The Purpose of the Local Church
This post first appeared at Biblical Counseling for Women
The church is called the “pillar and support of the truth” by Paul. God’s Word has been preserved and passed along throughout the ages by the church. Anyone who wants to grow in the knowledge of the truth and to learn more about God should find a local church that honors and teaches the Bible. They will benefit from the teaching ministry which is offered there.
“Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14-15)
One-Another ministry, or caring for souls or “soulcare”, belongs in the context of your local church. If we take an honest look at our churches in our lifetime, we have to admit that we have often neglected to care for the souls of our church family in this context.
The apostle Paul explained that the church was the “body of Christ” with Jesus as its “head.”
“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)
Paul’s description emphasizes the relationship that each believer and the local church has to Jesus. Since the church consists of people who believe in and follow their Savior Jesus Christ, they are under His rule, and He works through them. Anyone wanting to draw closer to Jesus and experience His working in their lives will greatly benefit from coming into association with a local body of believers.
God’s Word instructs believers not to neglect gathering together with other believers. Our purpose as One-Another ministers is to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, both within our churches and in our spheres of influence outside the church. Without the local church to edify, encourage, and equip believers, this purpose cannot be fulfilled.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
The care that believers had for one another in Acts 2 has continued in various forms through the years. It can be defined as “believers speaking the Truth in love anchored in the Word of God, depending on the Holy Spirit.” In our culture, it is called by many names such as:
*Discipling *Mentoring *Teaching *Biblical Counseling *Pastoral Counseling *Spiritual Guidance *Spiritual Formation *Friendship *Spiritual Friendship *Soulcare
We Need Soulcare
A church with a culture of soulcare will bear much fruit. All believers need soulcare, not just those who are struggling. We all need One-Another ministry in various forms. We do have a tendency in our churches today to neglect the hurting believer.
Hurting individuals used to be taken care of primarily by the local church, but are now often referred out to secular sources of help that will not provide true soulcare. Those sources can have some benefit for learning some behavior management that brings some relief, but they will not provide what we see in our definition of soulcare — “speaking the Truth in love anchored in the Word of God, depending on the Holy Spirit.”
For a believer to have lasting change and hope, she must be helped with some form of soulcare, preferably within her local church. Another good choice would be help from a Biblically-based counseling ministry if none is available in the local church. Biblical Counselors are glad to provide counseling to those who come to them from other churches, but all of them would agree that the best scenario would be that local churches become well equipped to counsel, disciple, mentor, teach, and befriend their own church family.
(Please realize that there can be an appropriate time for someone to seek Biblical help outside of their local church. If someone’s problems are serious enough that they are seeking counseling, the only option may be an outside Biblical Counselor who can help for a season. The counselor’s goal will be to return the woman to her local church for further discipleship once the counseling has ended. If a person is in need of medical assistance or medication, that has to be addressed by a licensed professional. Even if that is the case, she will need good One-Another relationships in her church family as she undergoes whatever kind of treatment she and her doctor choose.)
Let’s caution against creating an environment in our churches where literally all we talk about are our struggles and problems, but let’s also provide opportunities for hurting people (aren’t we all hurting at some time or other?) to get the soulcare they need, through excellent One-Another relationships. These One-Another relationships are based on the many “one-another passages” in the Bible, practicing them in the context of relationships with other believers.
Where Do You Fit?
Paul explains that gifted people have been given to the church in order to bring believers to a place of fruitfulness in service and maturity.
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
We often say that someone is “called to full-time ministry.” True, some believers engage in ministry vocationally, but does that mean that other believers are not engaging in ministry? Of course not. We are all full-time ministers, or we are not ministering at all. You, too, are called to full-time ministry. We all are. One-Another relationships are a ministry, and the lifestyle of a believer. We all are given different gifts useful to specific types of One-Another ministry, but everyone has a ministry of soulcare.
Where do you fit in? How do you see yourself gifted for One-Another ministry? Are you confident about your ability to minister to women and girls? What are your insecurities about it? Take some time to talk with the Lord about how He wants to use you in your relationships in your local church.
As you engage in your church, be sure to help others to engage in the opportunities the church provides for their ongoing growth. Let’s encourage one another to worship, fellowship, prayer, devotion, study, memorization, service, and discipleship.
Reviewed by Benji Magness, my pastor at Grace Baptist Church, Santa Maria, CA. Used by permission.
