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Guest Blogger: Pat Quinn, Director of Counseling Ministries at University Reformed Church

I have the privilege of serving as Director of Counseling Ministries at University Reformed Church. As a biblical counselor I have basically one goal: to connect the Word of God to specific people with specific life issues in specific circumstances in such a way that they learn to "live" by God's Word. This is both a great challenge and a great joy. Part of the challenge is the seemingly endless diversity of people, issues, and circumstances.

On a beautiful fall day last October I took a walk to reflect on and pray about the breadth and depth of the counseling cases I was involved in. These included a number of sexual, psychiatric, and relational problems. As I walked, rejoicing in the power of the gospel to address, forgive, and free people from life-dominating sin and suffering problems, I asked myself, "What is the common gospel process that applies to any and all issues? What are we aiming at in the people we minister to?" Four biblical verbs--know, pray, trust, walk–came to mind that seemed to capture what all biblical counseling, preaching, teaching, evangelism, and discipling aim at leading people to do in their process of spiritual growth. Notice that these four verbs are not so much our ministry methodology but our ministry outcomes.

KNOW: The first thing we need to do is help people know God's truth from Scripture. Jesus said, "If you abide in my word, you truly are my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8: 31-32). In helping the Corinthians deal with sin issues, Paul asked, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6: 8)? And, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit..." (1 Corinthians 6: 19)? Knowing biblical truth is the essential first step in the "renewal of your mind" that leads to life transformation (Romans 12: 2).

  • Goal: Help people understand, believe, and embrace gospel truth.
  • Verse: "Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ" (Colossians 1: 28).

PRAY: If knowing biblical truth is a pretty obvious first step in change, praying over those truths until they actually come alive in our hearts is less so. This dynamic of praying God's Word into life is beautifully shown in Psalm 119:

  • "My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word" (Psalm 119: 28).
  • "Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope" (116).
  • "Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me" (175).

In counseling I often encourage counselees to pray regularly and fervently over the Scriptures we've discussed. I am often surprised (I shouldn't be, knowing my own heart) by the subtle resistance to specific, Bible-based, fervent prayer. However, the practice of praying over the Scriptures, of crying out to God for Bible-directed help and change is powerful.

  • Goal: Lovingly exhort people to pray over biblical truths until they come alive.
  • Verse: "Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law" (Psalm 119: 18).

TRUST: The third goal of ministry of the Word is to help people to trust in the "affectionate sovereignty" (Bob Kellemen's beautiful phrase) of God. Knowing and praying gospel truths naturally lead to trusting the God of our salvation. So many problems in life arise from, or are exacerbated by, mistrust of God's wise, powerful, and loving care. Hebrews 3: 18-19 says, "And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief." The implication here is that disobedience is caused by the failure to trust in the character and promises of God. The living faith we aim to foster is not mere intellectual assent but relational confidence. The Lord Jesus, our brother and family worship leader, seeks to model and teach us this relational trust: "'I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.' And again, 'I will put my trust in him' And again, 'Behold, I and the children God has given me'" (Hebrews 2: 12-13).

  • Goal: Model and teach people to relationally trust the affectionate sovereignty of God.
  • Verse: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths" Proverbs 3: 5-6).

WALK: Knowing, praying, and trusting are meant to culminate in an obedient life that honors God, nourishes personal joy, and blesses others. This whole gospel process is laid out for us in this prayer of Paul in Colossians 1: 9-10:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

While trust is not explicitly mentioned, it is hard to imagine walking in a worthy manner, pleasing God, or bearing fruit without it. All ministry of the Word must ultimately help people live God-glorifying lives in the trenches of real life.

  • Goal: Motivate people to live consistent with the privilege of being in the family of God.
  • Verse: "Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5: 1-2).

Know--pray--trust--walk. These remind me what I'm aiming at in ministry of the Word. I pray they will do the same for you.

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62 thoughts on “What Are We Aiming At?”

  1. Bill says:

    Richard, I agree 100 %. it is unfortunate that people interpret the Sermon on the Mount as if it refers to our own righteousness. The Sermon on the Mount is clear that nobody can attain to the righteousness required to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and this righteousness is freely provided by Christ through faith. It is an alien righteousness , it is the righteousness of Christ. Christ cannot make it more clear, just like told the rich young ruler he had to give all his possessions (to show him he could not obey the law), so he tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that we need to cut off our arms and pluck out our eyes in order not to commit adultery. We are adulterous by nature and cannot stop, unless we mutilate ourselves, but then we would still covet and break every other commandment. Adultery being a sin of the body can only be prevented by mutilation as Jesus teaches, but of course Jesus does not want us to cut our arms and pluck out our eyes to enter heaven. Jesus wants us to come to him in faith, and receive his righteousness, his works justify us, his sinless perfection, his death on the cross. Our works can only condemn us. The purpose of the law is knowledge of sin.

