A Broken and Contrite Heart…

Dr. Ab AbercrombieSad man praying

Have you noticed that many of the most repentant prayers in the Bible come from God’s most faithful servants? Human logic would suggest otherwise. Most would assume that as one grows in his/her faith, sin would decrease, along with the need for confession and repentance.

But in truth it seems the closer one draws to God with a desire to obey and serve; the more grieved he/she becomes with sin. In the life of a growing Christian, the presence of sin becomes increasingly poignant and unacceptable and takes the individual more frequently to his/her knees, seeking out the purifying work of grace and the restorative impact of the Father’s discipline.

Repentance is the centerpiece of Christian growth and sanctification. Whenever one is dull to the stirring conviction of the Spirit, he/she is in true danger. Repentance is God’s gift that provokes the unbeliever unto salvation, and draws the Christian toward sanctification. A repentant lifestyle is brings life, vindication, joy, and development. It is a gift of God that simultaneously convicts the conscience, provokes confession, and heals the willful patterns of our lives.

Because of this we see the great characters of Scripture humbled, submitted, and burdened by the undoing of sin, seeking instead the freedom and provision of grace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Paul described well the single remedy for his base depravity:

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 7:24-25).

The awareness of our plight as sinners deepens our dependency upon Christ while provoking praise, celebration, and thankfulness for God’s unmerited favor. A life that is sensitive and yielded grows to have no tolerance for sin and thereby develops an urgent pursuit of righteousness. [Read more…]

“Do you wish to get well?”

Dr. Ab Abercrombie Sad man praying

As a biblical counselor, I sometimes encounter counselees who seem immobilized. They appear simply unable or unwilling to move forward, languishing in despair, relational struggle, and sin. Even when seeming to understand Scripture and claiming conviction, they remain unchanged.

In one such occasion I was helping Ron, a professing believer, evaluate his role as a husband and spiritual head of his home. Over three meetings we had examined his salvation and studied numerous scriptures pertaining to spiritual submission (Jas 4:5-8), authority (1 Cor 11:3), leadership (Eph 5:22-29), love (1 Cor 13:3-7), forgiveness (Matt 6:14-15), and accountability (Rom 14:11-12).

In each example the counselee expressed grief and claimed conviction to lead and love his wife as Scripture instructs. But near the end of the third meeting the discussion veered off course:

Ron: I know the Bible is true and God expects me to do these things. But how can I?

Counselor: What do you mean?

Ron: How can I lead when my wife will not cooperate? How can I love someone who is cold and distant?

Counselor: So you are unable to obey God’s teaching because of your wife’s condition?

Ron: I would be a better Christian if I were married to a godly woman. I just don’t see how I can do anything until she gets it together.

[Read more…]

Marital Abandonment

Dr. Ab AbercrombiePensive Woman

Don had been married thirty years to the wife of his youth. Together they raised three children, built two careers, and seemed headed for late-life contentment. Suddenly Don’s wife announced, “I don’t love you. This marriage has been a mistake from the beginning. I want a divorce.”

Janice had been married 19 years when her husband left her without explanation. Within weeks, he abandoned his job, relocated, and refuses to speak to his wife and children. As a stay-at-home mother, she is without financial support and terrified for her future. Her husband has “left the grid” and refuses to respond.

Both couples profess Christ and previously demonstrated evidence of salvation and fruit within their respective homes. Regrettably these stories are far too common within God’s Church, and the Body is facing an onslaught of spousal abandonment. There is increasing need for biblical counsel on this topic and we must examine God’s Word on the matter.

As a biblical counselor I have repeatedly heard that  “abandonment” is biblical grounds for divorce. I have heard it from pastors, leaders, and individuals who have been deserted. But does Scripture support this claim. Jesus said:

“It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE ‘; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matt 5:31-32).

Jesus never wavered on this point. No other reference to an acceptable divorce appears in Scripture. And even the matter of sexual immorality is to first be addressed under the biblical themes of forgiveness, reconciliation, and obedience to the admonition that God hates divorce (Mal  2:16).

