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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

He Is Risen Indeed!

Easter 2014--He Is Risen Indeed

“He is risen!”

“He’s risen, indeed!”

The Fountain of Life Opened Up

Just what happened at Easter? What difference does Easter make?

Easter changes everything. Easter makes all the difference in the world.

John Flavel’s (1671) Easter sermon, The Fountain of Life Opened Up, teaches us what happened to Christ and what happened to us because of Good Friday and Easter. May his words pierce our hearts and prompt praise for the glorious Easter exchange.

The Glorious Easter Exchange

Lord, the condemnation was yours,

that the justification might be mine.

The agony was yours,

that the victory might be mine.

The pain was yours,

and the ease mine.

The stripes were yours,

and the healing balm issuing from them mine.

The vinegar and gall were yours,

that the honey and sweet might be mine.

The curse was yours,

that the blessing might be mine.

The crown of thorns was yours,

that the crown of glory might be mine.

The death was yours,

the life purchased by it mine.

You paid the price

that I might enjoy the inheritance.

Join the Conversation

Which aspect of the glorious Easter exchange are you most rejoicing in right now?

Topics: Faith, Hope, Love, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By 2014-2

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living. This week we focus on blogs related to Good Friday and Easter.

The Final Days of Jesus: Palm Sunday

Justin Taylor and Crossway, in conjunction with the book, The Final Days of Jesus, is releasing a video series on the last days of Christ on earth. In the first video, well-known New Testament scholars explore the background and significance of the history-shaping events that occurred during Jesus’s last week on earth. Watch the first video at The Final Days of Jesus: Palm Sunday.

Holy Week: Monday

Continuing the Justin Taylor/Crossway video series, today’s video features explanations from and interviews with New Testament professors Nicholas Perrin (of Wheaton College) and Grant Osborne (of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), focusing in particular on the cursing of the fig tree, the cleansing of the temple, and the role of the temple in the theology and practice of Jesus. You can view the video at Holy Week, Day 2, Monday.

The Resurrection in Art

Randy Alcorn shares thoughts, images, and video clips that portray the resurrection of Christ in art. Read and view at Ron Dicianni’s Reflections on the Resurrection.

A Medical Account of Jesus’ Death

At The Resurgence, you can learn about A Medical Account of Jesus’s Death.

Did God Die on the Cross?

R.C. Sproul asks the important theological questions, Did God Die on the Cross? 

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What additional blog posts related to Good Friday and Easter do you recommend?

Topics: Five To Live By, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , ,

Good Friday: The Shadow of David’s Greater Son in David’s Lesser Son

Easter 2014--Good Friday--The Shadow of David’s Greater Son in David’s Lesser Son

Faithlessness and Murder Are Chronic Human Failings

King David had a son, Absalom. Absalom was physically the most attractive man in Israel, without a single blemish anywhere on his entire body (2 Samuel 14:25). His heart, however, was a different story.

Absalom hated his older half-brother Amnon because he had violated Absalom’s sister, Tamar. Absalom allowed his hatred to simmer, plotting against his brother, patiently waiting for the moment to kill him.

His opportunity came two years later. After harvesting the wool from his sheep, Absalom planned a celebration party and deceived his father into sending Amnon to participate. While David questioned Absalom’s motives, Amnon came suspecting nothing. He ate and drank, apparently enjoyed the party, and then he died when Absalom ordered his men to strike him down.

Brother-slayer had betrayed his father’s confidence. Faithless murderer; his guilt lay heavy on his own head. Ironically, having committed the sin of Cain, he awarded himself Cain’s punishment, banishment, as he fled Israel for three years.

His exile was fully deserved, yet unwanted. Absalom longed to return. His friend, Joab, provoked David’s conscience by reminding him that God “devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him” (2 Samuel 14:14). So after three years, David allowed himself to be maneuvered into letting his son’s murderer, the one who had broken faith with him, return.