Visit Pastor Benji’s blog at: https://amazinggreycity.wordpress.com
Honest confession: I can be morbidly introspective. My devotional times, my prayer times- pretty much any time, you will find me being morbidly introspective. I often rehearse the day and all of my shortcomings and how I failed. I obsess over words that I said or didn’t say, I obsess over what others think of me, I obsess over how things might have been different had I acted different. It’s really sad, actually. And I’m a pastor! But I’m sure none of you struggle with this, right?
Well, I have good news for you if you do. If your self-examination turns into a cross-examination and you always end up hearing a guilty verdict, then I’ve got some good news for you. Actually, Jared Mellinger does in his new book, Think Again: Relief From The Burden Of Introspection.
I was thrilled to see that this book was coming out and very happy to review it here on my blog because this is a real struggle of mine. And Jared does not disappoint. He helps people see how paralyzing it is to live a life focused on self. He paints a wonderful picture of what true Gospel-centered freedom looks like when we focus on Jesus.
So if you’re a person who overdoses on introspection, then this is the rehab you’ve been looking for. If you find yourself obsessing over your looks, how people perceive you, second-guessing yourself, and replaying conversations in your head (who doesn’t do this?), then this book is for you. And in the end, Jared simply reminds you of what you already know: you need to keep your eyes on Jesus. You know that, right? Of course you do. You’ve heard the oft-cited Robert Murray McCheyne wisdom: “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ!” We’ve all heard that quote in sermons (heck, I’ve used it in my sermons!), we’ve re-tweeted it, we’ve liked it and hearted it and all that other social media stuff. But it’s a lot harder than it looks (pun intended). It’s a lot harder to “look at Jesus 10x for every gaze at your navel” than the preachers make it out to be- take it from this preacher.
So why get this book? Here’s why: Think Again tells you how to do it. It tells you how to keep your eyes on Jesus. It’s full of practical, Gospel-centered reminders that will help you quit obsessing over you. For instance, chapter 10 (“Self-forgetfulness”) alone is worth the price of the book. Jared gives hands-on experience in the art of losing yourself in many areas of life like worship, love, art, sports, preaching, and work.
But more than a book full of “how to’s” and practical tips, Think Again keeps reminding you about Jesus. And isn’t that what you’re looking for in a good book? Don’t you want to love Jesus more as you read the very last paragraph and close the book? Don’t you want to walk away from a book and think, “I just spent time with Jesus. And I love Him more now that I’m at the end notes than I did when I read the introduction”?
Well, Think Again does that. I cannot recommend it enough. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite so you’ll go out and buy this thing and then fall more in love with Jesus:
The antidote to excessive introspection is not to completely forget myself, but to look more to the Lord Jesus Christ, which leads to thinking rightly- and less often- about myself. (p.12)
The irony of identity is that a clear view of yourself comes only as you learn to look away from yourself. (p. 18)
What we learn is that the gospel rescues us from self-hatred and self-esteem by destroying the idol of self and replacing it with Christ. (p.31)
Once self is made an idol, I will either view myself as awesome or as a failure. (p. 33)
Self-absorption is not always loud and self-promoting; it can also look shy and insecure. It does not always come in the form of thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. It also comes in the form of thinking of ourselves more often than we ought. (p.48)
One more teaser and then you need to go get this book:
There is something appealing about a soul that delights in the Lord, serves others gladly, laughs at the days to come, and thinks far less often about how everything relates to self. This is who God made us to be. (p.49)
So what are you waiting for? Go pick up a copy or two of Think Again and help Jared by groceries for his family. Sorry, I had to write that last sentence because he has 6 kids like I do, so I feel his pain. Seriously, get this book and you’ll love Jesus more by the time you get to the endnotes. And then you can go serve others gladly, and laugh, and think far less about you. After all, this is how God made you to be. Let Think Again nudge you in that direction again.
To learn more about Jared or to purchase his book:
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* I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for writing this review.
This post first appeared at Biblical Counseling for Women
Tempted by Discouragement
I discovered something really great about blogging. You can go back and read things that you wrote in years past, and find that those words you wrote in the past can bring you fresh encouragement today.
I have been battling the temptation to be a bit discouraged in ministry lately. Nothing too major - just some plans that have not worked out the way I wanted them to. Sometimes leading a biblical counseling ministry feels like swimming upstream. It is not as widely received as it could be, and in my area biblical counselors are few and far between. There are behind-the-scenes challenges of running a nonprofit organization that are daunting, and frustrating at times.
When I am tempted to become discouraged, I can choose to trust that this is true for me:
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
It is true for you as well. Your temptation to be discouraged probably looks different than mine, but the sufficiency of God's Word applies to whatever you are facing.
