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The Sufficiency of Scripture

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2014-08-03 AM
  • The Distinctives of Countryside Bible Church
  • Sermons


For those who may be our guests today, let me just tell you that we started this past spring in the Book of Romans. And Lord willing, we will continue our verse-by-verse study through the Book of Romans starting this fall and continuing probably for the better part of a decade, and we're looking forward to that journey. But this summer, the Elders and I discussed the importance of my stepping away from the Book of Romans to do a brief series covering our distinctives as a church; that is, where we as a church stand on some of the controversial issues of our times. Today we come to the sufficiency of Scripture in sanctification.

Because of a process that has happened slowly over the last 60 years or so, secular psychology has become fully integrated into biblical Christianity. After the 1800s, when psychology really came onto the world stage in a major way, the Church for a long time held it at arms-length. The first successful attempt to integrate psychology into a form of Christianity, albeit liberal Christianity, came in the early to mid-1900s from a man by the name of Norman Vincent Peale and his power of positive thinking. In the second half of the 20th century, it was further developed and expanded by his disciple, a man he mentored, another heretic by the name of Robert Schuller.

But the inroads of secular psychology into biblical Christianity really didn't come until the mid-1950s through the influence of an evangelical by the name Clyde Narramore. Clyde Narramore founded the Christian Association for Psychological Studies. It was through Narramore's influence that the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology began in the mid-1960s. Then throughout the second half of last century there were a steady stream of even Christian leaders who stepped on board and espoused this sort of quasi, Christian psychology movement; men like James Dobson, Gary Collins, Larry Crabb, David Siemens, and Steve Arterburn.

Two of the most influential men in this movement are actually Dallas men. They are men based right here in the Metroplex. Their names are Frank Minirth and Paul Meier. These two men had a daily Christian radio broadcast at one point on over 200 stations. They had as many as 80 clinics around the country, with the main one based right here in the Metroplex. They taught their theories of the integration of secular psychology into biblical Christianity both at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, as well as at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth.

Now, at the basis of this movement there is one theological foundation and only one. They argue that all truth is God's truth. And since all truth is God's truth, they say, it is perfectly acceptable for Christians to incorporate the truth that secular psychology and psychiatry have discovered into our understanding of human behavior.

It is equally acceptable, they say, to embrace the treatments and the therapies of secular psychology into the life of the Christian. So, without any scriptural warrant other than this sort of general statement "all truth is God's truth," they accept secular psychology and psychiatry as truth. And they begin to use it in a major way in the life of the Church.

Those who take and follow this approach are called integrationists, because they integrate secular psychology with biblical Christianity. Here is a summary of the philosophy of integrationists. This is a paraphrase. This would give you the idea. They would say something like this: the Bible alone is not enough to fix man's mental and spiritual problems; instead, we need to incorporate, we need to integrate, what God has allowed us to learn from the sciences of psychology and psychiatry in order to form a complete view of man and to restore him to true spiritual wholeness.

Just so you know I'm not making that up, in 2003, the American Association of Christian Counselors honored Dr. Paul Meier as a father of the Christian psychology movement. Meyer still has clinics, including one here in Dallas. You go to his website (as I did even yesterday), and this is what you will find. "We integrate biblically based Christian beliefs with psychological principles to treat the whole person—emotionally, physically, and spiritually." That summarizes the Christian psychology movement.

Thankfully, back in the 1960s, God used the ministry of a man named Jay Adams, a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, to call Christians back from their trek toward secular psychology to truly biblical counseling. In 1970, Adams wrote Competent to Counsel, which was a kind of call to arms for Christians. In 1976 He began the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (The abbreviation or acronym is NANC; it has recently had a name change.) but calling for true biblical counseling. Sadly, in spite of the work of men like Adams, the Church today (And I think you understand this.) has been completely overrun by secular psychology, from the sort of the self-love, self-esteem, you're-really-not-whole-until-you-love-yourself, our-real-problem-is-we-just-don't-love-ourselves-enough (they would say) (Whereas the Scripture says the opposite: we love ourselves inherently, and we love ourselves too much; that's the nature of our problem.), all the way through to all of the psychological theories being embraced by the Church.

So, in response then to the serious theological drift of evangelicalism on this issue, our elders have determined that it was important for us to make this one of our distinctives. Here's how our distinctive reads. You can find this on the website.