    With that said I think there is a difference between Woundedego and Kevin DeYoung. Woundedego in his last post went as far as denying that Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for sin, he lacks faith in the promises of the gospel. The same cannot be said for Kevin DeYoung, I sure hope not. I think the problem with Kevin (and many in the Reformed camp today) has to do with a misinterpretation of Romans 6:7 which many orthodox reformed theologians interpret as the punishment for sin being removed, in that the guilt is not imputed, and we are thus free from the penalty of sin. But John Murray reinterpreted this passage as if we have been freed from the power of sin. This is false teaching, since the power of sin remains until we die, the Old Adam, the flesh, or old nature remains until death and strives in this life against the new man or the spirit. Traditional reformed theology taught that we are delivered from the penalty of sin, our sins are forgiven, we are justified freely, we are saved by grace through faith. Good works follow, but they are not necessary in order to be saved, they are not par of salvation , they are not necessary for salvation. So what is the role of good works salvation ? There is no role said the reformers. Good works do follow salvation, they are a consequence of, they are evidence of, they are the fruit of the holy spirit. But we do good works because we have been saved already. But good works cannot add or subtract from our salvation, they are not part of the equation of salvation. Salvation is the free and unmerited remission of sins on account of the merits of Christ, and excludes any good works on our part, it is not conditional on our good works at all..

  2. Bill says:

    And the other error of Kevin DeYoung, beside his interpretation of Romans 6:7 as us having been delivered of the power of sin instead of the penalty of sin exclusively is that he thinks christians are given a new nature that still sins but sins less than before conversion. This also comes from John Murray and many of his followers. The old Reformers used to teach that the old Adam remains in the christian, but the Christian receives the holy spirit. The old Adam can do nothing but sin (even after conversion) but the holy spirit can do nothing but good works, it is impossible for the holy spirit to sin, inasmuch as christians have the holy spirit they are sinless, in as much as they have the Old Adam they are sinful. This is the simul justus et peccator doctrine of Luther, simultaneously just and sinner, something that Kevin DeYoung would deny, he would not affirm that Christians are 100% sinners as Luther affirmed and at the same time 100% saints. For Kevin christians are not sinners and they are not perfect saints either, they have a new nature that sins less than prior to conversion but they still sin. This teaching is nowhere in scripture, where in numerous places affirms that christians are simultaneously sinners and saints (perfect in God’s eyes, without sin).

  3. Bill says:

    You see the power of sin is the law 1 Corinthians 6:7 , so Christ deliverance is forensic, he delivers us from the penalty of sin. This is salvation, it is strictly forensic, but as a result there is not doubt that sin loses its power. Because the power of sin is the law, so Christ’s deliverance has to be forensic. So salvation is exclusively forensic. Now a consequence of of the removal of the penalty of sin by Christ , is that sin will lose its power, this is a for sure thing, even Paul in Romans 7 explains how the law caused sin to increase and arouse all forms of concupiscence in the flesh. So when Christ fulfills the requirements of the law and we are not under the law, i.e. once the penalty for sin has been removed, then sin loses its power, its grip, as well. So there is a renovative aspect, but this is not part of salvation but a consequence of it, because we have been saved (the penalty of sin removed) we can do good works to a certain extent (the power of sin is reduced).

    We can see the same thing in a trial, although the judge renders a forensic non guilty verdict. This verdict has implications in my personal life, now I can walk out of jail, get a passport and leave the country if I want to, get a driver’s license and drive, get a job. None of this was possible without the verdict from the judge. The same with Christ, the non guilty verdict has vast implications such as eternal life, sin losing its power after conversion, adoption, peace with God. Justification is the mother of sanctification, and where justification is preached, sanctification will follow spontaneously with no need to preach about it. On the contrary where sanctification is preached at the expense of justification, we usually lose the gospel and we veer into works righteousness.

  4. Bill says:

    Woundedego: ” The “once and for all sacrifice” was made for himself and the people, not as payment for sin but to create a new and living way to approach God to obtain mercy ”

    So Christ did not satisfy fully , did not make a payment for sin, but “established a new and living way to obtain mercy” ? Talk about pellagianism, I am sorry but Christ did not establish a way so that I can obtain mercy, Christ is the way and Christ has fully satisfied.

    With regard to Kevin DeYoung, he’s dead wrong in that Christ came to take away the corruption or pollution of sin. Christ paid the penalty for sin, took upon himself our sins, took the punishment for our sins. Christ did nothing about the pollution of sin, the pollution of sin will be removed when we are raised with new bodies as Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, this is a future promise but not something that has occurred. The power of sin and the guilt of sin are one and the same, for the power of sin is the law 1 Corinthians 6:7. The power of sin has nothing to do with our pollution or corruption which remains in the christian and Christ did never take away. This false teaching again comes from the wrong interpretation of Romans 6:7 , the bottom line is as Luther taught as far as pollution or corruption the christian remains 100 % sinner. And this pollution or corruption has nothing to do with the power of sin, since we are no longer held accountable for our sins, sin has lost its power 100 %. Sin has been atoned for and paid for, has no power. This is the scriptural teaching. Both Sinclair Ferguson and Anthony Hoekema when they outline the reformed views on sanctifciation on two books that show 5 views on sanctification acknowledge that reformed theologians are split between those that teach that Christ only took away the punishment and penalty for sin (as lutherans teach) and those reformed theologians that teach that Christ also took away the pollution or corruption of sin which of course is false teaching and is what Kevin DeYoung teaches.