In 2013, I wrote a blog about being a counselor "swimming upstream":
My circumstances were quite different then. Many things have changed. The counseling ministry I direct has become a 501c3. I go to a different church now. I have had great opportunities to speak, write, and serve in ways that I never saw coming at the time I wrote that blog.
So what do I have to be discouraged about? The truth is - nothing, really. The 2013 blog post reminded me that I am not guaranteed to get my way when I make plans, and that ministry life is hard. And that the hard stuff is for my good, and God's glory. I am going to quote myself here, because it is a reminder that I can escape the temptation to be discouraged:
"When I am discouraged about the upstream swim ahead of me, I remind
myself of God’s faithfulness provided in The Gospel. We do not have to rely on
our determination, stamina, or will. We can rely on Him Who saves."
My Own Heart Leads Me to Temptation
So why do we get discouraged, or at least tempted to be, when there is so much to be grateful for? I find that if I take a look at the discouraging circumstances in my life more deeply, I realize it is my own heart that leads me in to temptation. I encourage you to take a look at your own heart, too. Here are some matters of the heart that I have found helpful to consider:
*What (or who) are you trying to control? Circumstances? People? Outcomes?
*How much thought life do you spend on worry and frustration rather than gratitude?
*What are you wanting, but not getting? Your own way? Or, God’s way?
*What plans are not unfolding in the way you had expected or hoped for?
*Who are you disappointed in, and why? Yourself? Others?
*Have you forgotten God's faithfulness?
*What do you turn to for comfort when things are not going well? Worldly comforts? Or, Jesus?
*What are you afraid of? Failure? That God might fail you?
*What gives you hope? My own efforts, or God’s finished work on our behalf?
Your responses to those questions reveal what is in your heart. If your responses show fear, distrust, and unbelief then you know that you must align your heart with the gospel. Discouragement does not honor Jesus, because He commands us not to be. Just before His disciples’ most discouraging circumstance – His death – He said “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). Rather than being afraid, He wants their hearts to be comforted by His promises rather than by what they were seeing. The same is true for us today. Looking vertically to God and His goodness rather than horizontally to our circumstances changes our hearts!
There is Hope
If you are swimming upstream in your circumstances, there is hope. In fact, we can do better than "just keep swimming." We can endure our circumstances with patience, joy, peace, and trust because we have the fruit of the Spirit in us. Discouragement quenches the Spirit, and that is a matter of the heart. We can repent of our unbelief and distrust today, and escape the temptation of discouragement. Join me?
Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
This post first appeared at the Biblical Counseling Coalition
Mentoring is a buzzword in our current culture. A quick google search on the words “mentoring teenagers” yields dozens of articles, blogs, organizations, and curriculum to mentor teens in both the secular and Christian realms.
Biblical mentoring sets itself apart from many other mentoring techniques because it is not a program or a formalized ministry. It is a mindset, a lifestyle, and an organic means of discipleship that dovetails with the already existing ministries in the local church. It can happen anywhere your life intersects with the lives of teens.
Many of the “Christian mentoring” programs and organizations appear to mimic the secular ones to a large degree. Others model themselves after secular mentoring methods, but add some Scripture or Biblical principles. Counselors, youth pastors, Sunday School teachers, youth workers, homeschool group leaders, neighbors, nieces and nephews, your own kids or friend’s kids - anyone who disciples youth is positioned well to provide biblical mentoring to the younger generation.
There are three distinctives that make biblical mentoring unique:
There are many common sense reasons to mentor youth. Students who have mentors are much more likely to stay in school, have better school attendance, avoid alcohol and drugs, enroll in college, hold a leadership position in a club or sports team, participate in extracurricular activities, and volunteer regularly in their community. Teenagers are at a critical stage in their spiritual understanding and we are all concerned about the number of young people leaving our churches in their late teens/early twenties.
Biblical mentoring goes deeper than the reasons our common sense gives us. For biblical motives we turn to the Bible. The book of Titus, chapter 2, offers us a biblical motivation by mandating that the older teach the younger for the sake of preserving sound doctrine in the body of Christ through the generations.
Titus 2:1 " You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine."
Biblical Mentoring is a gospel-centered ministry that involves making disciples by sharing the gospel for salvation as well as teaching others who are younger to apply the gospel to their sanctification. Teenagers are able to understand theology and doctrine, and they benefit from older men and women who are willing to impart wisdom and Truth in to their lives.