Why did David allow him to come back, unpunished? Perhaps he saw too much of himself; a self he didn’t like. It’s hard to mete out justice to someone who does the same things you have done. Did he feel again the weight of his own faith-breaking when he stole the wife of one of his most famous soldiers? Did he see a reflection of his own hatred mirrored when he had had the same soldier murdered? Like father, like son.

Subtract the details and you’re left with the same dreary story that stretches back to the dawn of the human race. Adam broke faith with his father, God, unleashing chaos on his relationships. Then Adam’s son Cain broke faith with his father and destroyed his family, murdering Abel, his father’s son. And so down through the ages the same unimaginative cycle repeated itself; each generation breaking faith with God and their ancestors, then hating, even destroying their brothers.

Now Jesus’ selection of murder and adultery in Matthew 5:21-24, 27-28 are not as random as they might at first appear. By showing us that all hatred is rooted in a murdering heart and that all acts of faithlessness are rooted in an adulterous heart, Jesus helps us see how each and every one of us carries the same affliction as our earliest ancestors. Sin and rebellion are nothing new. Absalom was nothing new.

Faithlessness and Murder Have to Be Paid For

Absalom returned from his exile, but in his arrogance decided he wanted his father’s throne. Through treachery and deceit he won over the hearts of Israel—who now demonstrated their own faithlessness as they switched their allegiance from the one who’d won victories for them and given them peace, to his double-crossing son. Within a few short years Absalom would declare himself king and be welcomed by the nation. He usurped the throne, giving his father a choice: flee into exile or face being killed.

It was a short-lived rebellion that Absalom paid for with his life. The armed forces that stayed loyal to David engaged and routed Absalom’s army. At the battle Absalom was riding his mule when his hair got tangled in a tree, leaving him caught in the branches as the mule rode off. He was found by David’s men and as he dangled there, hung between heaven and earth, his former friend Joab betrayed the betrayer by driving three javelins through his heart. They then took him down, threw him into a pit and piled rocks up over him.

You would think David would be relieved. He wasn’t. He was distraught. He had begged his army and officers, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake” (2 Samuel 18:5). And that was his mistake. David’s sake wasn’t good enough. David, being also a faith-breaking brother-hater, was no better than his son. His sake, therefore, could not justify mercy.

His sake was especially insufficient in light of God’s clear command from Numbers 35:33 that atonement for blood wrongly spilled must be made by the blood of the one who spilled it. David could not atone for Absalom because he was guilty of his own sins, not of Absalom’s.

Nor, however, could Absalom fully atone for his own sin since his blood was tainted, coming as it did from his faithless hatred. He was guilty and he died for his guilt, but he died also in his guilt.

Faithful Love Pardons Faithless Murder

How long did it take for Jesus as He was growing up to see the shadow of the cross looming over His shoulder as he read this passage? Absalom: son of the king, without blemish or defect, hung in a tree, fixed between heaven and earth, surrounded by enemies, betrayed by his former friend, spears piercing his side, dying on account of faithless murder, thrown into a pit afterward covered with rocks.

Some passages that foreshadow Christ and His death are hope-filled like Daniel 6. There an innocent man is plotted against by his enemies who work to destroy his life, and yet, in the end he’s raised from certain death and triumphs over all those who opposed him.

Some passages, however, like Absalom, are disturbing. The son of the king would die for real guilt and be entombed with no resurrection ending. What was that like to read? To study? To meditate upon? To anticipate?

The disciples couldn’t handle it. Jesus told them at least three distinct times what was going to happen to him and they didn’t get it (Mark 8:32, Luke 9:44–45, Mark 10:35–37). But Jesus did. He knew. He knew he was really going to die and he was going to do so bearing sin that was really attached to him. He was going to be really guilty.

It was no surprise then to him when Pilate gave the crowd a chance to release him or Barabbas. They chose Barabbas, who was convicted—guilty—of insurrection and murder (Luke 23:18). Insurrection: attempted overthrow of the legitimate, ruling authority—in short: faithless and disloyal. Murder: hatred of his fellow human being taken to its ultimate conclusion of removing someone permanently from his presence.