Often the victim of abandonment will have no choice. The spouse who leaves may initiate a divorce and refuse reconciliation. On this point, the rejected spouse has little recourse. Yet too frequently, the abandonment results in a prolonged separation, with the absent spouse taking no steps toward a permanent ending. What then should be our counsel?

[Read more…]

Counseling Unbelievers…

Sad Man Half Face

Dr. Ab Abercrombie

The Bible is fully sufficient for the counseling task and superior to any method the world has to offer…for believers. But is the same claim applicable to unbelievers? Many in the biblical counseling field think not. For example, Jay Adams and many within the Nouthetic arena contend that unbelievers require “pre-counseling evangelism” before biblical counseling can ensue. (Newheiser, 2006).

But often counseling is initiated before the counselor can assess the spiritual status of the counselee. Other times an individual enters counseling convinced of his/her salvation, yet lacking the capacity to hear and respond to Scripture, due to an unregenerate heart. In situations like these, should the counselor place the counseling on pause to initiate evangelism?

Rather I suggest there are biblical mandates to both restore the fallen (Gal 6:1-2) and evangelize the lost (Matt 28:19-20) which dictate the counselor’s response and no distinction between the two activities exists. In fact, the course and nature of the counseling can only be determined within the counseling setting, where the Word and the Spirit direct the counselor’s assessment of spiritual need.

Without this assessment, the counselor is left to trust the counselee’s representation of spiritual status without biblical examination. This is dangerous because many within the Church bear a false security reinforced by human markers of salvation (i.e. church membership, baptism, confirmation, or experience). Others may be genuinely born-again yet now doubt or discount their salvation due to the presence of sin and its destructive impact in their lives.

Because of this, the first step of effective biblical counseling is the analysis of the assignment: Is the task evangelistic or restorative? Counseling must begin in order to discern this critical truth. Some steps for making this assessment follow: [Read more…]

The Homosexual Gospel: According to Rob Bell

Dr. Ab AbercrombieGrapes red on the vine

I think Rob Bell has been eating some bad fruit. As a self-proclaimed spokesman for God and the Christian faith, Bell bears evidence of poor nutrition that has defiled his heart and mind. As Christians we all must be discerning of where we acquire our spiritual food.

When God created the Garden of Eden He planted two types of trees:

The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:8-9).

Satan encourages us to reject the “tree of life” (Christ) and feast upon the forbidden “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In the garden, the serpent tempted Eve to doubt and question God’s Word concerning sin:

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate (Gen 3:4-6).

Eve’s desire soon became her truth. She, and her husband, answered their craving for beauty, taste, and wisdom rather than heed God’s instruction. How could something so appealing to the flesh be sinful? As Satan had whispered… “You surely will not die!” With the ingestion of the illicit fruit, the spirit of the antichrist (1 Jn 4:2-3) advanced its position and has been offering a counterfeit version of “truth” ever since. [Read more…]

Whatever Became of Sin?

Dr. Ab AbercrombieSnake and Apple

In 1973, the world-renowned psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote a book entitled: Whatever Became of Sin? In his book the doctor projected the day would come when sin would no longer be an element of the human vernacular. He speculated that the explanation of sin and wrongdoing would be replaced by rationalizations excusing individual accountability.

Menninger predicted the term sin would be replaced with words like illness, disorder, dysfunction, syndrome, etc. The human condition would be excused as a product of biochemistry, environment, experience, and trauma. He projected that even crime would go unpunished as criminal activity would be justified and minimized as the result of some medical abnormality for which one could not be held responsible.

According to Menninger’s prognostication, the day was approaching when practically everyone would be considered sick and their conduct pardonable. No longer would there be any liability for human error, choice, and willful conduct. Everyone would be innocent, vindicated through biology, psychiatry, and humanistic reasoning.

Aren’t we just about there? The good doctor was a pretty good prophet!

Humanism has become the dominant theology of our day, embraced increasingly throughout society and regrettably, in the Church. Humanism teaches that everything is relative and there are no absolutes. As a result there can be no sin because there are no fixed guidelines of morality. Under this doctrine, man is considered good and deserving of everything it he wants.

