| A Biblical Model for Spiritual Wholeness
By J.R. Ensey
“But, pastor, if I am truly saved, why are some of my personal
problems still hanging around? Should I see a psychologist?”
Those are not uncommon questions. New converts to Christianity sometimes
think that the new birth will automatically solve all of their problems,
relieve all of their stress, and remove all of their personality quirks
overnight. It is true that our vertical relationship (with God) can
be repaired rather quickly, but the healing of one’s horizontal
relationships (with other people and situations in one’s immediate
environment) usually takes a little more time, requiring the application
of scriptural principles, submission to the Lordship of Christ, and
the institution of personal disciplines based upon the Word of God.
It is conceded that our present world, out of which the church harvests
its converts, is generously populated with people who manifest behavioral
problems. Why is this? What are the root causes of the problems? How
can behavior be changed? Does God have a plan for that? Is mankind
left to determine his own ways?
These are perplexing questions indeed—until we look into the
Word of God. The answers we seek are not within us. They are within
the Sacred Scriptures. We must seek for divine direction and spiritual
The Bible provides an accurate picture of man’s dilemma:
O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in
man that walketh to direct his steps...if thou criest after knowledge,
and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as
silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou
understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For
the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth [cometh] knowledge and understanding.
He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous (Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs
Unless man seeks and finds direction from a source outside of himself,
he will lose his way.
The underlying reason for mankind’s spiritual dilemma is separation
from God. Sin caused this separation: “But your iniquities have
separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face
from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). The sin of Adam
and Eve separated them from the safety and comforts of the Garden
and from personal fellowship with God. All of man’s problems
can be traced to this event. The emotional grief caused by this separation
is immense. God, however, has made a way for man to deal with his
sin and to restore fellowship with Him. In every dispensation of history
there has been a means or method by which he could be accepted of
God. In that acceptance he can find peace of mind, genuine freedom
from guilt, and joy in living!
When a man finds God in the new birth, and subsequently walks in the
Spirit, he then has all the equipment necessary to live a godly and
peaceful life. Peter said, “According as his divine power hath
given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through
the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue”
(II Peter 1:3). “Life and godliness” includes both mind
and behavior. Therefore God says that the Scriptures are sufficient
for structuring both mind (thoughts) and behavior (actions) in godliness,
as II Timothy 3:16 also teaches: “All scripture is profitable
for...instruction in righteousness.” To walk with God in “glory
and virtue” will improve our relationships, overcome our spiritual
enemies, and put a peace in our hearts that transcends understanding—“And
the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your
hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). The
psalmist declared: “Great peace have they that love thy law and
nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165). Isaiah added this
observation: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind
is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).
Peace involves being relatively free from or unmoved by troublesome
persons or circumstances. When a person is right with God, the virtues
called the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 2:22,23), one
of which is peace, are manifested in his life.
The qualities of love, peace and joy evolve from a right relationship
with the Lord. This relationship develops a basic understanding of
the themes of life and death. If death is a fearsome foe, then one’s
joy is curtailed. If he understands that “life consisteth not
in the abundance of the things which he possesseth,” (Luke 12:15)
and that “to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21), then joy is
experienced. A knowledge of the Word of God and a personal relationship
with Him make a tremendous difference in the way the stimuli of life
Those who are out of touch with God and true righteousness are apt
to encounter feelings of guilt, shame, and discontent. As a result,
one may react in violent anger in certain circumstances, debase himself
in immorality, ingest drugs or alcohol, lash out at those who seek
to help, turn his back on those who love him, deny the existence of
God, and generally lose control of his emotions. Jesus said, “Those
things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and
they defile the man; For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders,
adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies”
(Matthew 15:18). These activities can be expected from those who are
not regenerated by the new birth, and/or from those who have known
God but are presently walking in the flesh and are backsliding. Paul
elaborated on this theme when he listed the gross sins that the natural
man or the carnal Christian is capable of committing (Galatians 5:19-21).
Jeremiah had made it plain hundreds of years before: “The heart
is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know
it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
By the same token, an unregenerate man may be a decent person by most
human standards: faithful to his wife, kind to his children and/or
his employees, diligent in financial matters, and ethically just.
While these virtues may keep him out of trouble, or off of the psychologist’s
couch, they will not put him into a personal relationship with God.
Man’s righteousness—the good that he does on his own, out
of his own sense of moral duty—is not counted as meritorious
righteousness. Without the new birth, “We are all as an unclean
thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all
do fade as a leaf” (Isaiah 64:6). It is only a personal relationship
with the Lord, established by faith and obedience, that will keep
us in the love of God (Jude 21). When we are covered by the blood
of Christ and motivated by the love of God, “the righteousness
which is of faith” (Romans 9:30) is imputed to us (Romans 4:8-24;
Galatians 3:6; James 2:23; I John 1:7).
When the results of the Fall prey on one’s mind, he is tempted
to turn to his own designs for relief. Having lost—or having
never possessed confidence in God—one wanders about looking for
a human fix. But turning to the humanistic advice provided by unconverted
counselors for guidance in solving or abating human problems is futile:
“The advice of the wicked is deceitful” (Proverbs 12:5 NIV).