The same old familiar sins; humanity’s hallmarks. Not really a surprise that the crowd would prefer Barabbas to the One who alone had only ever maintained steadfast love and faithfulness with God and his fellow humans. They chose one of their own over their God, again. They preferred the death of an innocent man, taking their turn at expressing their faithless, murdering hearts. Their cries for blood further underlined what Jesus would be dying for as He hung on a tree, spear through His side then thrown into a stone-encased tomb.

And so Absalom taught Him He would die, with our sin and guilt so firmly attached to Him that it was right for Him to have to cleanse our evil with His blood. Despite having lived a faithful, loving life, He died guilty.

And yet because He brought no sin of His own before ours was attached to Him, His blood could be used for others. That means, unlike David, He could say, “Father forgive them”—“Father, be gentle with them for my sake”—and His sake would be enough to seal His plea. We would get forgiveness.

He would pay what we owe because He made the debt His and we would get gentle treatment on account of His goodness.

Join the Conversation

How has Christ’s faithful, loving work given you the courage to look recently at your faithless hatred? How has His faithfulness moved you away from hatred to worship to love?

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Faith, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Theology | Tags: , , , ,

Theospection

Easter 2014--Theospection

I love the Easter season! Partly this is because I am fond of chocolate, the autumnal weather, and hot-cross buns.[1] But even more than that, I love Easter because I enjoy and benefit from the spiritual focus of this time.

The Easter season, and Holy Week in particular, is a wonderful time to reflect. Traditionally, the weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter are known as Lent. “Lent is a time of preparation—a season of prayer, fasting and repentance.”[2] Lent is also a time of reflection—with the hope that, after Easter Sunday, we would have experienced spiritual renewal. Many of us might engage in certain Lenten habits, or specific daily readings, which help prepare our hearts for Easter.

Engaging in focused times of prayer, fasting, reading, or reflection can be very helpful—for both counselors and counselees. Both counselors and counselees are often seeking immediate, concrete, practical life-change—and so we would do well to intentionally slow down and engage in a period of reflective preparation. However, there’s one very subtle danger involved in any time of reflection in which we are seeking renewal, and it’s this: renewal is not the result of introspection but theospection.

Introspection vs. Theospection

Theospection is a word I’ve made up to contrast with introspection. Introspection is self-focused over-reflection; endless self-analysis; limitless probing into inner recesses of your heart. Introspection is a subtle danger during any time of reflection—Lent included (and all counseling sessions included).

It is particularly subtle because, especially in the counseling endeavor, self-awareness is very important. Self-awareness enables us to answer vital questions, such as: what is driving my thoughts and behavior? What do I most value? When am I angry, sad, fearful, etc.? Growing in self-knowledge is helpful as we pursue renewal, but over-analysis is unhelpful (as it often promotes excessive self-focus). Simply put, introspection does not lead to personal spiritual renewal.

Rather, we experience renewal when we see God. In theospection, we gaze at God – and as a result are changed, renewed, refreshed. Let’s take a look at two passages where we see this play out.

Theospection: Seeing God’s Glory by Hearing God’s Word

In Exodus 33:18, we find Moses addressing God and making an audacious request: “Please show me your glory.” In the context, God has (again) demonstrated remarkable grace to sinful Israel, and Moses longed to see this remarkable God. Moses was seeking theospection.

So the Holy-and-Gracious God put some measures in place to protect Moses, putting Moses in the cleft of a rock and allowing him to see only His back (cf. Exodus 33:21-23). But what’s fascinating is what comes next: Moses sees God’s Glory by hearing God’s Word.

“The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.””

These words reveal the perfections of God’s character; these words reveal who He is, and who He always will be. When Moses heard these words, he saw God’s character. And what was the result of this theospection? Exodus 34:8, “Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.” Theospection led to personal renewal and invigorated worship for Moses – what other response is appropriate? Seeing God renewed Moses. Moses saw God’s glory by hearing God’s Word.