It can be helpful to become equipped and trained as a biblical counselor or mentor in order to maintain biblical integrity in relationships with the next generation. Whether or not a mentor receives formalized training, the Bible contains what is needed to make mentoring truly biblical.
A deep discipleship relationship targets the heart of the teen. It is tempting to focus on outward behaviors, but lasting change requires heart change. We focus on the heart by asking good questions that reveal the thoughts, beliefs and desires of the teen as we teach them about God’s Word and how the gospel applies to their day to day lives.
The one-another scriptures are as applicable to teens as they are to adults, and they provide methods for mentoring that exceed what programs and some organizations provide. The one-another passages are both doctrinal and practical. Each one of the over fifty one-another verses in the New Testament can become a teaching opportunity for a mentor. Beginning with "love one another", a teenager can learn to love like Jesus by following the mentor's example in living this out while teaching and applying the rest of the one-another passages to the teenager’s relationships and life struggles.
John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
Mentoring is discipleship that is personal and intentional. Be creative as you look for ways to mentor a teenager. Teens will be more likely to be open to your mentorship if you gain their trust by caring about the things they care about. Be natural in your interactions and remember that teenagers are open to having a mentor but they tend to respond best when it is not programmed or forced. Start casually and ease in to the relationship. In time, this kind of mentoring relationship can be among the most rewarding relationships you will ever enjoy.
I spend a fair amount of time in my counseling ministry focusing on intergenerational ministry, specifically mentoring youth and young adults. I often urge colleagues, parents, and pastors to consider the concept of biblical mentoring the youth in their sphere of influence. I can cite many more good reasons to consider this, but this time I would like to let some teens speak to the matter themselves.
I asked a handful of teenagers in my life to tell me what they need from the older generations. Their answers are insightful and helpful to us as we consider how to encourage them towards faith and a healthy Christian walk. Here are some of their responses:
“Why are there so many unjust and unfair situations in the world, and what can a teenager do about them?”
“How are we supposed to love others and be compassionate when the whole world seems to be so mean right now?”
“How do I know what my purpose in life is?”
“How do I, as a Christian teenager, deal with all the confusion and injustice in the world?”
“I am worried about my future and the future of the world. There is so much suffering and it scares me. How should I deal with that?”
If you read those questions and statements very carefully, you can discern a common thread. These teens are asking us to teach and clarify theology. Every one of those concerns is addressed by studying God’s character. Teens need to gain an understanding of God’s goodness, love, holiness, sovereignty, justice, faithfulness and all other attributes.
Discussions and study about theology, specifically God’s character, are a critical topic to include in mentoring teens as you address their questions and concerns. They want to know about God and the gospel and will trust you more if you allow them to ask questions and admit their doubts. God’s Word is sufficient to address these matters. You can help a teen to learn how to study their Bible for answers as you come alongside them as a mentor.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
A very good additional resource to assist you in discussing doctrine and theology with teens is The New City Catechism, developed by Tim Keller and Sam Shammas. It is very user-friendly, interactive, and helpful in mentoring and discipling anyone. It is not specific to any one denomination. In an easy-to-follow format, you will find help in answering the questions that teens have.
Please visit their website for more information:
For equipping and training as a mentor, please visit:
Join the Conversation
Are you discipling the younger generation including these distinctives of biblical mentoring? What are the challenges, and what fruit have you seen?
Words are Powerful
A Mother’s words hold power. Her words have the ability to show love, encouragement, and care. They also have the ability to wound, discourage, and demean.
Matthew 12:34–35 “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”
Our words reveal what is in our hearts at the deepest level – in our thoughts, beliefs, and desires. When sin rules in our hearts, it will show outwardly in our behavior and words. Mothering is a rewarding life role, but it can also be exhausting, draining, and difficult at times. In her exhaustion, personal pain, and suffering, a mother might say things to her child that are sinful and damaging.
Matthew 12:36-37 “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
An exhausted mom is more likely to lash out with her words. Some women also have unresolved heart issues or difficult life circumstances that tempt them to sinfully express anger and frustration directed towards their family. For example, these are phrases spoken by mothers that I have heard from teens who are navigating difficult relationships with their moms:
“You are so stupid.”
“You need to obey or you can’t live here anymore.”
“You are such a slut!”
“You will never succeed.”
“You have been nothing but a problem to me.”
“You either get straight A’s, or we will not take you on the family vacation.”
“I hate you.”
