There’s Cognitive-behavior therapy, behavior-modification, narrative-therapy, and a rather long list of other types of counseling theories. Why then is Gospel Centered Counseling something worth advocating? Isn’t it just another way of helping people like all the others?
1. Gospel Centered Counseling is THE Counseling Theory
When God created man and we experienced our first problem (sin), God shared the good-news. The garden was perfect, we lived in perfect relationship with God, but we rebelled. We did exactly what God told us not to do. But despite the rebellion, God promised that,
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel,” (Gen 3:15; see also Romans 16:20).
This is called the protoevangelion, or the first instance of the good-news. Our first problem was disobeying God (sin), and the first solution God offers is that the serpent would be crushed (through Christ!). This is exactly what we needed to hear! God didn’t first deal with man’s rebellion, or woman’s rebellion, but rather with the serpent. That’s grace!
The Gospel was the first solution to man’s biggest problem. But it also is the source of man’s greatest hope. Since our creation, man has longed for the perfection we were designed for and to live eternally. We have feared death and take sorrow in many of the results of our rebellion. We long for purpose and identity, for a source of strength beyond ourselves. The Gospel provides all of this and so much more.
2. Gospel Centered Counseling Has the Longest Reach
Motivation is a key-word in counseling. Any counseling theory is going to have to ask the question, “Why does a person do what they do?” From the Christian worldview, a person does what they do because of what’s in their heart. Consider Proverbs 27:19;
“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.”
Or how about Jesus’ own words when discussing what defiles a man in Matthew 15:19;
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person…”
Gospel Centered Counseling deals with the heart, out of which a man’s actions flow. Cognitive behavior therapy attempts to do this by adjusting one’s thoughts, but has no anchor to which those thoughts should be tied to the heart. Behavior-therapy attempts deal with the symptoms rather than the problem. Each of the theories fails to reach where the Gospel’s light touches every-time.
3. Gospel Centered Counseling Causes Death
When dealing with addictions, anger, frustration, bitterness, marriage issues, or issues at work, we often are operating out of selfish-motives. Rather than seeking to utilize those selfish motives and channeling them into productive behavior, Gospel Centered Counseling causes those selfish motivations to die and instead places the Maker’s motivation at the fore-front of the person’s desires.
So when the time comes for a hard decision to be made, and the choice is between doing what feels good or what is hard, a person will not necessarily default to what feels good, as they seek to honor the one that died for them. The hope of eternity gives strength to endure the harder choices in life.
When a person is committed to the Gospel, and is confronted with the choice between chocolate cake or hummus and carrots after years of poor eating habits that have led to health problems, they will be able to die to self and choose the carrots as an act of worship. Or when a person has worked towards a career for a decade and finally offered the position, but realizes that by accepting they would cause a great deal of hurt to others, they can choose to not accept the position. Gospel Centered Counseling allows a person to die to their own desires and embrace a higher motivation.