“Christian Counseling”
AUTHOR: MacArthur Jr., John
PUBLISHED ON: April 8, 2003

The following excerpt is from a message delivered at Grace Community Church
in Panorama City, California, By John MacArthur Jr.  It was transcribed from
the tape, GC 80-94, titled “Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” Part 2.  A copy
of the tape can be obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000,
Panorama City, CA 91412.

I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the
original tape was made.  Please note that at times sentence structure may
appear to vary from accepted English conventions.  This is due primarily to
the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in
placing the correct punctuation in the article.

It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this excerpt to
strengthen and encourage the true Church of Jesus Christ.

                      Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ

                          “Christian Counseling”
                              John MacArthur

I want to share with you a perspective that I have come to understand that I
think is very, very important.  There is afoot today, basically fostered by
the psychological movement within the Church, an effort to cause people to
believe that the path to sanctification is backwards and not forward; that
the process to spirituality and Christian growth and Christian development
isn’t putting on the Lord Jesus Christ now, putting off sin, and living in
the light of the future return of Christ: but the real key to sanctification
is going backwards. 

I was involved in a pastor’s conference–I’ve been involved in, I think,
three or four of them in the last three or four weeks.  In one of them, some
pastors posed the issue to me that sanctification couldn’t begin unless
people could get under the care of some counselor who could dig up the
traumatic hidden things of the past; and only when a person was freed from
these matters in the past could they get on with the present and the future. 

My response to that was, “What verse does it say that in?  Show me where.  I
will be more than happy to ascribe to that if you can show me in the
Scripture.”  And of course there is nothing in the Scripture, other than the
statement by Paul, that says, “forgetting those things that are behind, I
press forward.”  There is nothing on the pages of Scripture anywhere that
tells anyone that their spiritual future is dependent upon their past.  It is
dependent upon their present action with a view to the future, not their
present action with a view to the past.  Psychology may deal with the “old
man” but it can’t deal with the “new man.”  There is nothing to be benefited
by going backwards and trying to uncover something in the past as somehow the
key to unlocking the future.  The key to unlocking the future for you is to
act in the present, to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and to make no provision
for the flesh. 

I hear people say, “But I come from a dysfunctional family.”  Join the human
race!  I come from a dysfunctional family, I conduct a dysfunctional family,
I am a dysfunctional human being, and so are you.  I cannot function the way
God made me to function.  I cannot do what I am supposed to do.  I do what I
don’t want to do, and I don’t do what I want to do–I am dysfunctional!  I
was raised with dysfunctional people.  I still live with dysfunctional
people, and they live with a dysfunctional person.  That’s the way it is if
you are fallen.

You say, “But you don’t understand, I have hidden repressed trauma.”  Let me
talk about that for a moment.  This is a major wave in Evangelical
Christianity, to tell people that the present and the future is dependent
upon uncovering repressed trauma from the past.  This has come to me like a
flood.  Yesterday morning I was in Denver, Colorado, at a pastor’s
conference, and I was having breakfast with a graduate of the Master’s
Seminary.  He said to me, “John, I have to ask you a question.  I have been
acquainted with a girl and she needs some help and I’m wondering how I can
help her.  She has just been going through counseling, and she just found out
that her father molested her when she was a child.  She doesn’t remember it,
but it all came out in counseling.”  This was yesterday. 

Before I left for Denver, Pastor Arnold Ruby came into my office to say that
we just got a phone call from someone in our church who is very concerned and
wants to come in and talk to a pastor immediately, his wife’s been in
counseling and she’s just found out she was molested by her father when she
was a child.  She doesn’t remember it but he needs to come in and learn how
to deal with it Biblically.

That was a few days after I was, last Sunday, dedicating a church in Long
Beach, in the afternoon, after I preached here.  After that, a man came up to
me, whom I have known for many years.  I have known his family.  I have known
them to be godly people.  He’s a man of about 70 years of age.  His wife is a
godly woman, highly esteemed and respected for years in the Christian
community.  [They are] wonderful, precious people, and he told me with a
broken and shattered heart, his wife now in glory for 12 years, he said to
me, “My daughter has just come and accused me of committing incest with her
when she was young and they have destroyed our family.”  I said, “Whatever
brought that up?  Why did they do that?”  And he said, “She went to
counseling and it all supposedly came out in counseling.  It has destroyed
our family.  It is nothing but lies.”  So that’s about three times in one

