The Discipleship Process
Biblical counseling is a targeted form of discipleship. Discipleship is one person coming alongside another in a relationship that is intended to provide an opportunity for exhorting one another to become more Christ-like.
Unlike secular counseling, biblical counseling was never intended to be a professional relationship, it was intended to be a Galatians 6:1 relationship; where throughout our lives we take turns being the helper and the one being helped.
Biblical discipleship otherwise known as biblical counseling is using the word of God for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness 2 Timothy 3:16,17. Every person is in need of what 2 Timothy 3:16,17 says. In some cases, the discipleship process begins when a person looks for help for a problem in their life and it becomes apparent that person is unregenerate. In that case, the disciplee must understand that from a biblical perspective, her total depravity must be addressed before any further biblical counsel will be helpful.
Are We Basically Good?
She must understand what Ephesians Chapter 2, Romans 5:8, 10, Colossians 1:21 and Romans 7:5 have to say about who she is and how she has been living her life. It is clear the Scriptures speak about our total depravity, however, a person coming from a liberal church or no church at all will have no understanding of these theological truths. It is very popular today in many churches to say that we are basically good. This is a notion that is perpetrated in the church by a psychological gospel that exalts man. Such a person may be gravely offended by what the Bible has to say about who she actually is and what is her standing before God. It is probable that she has grown up hearing about what a good person she is! Because the self-esteem doctrine is so pervasive in every area of our culture it may come as a real shock to her to learn she is totally depraved.
It is important we understand our total depravity (which will not make you feel good about yourself) as being more important than propping up a false self-esteem. The only solution for our total depravity is freedom from sin through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:1-2)! This is impossible apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. He is our divine helper (John 14:16-26). It is the spirit of God indwelling the Christian who is the agent of change within. First for salvation, and then for ongoing sanctification in the life of the believer.
Once regenerate, you must now learn to think and act in new ways. While your soul has been redeemed, you will continue to battle the remnants of the flesh throughout your entire life. Galatians 5:13 tells us that the spirit will war against the flesh and the flesh will war against the spirit. You must still deal with your sinful flesh. It is here where the discipleship relationship becomes important once again.
Even a Christian will continue to struggle with evil thoughts, bitterness, lying, gossip, and possibly immorality. While you have been given a new heart, you are not perfect or sinless. Even though we are given a new heart when the Holy Spirit sovereignly regenerates us (Jn. 1:12-13; 3:3-8), we still deal with unconquered sin and the desires of the heart that lead to idolatry. Ephesians 4:22 says that our depraved sinful nature will be with us until the day we leave this earth. If it is fed, it will continue to flourish and grow stronger and more corrupt. The flesh is not fed by goodness; it is fed by sinful thoughts and desires that lead to sinful actions. Its desires are insatiable. The longer you stay in contact with your former way of life, the more corrupt you will become.
Many Christians believe they already are living their lives for God’s glory even when they are involved in sinning daily. The depravity of the sinful heart is evident in that the heart lies and is so adept at lying that very often you are not aware of your own self-deception (Jer. 17:9).
Often when a woman comes for help with a problem, her only goal is to feel better. She mistakenly believes that if she feels better or happy, that is good enough. When this is the motive, all too often the problems that brought her to the discipling relationship reappear and her sorrow deepens to hopelessness. This is because the goal of the counseling is off-base.
The goal of all counseling is change, but not change in circumstances or change in feelings. The goal of biblical counseling is heart level change that brings about a life that glorifies God. If she religiously follows a list of “how to’s” this will not produce the internal change that is necessary. The counselor’s goal is to help her to cease her love affair with her sin and to begin to view that sin with disdain. There will be times in the process when she fails to take the way of escape God will provide for her, and she will fall back into the sinful habits she was trying to put off. It is important to remind her that change takes time and this is a process. She didn’t develop her sinful habits overnight and she certainly will not conquer them overnight. She will need to consistently apply what she learns in discipleship and with that application there will be steady and meaningful measurable progress.