Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Setting Your Cornerstone
There are a lot of ways you can build the foundation of counseling. Some like to start with our purpose and go back to Genesis 1:27; still others prefer to jump to 2 Cor. 5:9 and talk about our goal in life being pleasing to God; and still others will lay their cornerstone of counseling on another verse. The point is, all counseling starts with a cornerstone verse and many of them are different facets of the same gem. As an unapologetic Christian Hedonist, the best way to start counseling, the best foundation to build it on is the glory of God.
Defining What We Mean
While each of these verses mentioned above emphasizes a different aspect of the same core truth, I think that the most clearly thought, the most profound, the most central theme that is woven through all scripture is the glory of God. We see the theme of God’s glory from the earliest pages of the Old Testament to the closing of the Canon in the book of Revelation; John Piper and others make this point clear.
When we talk about glory it is essential to know what we mean by the word. It can be one of those words that gets used in sermons, books, and conversation with significant repetition, all the while its meaning is allusive. Taking heed of Piper and others, I define glory as the Public Display of God’s infinite Holiness that results in praise of His name.
This means that everything that has been created, everything that happens, everything that draws breath and was spoken into being by God has one central purpose: to make God look really good, and in seeing that really amazing thing, to praise Him. We see this theme echoed in the opening chapter of Ephesians over and over: “to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14) and we see it elsewhere (Phil. 1:11; 1 Pe. 1:7; etc.)
Counseling normally starts with a person coming in with a problem. They are struggling with depression, argumentation with their spouse, poor parenting, addictions, and so on. The counselor after listening to their story begins to detect where their actions, thoughts, and desires do not line up with the person of Christ. How do we know that your thoughts are evil? Because that is not how Jesus would think. How do we know that your anger was sinful? Because it is not how Christ displays anger. The measure in counseling is Christ, and the goal of counseling is to help persons, by the power of the Holy Spirit, take meaningful and practical steps of being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ (Rom. 8:29).
But as they are transformed into the person of Christ, two things always happen. First, they are significantly happier. The pain, misery, anguish, and suffering that they once experienced evaporate, just as the dew when the sun rises. The more light and heat that are shone, the quicker the dew begins to dry. The second thing that happens as they are transformed is they bring God more and more glory.
Being Like Christ and the Glory of God
Christ is the perfect man, but also the perfect representation of God (Heb. 1:3). Christ did what we all were created to do: He represented God to the world (Gen. 1:27) and in doing so, He gave everyone an accurate and perfect picture of who God is. When a person wants to know God, they never need to look any further than Christ. And now that Christ is ascended, when persons want to get a view of who God is and what He is like, they are to see the little-Christ’s (Christians) who are here on earth. We are, corporately and individually, representing Christ to the world (1 Cor. 12:27).
To the degree then that a person is transformed to the image of Christ, that person will bring God more and more glory (public display of God’s holiness that results in praise). People will see them being transformed and have a better idea of who God is, and that will lead to greater praise and worship.
Connecting the Dots in Counseling
In the counseling room then, what that means is we need to connect the dots for transformation to the person of Christ and to the glory of God. We need our people to see that we are helping them change not just to alleviate the suffering that they feel (for they may be called to a greater and different type of suffering as they are conformed to Christ even as the pain of sin is washed away). We need to help them see that living for the glory of God will give them a greater purpose, the purpose for which they were created. We can do that in a number of ways.
First, you can do it through the regular teaching aspects of counseling. You can teach the principles in counseling, you can assign a book, or even have them watch a sermon/lecture on the glory of God. These are all essential, but not the conclusion of the building project.
Second, you can assign homework that will ensure they understand the concept by asking them to write or ask them to teach these important principles to you. Ask them to write a summary or perform a quick lecture on what it means to live for the glory of God.
Third, you can ask them to give examples this week of how they actually lived for the glory of God. Perhaps they were considering a sinful response to a child and they chose to take a different path, because that path would not make God look good. Or perhaps they did sin, they did look at porn and the way to make God look good is to walk through the path of repentance. Or perhaps it is a new serving endeavor where they will lead a Bible study, help out with maintenance at the church, or some other task, all so that God looks really good and people will praise Him.
The point is, tie your homework and their living it out to the glory of God and your counselee will be able to see their purpose so much clearer in the counseling process. Don’t just settle for putting off and putting on of new habits, thoughts, and desires without first tying them to the central theme of everything: the glory of God.