those around me if I avoided unhelpful details?

    Holiness is a big deal. We must think deeply, carefully and practically about what the Bible has to say about growing in grace. We cannot afford to ignore this task.

    I am confident Heath Lambert’s book Finally Free will aid the church in this endeavor. I cannot commend it more readily.

    Suicidal Gossip

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      by Sean Perron
    • I love him very much. I really respect him. But I’m very concerned about one of our pastors… He was seen at the church with a woman. I heard they were alone after hours for “counseling.”

    • I am really frustrated… I was not invited. They never invite me to anything anymore. I think it is because she was going too far with her boyfriend and didn’t like it when I called her out on it.

    Gossip.

    Perhaps you have heard conversations like these before, or perhaps you have been a part of them. Forbes magazine said the number one way to destroy a company was to let gossip run rampant. Gossip can divide families, cripple friendships, and split a church overnight. A reputation can be ruined in less than one minute. It only takes one domino to start a series of catastrophic conversations. It is a kudzu that spreads and covers it’s victims until it suffocates them. Gossip is like a cut left unattended which can slowly bleed the life out of someone.

    Proverbs 18:7-8 says,

    A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

    What is gossip?

    Gossip is talking about a person to someone who is not a part of the problem nor a part of the solution.

    This is not a watertight definition, but I do believe it is helpful.

    The Bible gives credence for confronting someone spreading gossip. This would be an example of talking to someone who is a part of the problem. But what do I mean by talking to someone who is a part of the solution? It can be helpful in some circumstances to seek outside help on an issue for the purpose of bringing peace. Matthew 18:15-20 would be a good example of two going to talk with someone who is in sin. I also see the Biblical possibility about seeking wisdom from a more mature Christian to give insight in a scenario (Matthew 18:21-22). This would be talking to someone who is a part of the solution and can be done in a way that maintains the honor of the person being discussed.

    But my purpose here is not to define gossip and all its gritty facets. Instead, I want to quickly point out an effect of gossip that is often overlooked.

    We all know that slander can destroy our neighbors, but we do not realize it destroys us.  Gossip ruins the gossiper.

    Proverbs 18:7-8 says,

    “A fool’s mouth is his ruin,

    and his lips are a snare to his soul.”

    A fool’s mouth is his ruin. It does not just say, “destroys his neighbor”. Rather, the Proverbs make it clear that gossip destroys the gossiper. Gossip does not merely scorch someone else, it burns us as well. The gossiper is like the arsonist who intentionally sets the forest on fire, but accidently sets ablaze every exit of the forest and finds himself trapped.

    Gossip not only ruins the reputation of others, it ruins the reputation of the gossiper. The slanderer is someone working with a terrorist organization who does not know the slander has signed him up to be a suicide bomber. The gossiper is unaware that when he is detonating a bomb to destroy the reputation of others, that bomb is actually strapped to his back.

    How can this be?  The moment we gossip, we destroy our reputation.  The moment we gossip is the moment we lose all credibility. The gossiper automatically deems himself untrustworthy.

    Proverbs 25:9-10 says,

    Argue your case with your neighbor himself,

      and do not reveal another’s secret,

    lest he who hears you bring shame upon you,

      and your ill repute have no end.

    The New Living translation says “you will never regain your reputation.”

    Think about it. You cannot trust someone who shares the secrets of others. The way they talk about others is the way they will talk about you. The moment you share someone else’s secret with someone, that person can no longer trust you with their secrets.

    Rest assured, the fool who gossips and slanders, brings ruin upon himself. We have all done this. We have all hurt others with our words and wounded ourselves in the process. We need a Savior who can forgive us of sin and save us from its devastating effects.

    This is adapted from the sermon “Gossip and the Gospel

    Cloak Cleaning

    by Sean Perron
    by Sean Perron

    If you were to ask John the Baptist what you should do in order to repent, he might tell you to clean out your closet.  In Luke 3, crowds came to hear the crazy-eyed, camel-skinned man speak on behalf of God. They came to be baptized and were rebuked. (I have never seen a pastor respond this way when someone responds to an evangelistic invitation.)

    “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from God’s wrath? Produce fruit consistent with repentance. God is ready to cut you down with an ax! Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

    These are strong words from John that demand a response. John is not looking for lip service or a baptismal certificate. He wants everyone who claims God to prove themselves by their works. In one breath he shouts “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29), and in another he demands intentional life change. John would readily agree that faith without works is dead.

