The four elements of this framework are commendation, comfort, conviction, and challenge. This is not a formula for counseling. Though I will present these components in an order, there’s no strict progression. Each conversation may have a different combination of these four elements, or may focus on only one or two of the four. These four elements are not so much a pattern or a formula as a multifaceted perspective by which to view the counseling task.
That sort of flexibility is exactly what we see in Christ’s counsel to the churches. Two of the seven letters lack any words designed to convict (Smyrna and Philadelphia). Wiith other churches (Sardis and Laodicea), Christ leans hard on convicting language and nearly eliminates commendation. Why the variability? Because the particulars of the situations vary. It’s often when we as counselors either rely too much on specific methods, or we try too hard to force one particular element.. We can become slaves to our own comfort or pride rather than servants of Christ.
The third component of this framework is conviction. By conviction, I mean making others aware of how they have transgressed God’s law by their thoughts, feelings, or behaviors — either in the doing or the not doing.
Paul tells Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Note the dual emphasis on reproof and correction. It is part of Scripture’s nature that it shows us where we have fallen short of God’s glory. Conviction rarely feels good; however, conviction need not be harsh. Paul describes his own ministry of conviction to the Ephesians with these words: “For three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears” (Acts 20:31). We would do well if kind, compassionate tears marked our ministry of conviction as well.
Jesus himself admonishes the Ephesians when he writes, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Here and elsewhere, he speaks earnestly to the churches and does not spare honest and difficult words for fear of hurting his hearers’ feelings. Indeed, what a gift that he would be so forthcoming!
Conviction Is Not Always Necessary
As mentioned above, in all but two of the seven letters to the churches, Christ has some form of conviction to bring. Yet notice that he does not convict all of them: that in and of itself is instructive. Did those other two churches (Smyrna and Philadelphia) have no sin? Of course not. They were made up of sinners. Yet for his own reasons, Jesus felt no need to bring conviction there and then. Similarly, there are times when those we counsel do not need our conviction.
When do I prioritize conviction? When others are either unaware of their sin or are making excuses for it. In situations like these, I emphasize the unsurpassed goodness and mercy of God in his willingness to forgive (1 John 1:9), yet I also remind them that God’s forgiveness requires honest and earnest confession. As I often tell my counselees, one theme in Scripture is that he who repents first wins.
Portions of this posting are excerpts from an article by Josh Squires, found at https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-might-jesus-do-couneseling
TO BE CONTINUED IN MY NEXT BLOG POSTING
Conviction Is An Important Part Of Christian Counseling
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