Theospection: Contemplation Leads to Transformation

Many years later, with some of these Exodus ideas in mind, the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). John Piper explains this verse memorably when he says that beholding is becoming. As we behold God, as we contemplate who He is—especially who He is in Jesus Christ—we become godlier. Seeing God, beholding His glory by His Spirit, through His Word, transforms us. Contemplating God, gazing at Him through His Word, transforms us. Renewal comes through theospection by the Spirit.

So to summarize: I see God, in my heart, by His Spirit, through His Word, and am transformed. As I worship God, by His Spirit, through dwelling on His truth, I am renewed. Transformation and renewal occur as I move from introspection to theospection.

Seeing God, by His Spirit, through His Word, Will Lead to Renewal

This Easter, I hope you experience spiritual renewal. Whether you are a counselor, a counselee, or just reading this blog for the first time, my prayer for all who read this is that you would be encouraged to pursue theospection. My hope is that you will experience renewal as you worship Him. Wonderfully, we can be confident in our expectation of such renewal. We will be transformed, by God’s Spirit, as we see God through His Word. Theospection leads to renewal. May you experience that this Easter as you gaze at God through His Word.

Join the Conversation

How could “theospection”—gazing at God through His Word—impact you this Easter season?



[1]Although I realize that if you live in the Northern hemisphere, then Easter occurs over your Spring! But are you still able to get access to hot-cross buns?

[2]Rebecca Van Noord and Jessi Strong, eds., 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Faith, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Theology | Tags: , , , , , ,

Reflections on the Burial of Jesus for Biblical Counseling

Easter 2014--Reflections on the Burial of Jesus for Biblical Counseling

The Filled Tomb

Jesus was buried.

All four of the gospel writers narrate His burial (Matthew 27:60, Mark 15:46, Luke 23:53, John 19:41). The very concise Apostle’s Creed mentions that Jesus “…was crucified, dead, and buried.” The apostle Paul said that Jesus’ burial was a part of the gospel of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

During this season, we Christians love to talk about “The Empty Tomb” because our Lord is risen. But before He could rise, He had to be buried. Before there was an empty tomb, there had to be a filled tomb.

In re-reading the gospel accounts this Spring, I was struck by the fact that Jesus not only died but was buried. Death seems final, but burial even more so. Not only did His lungs stop breathing, His heart stop beating, and His brain go flat-line, but Jesus’ vital signs stopped for so long, so persistently, that it was obvious that He was dead and gone. There was nothing left to do but bury Him.

The synoptic gospels all say that Jesus’ body was buried. The pronouns shift from “He” to “it.” His body is now a corpse. “Going to Pilate, [Joseph of Arimathea] asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid” (Luke 23:53).

Jesus’ female followers tracked after Joseph and saw for themselves where Jesus’ body was placed. There was no mistaking it. Jesus was buried. The tomb was filled.

I don’t know a fraction of the implications of the truth of Jesus’ burial, but as I meditated on it, I thought of three that seemed significant for biblical counseling.

1. Salvation

It took the filled tomb to save us. Paul says, “by this gospel you are saved,” and that includes that Jesus “was buried” (1 Corinthians 15:4). I’m not as sure how Jesus’ burial figures into our salvation as does the Cross or the Resurrection, but I am sure that it is significant. Perhaps it’s simply an extension of His death—He’s that dead. Perhaps it’s to fit into and then improve on the pattern set by His ancestor, King David, who was also buried but whose body decayed there (Acts 13:36).

Certainly baptism is connected to burial; we were buried with Jesus in some mysterious and amazing way (Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12). However it works, it was necessary for Jesus to be buried for you and I to be saved from our sins.