We believe that God has provided us in the Scripture with everything necessary to nurture and sustain spiritual life. That means we are committed to teaching and to counseling directly and exclusively from the Word of God. We do not believe that secular psychology has any legitimate role in the sanctification of the believer.

Now, the point of this distinctive is really not primarily about Scripture being sufficient. That's a larger point, a different message for a different time. Rather, it's about the sufficiency of Scripture in this one area. Scripture alone provides the sufficient insight and counsel to accomplish our sanctification. We don't need to rely on secular psychology or on pop, Christian psychology.

Now, let me just warn you. I'm going to say some things that are very counterculture. I'm going to say some things that may rattle you a little bit, that may even make you upset with me. Let me just urge you to do this: just be patient and hear me out. Let the entire message unfold. I'm going to begin with some negatives, but I'm going to end with the positives of what the Scripture teaches about this issue. So, stay with me. By nature of what we're talking about today, it demands a little more background than I would ordinarily give. I'm usually just teaching through a text of Scripture, but please be patient with me. Be open minded, not to me, but to the Scripture, which we will get to.

But as we've done with our other distinctives, I want us to begin first with what we deny about the means of sanctification. Let me give you a brief list of what we deny.

We deny that secular psychology provides a more accurate understanding of human problems than the Scripture. We deny that man's problems are primarily mental rather than either physical or spiritual. We deny that secular psychology, and its therapies, have any legitimate role in the sanctification of the believer. We deny that psychotropic drugs do anything more than help control behavior, and we deny that they are in any way a substitute for dealing with sinful patterns of thinking and behaving. We deny that any positive effects have come from the integration of the behavioral sciences into the life of the Church; in fact, we would argue there have been a number of very detrimental effects that have happened in the Church because of that integration.

In fact, let me give you a brief list of some of the detrimental effects that the integration of psychology into biblical Christianity has had in the Church.

Number one, the redefinition of sin as sickness, the redefinition of sin as sickness. In the 1960s, there began to be a major change in how evangelicals viewed and dealt with sin. Instead of a sin against God or others, many sins came to be seen as a sickness or a disorder. As a result, psychological labels were placed on almost every kind of human weakness or sin.

For example, habitual, sexual sin became a sexual addiction. A thief became a kleptomaniac. A family living in a pattern of selfishness and disobedience became a dysfunctional family. Drunkenness and drug use have become chemical dependencies. A liar became a compulsive liar: nothing really he could do about it, it was just a compulsion that drove him.

That trend to use psychological labels to identify sin as sickness has continued even in our day. There is now often toward children who lack self-control and are involved in consistent disobedience, that's now often labeled as ADHD and medicated. Rebellion has now been classed as oppositional defiance disorder. And I'm not making that up. Idolatry is obsessive-compulsive disorder. A gambler has a gambling addiction, and you need to call the number at the bottom of the billboard on the advertisement for the casino to get help with your addiction. It's all reclassified and redefined. John MacArthur writes:

The therapy industry is clearly not solving the problem of what Scripture calls sin; instead, it merely convinces multitudes that they are desperately sick and therefore not really responsible for their wrong behavior. It gives them permission to think of themselves as patients not malefactors and encourages them to undergo extensive and expensive treatment that lasts for years, or better yet, for a lifetime. [The redefining of sin as sickness.]

Number two, another detrimental effect of this integration of psychology into the Church is the reclassification of sinners to victims. Instead of their being sinners who are guilty of sins, they are victims. Now understand, this is the ultimate reason that sins have been redefined as sickness. Because as long as there are sins, you are morally culpable. But once those sins become a sickness, you are no longer morally responsible, any more than you would be morally responsible for a virus or the measles or cancer. These things happen to you. You are the hapless victim.

A third detrimental effect is that churches and pastors now refuse to do counseling to their members; but instead, they only outsource to professional counselors. There's a large seeker-sensitive church here in our area that does exactly this. They will not council their members. They outsource them to professionals.

Number four. This has led to the treatment of spiritual problems with psychological therapies. Take the spiritual problem of anger. I have both heard in person, and I have read this solution coming from men who call themselves evangelicals. If you struggle with anger, they said, there're only two options: either you're going to hold it in (which is really detrimental to you), or you need to express it. Find a way to express it acceptably, they would say. That is nothing but secular, psychological therapy for dealing with anger. It's contrary to the biblical model entirely.