Such advice often leads to deeper frustration and sinful involvement,
or provides an excuse for one’s sins and mismanagement of his
life (such as a diagnosis of Multiple Personalities Disorder [MPD]).
Psychological advice commonly offers an escape from the feelings of
personal guilt as an alternative to dealing with them from a biblical,
spiritual perspective. To hide guilt or to cover sin either by denial,
the use of synthetic chemicals, or mental exercises is to invite the
displeasure of God: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper:
but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs
It is not overly simplistic to say that man’s problems, his emotional
frustrations, and his flawed relationships are the result of sin—both
inherent and personal. The Lord provided directions for dealing with
those sins: confess and forsake them (Proverbs 28:13). Refusal to
do so only compounds man’s problems. When we confront and acknowledge
our sin, we ultimately deal with bitterness, frustration, hate, anger,
jealousy, violence and all the other negative emotional expressions
of the human condition. When one is filled with the Spirit (Ephesians
5:18), he has the power and wisdom to make right choices, overcome
temptation, and to resist and conquer the elements of his former life.
Paul described one’s past life before the new birth in Ephesians
2:1-7. To the Colossians he described the differences in philosophy
and behavior after coming to Christ. His suggestions to them on how
to handle the drives of the flesh are still relevant:
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication,
uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness,
which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh
on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some
time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger,
wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with
his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge
after the image of him that created him...Put on therefore, as the
elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness
of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving
one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ
forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity,
which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in
your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye
thankful (Colossians 3:5-14).
What a marvelous prescription for emotional health! The counseling
chambers would virtually fall silent if these principles were conscientiously
God’s Word is given to counsel and instruct us in righteous living
and proper relationships:
For attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight;
for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right
and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and
discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their
learning, and let the discerning get guidance—for understanding
proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear
of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:2-7 NIV).
By contrast, the wisdom of this world is “earthly, sensual, devilish...But
the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle,
and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality,
and without hypocrisy” (James 3:15,17).
But how does a man tap into godly wisdom? Again, the Scriptures provide
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with
thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine
heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest
up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and
searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand
the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD
giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them
that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth
the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and
judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. When wisdom entereth into
thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall
preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from
the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things
Men would have no need to seek the counsel of the ungodly if they
followed these directives of the Word. However, as Jeremiah declares,
the Israelites had “committed two evils: they have forsaken me
the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken
cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). Heeding God’s
Word and being refreshed by truth is drinking from the “fountain
of living waters.” Turning to humanism and psychological answers
amounts to dependence on “broken cisterns.”
How can man escape the pangs of a guilty conscience, the frustrations
of a bitter spirit, and the stresses of modern living while maintaining
his physical and emotional health? The Bible has the answer:
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favour and
a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all
your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways
acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise
in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health
to your body and nourishment to your bones (Proverbs 3:1-8 NIV).
There are also some things the believer should not do; for instance,
“[Walk] not in the counsel of the ungodly” (Psalm 1:1).
That is because their advice is deceitful (Proverbs 12:5). Paul warns
of those who boast of their professional training and education and
advises Timothy to avoid them in favor of faithfulness to the Word
of God: “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care.
Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely
called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered
from the faith. Grace be with you” (I Timothy 6:20,21 NIV). This
writer can confirm that counsel from humanistic psychologists can
have a devastating effect on those who subject themselves to it. Families
have been divided, hate and bitterness engendered, and ongoing emotional
distress put upon those who surrendered to the counsel of the ungodly.
The Psalmist suggested the wise alternative, “I will lift up
mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (Psalm
121:1). Acknowledging God as the source of his help, he was saying,
“I will look away from the low, earthly, personality destroying
distractions of hate, envy, jealousy, resentment, greed, covetousness,
vengeance, inferiority, selfishness, unfairness and defeat to Him
who can help me overcome them. By looking up, I can see my way out.”
When the Christian needs direction, he acknowledges, “Thy word
is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
When he faces temptation, he declares, “God is faithful, who
will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will
with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able
to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13). When he is challenged by fear,
he remembers, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
(Romans 8:31). When he faces tragedy, he confesses that “We know
that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them
who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). When
he is lonely, and feels as if no one cares, he is reminded by Peter
to “[Cast] all your care upon Him, for He careth for you”
(I Peter 5:7). When abused and offended, he seeks comfort in the One
who was most abused, knowing that He “also himself likewise took
part of the same” (Hebrews 2:14). When he feels inadequate to
meet the harsh challenges of life, he exclaims, “I can do all
things through Christ which strengtheth me” (Philippians 4:13).
When he feels depressed he turns to Psalm 34 and 139 for a lift. When
worry tries to cloud his mind, he reads Matthew 6:25-34 and Philippians
4:6-9 for spiritual confidence. Should doubts arise he knows to consult
with the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, or perhaps the apostle Thomas
in John 20:24-29. When discouragement becomes a weight, he goes to
Psalm 23, Psalm 42, Isaiah 40, and Matthew 5:1-12. When comfort in
trying circumstances is called for, there is John 16:33 and II Corinthians
1:3,4. Finally, when he is facing death, he can turn to John 14, I
Corinthians 15:51-58, II Corinthians 5:1-8, and Philippians 1:21-23.