To add to that I picked up a newspaper which fascinates me no end.  It was
an article out of the Dallas newspaper in their “D Magazine”, which is sent
out to a million people and they do some “cutting edge” journalism.  And I
only want you to focus on this to see the epidemic level of this kind of
thinking.  It’s a story of a girl who, in her early twenties, in the area of
Dallas, tried to bring an indictment against her parents.  She wanted to
indict her parents.  She said that her parents had abused her and she wanted
something brought against them by the courts.  Her father is a Baptist
pastor, has been faithfully serving the Lord with his wife and she and her
brother: two children.  And they were raised in a very normal happy,
positive, joyful family, and he served the Lord in pastoring Baptist churches
for many, many years. 

Now she had come into court and she was accusing him of some quite shocking
things.  Accusing the mother of abuse; accusing the brother of incest and
molestation, accusing the father of molestation from the age of ten on.  Said
that her father got her pregnant at the age of fourteen.  She bore a baby
which the father offered on an altar to Satan.  They had a Satanic altar in
the home and they worshiped Satan.  And she went on beyond that, to talk
about cannibalism and other kinds of things that were going on supposedly in
the home in the life of this Baptist pastor and this family which had so
traumatized her life.  The parents were absolutely devastated, absolutely
shattered.  Of course, he was thrust out of the ministry.  Chaos reigned
supreme in their lives from every possible direction.

According to “D Magazine” they brought the case into court, into a hearing. 
And in the process of trying to develop this thing and find out whether some
charges should be brought against the family, they put the girl through all
kinds of tests, all kinds of witnesses were brought.  The upshot of it was,
the court decided that at the end, that not one single word she said had any
relationship to reality.  Nothing she said was true.  Medical tests on her
indicated that she had never had a relationship with a man.  Furthermore,
people knew the family, lived in the home, intersected in that home because
he was a small church pastor, and there was no such thing as a Satanic altar
in the memory of anybody who had ever known them in all the years of their
ministry.  All the accusations turned out to be untrue. 

Well, obviously, when this hit the public, down in Texas, it became a
curiosity as to where in the world this girl got all this information if it
really didn’t happen.  Where did it all come from?  Those are some pretty
frightening things and it became apparent in the process that she seemed to
believe they were really true.  She wouldn’t speak to her parents.  They are
totally alienated to this very day.  She is still dependent on a particular
counselor.  She will not look at her parents, cannot see her parents.  That
relationship has permanently been destroyed. 

The people at “D Magazine” decided to look a little more deeply into this,
and this is what they uncovered, according to the newspaper (I read the
article and I may have a few of the details wrong from memory, but its going
to be pretty close).  This girl had a little bit of a weight problem, which
is not uncommon in our day, in our society, and was feeling a little bit
like she wouldn’t be able to find the right young man for marriage if she
didn’t deal with it, and so someone suggested (apparently) that if she was
feeling badly about this problem [she should] go to the Christian
Counseling Clinic in Dallas and get some help.  She went there and was
assigned to a particular counselor.  And this particular counselor began to
counsel her and within about a few months, maybe six months, all of this
came out, in this process of counseling.  She didn’t remember any of it,
but he brought it all out and the theory is (and this is Freudian Theory)
that somehow if you have severe trauma in your past, you push it below the
level of memory, and it becomes repressed. 

You don’t remember it consciously, you don’t think about it consciously, but
somehow it’s down there in your “id” (as Freud liked to call it) and it’s
messing up your whole life, even though you don’t consciously remember it. 
And if you are going to get on with life, it has to be regurgitated and you
have to deal with it and so forth.  And of course this is a wonderful ploy
for people who don’t want any responsibility for being the way they are.

I remember flying on an airplane, and a stewardess sitting next to me
“deadheading” somewhere, and she saw me reading the Bible, she said, “Are you
a pastor?”  And I said, “Yes.”  She said, “Do you counsel?”  And I said,
“Sometimes.”  She said, “I am in counseling now (she was not a Christian).” 
She said, “I just got the best news.”  I said, “What?”  She said, “I just
found out my father molested me and abused me.”  I said, “That’s good news?” 
She said, “Yes, because now I know why I am the way I am.” 

