Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Great Book on Biblical Counseling

I'm only a novice in the world of biblical counseling, and I haven't read that many books on the subject. But of those I have read, the one I've found most useful is Paul Tripp's Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands. It's a very well-rounded book: deeply theological but also very practical, especially in the latter half. It's also full of items from Tripp's own experience as a counselor, which really helps to express abstract concepts in personal, concrete ways.

I recommend this book to anyone who is serious about learning how to counsel others biblically.

If you want to know more about the specific contents of the book, check out the chapter summaries below.

Chapter 1 – The best news in the world is that God is radically changing people to enjoy and display His glory. We realize the need for change in the world and in ourselves, but our sinfulness makes this impossible. Our sin has made us rebellious against God, foolishly self-dependent, and incapable of doing what God has ordained us to do. “The good news of the kingdom is not freedom from hardship, suffering, and loss,” says Tripp. “It is the news of a Redeemer who has come to rescue me from myself.”

Chapter 2 – God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in the lives of others. The church will only grow as each member does its work. “Our mission is to teach, admonish, and encourage one another to rest in his sovereignty, rather than establishing our own; to rely on his grace rather than performing on our own; and to submit to his glory rather than seeking our own.”

Chapter 3 – Genesis 1 shows us that we as human beings are fundamentally dependent on God to help us make sense of life and the facts of our existence. And so, we sin when we listen to other competing voices instead of God's. In order to live life properly, we must live in “humble, honest community with one another, where personal ministry is part of the daily culture.”

Chapter 4 – For counseling to produce true transformation, it must address the fundamental problem of man: a sinful heart. The essence of sin is actually idolatry, and whoever/whatever rules our hearts “will control the way we respond to both suffering and blessing.”

Chapter 5 – Situations do not force us to sin. Rather, sin is rooted in self-worship. Tripp argues that “Our desire to set up our own kingdom is in direct conflict with the King who has come to rule in our hearts. This is the war beneath all others.”

Chapter 6 – Biblical counseling can produce lasting change only if it is Christ-centered. Truth, according to Tripp, “in its most basic form, is not a system, a theology, or a philosphy. It is a person whose name is Jesus. Living a godly life means trusting him, following him, and living like him.” God's plan is for people to see Him through the Christlike character of the church and of individual believers. One way to apply this truth is the “Love-Know-Speak-Do Model” of personal ministry.

Chapters 7 and 8 – LOVE. The foundation for people-transforming ministry is love. The only way to participate effectively in Christ's work is to build loving ministry relationships. There are four elements to this. First, we must enter the person's world. Second, we must incarnate the love of Christ. Third, we must identify with the person's suffering. And fourth, we must accept the person, but with a transformational agenda.

Chapters 9 & 10 – KNOW. Just as Christ sympathized with us, we must do the same to others. Biblical insight into the nature of man in general doesn't guarantee that we will easily understand an individual and his/her situation. This is why we need to ask good questions. “Biblical personal ministry thrives when good exegesis of Scripture leads to an accurate exegesis of the person’s life.” We can organize the information we gather about counselees in a biblical way by categorizing each item as either Situation, Response, Thought, or Motive.

Chapters 11 & 12SPEAK. Confronting brethren who are sinning should be done in obedience to the First and Second Great Commandments. Tripp explains that the love required here, “exists at the intersection of patient grace and intolerance for sin,” and reflects Christ's own love as displayed on the cross. Biblical confrontation should start with the counselor's self-examination, be done with the right motives, and be focused on the gospel. The process includes four steps: Consideration, Confession, Commitment and Change. Interaction and helping the counselee discover things for him/herself is preferable to outright declaration by the counselor.

Chapters 13 & 14 – DO. We must teach others how to approach their problems with an eternity-oriented perspective, based on who they are in Christ. We must also help them to close the gap between what they believe and how they are living. This can be done in four steps: establishing your personal ministry agenda, clarifying responsibility, instilling identity in Christ, and providing accountability.

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