Biblical counselors celebrate the gospel because we encounter sin every day. We are sinners saved by grace who counsel other sinners in need of grace. We should give thanks that Jesus’ tomb was filled because it changes everything for us

2. Sadness

Biblical counselors also encounter suffering every day. We look into the sad faces of depressed people. We walk with those who grieve the loss of someone they love. We talk people through bitter relational conflicts. Life often hurts and feels like death. Dreams go into tombs.

I don’t think we can comprehend the bewildered sadness that the disciples must have felt on that silent Saturday, but it was the right emotion for the occasion. The filled tomb allows us to be sad. It gives us permission to grieve over the places in life that are broken.

Previously, when Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, our Lord wept. In fact, Jesus—who is the Resurrection and the Life and who was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33). How much more were tears appropriate when it was our Lord himself who filled the tomb?

The filled tomb authorizes appropriate sorrowfulness.

3. Hope

Thankfully, Jesus did not stay dead and buried. He came back to life and came out of the tomb. He is risen indeed!

But to become an emptied tomb, it had to first be filled. You have to have death to have a resurrection. The filled tomb sets the stage for a miracle.

Biblical counselors offer hope. We see and feel sad situations for which we properly empathize, sympathize, and grieve. But we also know that the overwhelmingly sad can give way to the surprisingly joyful (John 16:20-22). Jesus specializes in turn-arounds.

As we receive and offer counsel during this season, let’s hold out hope for true change in both hearts and situations because the tomb of Jesus was filled and is now empty.

Join the Conversation

What difference does the filled tomb make in your biblical counseling?

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Faith, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Theology | Tags: , , , , ,

Easter Bunnies, Parental Feelings of Failure, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Easter 2014--Easter Bunnies, Parental Feelings of Failure, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

I’m a father of five beautiful children. What a distinct privilege it is to be a father. Honestly, I love being a dad. But on my worst days, I can often forget that I love this. Step into the world of parenting, and you can quickly get overwhelmed with inhibiting your children’s sin (peeling one fighting child off of another), your own guilt (I feel bad about something I did wrong), and maintaining the practical and tactical elements of survival (how many times have I changed diapers or wiped snotty noses or chauffeured a child to an activity or made a meal for our kids?).

Parenting is hard word. No doubt about it. In the midst of these daily battles, I find that my mind can quickly wander down a few mental trails that are not edifying for me, nor are they helpful for my kids.

Unhelpful Thought # 1: “I’m a failure of a parent because I got angry.”

One of my kids is really gifted at pushing my buttons. It’s not hard to get exasperated because my child is being stubborn or foolish, especially when I’m tired and worn out. So, I snap, I raise my voice, and sadly give myself over to my momentary anger.

After something like this happens, I can be prone to thoughts like: “You’re such a failure as a parent.” Or, for about an hour after the incident, I walk around feeling guilty about my anger. I know it was wrong. I know I shouldn’t have raised my voice. I know I need to be humble, and apologize to my child. I want to wallow in my misery. I failed, so let me just wallow in self-pity for a while. Maybe you can relate?

Unhelpful Thought # 2: “Sin still rules me.”

I remember one time, after getting angry at my daughter, I was sitting at the kitchen table, staring at a chocolate Easter bunny, contemplating eating my misery away. Not a great way to deal with my emotions. (It is true, men can eat for comfort, too.)

Here is where the Apostle Paul comes in:

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

After a long treatise on how we are united to Christ and no longer slaves to sin, Paul wants to distinguish between our old self (our pre-conversion state when sin ruled us) and our new self.  The sad reality is that too many of us (as parents) live as if our sinful tendencies still rule us. We assume our sin is winning; so, we wallow in guilt or shame or self-defeat.

But Paul makes this argument in Romans 6: Since Christ died, and we are united to Christ in His death, we are dead to sin. We must recognize this fact.

Or, to put it in simple terms: Recognize that your sin no longer rules you. Remember this fact.  When you get angry, or give yourself over to a bad eating habit, or wallow in guilt or shame, or contemplate your parental failures, remember that this is who you once were, but not any longer.