But I actually heard a Christian counselor on live Christian radio tell a caller who was struggling with anger (And I hate to even say this in mixed company.) but he said, you need to express that anger in an acceptable way, so just give him the finger. This is on national, Christian radio. That is secular psychology under the guise of Christianity. Or the repressed memory syndrome (That was a very popular one back even the in the Minirth-Meier days.) where your real problems stem from the fact that you must have been terribly sinned against when you were younger. And it's so bad that you've completely forgotten it. So, it doesn't matter that you don't remember it, 'that's symptomatic of the problem. And they will help you dig and dredge that repressed memory out of your subconscious. These are secular therapies for spiritual problems.

Number five. Another detrimental effect is a reliance on psychotropic drugs as the only or the primary solution to problems that have been historically defined as spiritual problems.

Number six, the proliferation of self-help books among Christian publishers. Let me challenge you to go into a Christian bookstore (if you can find one), and then go find the books in that bookstore (if you can find them) and look at the shelf of books. And there will probably just be a shelf or two. And what you will find is a shelf filled with self-help, Christianized psychology. It has completely infiltrated Christianity.

A seventh and final detrimental effect is the sharp increase in support groups in churches. What we really need to do, what really helped people, is give them support. So, let's form what amounts to a secular support group, and let's just call it Christian. When I was in L. A. at Grace Church, I took the pastoral staff on a field trip to one of the largest seeker-sensitive churches in the country which was nearby. And we attended a service. And I remember being shocked at the support groups. It was like a whole page of their bulletin was support groups. I still have it in my file. But by far the most outrageous one of the support groups (and I'm not making this up) was a support group for codependent women married to sexually addicted men.

Now first of all, I had to sort of diagram that in my mind, to sort of parse that, to work out what that meant. And then the second thing I thought is, who attends a group like that? I mean, do they give like paper bags for you to walk in, so nobody knows? But it's support groups. No, I'm not making light of the problem. There are serious problems that need to be addressed. What I'm making light of is a support group being the way to approach this, and even the psychological labels rather than calling it what it in fact is.

It is so important for us to understand, as we talk about this, that the behavioral sciences like psychology are not built on a scientific body of knowledge, like that of thermodynamics or organic chemistry; instead, psychology is a complex of contradictory ideas and theories, hundreds of different counseling models and techniques. In fact, let me share this with you from one of their own.

I've just finished reading a book by a man named Allen Frances. Allen Frances chaired the department of psychiatry at Duke University. He also led the task force that developed the fourth version of what is really the bible for modern psychiatry. It's called The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual—or DSM4 if you're familiar with that. This man is not a Christian. He is in favor of secular psychology and psychiatry. OK? So, he's not on our side. This is what he wrote. He wrote a book called Saving Normal. You'll get the point in a moment. Saving Normal, in which he admits this:

All of our diagnosis are now based on subjective judgments that are inherently fallible and prey to capricious change. Billions of research dollars have failed to produce convincing evidence that any mental disorder is a discreet disease entity with a unitary cause. Our classification of mental disorders is no more than a collection of fallible and limited constructs that seeks but never finds the truth.

Now, in light of that admission, we have to ask ourselves, is there any legitimate place for psychology? And I would answer that question, yes. I would agree with Jay Adams. Listen to Jay Adams. He writes:

Psychologists may make many helpful studies of man. For example, the effects of sleep loss. But psychologists, with neither a warrant nor standard from God by which to do so, should get out of the business of trying to change persons. Psychology may be descriptive but transgresses its boundaries whenever it becomes prescriptive. It can tell us many things about what man does, but not about what he should do.

What about psychiatry? Is there a legitimate use for psychiatry? Again, I would have to say, yes. And I like the way Adams puts it. He says,

If the psychiatrists were to use his medical training to find medical solutions to the truly organic difficulties that affect attitudes and behavior, the pastor would be excited about his work. But the difficulty arises as the psychiatrist under the guise of medicine attempts to change values and beliefs. That is not medicine, [Adams writes.]

Now, a related question. And this is important, because I know it effects people in our church. Is there a legitimate role for psychotropic drugs, for drugs intended to treat your mental state? I would answer with a qualified, yes. The appropriate use of psychotropic drugs, I believe, would be two-fold: one, temporary, if needed to stabilize someone enough in order to deal with the spiritual issues in their life; or secondly, to be used indefinitely, and even for a long period of time if their body has already become dependent on those drugs through long term use. You can't just snatch away what the body has become accustomed to. In this case the goal is not to get off those psychotropic medications, but rather, if possible, not to increase them.

