The soul enraptured by sin loves secrecy. Instead of exposing its sins for all to see, the slave to sin seeks to hide his or her errors under a rock. If the soul mentions his or her sin, it often invites only one or two others into its dark circle of despair, requiring its inner circle of spouses, counselors, pastors, and close friends to keep its deeds confidential until death do us part. “Don’t tell anyone,” says the faint heart.
Despite the pleas of their friends, Christians cannot grant others complete confidentiality in perpetuity. To overcome sin, Christians must not depend upon one friend, or pastor, but upon their church family. God charged the entire church to be “devoted to one another (Rom 12:10), “to instruct one another (Rom 15:14),” and to “encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thess. 5:11).” We must not grant secrecy to the discouraged soul. Rather we should rally the forces of the church around them. Paul instructs us “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them (Eph. 5:11).” The good counselor, friend, and pastor will push the hurting sheep out of darkness of confidentiality into the light of Christian fellowship.
Formal counseling or discipleship exists because Christians lose their connection to faithful sermon. As E.M. Bounds notes, “Preaching is God’s great institution for the planting and maturing of spiritual life.” When sin takes root in a believer’s heart, he or she either intentionally or unintentionally cuts himself or herself off from the pulpit, “the of a church’s discipling ministry.” The wounded, isolated soul enters and leaves the Sunday service unchanged by truth and in danger of destruction. As Bonhoeffer notes, “You cannot hear Christ because you are willfully disobedient.”
As Deepak Reju has noted, Christians cut off from the power of the sermon should be rushed from the battle line of Christian service to the counselor’s hospital tent. Away from the pressing attacks of this world, the counselor and/or pastor can revive the downcast soul, applying the anointments of God’s grace to their wounds. Through the private administration of the Word and prayer, the pastor confronts the counselee’s sin. As the spirit grips his or her heart, the sinner will confess sin and experience the freedom of Christ afresh. The repentant soul can once again draw life changing power from the sermon. It can return to the frontlines of the spiritual battle. Bonhoeffer sums up counseling or discipling as being that which, “springs from the sermon and leads one back to the sermon.”
In short, counseling exists not to hide the counselee from the body of Christ but to return the counselee to the body of Christ. As the counselee reengages the community he or she should wisely share his or her struggles with other parts of the body foster support, encouragement, and rebuke.
Even if the counselee is resistant to gospel change and finds gospel change hurtful, he or she still needs the help of the local church.
Matthew 18 declares that those who refuse to respond to the Scripture’s admonishment to put off sin should be confronted by two friends. If that fails, the counselor must involve the whole body. Jesus declares,
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector (Matt. 18:17).
When the counselee repents of his or her public sins, the whole church should extend forgiveness, seeking to encourage him or her (2 Cor 2:5-11). The counselor can facilitate the counselee’s relationship with the church. But the counselor cannot be the church.
Some may fear, the revealing of their struggles to trustworthy Christians will lead to their embarrassment and shame. But the Scriptures paint a different picture. God declares, “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 (1 Cor. 10:13).”
No situation will shock the godly. They know the darkness of their own hearts and the power of Christ to liberate them from their sins. They do not shame you but encourage you to righteousness. Bonhoeffer notes,
Anybody who has once been horrified by the dreadfulness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross will no longer be horrified by even the rankest sin of a brother…In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.
Christians should not hide their sins, struggles, and fears. They should wisely confess them to those who will lead them back into the fellowship of the church through the forgiving power of the cross. Allow the spiritual believers to restore you.
Admittedly, not every Christian possess a character worthy of trust. Christians should not pour out their soul to the foolish or to the spiritually immature. If someone might tweet, text, or upload a TikTok video about your problem, do not confide in them. Rather confided in those who preach and live the word .
Sadly, not every pulpit contains life sustaining truth. At times, men and women look for discipleship outside the door of their local church because their pastor preaches dead sermons. And as E.M. Bounds notes, “dead sermons kill.” In such situations, the congregation must act, removing those elders who fail to obey the Word of God. If the Christians cannot remove their elders who distort the pulpit, they should seek churches that foster cultures of discipleship through the right teaching of the Word. Discipleship should always occur within the context of the local church. Christians should not rest until discipling truth fills their worship center.
To experience spiritual growth and transformation, men and women must leave the shadowy intimacy of the counselor’s office and embrace the happy light of the body of Christ.
Are you ready to surrender your confidentiality?