But Paul doesn’t stop there. He wants me to recognize my new reality—that I’m in Christ. Those two words (“in Christ”) mean everything to me. It gives me hope because this sin no longer defines me. As an unbeliever, I was a slave to this sin. But as a Christian, it no longer has to rule me. As a Christian, I can often forget this new reality, and assume my sin defines me.

I don’t know about you, but remembering my new reality—that sin no longer rules me, and that I can find life through Christ—is hard. Sometimes I forget. Other times I just want to wallow in my guilt.

So, I need to do as Paul encourages me to do—recognize the truth of the situation. If you are ‘in Christ’, then you are united to Christ through his death and his resurrection (Romans 6:3-4). He provides the strength to help you daily battle the sin that once defined you, and helps you to live more like him every day. Sin no longer has mastery over you (Romans 6:5-7).

Parents: Take Heart.

Don’t give up. Every Easter, I’m reminded of this fact: Because Christ rose again, I have life. I’m no longer a slave to my sin. You no longer are defined by your anger, wallowing, guilt, or parental failures. So, put away that chocolate Easter bunny and be patient with your child. Christ has risen; you now have life through Him.

Join the Conversation

What practical, relational difference does your new life in Christ have in your daily life? How does the good news of Easter resurrection change how you view yourself and how you live life?

Topics: Christian Living, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sin | Tags: , , , , ,

Weekend Media Resource: When a Husband Is Discovered Looking at Pornography

The BCC Weekend Resource
BCC Staff Note: On weekends we often highlight one of our many free resources. This weekend we highlight an audio recording of a conversation between David Powlison, Deepak Reju, and Garrett Higbee about how a counselor might help a couple when the husband has just been discovered in a struggle with pornography. All three men share their various perspectives on how to understand the problem as well as the way forward.

Popout Audio Player

This is an audio recording of a conversation between David Powlison, Deepak Reju, and Garrett Higbee about how a counselor might help a couple when the husband has just been discovered in a struggle with pornography. All three men share their various perspectives on how to understand the problem as well as the way forward.

Topics: Adultery, Audio, Men/Husbands, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Pornography, Sexual Purity, Women/Wives | Tags: , , , , ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By 2014-2

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

5 Christlike Criteria for When We Express Our Feelings to Others

Bob Kellemen just concluded a six-part blog mini-series on emotions. Read Part Six, which has links to the first five posts, at 5 Christlike Criteria for When We Express Our Feelings to Others.

6 Signs of False Teachers

Denny Burk reminds us that we are not only to preach the Word, but also to defend the flock against false teachers. He discusses 6 signs of false teachers in How to Identify False Teachers.

PBS Looks at New Calvinism

Justin Taylor links you to a transcript and video of PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly looking at “New Calvinism” with a focus on the Southern Baptist Convention. Find the links at PBS Looks at New Calvinism.

The New Birds and Bees

Tim Challies shares a sad, alarming, and important post updating us on how the secular world is not teaching about gender, sexuality, and sex. Learn the sad news that we all must be aware of in The New Birds and Bees.

9 Things You Should Know about the Chronicles of Narnia

At The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter notes that the end of March marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of C.S. Lewis completing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Read 9 Things You Should Know about the Chronicles of Narnia.

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: Five To Live By, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave Room

Leave Room

The most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed is reconciliation between two hurting sinners. I am passionate about seeing broken relationships healed. But, what do we do with that broken relationship that haunts us? Is it ever okay to give up pursuing reconciliation with another person?

Well, it depends.

First, let’s define a few terms.

Forgiveness

Human forgiveness does not depend on the attitudes or actions of the offender. When in conflict, an offended person can (and must) forgive the offender, even if the offender fails to repent or confess their sins. Why?

All of our sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven by God when we put our faith in Christ. Jesus secured our forgiveness through His perfect work on our behalf. As forgiven sinners, we are wealthy in grace. Our wealth is so vast, and our gratitude so deep, we can’t not settle the “debts” others owe us by extending forgiveness.

