December 18, 2017

Who Are Your Counselors?

Cherith Newton

FrontLine September/October 2015 Featured Article

We live in an age of amazing technology—technology that enables us to read millions of words without ever turning a page; to communicate with a “friend” whom we have never met face-to-face; to hear the sermons of preachers from across the globe (and even across the generations); to carry fourteen different versions of the Scriptures—plus commentaries—in our pockets. It has never been easier than now to disciple and be discipled.

Or has it? So many resources. So many voices. So many distractions. Are all these advantages really helping us in our spiritual life—or could they possibly be distracting us from the true Source of life and His means of discipleship? God’s design for the growth of His church is the ministry of His Word through personal study, pastoral teaching, and mutual discipleship within the Body.

Whom Are You Reading?

Just as everything we put into our mouths has an effect on our physical health, so everything we put into our minds affects our spiritual well-being. What you read (and how you read it) does matter. And that is why God has told us that we live not by bread alone but by His words.

Psalm 119 immediately comes to mind. It says that by listening to and obeying God’s Word we cleanse our way (v. 9), and by hiding God’s Word in our hearts we are kept from sin (v. 11). We learn in verse 24 that God’s testimonies ought to be our delight and our counselors. Verse 130 gives us a beautiful promise to cling to whenever we are tempted to look elsewhere for wisdom: “the entrance of thy words giveth light.”

Jesus Christ—the very Word of God incarnate—showed us how to battle temptation with the words of God. He taught His disciples the source of sanctification when He asked the Father to “sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.”[1] And since God has spoken to us in these last days by His Son, it is through the knowledge of the same that we find the treasures of wisdom and knowledge[2] and all that we need for life and godliness.[3] It is in the face of Jesus Christ that “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” finds full entrance, now completely unveiled.[4]

In order to be fully formed disciples we must study God’s Word diligently and believe it unquestioningly. But God does not intend for us to read His Word to the exclusion of all other books—or even blogs. (In fact, we should not leave our heads in the sand and ignore what is going on around us.) We are privileged to have access to vast resources that guide us in understanding His Word and how to live as His disciples. But we must be discerning in what and how we read. We cannot neglect the Bible for other books, or even past generations for the current one. If we will choose carefully; if we include a variety of respected, seasoned authors and generations; and if we read through the lens of Scripture, God’s viewpoint will inform and shape our worldview.

Whom Are You Listening To?

God’s Word and fellowship with Him alone would have been enough for us, but in His wisdom He has not left us to work out our sanctification in isolation. We know from the fact of the Trinity that God is a God of relationship. The account of the creation of man and his companion-helper, woman, reveals that He intended that we live in fellowship with Him and one another. When these relationships were disrupted by the Fall, He restored the possibility of fellowship not through decrees or demands but by sending His Son in the flesh—God on earth in a face-to-face relationship with man.

Jesus gave us a relationship with the Father, but He also gave us a model of discipleship. He was a personal friend and teacher to many, and especially to the Twelve. He showed us the value of intimate, discipling relationships— investing significantly in a few, perpetuating another generation of disciple-makers. The apostle Paul exemplified discipleship through his influence on those with whom he spent time on his missionary journeys. He gave considerable attention to mentoring young pastors such as Timothy and Titus. In Ephesians 4:11–13 he explains God’s perfect design for growth in the Body. He has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for the purpose of perfecting His people until we achieve spiritual maturity and unity. We need the Body for growth and accountability—especially our local body of believers. Why? Because our particular pastors are the leaders God has placed over us and under whose watchful care we have committed to place ourselves. Our fellow church members are the ones who know and love us personally. These are the ones are best suited to lead, confront, and disciple us.

This is why it is so important to be careful whom we listen to. We have access to world-class Bible teachers, and we can certainly benefit from their preaching and writing, but their ministry to us will not include the personal shepherding and accountability of our own pastor. Godly women have sound biblical ministries through social media, but a virtual teacher will not have the same ability to mentor us as someone who has a personal knowledge of us. The more we listen to various teachers, the more we must guard against the temptation to distrust or lose respect for our own God-given leaders.

Whom Are You Discipling?

Discipleship ministry in the church is not just for the pastors and teachers; every relationship in the Body should be one of mutual discipleship and accountability. Paul’s writings are full of “one another” commands, and Titus 2:3–5 specifically instructs women to engage in mentoring ministry: the older women are to be “teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

This passage leads to the question, “When am I the ‘older woman’?” Well, in one sense, at every stage of life! There is nearly always someone younger in age and in the faith than you are. If your children are now out of the home, look for a young mother who needs some encouragement (and maybe a babysitter!) and teach her how to make God’s Word and her family a priority. Are you single? God has given you the freedom from family responsibilities to be able to mentor a college student or teenager as she navigates life’s changes. Perhaps you are a stay-at-home mom of young children. Don’t be discouraged that you have no time or energy left to mentor someone—you have your own little discipleship group right at your feet. Don’t be deceived into thinking you are doing nothing for the Kingdom by staying at home—you are training arrows to be thrust out someday for God’s glory! And if you will faithfully study God’s Word and fulfill your God-given responsibilities as a wife and mother, you will find that others are watching your life, and discipleship opportunities may begin to come to you.

“Lord, I Believe; Help Thou Mine Unbelief”

Likely no true believer would dispute that God’s Word is His primary means of perfecting His children. But do we really believe that? Do we really believe that His power, which comes through the knowledge of His Son, provides all we need for life and godliness?[5] Are we willing to stake our spiritual lives on that promise? What would happen if we set aside all other reading, browsing, watching, and listening for a time just to steep ourselves in the Word of God alone?

Consider Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them . . . He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock” (Luke 6:47–48). A wise woman is one who listens to and believes His words. Only then is her foundation strong and sure amid a myriad of voices.

Cherith grew up in a pastor’s home and now supports her husband in his role as dean of students at Bob Jones University. She is a stay-at-home mom of four children and is involved in ladies’, college, and music ministries at her local church.

(Originally published in FrontLine • September / October 2015. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

  1. John 17:17 []
  2. Colossians 2:3 []
  3. 2 Peter 1:3 []
  4. 2 Corinthians 4:6 []
  5. 2 Peter 1:3 []

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