The Tongue is a Fire
James 3:6 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”
When a mother uses her words harshly, she is setting her home on fire, in a sense. She uses words that discourage, wound, kill and destroy.
A teen on the receiving end of such blazing hot words is crushed and demoralized. She feels unsafe and unloved, to say the least. She might either turn inward and become depressed and possibly resort to self-injury, suicidal thoughts, and other destructive but quiet behaviors, or she might act out outwardly in rebellion and open disobedience. These often become the presenting problems that bring a teen to counseling. When that teen tells her story, the destructive dynamic between her and her mother is revealed.
Not only do these flaming words wound the teen, they also hinder the mom’s relationship with The Lord. She is in sin, and must repent in order to restore her relationships with God and her family. The gospel makes this possible.
Hope and Help
Some things to put in place in order to restore your relationship with your child, and ultimately with The Lord:
*Ask God to help you to search your heart and be honest before Him about your sinful words. God will change your heart as you seek Him.
*Confess. Repent. Receive God’s forgiveness. Preach the gospel to yourself.
*Share all of this with your husband, too. Have him sit with you while you reconcile with your child.
*Seek forgiveness from your husband and your child.
*Find a friend or counselor to hold you accountable and to talk through your heart issues. Make sure it is someone who holds to the sufficiency of scripture and who can help you to think biblically and apply the gospel to your struggles with sin and suffering.
*Be involved in church in order to grow in sanctification. Be honest and transparent there.
*Be in God’s Word, have a meaty prayer life, and do not forsake fellowship.
*If you slip up and say harsh words, quickly go through the process of reconciliation again.
*Be sure that your teen is getting biblical help, too. The fire may have been put out, but the burns hurt for awhile. Your teen needs to know there is hope in the gospel and in God’s Word. She needs godly, wise counsel and discipleship.
*Put off/put on. In Ephesians 4:22-24, there is a principle we will call the “put off/put on principle”. You do need to “put off” harsh words, but you also need to replace them by “putting on” words that will uplift, encourage, and show love to your child.
The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 4:29 wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Moms, you can choose to speak only edifying words to your child, even when you are exhausted, frustrated, and even if your child is being disobedient and rebellious. It is possible, with God’s help and the help of your church community, to avoid setting your household on fire with your words.
Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Have you spoken words that have set your household on fire? If so, what will you do today to put out the fire to heal and restore your family? Please do not wait another day.
Relationships Take Effort
What do these phrases have in common: “I am too busy”, “I am not good at it”, “I don’t need others”, “it is too much trouble”? These are all common excuses for living our lives with no room for others.
There are many one-another verses in the Bible. This should help us to realize how significant our relationships are as Christians. We can’t practice the one-anothers unless we are engaged in relationships! But some people may find this realization discouraging rather than encouraging. Some may find relationship-building difficult due to the fear of man that can manifest in our lives in a variety of ways. Others are struggling with broken relationships. We may find ourselves disappointed due to unmet expectations. Perhaps we fear rejection and avoid relationships by keeping ourselves too busy to engage. Sometimes, we simply do not make room for others in our lives.
God’s Word is clear that we are not meant to walk through life on our own. If we do not make room for other people in our lives, we will miss one of the means of grace that God has given us for our good and His glory. Relationships must be cultivated and considered to be part of our sanctification process. Hospitality and relationship building take time and effort, but they are essential.
We Need Relationships
We live in a culture that promotes independence, individualism, and autonomy. The Bible, however, promotes community, dependence on God, and relationship. People can attend and be a part of a local church, and not experience true community because the culture has crept into the church. Many people in our churches experience more loneliness than belonging and acceptance. Many Christians do not have significant relationships even within their own church contexts.
We can glean some important lessons from the apostle Paul’s ability to establish relationships wherever he went, whether it was during his younger years or during his missionary campaigns as he traveled city to city. In every place, he established and maintained a supportive and encouraging community.
In Paul’s very personal letter to the church in 1 Thessalonians, we see some keys to developing and maintaining relationships.
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Cultivating and Maintaining Relationships
A child needing their mother is a picture of a very strong need and intimate bond. God revealed our deep need for others when He said “It is not good for the man to be alone” in Genesis 2:18. Our relationships are not to be taken lightly because they do require effort. Beyond simply reaching out to others, we need to be transparent and share our lives honestly.
Honesty and transparency develop trust in a relationship, drawing people closer to each other. Whenever Paul wrote to a church, he called by name two, three or four people that he was close to. Through his caring interaction with people, these became important gospel-friendships that stood the test of time.