On account of the gospel, even massive debts of pain, loss, and grief can be settled from our own “bank account” of grace. Our grace accounts are so great that we will never miss the payments we make to set others free of the relational debts they owe us.

Reconciliation

Reconciliation requires mutual repentance, confession, and forgiveness.

Not all relationships “break” as a result of conflict, therefore reconciliation (as defined above) is not always required. Conflict in which no one is harmed, and Christ’s reputation is not damaged, can be resolved when one person covers another person’s sin with love. Love in the form of unilateral forgiveness is sufficient to make the relationship whole again. We call this overlooking an offense. When a husband absent-mindedly leaves his shoes under the coffee table after agreeing to put them away, the irritated wife has it in her power to make whole the relationship by choosing to cover the offense with forgiveness, even in the absence of a conversation, by reminding herself of how much she has been forgiven in Christ.

When a relationship breaks because someone is harmed or Christ’s honor is damaged, reconciliation is necessary. Reconciliation requires both parties to recognize their sins and failures (repent), own their contributions to the conflict (confession), and forgive each other. A broken relationship cannot be made whole when only one (or neither) party takes responsibility or forgives. Reconciliation is not in the power of one person. It takes two people to reconcile a relationship.

Restoration

Restoring a relationship is different than reconciling a relationship.

While reconciliation requires mutual repentance, confession, and forgiveness, restoration is a process of rebuilding trust, respect, and closeness in a relationship. Reconciliation and restoration have different goals with different paths. However, restoration requires sufficient reconciliation.

The illustration of a broken bone might be helpful to understand the difference between relational reconciliation and restoration. A broken bone must be “set” or returned to its proper place in order to heal properly. Some breaks are so serious that the break and the surrounding tissue damage require extensive intervention in order to bring the broken bone back into place. When the injured limb is finally in a position to heal, the protective cast is employed.

Reconciliation is like setting a broken bone and, when conflict is severe, reconnecting severed arteries or torn muscles. Restoration, on the other hand, is like placing a cast around the “reconciled” bone, providing the necessary time to heal, and employing physical therapy to regain the use of the injured limb.

It is unhelpful to attempt to restore what has not been reconciled. Counseling that focuses on restoring trust and respect, in the absence of reconciliation efforts, fails to be effective for people in significant conflict.

Make Every Effort

Believers are called to “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone…” (Hebrews 12:14). The apostle Paul instructs us that, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). How are we to live at peace?

Living at peace with others is hard work. It is also transformative. When we keep in mind the message of the gospel, God reconciled us to himself through Christ, we are inspired to see and own our sin, seek forgiveness, help others see and own their sin, and extend forgiveness. With God’s help, we are enabled to repent, confess, and forgive.

However, others with whom we find ourselves in conflict might not choose to join us in this God-honoring endeavor.

What Do We Do Then?

When we have done all we know to do to pursue reconciliation, and we have prayed and asked God for help, and we have repented and confessed our sin, and we have forgiven the person who has hurt us, and we have included others in the process to help promote reconciliation, and we have turned to our church for help, and we don’t know what else we can do… there is still one thing left to do.

Leave room.

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Leaving room for God’s wrath is not washing our hands of the relationship, turning our back on the person, ceasing to be concerned for them, or hoping that God punishes them. Leaving room is an act of faith in the God who is always at work to grow us more into the likeness of Christ.

Leaving room is an act of hope in the God who delights in reconciliation, and might choose to work in other ways to promote repentance, confession, and forgiveness in the reluctant party.

Leaving room is an act of love when it is accompanied by a watchful and prayerful heart waiting for the “green light” to reengage our efforts to live at peace.

Join the Conversation

How could you apply these principles of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration to your life and relationships?