    The crowds then ask, “What should we do? What does repentance look like for us?”

    John tells them to share their shirts. “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.” (Luke 3:11 HCSB)

    The rest of the passage continues with different groups of people asking the same question and John giving them specific instructions. Tax collectors are to be honest and not steal. Soldiers are to be satisfied with their pay and not bully. Yet the generic call to the crowds is a “spring cleaning” lesson. Clean out your closet and give your cloaks away.

    While growing up, my mom would frequently have me “purge” my closet. Out with the old and in with the new. She would frequently hand me a large trash bag and send me on a cloak clearing mission. After loading the trash bag full, we would drive to the local Goodwill. Although I did not realize the significance of this in the moment, I am thankful for this example.

    Did you receive another shirt at another conference? Feel free to give it away. Did you get new clothes for Christmas? Bless others who did not receive any presents or could not afford a conference. We only have one back, but most of us have more than one shirt.
    Let the poor enjoy your garments rather than the moths. Don’t even be afraid to be so generous that you give away those unworn shirts that have “sentimental” value.

    Is there a homeless shelter in your area that is in need of towels, socks, or shirts? Is there a woman’s choice center that could use some of your closet? Is there an international student that could use some good clothes? Is there someone in your church who is in need?

    I wonder what John the Baptist would say if a group of us Americans went down to be dipped in the Jordan. Would he exhort us to store up treasure in heaven where moths cannot destroy?

    This Spring, let us allow Jesus to walk into our walk-in closets. Let us allow Him to clean our hearts and our wardrobes. We might be surprised that purging our closets is proof that Christ has purged our souls.

    Avoiding Sin

    by Sean Perron
    by Sean Perron

     

    When the opportunity for sin entices us, what should we do?

    Proverbs 4:15 – Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on

    1) Avoid sin.
    It is unwise to play on the train tracks of Satan. As believers, we cannot flirt with sin and we cannot let her flirt with us. We must avoid sin at all costs. Face masks on, gloves wrapped and distance kept. Total detours are necessary when sin presents itself. According to the Proverbs, to move towards sin is sin. Proverbs 5:8 – “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.”

    One practical way to avoid sin is to plan ahead. If you know you are going to the movies with some friends, look up a Christian review of the movie beforehand. Even if it is a juicy new release, be prepared by planning ahead. Waiting until a trusted review comes out will serve you immensely. This will prevent you from being in an awkward situation with your friends if you realize you need to walk out of the theater. (It may also save you money on a movie ticket) One website I recommend is pluggedinonline

    Another example of planning ahead is driving separately. I have found myself at parties, celebrations, and festivities where I wish I had driven separate. I arrived unsuspecting, unprepared and trapped. When things took a turn for the worst, I was not able to make an easy escape.

    2) Turn away from sin.
    Not only must we avoid it, but we must turn away from it. This requires direct and decisive action. Sunglasses will not do, we must turn our backs on its hellish glow. We must give sin the cold shoulder and keep walking.

    This can be as simple as turning off the TV or changing the radio channel when inappropriate material invades. It may be as painless as turning the head or it may be as excruciating as cutting a hand. (Matthew 5:30)
    Christians cannot be moths flying towards sin’s hypnotizing light; we must stop gazing into sin’s deadly trance.

    3) Flee to Christ
    Proverbs 4:15 is a Sergeant against sin. It commands with utmost clarity and total security. God includes this verse in the Scriptures for our good. Our life is at stake when sin begins to beckon. The fool is someone who does not fear the Lord and runs headlong into sin. Those who are wise fear God and flee to Christ. Jesus shields us from the wrath of God and gives strength for the struggling saint.

    Run from sin by running to Jesus. Replace poisonous desires with flourishing ones. Avoiding sin will be fruitless if you also avoid Christ. Jesus wants us to replace old desires and deeds with new ones. Stop stealing and start sharing. Quit cursing and begin blessing. Forsake lust and cultivate love. Close your eyes to sin and open your heart to Christ.

    Brothers and sisters, do not be lured into sin like a fish drawn to dead bait. Instead, let us be like Pilgrim in Pilgrims progress. When sin calls, let us plug our ears, and pass by, crying loudly “Life! Life! Eternal Life!”

    When it comes to sin, take a detour, pass by, put on Christ.

