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"Christian Counseling"

Written by: MacArthur Jr., John    Posted on: 04/08/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

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"                                     by                               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 week. 

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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