In order for us to develop the kind of relationships we see in Paul’s letters, we need to first admit the need and then reach out to others. We need to model transparency, show genuine care, and engage in the one-another’s of scripture so that our brothers and sisters in Christ are edified and so that God is glorified. When Paul says, in vs. 8, that they were ready to share “our own selves” along with the gospel, we see that he did not hold back. He opened his life to others, and so must we.
In other words, he made room for others. He did not use the excuses that are common today. We make room for others when we purposefully pursue others in our churches through hospitality and friendship. When we make room for others, people will feel loved and cared for as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Are you making room for others? How are you actively maintaining those relationships? If you are not close to others, how can you begin to cultivate authenticity and transparency?
In Part 1, we looked at the need to share the gospel as we engage in one-another relationships. In Part 2 we will take a look at the need to “apply the gospel” to life’s struggles.
Apply the Gospel
Any kind of mentoring, discipling, friendship, and all One-Another ministry should continue to be rooted in the Gospel. One of the best tools for One-Another relationships is this phrase: APPLY THE GOSPEL.
What do you think is meant by “apply the Gospel”?
As you engage in one-another relationships, you see how much people struggle with sin and suffering. You are likely to bump into some of these struggles if you have any kind of ministry, family life, or social life. Once you are fairly certain that someone has grasped the Gospel for salvation, you have an opportunity to help her to APPLY the Gospel to her life. You want to always be sure that you are not giving her the idea that she needs to change her behavior or mindset in order to earn approval, acceptance, or even worse, salvation. Always emphasize her eternal security; struggling people often wrestle with this Truth. Remind her of her identity in Christ and how He views her. It is not because she earned it, but because of the Gospel — His finished work on her behalf.
Let’s look at a few phrases you might catch on to as you speak with people that could indicate that they either do not have a clear understanding of the Gospel or that they are not applying it to their lives:
*“I don’t understand why God would do this to me.”
*“I can’t see any purpose in this.”
*“I just don’t know who I am anymore.”
*“I am so anxious and worried all the time and it consumes me.”
*“I feel so guilty.”
*“I do not deserve another chance.”
*“I don’t feel forgiven.”
*“He hurt me too badly; I can’t forgive him.”
Let’s look at those again, and see how the Gospel might apply. Realize that although we don’t have the full story in each of these scenarios, this is meant to show you what we mean by “apply the Gospel.”
*“I don’t understand why God would do this to me.” — The gospel tells us He suffered everything we do as He bore our sins (1 Peter 2:24).
*“I can’t see any purpose in this.” — The cross is why He can promise to work all things together, because it was the ultimate working together for good on our behalf (John 19:28-30).
*“I just don’t know who I am anymore.” — At the cross, we find our identity, upon conversion, we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).
*“I am so anxious and worried all the time.” — God made provision for you at the cross in every area, proving Himself completely trustworthy as your Heavenly Father (Philippians 4:6).
*“I still feel so guilty.” — You are forgiven at the cross, whether you feel like it or not (1 John 1:9).
*“I do not deserve another chance.” — Grace, because of the cross, flows freely (Romans 3:24).
*“I don’t feel forgiven.” — God’s Word says that you are forgiven when you place your faith in Him (Ephesians 1:7).
*“He hurt me too badly, I can’t forgive him.” — We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, either, but we are forgiven (Romans 4:7).
These are just a sampling. There are many more Truths from scripture that help us to apply the gospel as the gospel binds us forever to the loving Father. The Gospel provides daily security as we wrestle with sin. Jesus promises to complete the work of redemption in our lives. We can have intimate communication with God because of the gospel. We are also compelled to live mercifully with others. As we apply the gospel, we are reminded of the rich, eternal, incomprehensible, overwhelming love of Jesus.
When we are struggling, we tend to forget the gospel. Elyse Fitzpatrick, in her excellent book “Because He Loves Me” explains a dynamic that we see in 2 Peter 1:9 – “whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” Elyse explains:
“Peter writes that one reason we don’t grow in ordinary, grateful obedience as we should is that we’ve got amnesia; we’ve forgotten that we were cleansed from our sins. In other words, he is saying that ongoing failure in sanctification (the slow process of change into Christlikeness) is the direct result of failing to remember God’s love for us in the gospel. If we lack the comfort and assurance that his love and cleansing are meant to supply, our failures will handcuff us to yesterday’s sins, and we won’t have faith or courage to fight against them, or the love for God that’s meant to empower this war. Please don’t miss the import of Peter’s statement. If we fail to remember our justification, redemption, and reconciliation, we’ll struggle in our sanctification.”