  5. Bill says:

    Better would have said that the corruption and pollution of sin has been taken away, we are sinless and perfect, because we have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ Revelation 19:8 . We have been given the robe of righteousness Isaiah 61:10 , and we have been given the best robe , the righteousness of Jesus Christ, Luke 15:22 . So we are perfect and sinless, with zero corruption and zero pollution, but this perfect righteousness is Christ’s imputed to us. There is no way to take away the corruption of our own flesh, our bodies must die, and we need to be raised again, the old man cannot be improved contrary to what Kevin DeYoung teaches. We need an alien righteousness, the righteousness of Christ.

  6. Bill says:

    Bottom line, the pollution or corruption of sin can never be taken away by sinning less. By improving a bit after conversion compared to how we were before conversion. This does not cut it, it is totally unbiblical teaching, lowers the standards of the law so hat man can now meet them. But no, the pollution of sin can only be conquered by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, through a righteousness that is alien. We cannot address the pollution of sin by being less polluted than before, this type of moralism where we measure our performance improvement against the law. has no place in the christian religion. This is the sad thing of those that deny that perfection, and perfection alone God accepts, and this Christ and Christ alone has attained, and is imputed to christians.

  7. Bill says:

    1 Peter 3:21 seals it , the dirt and pollution remains in the christian but he now has a good conscience because he is forgiven all of his past, present, and future sins. We are saved in spite of our filth, not by removing it, but by having a good conscience before god in the presence of our filth. This filth will disappear at our deaths and new bodies will be given without this filth at the resurrection of the body. Can’t wait, can’t even imagine what it will be that I will not be sinning once I get my new body. I am so used to sinning that I cannot imagine how good it will feel not to sin.

    1 Peter 3:21 KJV “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”

  8. WoundedEgo says:

    Bill wrote: “…So Christ did not satisfy fully , did not make a payment for sin, but “established a new and living way to obtain mercy” ? Talk about pellagianism, I am sorry but Christ did not establish a way so that I can obtain mercy, Christ is the way and Christ has fully satisfied….”

    WE: The idea that justice can be served by punishing anyone other than the perpetrator himself is contrary to the declared divine jurisprudence:

    Eze_18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

    I like to expose the folly of “penal substitution” with a story. Once upon a time a man raped a man’s daughter. The man was furious so he said to the rapist, “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you kill my son and we’ll call it even”! How do two wrongs make a right? They don’t. It is absurd on its face.

    And had justice been “satisfied” then how do men still need to become justified (forgiven of their sin) on the basis of faith? Either they have been cleared of responsibility or not.

    No, it is not Jesus who made “payment” for sin (the scriptures never say that) but rather God **forgives** sin “without money and without price”. Sin is a felony, not a misdemeanor.

    So how does Jesus make possible justification by faith? In several ways, but I’ll point to two *scriptural* ways:

    * he justified God for his apparrent failure to punish the wicked:

    Rom 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
    Rom 3:26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

    * he became the “healing serpent” – his death and resurrection becoming the gospel that must be believed in order to be justified on the basis of one’s faith:

    Rom 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
    Rom 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
    Rom 10:11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
    Rom 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
    Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    Joh 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
    Joh 3:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
    Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    Joh 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
    Joh 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

  9. Bill says:

    Well, no Woundedego. God set forth Christ as the propitiation for our sins so that He will be just and the justifier of those who believe in his Son, i.e. trust in his promise of remission of sins in His name. Romans 3:25-26 So God is both just and the justifier in sending his Son. Of course it shows God’s love and mercy as well.

    But my main concern is Kevin DeYoung, he is misleading the flock, the sheep God has given to care. R C Sproul here explains in this short clip that simul justus et peccator is the gospel And in this video, R C Sproul clearly explains the difference between sanctification and glorification. In glorification the apostle Paul will be sinless as Jesus, but in sanctification the apostle Paul is no different from Hitler. No difference whatsoever, they are both sinners. Here’s R C comparing the apostle Paul after conversion to Hitler This proves that there is no difference between the lutheran and reformed when it comes to sanctifiation, and that Kevin DeYoung has abandoned the faith of the Reformers. I am not saying he’s not a christian, but what I am saying is his doctrine of sanctification is not reformed and is the opposite of what R C Sproul and lutheranism teaches. You can watch R C Sproul here

  10. So having the spirit we are new creations going in a different direction to the world yet still experiencing the struggle as we trust in Christ for all that we need for body & soul.

  11. Richard UK says:


    I had been callled away on domestic issues but, having made an intial pass on your posts above, find them very helpful, and hope to get back relatively shortly


  12. Mallo says:

    I like to expose the folly of “penal substitution” with a story. Once upon a time a man raped a man’s daughter. The man was furious so he said to the rapist, Wholesale Snapback Hats “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you kill my son and we’ll call it even”! How do two wrongs make a right? They don’t. It is absurd on its face.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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