If you want to dispossess yourself of any responsibility for being the way
you are, which of course, is contrary to Biblical truth, then you can find
somebody in your past that you can blame for the things that are in your life
that you don’t like.  And so this is a convenient kind of thing.  Well,
anyway, the girl went in and she got the counseling and within six months she
brought this entire barrage of accusations involving Satan worship,
cannibalism, molestation, pregnancy, just a horrendous list, and I haven’t
even given you all of the list. 

How did this happen?  It turned out in court to be absolutely unsubstantiated
and not true.  But where did it come from?  That was the curiosity.  Well,
they started in the investigation, went back and looked at the records of
this particular counselor and found that this was the pattern in the majority
of all the people he counseled, that they had Satanic involvement, occult
involvement, molestation, and these kinds of things.  In other words, if you
go to that counselor, he’s going to find that in your background.  Eventually
the clinic became embarrassed by this and he was terminated.  They went back
further into his record with the Texas State Health Commission (he worked for
the Mental Health Department of Texas), they found the very same pattern in
the people he counseled there.  And what you saw in this situation was a man
creating false memories.  And this is what is happening.  You get vulnerable
people, and I don’t say this in any way to slight women, but I have never
heard of a man having this situation happen.  It is vulnerable women, Paul
even says, “In the latter times there will be women with weak will who will
be led astray,” and one of the characteristics of last time days is going to
be the loss of normal family love, and so we kind of expect to see this. 

But anyway, they take this kind of a person, who is susceptible to suggestion
from an authority figure and they begin, through a process, to create
memories which displace responsibility for iniquity and sin and struggles
in life, put it off on somebody else, [which] develops a hate pattern for
other people, and alienates, and destroys, and devastates, and wipes out
whole families.  It’s a frightening, frightening thing.  Absolutely
frightening, and it is at an epidemic level today.  It’s a frightening
thing because of the power of suggestion. 

“D Magazine” went a little further in the investigation and they decided to
find out whether it is true that people can repress that kind of trauma.  And
so they contacted people with the psychological tests, those who can assess
what people remember and what they don’t.  And all the statistics they got
indicated that every one of those kinds of experiences is precisely the kind
of experience you could never forget no matter how you tried.  You couldn’t
repress it.  You could never repress those things.  If your father molested
you and if incest went on from the age of ten to twenty one–you’re telling
me you could forget that and think you were happy?  And if you were involved
in cannibalism with your own child–you could forget that? 

Listen, you and I well know that we have all kinds of things in our minds
that we would give anything if we could forget, but we can’t!  And God has
given us a memory for the purpose of reminding us how painful that was so we
don’t do it anymore.  What kind of restraint would we have if we could only
remember good things?  So it doesn’t even flesh out in terms of psychological
testing.  This is a very, very, serious matter. 

I saw a book in the Christian bookstore, where I was recently, that said,
“How to Heal Yourself From Your Birthmarks,” your psychological birthmarks. 
You’re born into the world and you’re all warped and wiped out because of
what happened to you in your birth, and in your early childhood, and in your
family, and this tears families to shreds.  It is a frightening, frightening
thing.  It is not Biblical but it is rampant, absolutely rampant in
Christian counseling today.  What grieves me about this is the fact that I
keep running into this all the time–all the time.  I was asked that question
this week in Denver, “Don’t you think that psychology is important in going
back and digging up the past and getting those things healed, those hidden
hurts and traumas, so that somebody can move on to be sanctified?”  I said,
“Are you saying basically that the Holy Spirit can sanctify you if you can
find a good psychologist to get you ‘Jump Started’?  Are you saying that
somehow the Holy Spirit can’t deal with the present and the future until
somebody else deals with the past?” 

This is foreign to Scripture.  It is destructive, because the only way you’ll
ever be honestly dealing with your own sin is not to go in the past and have
somebody create false memories, not to go into the past and find somebody to
blame for your problem, but take responsibility for where you are and begin
to act on the principles of what this text [Romans 13:11-14] says.  It’s
amazing how we can create memories.  In that kind of a situation with people
reinforcing, you can literally create something into a reality that isn’t
real at all.  This is devastating, because it doesn’t deal with a person’s
life where they are, and it tears up families.  It’s another false path to
sanctification that ends up in pain and confusion and hurt, and accomplishes
absolutely nothing. 

If you want to get your Christian life together, don’t go back, leave that
alone.  You can’t fix it.  Right?  And don’t let somebody create phony
memories of what you can’t remember.  You start where you are.

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