Grace & Works

A correct understanding of grace is very important in biblical counseling. Many women are burdened with the belief they must earn God’s favor and acceptance by their actions. They are fearful God will stop loving them and blessing them if they don’t perform to His standards. They begin to function under a works theology and joy is quickly sucked out of their lives as it is replaced by fear.

We must grasp that while God does desire our works, He wants them to proceed from a heart that is bursting with love and gratitude to Him for His wonderful goodness and graciousness. Our works are to be a response that wells up from a heart of love, adoration, and worship that overflows into our lives through practical deeds. The motivation for these works should be the glory and honor of God. Any other motive is self-serving.

Disciplining Ourselves Unto Godliness

Discipline is an important aspect of growing and changing (sanctification), and we must be willing to submit ourselves to teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If we want to grow, we must be willing to discipline ourselves unto godliness through the study and memorization of the Scriptures, prayer, putting off bad and sinful habits and putting on new and godly ones. However, these too are done from a heart that is responding to God in love and worship for the grace and mercy that has been poured out upon us. We can trust that God is the one who is initiating the growth and change in our lives! The person who sees no growth or change and has no desire for it must examine themselves to be sure they are truly saved (2 Cor. 13:5).

Holy Spirit’s Work in our Growing & Changing

There is no spiritual work in us that can be done apart from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God works alone in regeneration, justification and positional sanctification (monergism). These are actions that are done for us by the triune Godhead and apart from any working on our part. At regeneration, we are radically changed! We become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) and are enabled to respond in righteousness and holiness.

Synergism describes how progressive sanctification is accomplished in us; by the working of the Holy Spirit as He enables us to participate in the process of putting off sinful habits and putting on new and righteous habits (Eph. 4:22-24). The Holy Spirit works on the heart through conviction from reading and meditating on the Scriptures, prayer, and the other spiritual disciplines; and causes the desires for these changes. Yet, there is always an internal battle going on within (Gal. 5:17). It seems for many of us that we are constantly at war with ourselves!

Scriptures Renew our Minds

God uses the Scriptures to transform us by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). They testify to themselves as being the very words of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Those words of God’s are able to bring about changes within us that no mortal’s words (no matter how persuasive) can accomplish. Because they are God’s words they are reliable and authoritative. Therefore, we learn what God requires of us (the indicative) because of what He has done for us in Christ (the imperative).

The counselee learns how to grow and change through the preaching of the Word, and through the discipline of consistently reading the Bible, studying the Scriptures, and committing them to memory (1 Corinthians 9:24-26). These are worthwhile investments of time, for they will reap a bountiful harvest of righteousness.