I would like to suggest that the American church has two very important needs that are going mostly unmet and thus hindering the ability of the church to grow. This neglect leaves the church weak and unable to live boldly and without fear. I believe that if these two prerequisites were met the church could grow as vibrant and dynamic as the Lord originally intended it to be. Without them Christians are unsure of what they believe and are unable to apply biblical truth in the daily grind of life. These two essentials are apologetics (to strengthen our faith) and biblical counseling (to apply our faith in life). This article will focus on the latter.
The goal of biblical counseling is to teach that the believer’s purpose is to please God and glorify Him (2 Corinthians 5:9) in all areas of their life in the midst of all circumstances, whether hardship or blessing. (Job 2:10) Because sin is the greatest obstacle man faces, we have ordered our lives around the desire to please ourselves instead of God. It is important to note that “counsellor” is not an office one holds in the church; counseling is a function of the church. It is the responsibility of every believer to initiate loving confrontation directed towards bringing about change from conformity to sin to conformity to biblical standards, principles, and practices.
This is what the apostle Paul would define as “nouthesis” as in Romans 15:14 and Colossians 3:. Paul wrote, “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” (Romans 15:14) and “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” (Colossians 3:16) Paul is saying that all Christians are to confront and encourage one another with the Word of God as a regular activity. As believers we have the wisdom, knowledge, and goodness from the Holy Spirit that points us away from sin.
Paul explains that every Christian needs this to happen regularly in their lives in order to be mature in Christ. As a member of the Church, I do not see this consistently happening in one-on-one relationships or small settings. This is a big reason believers are struggling to be mature in their walk with God. Most regular attendees can tell you that they are saved and how Christ saved them, but when it comes to applying the Word through their daily broken and complicated lives, there is little lasting fruit.
There are a handful of biblical examples of men being confronted about their sin and admonished to repent. The first example we find is in Genesis 3:8-24. From the very beginning God gives us the model and standard through which we are to lovingly admonish one another. Jay Adams, a well-known author on the subject of nouthetic counseling, describes it this way:
“Adam tried to make a getaway into the woods. But God confronted him nouthetically, in order to change him by words. The relationship between God and Adam had been established on the basis of God’s Word, broken by Satan’s challenge to that Word, and had to be reestablished by God’s Word. God elicited a confession from him. He probed until he got satisfactory answers.”
The model is to use the Word as the tool through which sin is pointed out, which leads to repentance and brings them back into fellowship with God. To use any other resource to rescue them leads to greater destruction and is not love.
When Nathan confronted King David about his adultery and murder he used this same biblical model and the result was repentance. (2 Samuel 12:1-13) In John 21 after Jesus had died and been resurrected his disciple Peter was confused, discouraged, and felt purposeless so he returned to fishing when he should have been fishing men as Christ had directed him prior to his death. Because Peter had failed and denied Jesus three times, as was predicted, he had lost hope and felt he was unable to do what Jesus had commanded. Jesus loved Peter and one of the ways he demonstrated this intimate love was to confront him about his sin and restore him back into right fellowship with him. Jesus reminded Peter to feed Christ’s sheep. The intimate morning Peter spent with Jesus eating fish for breakfast led to Peter’s miraculous transformation into a powerful ministry, and then his ultimate martyrdom years later. Because Jesus confronted Peter nouthetically, God’s church was built and many souls saved. This is the lasting goal of biblical counseling: spiritual transformation and understanding so that sin can be avoided, leading to a fruitful life.
Why why have we strayed from this approach? Because it is hard and change happens in God’s way and time, not the way of the world that seeks quick, easy, temporary results. God’s model takes humility, authenticity, and a willingness to admit that I am no better than you. As I evaluate the church I do not see this nouthetic confrontation happening on a consistent basis, but I think believers are craving it. Believers want to grow, but sin blinds us from knowing how to apply God’s truth, which is why we need each other. Since I’m able to see your sin more clearly than you can, and you can see my sin more clearly than I can we must admonish one another in love using God’s truth as the guide. To use any other tool is not biblical and is not Godly love. This is exactly what God did in the garden. He called out Adam and Eve on what they could no longer see, and then restored them. If God does it and Jesus does it and the Holy Spirit does it, why not the church?