Now, why is this important? Again, in Saving Normal, Frances argues that (Listen carefully.) "Normal people [This is the point of the book.] normal people with normal human problems are being over diagnosed at an alarming rate with mental illnesses. And then they are over medicated for a problem they never really had in the first place." Francis writes this:

Evidence of diagnostic inflation is everywhere. There have been four explosive epidemics of mental disorder in the past 15 years. Childhood bipolar disorder increased by a miraculous fortyfold, autism by a whopping twentyfold. Attention deficit hyper-activity has tripled. And adult bipolar disorder has doubled.

Now why is that? His answer is, it's driven by money. It's driven by the pharmaceutical companies advertising their wares, getting doctors on board. And doctors with the best of intentions, driven by their patients who've seen the ads and want help, prescribe these medications. He notes that one of every five U.S. adults now uses at least one drug for a psychiatric problem. One in five.

Now, I need to make something really clear to you. The elders, our staff, and I would never encourage you to stop taking psychotropic drugs that have been prescribed to you, without the approval and the supervision of your doctor. However, it is crucial that you realize what those drugs are doing and not doing. They are not fixing your problem. They are not assisting in your sanctification. They are not changing the condition of your soul. All they are doing, if they are effective (And Frances argues many of them are only marginally more effective than

placebos.) all they are doing is to control and manage certain responses and behaviors. So, you understand then, why we deny the role of these things in the life of the believer.

Now let's move on. You stayed with me. Let's get to the positive. What do we affirm? What do we affirm about the means of sanctification? What does the Scripture teach about this issue?

First of all, we affirm this: all man's problems are physical, spiritual, or a combination of the two. You see, Scripture teaches that you, that all human beings, are consisting of two parts: there is a physical part of you, your body, and there is an immaterial part of you, your soul. That's it. You are a two-part being: body and soul.

Now, when I taught through the nature of man, I gave a lot of arguments to that end. If you have reason to question that, I encourage you to go listen to that series. But let me just give you one verse to lay the foundation. Jesus, in Matthew 10:28, says this, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." You consist of a material part, your body, and an immaterial part, your soul.

In light of that reality, many of our problems are solely physical or organic, in which case we need a doctor. Paul, in 2 Corinthian 4:16 says, "our outer man is decaying." Our bodies—he calls it in 2 Corinthians 5, the "tent" in which we live.

I remember I shared that with my oldest daughter when she was about three or four. I was teaching, you know, our family. And I shared the fact her body was just the tent in which she lived, and it absolutely freaked her out. I decided to hold that until she was a little older; you learn that lesson. But this is true. Your body is the material part of you, and there is an immaterial part of you, your soul. That's it. Many of our problems are physical. Our outer man is decaying. We have inherited physical issues. We have environmental physical issues that are unknowingly caused by the things around us. And there's the natural process of decay that affects all our bodies.

At the same time, it is true that many of our problems are related to our souls and are solely (Pardon the pun.) spiritual. In the case of our spiritual problems, there is only one cause: sin. Either our sin or our reaction to the sin of others. This is what the Bible again and again states. It begins here (Right?) in Genesis 3. In Genesis 6:5, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."

Ecclesiastes 9:3, Solomon says, "The hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives." Our insanity is that our hearts are full of evil. Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and it is desperately sick; who can understand it?" Or what about what our Lord says in Mark 7, where 'He's talking about the fact that it's not what goes into us that defiles us, but it's that which comes out of us. And He says, "out of the heart," out of your interior being, out of the immaterial part of you, that's where comes—and He gives a list of sins.

So, some of our problems are physical. Some are spiritual.

A third source of our problems is a combination of both physical and spiritual issues. Take depression, for example. Sometimes with depression there can be solely a physical cause. A lack of sleep, that's documented. Medications that we take can create that mindset, that demeanor. Sometimes depression has a solely spiritual cause: sinful worry, anxiety about the future, and other reasons. Sometimes depression results from a combination of physical and spiritual causes. I wish I had time to take you to 1 Kings 19. That's where Elijah finds himself in the desert, sitting under a tree, saying, "God, I wish You'd just take my life." That's a pretty serious case of depression. What caused that?