Whenever and for whatever reason the Christian needs counsel, he realizes
that “Thy testimonies are...my counsellors” (Psalm 119:24).
He acknowledges the Messiah as his prime “Counsellor” (Isaiah
9:6). Rather than beating a path to the door of the psychologist,
he looks to the Lord for comfort, guidance and affirmation, knowing
that God has said, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and
will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the
wise? ...hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?...God
is not the author of confusion” (I Corinthians 1:19,20; 14:33).
The wise believer takes special care that “no one takes him captive
through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition
of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather
than according to Christ...These are matters which have, to be sure,
the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion...but are of no value
against fleshly indulgence” (Colossians 2:8,23 NIV).
Dr. Wayne A. Mack is chairman and professor of Biblical Counseling
at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA. He demonstrates
his commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture by citing Psalm 19:7-11.
He points out that Scripture...
1. Is perfect (whole, complete, sufficient, lacking nothing) and therefore
able to restore (transform, renew) the soul (the inner man, the real
2. Is a sure (trustworthy, reliable, dependable) witness and therefore
able to make wise the simple (people who lack a proper understanding
of life, God, themselves, others)—verse 7.
3. Contains precepts (principles, guidelines, rules for character
and conduct) that are right (correct, in accord with what is just
and good, appropriate and fitting) and therefore able to cause the
heart (the totality of man’s inner non-physical self) to rejoice
(to experience a sense of well-being, serenity, tranquility, and peace)—verse
4. Is authoritative (it gives mandates and directives that are always
correct) and pure (clear, untainted with evil or error) and therefore
able to bring light into man’s chaos and confusion, to replace
man’s ignorance and lack of understanding with clear direction,
perspective, and insight—verse 8.
5. Is clean (uncontaminated, free from impurity, defilement) and enduring
(permanent, unchanging, relevant, up to date, never outdated, never
in need of alteration) and therefore able to produce the fear of the
Lord (a wholesome and incredibly practical and positive reverence
for God)—verse 9.
6. Provides insights about God, man, life, and everything needed for
living and godliness that are altogether true (they correspond to
and accurately reflect reality, they tell it like it really is) and
righteous (they reflect that which is right, good, and holy, that
which is truly just and fair) and therefore lead men to understand
and practice what is truly real and right—verse 9.
7. Being “more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold,”
is able to produce in us a kind of prosperity that is more valuable
than all the material riches of the world—verse 10.
8. Being “sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb,”
is able to remove the sourness, acidity, and bitterness caused by
sin and to produce in us a sweetness of life that surpasses anything
the world can provide—verse 10.
9. Possessing all of the previously noted qualities, is able to infallibly
warn and protect us from the many dangers and disasters that can result
from an ignorance of what is truly right—verse 11.
10. Possessing all of the previously noted characteristics, is able
to preserve us from temptation, sin, error, false teaching, and every
other threat to the health and well-being of our inner man—our
thoughts, emotions, affections, and attitudes—verse 11.
A common retort is: “But the Bible doesn’t mention many
of the troubling and sinful factors at work in people’s lives
today...like drug addiction, anorexia, PMS, clinical depression, bulimia,
etc.” These and similar practices and conditions may have been
what God had in mind when He inspired the apostle Paul to add to the lists
of sinful involvements, lusts, and degrading activities recorded in
I Corinthians 6:9,10 and Galatians 5:19-21 these words, “and
such like.” This addendum helps make the Bible relevant to every
age. To define what “and such like” means is the responsibility
of the teaching ministry as it meets the cultural challenges in each
generation. The Spirit of the Lord and the clear principles of Scripture
will provide discernment to the man of God that he may guide his people
into “a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and
just and fair” (Proverbs 1:3 NIV). No sin or means of debauching
one’s self has been or will be developed that falls outside of
the application of the principles found in God’s Word.
The Word guides us around the above-mentioned pitfalls so that we
will not have to be rescued from them:
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto
according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let
me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart,
that I might not sin against thee...O how love I thy law! it is my
meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me
wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding
than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand
more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts. I have refrained
my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word. I have not
departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me. How sweet are
thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through
thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm
Those who might be tempted to say that all of this sounds too idealistic
should be reminded that the farther man moves away from God’s
ideal, the more problems he invites to himself. Wise men still agree
with David: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul:
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm
19:7). By contrast, “The way of the wicked is as darkness, they
know not at what they stumble” (Proverbs 4:19).
The Word of the Lord makes the simple wise, but the “way of the
wicked” excuses sinful human behavior by making all men victims
of other people’s evil intentions or foibles and of circumstances
beyond their control. By taking responsibility for his own actions,
and by turning to the Lord’s counsel—the Word of God—the
believer finds wholeness and healing: “Thy word is truth...He
sent his word and healed them...and with his stripes we are healed”
(John 17:17; Psalm 107:20; Isaiah 53:5).
—Excerpted from the book The Couch and the Cross, available from