When your counselee, mentee, friend, or loved one is struggling in her sanctification, revisit the gospel and discuss how it applies. In every type of struggle, God’s Word will give the answers as you dig deep and look for gospel applications.
As you engage in a One-Another relationship, after you have helped someone to apply the Gospel and she grasps these Truths, you can continue to disciple her as you apply Scriptural principles, commands, and promises to her struggles as well. This is ongoing “one-another ministry”! Simply put, this is DISCIPLESHIP.
Look again at the woman at the well (John 4:28-42). After the woman received the Truth, she immediately went and told others. As a result, many believed. She exemplified One-Another ministry immediately upon belief. She did not wait to learn a formula or a program to start a ministry. She simply went out and shared her story, which included the gospel for salvation and the gospel for sanctification. Let’s do the same, as we minister Life On Life according to the One-Anothers of Scripture.
“One-another ministry” is simply a term for any kind of discipleship relationship. You can call it discipleship, mentoring, counseling, soulcare, and other similar terms. There may be some variations in the definitions of these terms, but one thing should be consistent in their nature: the Gospel.
The Gospel has to be our starting point for all one-another ministry. The implication in the one-anothers is that we are to do life with other believers. Of course, we also do life with nonbelievers, but the one-anothers emphasize the role we play in each other’s lives, believer to believer.
The Gospel for Salvation
If you are in a relationship with a woman or girl that God has placed in your life and she has understood the Gospel, you have a very good starting point for one-another life together. If you are not sure she understands the Gospel, you have an opportunity to share it! How often have you asked a new friend (or an older one for that matter) what they think the Gospel is and how it applies to their life? We can’t miss this! It’s not only our starting point, but it is the ending point and everything in the middle, too.
The Gospel is for salvation. It is also to be applied to our lives from that point on. It is not to be applied in the sense that your salvation depends on performing a certain way or upholding a certain standard of perfection. In the process of living life, the Gospel applied has the potential to either gradually or immediately change your view of God’s sovereignty, how you behave, how you relate to people, how you make decisions and solve problems, how you view people, how you view yourself, and everything else about how you live.
Often women are intimidated about talking about the Gospel. What makes many women so weak in this area? Is it fear? Lack of understanding? Maybe they are not sure they can articulate it clearly. Maybe they are afraid they will say something wrong. Sometimes they are afraid that they won’t be able to back up what they say from Scripture, forgetting where to find the verses.
Your Personal Gospel Story
In a one-another situation, one of the very best ways you can share the Gospel is to share your own story of salvation. You can talk about what your life was like before you came to know Christ and what was happening when you first came to belief. You can talk about your understanding of the Gospel, and how it transformed you upon salvation and how it continues to transform you now. Sometimes, our own stories speak more clearly than going through a formulated “Gospel presentation.”
Woman at the Well
There is an account in the Bible about a woman that you are probably familiar with and how Jesus shared the Gospel message with her. The story of the woman at the well is found in John 4:7-26.
Jesus did not use a “formula” to share the Gospel with the woman. In this passage, we can take note of some ways to share a clear Gospel and to be sure it is understood:
* Jesus met the woman when she was alone. Often, people will be more honest if nobody else is listening.
* Jesus began with her immediate need — not spiritual, but tangible (v. 7). Because she was not a believer, she could not discern spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). Therefore, He spoke about something she could relate to — water. We can approach people in the same manner of developing a conversation. If we are not certain they are a believer, we can make them more comfortable by starting with tangible conversations.
* Jesus, after establishing this conversation, turned to the spiritual (v. 10). He simply talked abut the things of God. The questions we ask could help us to see if the person understands what being a Christian means. We could ask “Are you involved in church?” or even “Do you love God?” We could then move on to asking about her salvation testimony and asking what her walk with The Lord is currently like.
* If this conversation reveals that the person does not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then you can follow Jesus’ example from this passage before you go any further in relating with her. Verses 16-18 show how Jesus brought conviction, using the Law and gently pointing out her transgression. Gently speak with her and let The Holy Spirit do the convicting; let Him direct you as to what to say. Once she comes to an admission of her guilt, she is ready for hope.
