“Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war.” Proverbs 20:18
Throughout Scripture, we find the life we now live described in part with the language of war and combat. Speaking to the ongoing battles for our hearts and minds, we’re commanded to “put to death the deeds of the body [sins of the flesh]” (Rom. 8:13). Elsewhere, we’re told, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).
Some people in our post-Christian age find this language offensive, but it speaks to the gravity of what hangs in the balance, namely, our souls and their eternal destiny. When we carelessly enter the theatre of spiritual warfare having refused the wisdom of God given to us in His word, we become a liability to ourselves and to every good soldier of God around us.
In recent days, I’ve had multiple encounters with people who, by their own foolishness, have been and are being sifted by the “father of lies” (John 8:44, Luke 22:31). On separate occasions, followers of the World Mission Society Church of God, as well as a follower of Joseph Prince, one of the Word-Faith movement’s up-and-coming darlings, have approached me to share their non-gospel.
I found their nebulous arguments to be utterly confusing because they were based upon eternally damning interpretations of the word of God. They also broke my heart, because standing before me were human souls who had been deceived by the spirit of antichrist (1 John 2:18).
The one confidently (and heretically) proclaimed that the “mother of god” must be received by faith if we are to enter the kingdom of God. The other falsely presumed that they were elevating the grace of God by denying the sinfulness of man—and otherwise worshipping the creation rather than the Creator.
These conversations served as critical reminders of the need for wise counsel in the life of the Christian. Counsel that, as the Apostle Paul said, does not, “shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
But, how can we know that the counsel we’re receiving is based upon the whole of God’s counsel—that it’s truly biblical?
One way that we can know this is by becoming competent students of the word ourselves (2 Tim. 2:15). If we’re not diligently pouring over the Scriptures, and applying sound principles of interpretation in our study, then how will we know a fraud when we see one?
Don’t be confused: left to its own devices, the mind is prone to pragmatism (believing what seems right), and understandings of Scripture that feed, rather than combat, idols of the heart (exegesis vs. eisegesis).
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is now providing a tremendous resource, free of charge, to the entire body of Christ. It’s called MOOC—Massive Open Online Course. This trending format allows for people all over the world with Internet access to receive seminary level training and preparation for ministry. SEBTS first offering addresses the issue of hermeneutics—or how we interpret the word.
I would encourage anyone who takes an interest in their faith to take advantage of this or other such offerings. The principles of biblical interpretation that are offered in this course not only help individual Christians walk as Jesus walked, but they strengthen the church at large, and build discerning Christians—rather than the type who are fooled when “mother of god” or “prosperity gospel” arguments are set before them.
It’s been said that "all of ministry is counseling," and I believe that’s true. The Sunday sermon is a public exposition of the counsel of God; small group discipleship applies that counsel in a more accountable setting, and one-on-one biblical counseling sorts through the details of our lives where the symptoms of sin and suffering are more acute.
The Bible teaches us that community is an essential element of the faith. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Prov. 27:17). The sharpening that Scripture speaks of can largely be seen through a counseling paradigm, whether formal or informal. A major task for the believer, then, is to know good counsel when they see it, and to flee from the rest.
In this life, there is plenty of counsel to go around. The question is, will you wage war by wise guidance, or will you succumb to the ways that seem right to men, but in the end, lead to death (Prov. 16:25)?
1. From what sources are you seeking guidance and counsel?
2. By what standards do you evaluate the counsel you receive?