Well, you look at the context, and there are both physical and spiritual causes. He ran (after the Mount Carmel experience), he ran before the chariot of Ahab back to Jezreel, and he beat him! And then he took this long journey down into the desert. He was physically exhausted. So, what does God do? He causes him to sleep, and He feeds him with the ravens. He deals with the physical side of it. But there was a spiritual side to his depression as well. He was discouraged because he thought he'd won this great victory on Carmel. And then Jezebel sends him a note and says, see if I don't make your life as the life of one of the prophets of Baal by this time tomorrow. And he realized there was still Jezebel. His spiritual mission of bringing the worship of Yahweh back to the nation wasn't complete. And he was discouraged, and so God gave him a fresh vision of Himself. Sometimes depression is a combination of physical and spiritual causes.

That same combination can happen with drugs and alcohol. Usually, a person starts taking and abusing substances for sinful reasons, a spiritual issue. Maybe they want to be cool with their friends. Maybe they're looking to bury their hurt and the troubles of life. Maybe life hasn't turned out like they want. It's a spiritual issue. But if you abuse the substance long enough, your body now thinks it has to have it. It's become as physical issue as well, and you have to deal with it at both levels.

So, there can be organic, physical problems that affect our thinking: things like a brain injury, a brain abscess, meningitis, a brain tumor, insufficient oxygen. And there may be other organic problems that we haven't yet discovered that affect our thinking. Those are true mental illnesses. But the most common use of the expression mental illness has to do with relationships, attitudes, behaviors, socialization, values. Folks, those are not organic issues. Those are inorganic issues. They are spiritual issues, and they must be addressed spiritually.

Second affirmation. In Scripture (And this is key.) God has provided the believer with everything necessary to create, sustain, and nurture spiritual life. Theologians call this the sufficiency of Scripture. Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, says, "The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting Him perfectly, and for obeying Him perfectly."

The Westminster and Baptist Confessions both put it this way: "The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added."

Martin Luther says, "Those things which have been delivered to us by God in the Holy Scriptures must be sharply distinguished from those that have been invented by men in the Church. It matters not how imminent they are for saintliness or scholarship."

John Calvin, "Paul asserts that the Scripture is sufficient for perfection. Accordingly, he who is not satisfied with Scripture desires to be wiser than it is either proper or desirable." You see, Scripture is sufficient. Scripture is sufficient for our salvation.

Turn to James 1, James 1:18. James writes, "In the exercise of [God's] will He brought us forth." [This is regeneration. This is new life. In the exercise of God's will He birthed us. How did He do this?] "By [by means of] the word of truth." [God saves, using, through His Spirit, the Word, the gospel, the good news.]

Turn over to 1 Peter 1. Peter makes this same point, 1 Peter 1:23. Here again is regeneration. "You have been born again." You've been given new life. "Not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is [Here's how you've been born again.], through the living and enduring word of God." [The Scripture is what brings life. That is what the Spirit uses to bring spiritual life. It is the gospel, the Scripture.]

But it doesn't stop there. The Scripture is also sufficient for our sanctification and not merely our salvation. Look at verse 2 of chapter 2 of 1 Peter. He begins in verse 1,

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, [Why?] so that by it [or by that milk of the Word] you may grow in respect to salvation.

Not only is the Word sufficient to bring life, but the Word is sufficient to nurture that life.

I wish we had time to go to Psalm 19 or Psalm 119 and see how the Scripture unfolds the comprehensive sufficiency of Scripture. It's all that we need as believers. But let me show you two texts. Turn to 2 Timothy 3. This one of the most familiar passages in Scripture, 2 Timothy 3. But Paul here points out the sufficiency of Scripture in two ways. Verse 15, He says to Timothy (This is 2 Timothy 3:15.), "From childhood you have known the sacred writings [the Scripture] which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation." He's talking about the Old Testament. He says, listen, the Scripture is able to give you everything you need to know to ensure your spiritual rescue.

And notice, it's even able to give you (This is the Old Testament.) "wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." Even in the Old Testament they knew that a Redeemer was coming. Genesis 3:15, there will be the seed of the woman that will crush the head of the serpent. Isaiah 53, 700 years before Christ, they knew that the Messiah would ultimately offer Himself in the place of sinners. Abraham anticipated His day. Moses lived in light of his connection to the Messiah, according to Hebrews 11. They got it. The Scripture's sufficient for salvation.