Furthermore, humanism assumes there is no God. Man is his own sovereign ruler; wise, competent, and capable of making decisions that are best for him. Salvation then is the pleasure and gratification of the human experience. Humanism is individually focused without regard to others and it seeks immediate gain without consideration of its long-term or eternal impact. [Read more…]

Suicide In The Church Part II: Why Do We Believe What We Believe…

Dr. Ab AbercrombieBible 10 Commandments

My first article on suicide in the Church entitled, “A Biblical Response To Mental Illness and Suicide In The Church: What Should We Conclude…” garnered a lot of attention and I am grateful for your response and comments. To say that this is a controversial issue is a great understatement, as readers have expressed very strong opinions on the matter.

Beth wrote:

I agree that lots of mental illness is the result of guilt, unconfessed sin, rebellion, bitterness, anger, etc. However, that doesn’t mean that there are not true physiological reasons behind mental illness. We must be careful not to blanket all mental illness in either one camp or the other. The very reason some Christians have not sought medical help is because of the belief that if they were ‘Christian’ enough, they shouldn’t really have these problems. That is just not true. As I said, there are many factors contributing to mental illness and unless you have personally suffered with it, you cannot understand.

DeDe countered:

We must FIRST seek our help in the Lord! The danger is “explaining away” sin. Again, not all depression is rooted in sin, but often times it is simply falling into discouragement – a heart and mind that has dropped its guard, fallen away from fixing on Truth.” That is a danger.

Denise commented:

I believe that some mental problems can and are Biblical. BUT there IS messed up Chemicals in the brain. I am a strong Christian who knows the Word. I KNOW sometimes I am depressed cause I have disobeyed, but then I repent and am better. BUT there are times when I am so depressed for NO GOOD REASON. AND I get suicidal at times. My medicines have helped me tremendously.

And finally, Brian had this to say:

Thank you for writing so clearly and concisely. I was deeply perturbed when I read the articles you are responding to. I am deeply grieved by the Warren’s devastating loss and then was angry over the ill informed articles I also read and to which you refer to. Men of such influence need to think more biblically before they put pen to paper and not be swayed by pop culture.

Many others answered the article with resounding support and others with harsh criticism. After reviewing the responses I was left with one burning question: Why do we (Christians) believe what we believe? [Read more…]

Circumstantial Spirituality

By W.P. “Ab” Abercrombie, Ph.D.Intense man dark

Recently I have noticed a trend in my counseling ministry I refer to as; “circumstantial spirituality.” In other words, many counselees become very spiritual at the time their sins are uncovered, only to return to the secular life when the crisis has passed. These are individuals who seek support because of exposure rather than conviction of conscience.

The challenge for the biblical counselor comes in helping this briefly spiritual person, stay in the light long enough for the true heart condition to be revealed. But such counselees are often intolerant of the glare of this heavenly illumination. Jesus spoke of this reality stating:

[Read more…]

Depression, Sin, and Godly Discipline

By: Dr. W.P. “Ab” Abercrombie

Repentance and Forgiveness in the Family

Couple argue back to back Dr. Ab Abercrombie

Actions and behaviors are damaging. Things said and done between people often provoke emotions that are hurtful, even destructive, over time. Often, it is the root of bitterness and unforgiveness that lies at the core of unresolved issues and without attention, can deceive and destroy the peace of our relationships. Unforgiveness undermines:

  • Our relationship with God and places us in a state of disobedience.
  • Our communication with loved ones and provokes a state of disharmony.
  • Our self-awareness building instead a response of righteous indignation that becomes impenetrable and condemning over time.
  • Our willingness to reconcile, resting instead in our “right” to feel as we do, justifying the return of sin for sin, reviling for reviling, and evil for evil.

The Bible is clear concerning this topic…the heart condition of unforgiveness is unacceptable to the LORD who calls believers to display His character and standards toward others. Jesus said:

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14-15). [Read more…]