Christ as Redeemer-Counselor: Face-to-Face with You and Your Spouse

Christ counsels husband and wife face-to-face. He points them to Ephesians 5. He says, “Husband, love your wife in the same manner in which I demonstrated my love for the church, my bride, by giving myself up for her. You love your own body, right? You nourish and cherish your body. Love your wife in the same way. Do not neglect her. Wash her with the washing of water by means of my word. Pray for her and with her. Your wife is your most intimate neighbor. Therefore, love her as you love yourself. When you are both filled by Spirit, you will indeed make melody to me with all your heart. Your marriage will then be a symphonic sacrifice to me, holy and pleasing. Wife, in the same manner in which I am head of the church, my body, your husband is your authority. This means that he takes his cue from me in how he must serve and lead you. So, as the church submits to me, you also must lovingly and humbly submit to your husband in everything. Husband and wife, when quarrels and fights arise between yourselves, realize it is because of the passions that are at war within you. With the help of the Spirit, you must put them to death, that you may live well with each other, and look eagerly to each other’s interests more than your own, as they reflect the wisdom of your Father in heaven.”

The Happy One Counseled by His Creator

The blessed man exemplified in Psalm 1 lives in God’s world. Since his world is God-relational, he is counseled in a distinct way. Those who are wicked, sinners, or those who scoff at God and his ways do not inform his counsel. Instead, he delights in and is counseled by the matchless counsel of God, so much that he meditates on it day and night. What is the effect of this God-saturated counseling on this man? Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17, and John 15 enliven his real life context. This God-counseled man is like a tree that is planted by streams of water. This tree bears fruit in its season. His leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. So when the drought comes, what happens to this tree? This happy man continues to trust in the unwavering wisdom of God. He does not fear when heat comes. His leaves remain green, and he is not anxious in the year of drought. He does not cease to bear fruit. Why? The ultimate answer to this question, is that instead of forsaking the LORD during a nearly unbearable year in his life, he runs to the only satisfying fountain of living water—Jesus, his only redeemer and refuge. This man whose roots have run deep down by the streams of never-ending water, has come and remains in Jesus. This Jesus-dependent tree realizes his need for the one who says, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing, even endure the hardest year of your life. Abide in my love.”

On Marriage, Happiness, and GOD

Perhaps one common cultural assumption Christians may have regarding marriage, is that true happiness begins and ends with the married couple itself. I do not think that the Bible condemns the pursuit of happiness in general, or in particular. Instead, with regards to true and Biblical happiness, the Bible assumes that we pursue it. For example: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Regarding the married couple (and, the husband in particular), Paul says, “Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” I am assuming that in the act of loving oneself or another, the lover is the pursuer of happiness. I believe that the thesis of Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Marriage is right depending on his definition of happiness. His thesis question: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” From what I’ve read of his book so far, I am assuming his definition of “happy” in this thesis question is the idealized definition many Christians have taken up from our culture’s own cues. So, with this definition in mind (but going with the Bible’s definition), I’d say that God designed marriage to make us holy (i.e., as he is holy) that we may be happy in him–who should be the beginning and the end of our happiness/love as married couples.

Maybe one of the biblical characteristics of marriage that people might treat as being purely cultural (as during the apostle Paul’s time and culture), pertains to gender roles in marriage. Paul says at least four things in particular here (Eph. 5.22-33): 1) Wives, as submitter to their own husbands; 2) Husbands, as head of the wife; 3) Husbands, as sacrificial lover for their wife; 4) Wives, respecter of husband.

I believe that the greatest threat to marriage relates directly to the misconception of true happiness, as discussed above. Marriages end, not because one or both of the spouses aim for happiness and miss. Instead, marriages end because one or both of them aim at the wrong (i.e., idolatrous) things that inevitably lead them to ruin and misery.

I believe that many couples treat marriage so lightly, that their own marriages dissolve so quickly, because they treat God and his word so lightly. Every little thing and every big thing that we do, think, feel, say, and are, is God-relational. And, when a husband and wife seem to dismiss God into the peripheral areas of their lives, they cease to love each other as they ought. A husband cannot love his wife properly unless he loves (i.e., finds joy in) his God rightly.

Systematic Biblical Counseling: A Recommendation of CCEF

At Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF), their mission aims to Restore Christ to Counseling and Counseling to the Church. Here are four ways their ministry accomplishes this mission: (1) Counseling; (2) Classroom Training; (3) Distance Education; (4) Publications; (5) Conferences.

You can peer into the classroom here as Molly Friesen reminisces about 10 Top Things I Think About My Classes at CCEF.

My only experiences thus far with CCEF have been reading books and listening to messages by their own faculty members. Here are a few books I’ve read, or ones I’m currently reading:
1) Seeing With New Eyes by David Powlison
2) Speaking Truth In Love by David Powlison
3) How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp
4) When People are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch
5) Addictions–A Banquet in the Grave by Edward T. Welch

I just finished a seminal “Christian Counseling” class at the seminary in which I’m currently pursuing a Masters in Theology. Paradoxically, it was one of the most valuable classes I’ve taken so far, simply because it was one with which I’ve disagreed most vehemently. CCEF’s resources (as partially listed above) were the bedrock on which I planted my feet, as I stood face to face with a view of Christian Counseling that seriously lacked a robust grasp of the Redeemer Triune God, the Scriptures that critique the thoughts and motivations of our hearts, and an Anthropology that says we live and move and have our being in a God-contextual world.

After graduating with a ThM, I hope to attend classes at CCEF through their Distance Education Program. Until then, I plan to delightfully commend their ministry and work to you! Thank you, CCEF! And, thank you, my sovereign and ever-present God, for revealing more of yourself in Christ and by your Spirit to me, through your servants at CCEF. Precious Lord, now that I know just a tiny bit more of you, your word, and your world, I have found just tad bit more of myself. To you alone belongs the glory, forever and ever! Amen.

Propitiation: Only One Reason?

Propitiation, then, means that Christ has satisfied the holy wrath of God through His payment for sin. There was only one reason for Him to do this: He loves us.

The Search for Significance, by Robert S. McGee

Was there only one reason why Christ was put forward to be the propitiation for  our sins? If there is more than one reason, which one does the apostle Paul give?

“God put [Christ Jesus] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3.25-26)

Yes, the Father deeply loves those for whom he sent his one and only Son to die. And, yes, Jesus deeply loves those for whom he became their propitiation. However, God also passionately loves his own righteousness so much that he displayed it in Christ’s being a propitiation on the cross, in a way that magnifies himself as just and the justifier of those who love Jesus.

GOD loves you in the way that shows he loves himself. Any other love is idolatry.