Topics: Anger, Bitterness, Christian Living, Conflict, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

Picture Perfect: The Remedy (Part 3)

Picture Perfect - The Remedy (Part 3)

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 3 of a three-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series by Amy Baker on perfectionism. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. These posts are adapted by the author from Picture Perfect: When Life Doesnt Line UpCopyright © 2014 by Amy Baker. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

Taylor and the Rest of Us

In the two previous posts, we’ve been focusing on Taylor, a perfectionist whose life is often filled with stress and frustration as a result of the expectations she has for herself and others.  Think for a moment now about what you really want on a day-by-day basis. If, like Taylor and me, your heart and mind are often ruled by self-focused desires, it won’t be long until you experience frustration, fear of failure, unrelenting pressure, and guilt. It won’t be long until you seek to control others to get them to live according to your expectations. It won’t be long until you live with a sense of dread that just around the next corner someone will discover you are a fraud; you’re not really as put together as everyone believes you are. These are heavy burdens.

Taylor wants things done right because in her heart she believes this will bring her satisfaction. But Taylor has been deceived into believing that the perfection she is seeking will bring happiness. Taylor has been lured into believing that performance leads to perfection and that performance-based perfection leads to happiness and satisfaction. These deceits are advertised regularly by the world around her promoting the perfect body, the perfect diet, the perfect job, the perfect investment, the perfect house, the perfect family, the perfect life. But the reason they resonate with Taylor is that she wants to believe them. She wants to believe that if she works hard enough she can attain perfection. She wants to believe that performing well will remove her anxiety and fear. She wants a life with no hassles or trials and she believes being perfect will fulfill this desire.

True, there have been brief moments of satisfaction. Occasions of recognition have brought fleeting good moods, but these have inevitably been followed by pressure to do more and fear of being exposed as imperfect. For the perfectionist, achievement results in demands for greater achievement. Not a moment should be wasted in resting on your laurels or celebrating victory. There is always the next game to win, the next project to perform, the next expectation to meet.

And the greater the recognition, the greater the fear of being exposed. The more people point to you as a model to follow, the higher the potential for humiliation when you don’t live up to the exalted status conferred on you. Perfectionism is a harsh master and serving this master is frightening and exhausting.

Exchanging a Heavy Burden for a Light One

A life ruled by our own desires and shaped by what the world tells us is perfection eventually becomes an exhausting life full of disappointment and frustration. In contrast, how radically different it is when the one true Lord rules our lives. When the true Lord rules our lives, we find that his rule is very different. This ruler invites you to come to him and have rest. Listen to his kind invitation in Matthew 11:28–30:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Does this seem attractive to you? Do you feel worn out trying to meet all the demands of perfectionism? Do the anxieties, pressures, and fears that come with perfectionism keep you in turmoil, your mind always churning? Would you enjoy rest for your soul, a relief from the churning?

Jesus promises his yoke is easy, his burden is light. How can he do this? He did it by taking the crushing burden of our failure on himself and inviting us to turn to him in trust and repentance. As we turn to him, he offers us his perfection—his righteous record with no mistakes or flaws. With his perfection as our foundation, he then equips us to live with a whole different mindset. Different things become important to us. We develop different goals and desires. We pursue different agendas.

Be advised, the old desires, fears, anxieties, and goals will still tempt you to rely on them but in Christ they no longer have the power to rule you. Woohoo! All those tensions that Taylor has lived with for years, no longer have to have mastery over her. There can be peace.

Taylor needs a different way. Her striving for perfection has gone badly wrong—led by a heart that has been blinded by the promises of false gods. Her striving for perfection has brought tension into almost all of her relationships. Her striving for perfection has resulted in tremendous pressure to do better and better. Taylor has a love/hate affair with perfectionism, and she needs a better way.

Christ offers a better way. He makes incredible promises that only he can deliver. The life he promotes is radical. It’s restful. It’s stunningly beautiful. It’s available to Taylor and to us.

Join the Conversation

How can you receive and rest in the “light burden” of Christ?

Topics: Christian Living, Conflict, Faith, Fear/Worry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , ,

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