     

    photograph taken by Steve Runner

    Letters To A Young Engaged Man: The Pit of Porn

    by Sean Perron
    by Sean Perron

    Dear Young Engaged Man,

    My heart is broken after reading your last letter. I am thankful that you have told me of your struggle and several steps must be taken immediately.

    You probably have fears that abound in this season. What if someone finds out? What will my fiancée think? What will my pastor do? How will this affect my marriage? What if I can never be free?

    If you are serious about your engagement and your relationship with the Lord, then serious action must be taken. You do not want to turn over in bed next to your bride and search for porn on your iPhone. Nor do you want to shrug off this sin and then turn over in the flames of Hell. Hands must be cut off and eyes must be gouged out. Pornography is not a pet to stroke, but a snake to crush. Realizing the severity of this sin is life or death. Yet there is a greater reality we must realize.

    Brothers, many men do not realize the power they have been granted to fight even the darkest desires. When Christ screamed in agony on the wooden tree, He did not scream in vain. The strength that surged through the veins of Jesus now surges through the Spirit in you. Christ has come to set you free and you can be free indeed. There is no porn pit too deep that the light of Christ cannot reach. Christ is risen from the dead and He gives immeasurable power to those who believe (Eph 1:19) Come into the light and believe there is power in the precious blood of the Lamb.

    Should you break off your engagement due to your addiction to porn?

    This is a complex question, but it is one that must be answered. The first order of business is to bring in a wise counselor. Although we have corresponded for quite some time, I am not involved enough in your daily life to give hand-tailored advice. You will need someone who can speak directly into your life, assess the scenario, examine your fruit and help you make the call. You need a referee on the field rather than a commentator from the stands.

    But from my aerial viewpoint, here is what I have noticed. There are two kinds of people who struggle with pornography. Those who are slaves to Jesus and those who are slaves to Satan. Those who have the Holy Spirit in them and those who do not. You must examine yourself and take inventory of your soul. Are you enslaved to pornography and making little to no progress? Or are you struggling but growing in grace and gaining victory? If you are consumed with porn and know it, breaking off the engagement is on the table – or – at least postponing it until you are able to get adequate help. For the man who is enslaved to porn, marriage is not the answer – Jesus is.

    However, if you struggle hard but fall occasionally, breaking off the engagement might not be the best counsel. Marriage is not the solution to porn, but it certainly can help. If you burn with passion, it is good to marry (1 Cor 7:9). But in order for you to qualify for marriage, you must be fighting this sin vigorously and see Jesus giving you victory in battle. The marriage bed is to be undefiled (Hebrews 13:4).

    Discovering a tumor and excising it is painful and frightening. Yet everyone would trade the short pain of surgery for a cancer free body. Sin thrives in secret. Mold, bacteria, fungus and all manner of porn fester in the dark. True confession may be a brief pain, but it brings sweet relief.  Every broken porn addict who comes to Christ will never be turned away.  He creates a clean heart and renews a right spirit (Psalm 51:10). Confess your sin to God and then confess your sin to a strong Christian leader in your life. God has given us pastors and mentors to help us grow in godliness. They will welcome you with open arms and then hopefully strengthen you in the faith.

    The difficult part comes when it is time to talk with your fiancée. You cannot spring such a thing upon her the day you return from your honeymoon. To be quite frank, this should have come up before engagement. But since the question has already been popped, you must bring this up quickly. Great care and wisdom must be exercised when you tell her. Pray for the next available opportunity. Inform her that you are relying upon Jesus and fighting this temptation with all His might. Talk about how you hate sin and how Jesus is helping you overcome it. Make sure that you are clear, but not overly detailed. Do not tell her all the grit and grim of your struggle. Even if she wants to know, it will not build her up in her most holy faith to talk about what you watched and how long you stared at other women. State the struggle, show that you are serious about bearing good fruit, and ask for prayer and grace.

    “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to sorrow and your joy to gloom. Humble yourself before the Lord and He will exalt you.” (James 4:7-10)

    Shrivel your sin in the light, cut off all temptation, and run to the risen Savior.

    Brother, I have watched as pornography has ravished the minds of dear friends, leaving them lonely and cold. I don’t want that for you. I am confident in the Lord that you can put this to death. Christ has overcome the grave and pornography is no match for our resurrected Lord. Take hope in His power which can cut any chain (John 8:34-36).

    Until then,
    Sean