But verse 16 goes on to say it's sufficient for sanctification. "All Scripture." All Scripture. Old and New Testament. Here in Timothy Paul uses the word "Scripture" to refer both to the Old Testament and to Luke's writings, the New Testament. So, all Scripture is, literally, "God breathed, breathed out by God." The idea is, all Scripture is spoken by God so that it is the product of His breath. That's the idea. Just as my words right now are the product of my breath, all Scripture is the product of the breath of God. He spoke it.

And therefore, it is "profitable for teaching." That's for doctrine, for instruction in the Truth. Everything you need to know that's important for your spiritual life is here. "For reproof." It rebukes you. It identifies where you're wrong. And "correction." It sets you on the right path. "For [literally, child] training in righteousness." The Scripture is to your spiritual life what your training is to your children.

And here's the result, verse 17, "So that the man of God." That's a technical term for one of God's speakers, one of His preachers, one of His pastors. But of course, it's applicable here to all Christians. "That the man of God may be [Notice this.] adequate." The Greek word translated "adequate" occurs only here in the New Testament. It means "capable, able to meet all demands." And "equipped." The word "equipped" means "fully supplied or completely outfitted." In secular Greek this word "equipped" is used to describe a wagon that has been fully equipped with everything it needs for the journey. You see what Paul is saying? He's saying, in the Scripture you have been given everything you need in order to meet every demand, and you have been completely outfitted in order to accomplish every good work.

Turn over to 2 Peter, 2 Peter 1. Peter makes the same point here in this passage. Second Peter 1, look at verse 2,

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His [probably a reference to God the Father through Christ] His divine power has granted to us [that is, to all believers] everything pertaining to life and godliness ... [This has become ours.] … through the true knowledge [or we could say, through the saving knowledge] of Him who [effectually] called us … {through the gospel to Himself. That's our salvation. So, God in Christ has granted to us (Underline this.)] everything pertaining to life ... [That is, our spiritual life.] … and [to] godliness … [That is, able to stand in the right relationship to God, to obey God, to serve God, to please God.] [everything] … everything pertaining to life and godliness….] Verse 4, For by these He has granted to us [There's that expression again.] His precious and magnificent promises…. [We have been given everything we need for spiritual life and godliness.]

The question is, where? Where are these extraordinary resources that have been granted to us found? Look down at verse 12. Notice he says, "You ... have been established in the truth." Where is that truth? Look at verse 19. It is the more sure "word." The whole point of verses 16 to 21 is about the more sure word we have from God in the Scripture. You see where he's going? You've been granted everything you need for life and godliness. You've been given these amazing promises that God will accomplish what 'He set out to accomplish in your life. And you've been given those resources here in the more sure word of prophecy, which, according to verse 19, "You [would] do well to pay attention [to as] a lamp shining in a dark place." Verse 20, it's the "Scripture."

Listen, 'for your spiritual life, for your godliness, to fix your soul, you don't need anything but the sufficiency of God's Word to accomplish that. It will make you completely outfitted and able to meet every demand. It will provide you with everything pertaining to life and godliness.

A third affirmation. For the Christian, the Spirit produces real spiritual change only (This is key.) only through our understanding, applying, and obeying the Scripture. Turn with me to John 17. There're a lot of places where this point is made, but I love this one. John 17. As you know, this is our Lord's High Priestly Prayer. The night before His crucifixion He's praying, and He says in verse 17 (this is profound). You need to memorize this verse. You need to wear it. You need to think about it, meditate on it. "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."

Now, in context, clearly Jesus here is asking the Father that His followers will increasingly be made personally holy: "Sanctify them." This is the ongoing process of sanctification. For whom does He pray this? Notice, sanctify them. Well, back in verses 9 and verse 12, it's clear that He means the 11 disciples. Judas is gone; he's gone to betray Christ. So, He's talking about the 11 disciples.

But notice verse 20. He's not just praying for the 11. He's praying [Notice.] "for those ... who will believe in Me through their word." He's praying for every Christian. He's praying for you. He's praying for me. And He says, Father, I want you to sanctify them, I want You to make them progressively more like Me.

And how does that happen? Notice the next expression, "In the truth." In the truth. The means of sanctification is the Truth. The word "in" here should be translated as it is in 1 Timothy 4:2 (the Greek word is) meaning "by means of." That's the idea. Sanctify them by means of. The same word is translated that way in 1 Timothy 4:2. That's what Jesus is saying. The primary means God uses to sanctify us is the Truth.