* Jesus then revealed Himself to the woman at the well (v. 26). She was ready for grace. If the person you are talking to is ready for grace, be sure to present the work of the cross — that God sent His Son to suffer and die in our place. Tell her of the love of God in Christ, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and the defeat of death. You can say something like, “It’s as simple as this. We broke God’s Law, and Jesus paid our fine. If you repent and trust in the Savior, God forgives your sins and dismisses your case.” If a person is truly broken over her sins and grateful to God, then her confession will flow without prompting, either silently or verbally to you. Be sure to pray with her. Make sure she has a Bible. Encourage her to go to a Bible-believing church. Start a one-another discipleship relationship with her!
In next week’s post (Part 2), we will look at how to apply the Gospel in one-another ministry.
The above is, in part, an excerpt from Word of Hope Ministries’ course on Biblical Mentoring called “Life on Life, Applying the One-Anothers of Scripture”. You can learn more about this course at www.biblicalmentor.com
Please click on this button to view Ellen's notes from her presentation at Grace Baptist Church, Santa Maria, CA
Loneliness in Our Churches
There is a very important woman or girl in your midst. She is often present, yet seems invisible. She doesn’t openly complain. In fact, maybe she rarely ever speaks at all. She goes unnoticed by most, although she tries to fit in somewhere. She has a lot to offer, but she doesn’t feel free to speak her opinions and is too uncomfortable to approach people.
She is lonely. She can be around a lot of people, yet she is still lonely. She can be working with the public, yet she is still lonely. She can be a faithful volunteer in your church, yet she is still lonely. She can be a leader in your church, yet she is still lonely. She can be a faithful and loyal friend, yet she is still lonely.
Maybe....she is you...or the woman next to you...or the woman you forget to notice at church every week.
Loneliness is common in our churches - too common.
It is very easy to come to church ready to socialize with your circle of friends, yet ignore others who are lonely.
God’s Word Acknowledges Loneliness
God’s Word has some things to say to us about loneliness. In Genesis 2:18, God says that it is not good for man to be alone. In Psalm 68:6, God tells us that He “sets the lonely in families.” Ecclesiastes 4:10-11 tells us that we can help each other up when one of us falls. God assures us in His Word that He will never leave us or forsake us, and He has made it known that we are to walk through life with each other. The one-another passages in Scripture make that very clear, and they do not exclude anyone – not even the person you would rather not love.
Although loneliness and being alone can go hand in hand, this isn’t necessarily always the case. Some of the time, being alone isn’t a negative thing unless it is causing the person to feel an inner emptiness. Loneliness is a frequently expressed complaint in counseling, both secular and Christian. Loneliness and insecurity often occur simultaneously, and that often bears destructive fruit. A lonely person is tempted to cope with the pain with something — anything — that might bring some relief. If that relief is not found in Christ, the loneliness will continue to be a struggle.
How do you offer hope to a person who is suffering with loneliness?
As a follower of Jesus Christ, our model for caring for one another is Jesus Himself. No doubt, He experienced extreme loneliness — He was separated from the Father on the cross. But He also had friends who played a One-Another role in His life as well as He in theirs. In John’s account of the last evening Jesus spent with His disciples, Jesus told them, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:12-17)
Love One Another
Jesus’ command was to LOVE EACH OTHER. He put no conditions on it. It was not a suggestion. This command is blatantly clear for us in Scripture - we must love each other... not just those who are nice, or just the people we like, or the ones who are the most within our comfort zones, or the ones we understand the best, or the ones that make us feel good about ourselves. That lonely woman or girl may not fit in to any of these requirements that we must admit we all have at times. She may be difficult to approach, or even difficult to love. But what are we commanded to do? Love her.
There are a variety of ways to love. This love is an action, not a feeling. What more loving thing can we do than offer them HOPE. We do that with God’s very words from Scripture.
As you help someone who is lonely, you can begin by offering them the following Truths:
*God created man with an inherent need for social relationships (Gen. 2:18). God created man in His own image (Gen. 1:27), and God is a social being (Gen. 1:26). A social relationship exists among the persons of the Trinity — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Without relationship, there will be loneliness. Therefore, the first encouragement a lonely person needs is to start building relationships.
*The most lonely time in history was when the Father deserted the Son and Jesus was left alone as He bore our sins. “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”— which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
The lonely person needs to understand that Jesus understands their loneliness, and experienced it Himself. This person also needs to know that they are loved by God, and by you.
*This post is, in part, an excerpt from the biblical mentoring course “Life on Life, Applying the One-Another's of Scripture” offered by Word of Hope Ministries. For more information on this course, please visit www.biblicalmentor.com
NOTE: this post first appeared at the Biblical Counseling for Women blog
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