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Why Biblical Counseling Works and NOTHING Else Does

By Jerry Meade, LCSW, The Center for Christian Counseling
 
There are only three (3) types of counseling available in the world to deal with human problems. This has always been true, and always will be.  
 
I know this because of my own, personal experience and journey as a Clinical Social Worker for the past 30 years. I worked in a variety of Social Work jobs and became a very well-trained secular psycho-therapist who was in private practice for over 12 years in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. I know what the world has to offer because I was a staunch provider of that form of “therapy” for a long time. Not bragging (as you will see in a minute), but I was as good a secular therapist as my previous training allowed me to be at the time.
 
Then at the age of 35, I got saved. Five years later, my three year old son Ian was diagnosed with a malignant tumor the size of a basketball. During that same very difficult and spiritually amazing year (the Lord graciously, miraculously healed him), I also took the life-changing Bible study by Henry Blackaby entitled “Experiencing God”. This all took place in 1993. 
 
Between Ian’s cancer and “Experiencing God”, I began to see (as a Christian of 5 years) that counseling apart from God’s Word was worthless. It was difficult to abandon 15 years of higher education and secular training, but I decided to throw all my secular counseling on the scrap heap and begin counseling from God’s Word only. I was heavily influenced at this time by the work and writings of Dr. Henry Brandt, one of the pioneers of American Biblical counseling.
 
Within three (3) weeks of beginning to counsel from Scripture, I saw a miracle of emotional and spiritual healing in my office that rivaled Ian’s supernatural physical healing from cancel the year before! I have seen MANY such miracles in our offices since (something I NEVER saw as a secular therapist), which brings me back to the three types of counseling available in the world.
 
They are : 1) secular psychotherapy; 2) “integrated Christian” counseling; 3) authentic Biblical counseling.
 
Secular psychotherapy can be found on any street corner. It is common to man, and is based on “man’s best ideas on how things work”. This is what people learn in secular graduate school programs – the field of psychology and humanistic approaches to people’s difficulties in life. 
 
“Integrated Christian” counseling, whether people call it that or not, is also commonly found. These are good Christian people who have taken their secular degrees and training and “integrated” them with Scripture and prayer as they apply them to counseling hurting people. Many of them are very well intentioned and believe they are providing “the best of both worlds”, but they are NOT providing real, authentic Biblical counseling. They, in essence, try to “smush together” Scripture and secular psychology to help people. They try, but as we will see   momentarily, (by definition) they cannot succeed. 
 
The third is authentic Biblical counseling, which relies exclusively upon the Truth and Power of God’s Word for counseling human problems as guided by God’s Holy Spirit in the Counselor’s office.
 
As you can see, these three categories can really be reduced to only two: secular psychotherapy  vs. Biblical counseling.
 
Having “worked both sides of the street” for long periods of time, I have come to appreciate the profoundness and clarity of the differences between these two approaches to counseling hurting people. It comes down to two distinct and very important differences that separate them: 1) the source of “wisdom” for the counseling provided; 2) the respective target of counseling.
 
The first difference really boils down to counseling provided according to “man’s best ideas on how things work” vs. “God’s best ideas on how things work”. I don’t know about you, but I think the “smart money” should be placed on God’s perspective on things given that He alone hold the title of Creator and Designer! Man is the creation; God is the Creator. Man cannot compete with God, on any level, for understanding how the life and the universe He created (out of nothingness) works. 
 
Isaiah 55:8 tells us that “My ways are not your ways, and My thoughts are not your thoughts. As higher than the heavens are from the earth, that much higher are My thoughts from your thoughts and My ways from your ways”. No, it is clear that God does not think like us (to which we should say “hallelujah!).
 
And then it gets worse! In 1 Corinthians 3: 20 we are told “What is foolishness to God is wisdom to man; what is wisdom to man is foolishness to God”. Not only does God NOT think like us, but His ideas about how things operate often diametrically oppose ours. There are many reasons for this (i.e. He is ALL knowing and we understand very little) but the main reason for this fact is that He is HOLY and we are sinful. You cannot get much more different than that, and this fact alone creates a schism of view that cannot be bridged by man - the creation.
 
So, in the end there are only two clear choices from which to counsel people: God’s Word, or man’s ideas – and one has virtually nothing to do with the other!
 
