Here’s a book that church leaders need to get – pastors, elders, deacons, and other Christians who help God’s people in different ways: Counsel from the Cross by Dennis Johnson and Elyse Fitzpatrick. In a word, this book is a lesson on the gospel and how it applies to Christians on the pilgrim way – fighting sin and dealing with difficulties while carrying the cross.
“I assume you are already aware of how powerful the word of the gospel is, but I wonder if any of us realize that once we have believed the message we don’t really need to hear it again. But we couldn’t be more wrong. It is the glorious message of God’s love for us in Christ that engenders the faith and perseverance that will enable us to grow in godliness. It is in the gospel message that we see the glory of God; it shows us the face of Jesus Christ and transforms us.”
“The gospel message – that God has made us his own in spite of our sin – is what we need to hear over and over again. By the Spirit’s work we will see the face of Jesus Christ in the Word preached to us, even though it might be presented by weak and unimpressive men. The power to transform hearts belongs to God, not to men, but God has promised to transform us through the message that the world calls ‘folly’ and through men that the world despises as fools.”
Amen and Amen. If the pulpit does not resound with gospel-grace each and every Sunday, the church’s shepherding/counseling work has no solid ground on which to stand. The center of true Christian discipleship and guidance is the gospel, which is the center of biblical preaching, which is the center of the church herself. This is another reason why historic, Bible-saturated liturgy is a blessing: each Sunday we (plural) hear the law, we confess our sins together, and we hear the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s blood. Then the gospel is echoed in song and sermon. In this way, Lord’s Day worship provides the church the motivation and means to counsel those who need it.
I highly recommend this book; in fact, I may work through it with some leaders at the church I serve. Counsel from the Cross is straightforward, well-written, and full of biblical truth and application. This would complement a book I recommended last week, namely, You Can Change by Tim Chester. These are books you’ll read, enjoy, and refer to time and again.