Now what is "the truth"? Is it just, you know, whatever we think is true? All truth is God's truth? No. Look at the next expression. "Your word is truth." The entire teaching of Scripture. The Scripture, Jesus says, is the means God uses in sanctification. And it is sufficient to produce sanctification by itself through the work of the Spirit without anything added. So, we should rely solely on instruction and counsel that is derived directly from the Word of God.

Now let me just say, everybody that calls himself a Christian counselor isn't. Get that out of your mind. In fact, I would say, most who call themselves Christian counselors are not. Here's what some mean. Many who refer to themselves as Christian counselors, they are merely Christians who are trying genuinely to help people with secular psychology. They mean well. They're Christians just helping people with psychology, or trying to. There are others who call themselves Christian counselors who had as their foundation secular, psychological theory and who tack on to their psychology Bible verses. So, they'll say they're Christian counselors. You walk in, you talk to them, and they'll throw a few Bible verses in the mix. But they're really coming from a psychological, a secular, psychological mindset.

So, who is a true Christian counselor? It's one who understands that his counselee's problems are either truly organic (physical), or spiritual, or a combination of the two. He understands that for the spiritual problems, the root issue is sin; and that the only proper treatment is the loving and gracious application of the Scripture, so that the believer understands, believes, and obeys the Scripture; and the goal is that believer's sanctification. That's a Christian counselor.

There's one final affirmation I would make, and it's this: ultimately, Christ Himself is our counselor. From the moment of salvation, we are "in Christ." Second Corinthians 5:17 describes a Christian this way, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new [creation.]" And from Christ, with whom we are united, flows to us all of the resources we need.

Listen to Christ Himself in John 15:5, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him ... bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do"[what?] "nothing." Christ, He's the one. He is our sanctification. First Corinthians 1:30, "… by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us ... sanctification…."

And Christ is our best counselor. In Isaiah 9:6, the Messiah is identified in several ways. One of those is this way, He is a "Wonderful Counselor." The Hebrew literally says, "He is a wonder of a counselor." The Hebrew word for wonder is a word which is often used of miracles, including the miracles of the Exodus. What Isaiah is saying is that Jesus' counsel is far beyond all human counsel. In fact, the closest English word to this word "wonder" is the word "supernatural". He is a supernatural counselor. First Corinthians 1:30, Christ became to us the wisdom of God. Colossians 2:3, "In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

Listen, you don't need secular psychology. You don't need the broken cistern of some human, flawed system built on evolutionary theory. You need the Wonderful Counselor. And where does He give you His counsel? Right here between the pages of this book. First Corinthians 2:16, says, [in the Scripture] "… we have the mind of Christ." This is what you need. You have a counselor, and He's a supernatural counselor. Do you need counsel on how to deal with the effects of trouble and sin in your life? You can come to your King and your Lord and receive His counsel from His Word. J.C. Ryle writes,

Would you be holy? Then you must begin with Christ. You will do nothing at all and make no progress till you feel your sin and weakness and flee to Him. He is the root and beginning of all holiness. And the way to be holy is to come to Him by faith and be joined to Him. Do you want to attain holiness? Then go to Christ. Go to your supernatural counselor, your Wonderful Counselor.

Now if you want to read more on this issue, let me just recommend a couple resources to you. This has been just a brief overview.

You can read a couple of books by Jay Adams: A Theology of Christian Counseling, which sort of began the true, biblical counseling movement; or if you want to read more, The Christian Counselor's Manual, by Jay Adams, is very helpful.

John MacArthur has also written an excellent book that deals not only with psychology and its addition, but the addition of other things as well. It's called Our Sufficiency in Christ. Excellent, excellent book.

Let me just plead with you. Don't trade the truth of Scripture and the counselor that you have in Christ for some flawed, broken cistern that holds no water. Trust in the sufficiency in Scripture and Christ for your sanctification.

Let's pray together.

Father, I pray that You would use our time today for good in our lives. May our confidence in Christ, our confidence in You, our confidence in the Scripture, grow. Lord, forgive us for being like Old Testament Israel and looking everywhere around us for help, looking to Egypt for help, rather than looking to You, to Your Son, to Your Word. Father, I pray that You would help us to think biblically. Help us to live outside our times. Help us to live as the Church has lived for 2,000 years until really the last 50 or 60. Lord, may we not be trapped by the culture around us, but may we live instead in the freedom that's in Christ and in Your Word.

We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

The Distinctives of Countryside Bible Church