The second distinct and profound difference between the two camps of counseling, which flows directly from the first, is the TARGET of counseling. This is also of profound significance!
 
All secular approaches to human problems have something in common: they focus on the symptom of the problem, not the root of it. A metaphor I often use in counseling is that secular approaches to human problems “is like taking aspirin for a headache caused by a brain tumor – it may provide momentary relief from the pain, but it never addresses or treats the underlying, root cause of the disease”. 
 
This is why in twelve years of secular private practice I never saw any real, lasting change in people or their marriages/families. I saw and provided chemical band aids and “techniques” that made people feel better for the moment, but never was there any real healing or transformation of lives. The psychotherapy offered was empty of power to heal, and over time I could no longer deny the impotency of it. The reason for this was that it never went after the real problem, or proper “target”.
 
GOD says, in His Word, that this is “the heart”. The heart (who we really are on the inside) is the real and only target of counseling – always - and any counseling that does not target it is useless to bring lasting change, healing or transformation. The verses of Scripture that document this truth are in every chapter of the Bible. Here are just a few…
 
The heart is wicked and deceitful, who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
 
As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his sin. Proverbs 26:11
 
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5: 3
 
For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered and I need nothing” not knowing that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked”. Revelation 3:17
 
Until a person understands their true spiritual condition before a Holy God - understands that they are completely, absolutely and profoundly spiritually bankrupt before Him and hopelessly lost and in need of forgiveness and Grace, provided only through His Son, Jesus Christ – the propitiation for our sins – only then is a person ready to understand who they are and who God is, and the true cause of their problems. 
 
Yes, that would be sin. “Heart change” is a nicer way of saying “repentance from sin”, but it means the exact same thing. GOD says this is the root cause of our problems. This is not a “politically correct” or popular notion (as defined by man), but it IS truth and the only real source of permanent healing and transformation in human lives. As we sometimes say to clients, “if you don’t agree with this, then take it up with God” as these are His ideas on the matter, not ours.
 
The world (man) would locate our problems in our biochemistry, or our genetic pre-dispositions, or our dysfunctional families of origin. In the end, it’s about locating the problem outside of ourselves in a “passive heart” stance instead of living in the truth that “Jesus can heal anybody of anything” if we are genuinely ready to get our hearts and lives right with Him! Repentance of sin, otherwise known as “changing our hearts through a regenerated life in Jesus Christ”, is what brings true healing and abundant life. There is no other path or answer to find such healing, and man has no answers or solutions he can offer in its place.
 
While our biochemistry is a factor in our lives, it is not our destiny. Remember, God created and gave you your biochemistry!
 
While our genetic pre-dispositions are factors in our lives (such as to alcoholism, or diabetes, or depression), they are not our destiny. Remember, our genetic pre-dispositions were given to us under the arm of God’s Sovereignty!
 
While the dysfunctional family in which we grew up is a factor in our lives, it is not our defining destiny. Remember, everyone has a dysfunctional family of origin – even Jesus had one! (Matthew 12: 46)
 
No, like the woman who suffered from the bleeding disorder, Jesus can heal anybody of anything – even “serious mental illnesses” such as Bipolar Disorder, Post-partum depression, Paranoia, etc. -  IF we are ready to get our hearts right with Him through the exercise of faith and repentance from “the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12).
 
God promises us this in His Word; He is always faithful to deliver on His promises; His ways bring healing and abundant life today, just as they have for thousands of years throughout both Old and New Testament times.
 
Biblical counseling, defined in one sentence, is “a process of intense discipleship aimed at changing people’s hearts through the truth and power of God’s Word and the ministry of His Holy Spirit. “A process of intense discipleship” is required because we tend to be stubborn, slow-to-change, sinful people (Jeremiah 17:9). “The truth and power of God’s Word” is required because God’s thoughts about our problems (Isaiah 55:8), and therefore HIS counsel to us, is the only truth there is for the healing of our hearts and lives. “The ministry of His Holy Spirit” is required because what happens in the Counselor’s office is never effective if offered in our own wisdom and strength – we are guided by His Spirit and by HIS Word in every counseling session (if we are to be humble and effective instruments in His hand!).
 
These are the reasons that authentic Biblical counseling is the only counseling approach that works – Scriptural counsel that brings about real, permanent healing and transformed lives, marriages, and families.   And nothing else that the world has to offer - DOES!

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