I continue my interaction with the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s new book, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling by looking at John Piper’s contribution in Chapter 1: The Glory of God – The Goal of Biblical Counseling.
Piper’s Thesis: Only by uniting teaching with feeling, doctrine with delight, will the church attract people to her for counseling.
Piper’s Concern: The church, especially the Reformed church, has a reputation for teaching truth in a cold, boring, and detached way. This inevitably deters people from coming for the sympathetic and loving guidance that only the Bible can provide.
Piper’s Challenge: Preachers and counselors ought to be “joyful leaders who commune with the truths they contend for.” Know God truly and feel Him duly to give Him all His glory.
Piper’s Definition: Biblical counseling is God-centered, Bible-saturated, emotionally-in-touch use of language to help people become God-besotted, Christ-exalting, joyfully self-forgetting lovers of people.
I love Piper’s fundamental point, that preachers and counselors must work harder to combine knowledge with feeling in all their communications. I don’t doubt that many needy people turn away from the church and to the world because they want more than cold hard data, they want more than a logical and systematic presentation of the facts.
They want to talk to someone who has been transformed by what they believe, who is excited about what they say, who exudes hope and optimism, who enjoys what they do, who loves and loves being loved. But they also want someone with something to say. Delight plus doctrine. Truth plus feeling. Reflection plus affection.
This was a bit of a “heavy” chapter with which to start the book. I needed to read it three or four times before I really got what Piper was driving at. His fundamental point is quite simple (and profoundly helpful), but the style and presentation is quite complex. For example, consider Piper’s definition of love:
Love is doing whatever you have to do at whatever cost to yourself in order to help another person stop finding pleasure in being made much of and help them get to the mature, God-exalting, Christ-besotted, joyfully self-sacrificing, self-forgetting delight in making much of God for the sake of others.
Wow! I’m not sure if I’ve ever loved.
I’m also not sure about the contrast that Piper draws here. He insists that there are “two profoundly different root sources of satisfaction. One is being made much of; the other is seeing and savoring God and making much of God.” And he asks: “Do you feel more loved when God makes much of you or do you feel more loved when God, at the cost of His Son, enables you to enjoy making much of Him forever?”
I don’t see these as opposites. I see them as two truths that must be held together. Can we not see both as true? Piper denies this. He says, “God is not into making much of us.”
Though there is nothing in the believer to make much of, God does make much of us, even when we do not make much, if anything, of Him.
If I can’t feel loved until “God, at the cost of His Son, enables me to enjoy making much of Him” then there are many times in my life when I will not and cannot feel God’s love.
The wonder of the Gospel is that God makes much of us even when we do not make much of Him. In fact, maybe I feel most loved when God makes much of me despite me not making much of Him.
He loved me, and gave himself for me.