Non-Gospel Driven Spiritual Growth

We Biblical Counselors are all about growth and change. It is our goal to help our counselee's and those we disciple to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ as they live this life. We have lots of nifty tools and charts and homework assignments to give to our counselee's all in the name of "change." Unfortunately, what can happen is the person simply begins to perform outwardly and does not experience change in the inner man. This can happen when our approach is not centered in the gospel for every day life.
In the arena of non-gospel oriented growth- we see the performance based Christian. For years I was trapped here, and I was very glad to see men like John Piper, and Jerry Bridges beginning to cry out against it.
I doubt if anyone sets out to not be gospel centered, but it happens anyway. We know they exist because some of our new counselee's that come have previously been told things like, if you are going to be truly be a committed and growing Christian you will live your life by a certain set of rules that are considered acceptable.
Granted, early in our Christian lives we are taught things like church attendance, the ability to overcome a certain sin, or to sin less are to take place. As we grow the stakes get higher and become more involved. These would be things like having a daily quiet time, a prayer closet, serving on various committees, and leading a Bible study or small group. It is expected that we are you able to conquer old sin habits.
Is your life being blessed? Then it is because you are doing it all right, or close enough to right that God is pleased with you. If you are not being blessed it is because you still struggle or are not doing it all well enough and God is not pleased with you. Have you heard this before? I have!
This is a belief that earns or forfeits the blessings of God by how well and how often we succeed at living the Christian life! Can you see how this sets a person up to be extremely self-righteous? I once had a conversation with a woman who was calling into question her husband’s salvation, and she used the back pages of her study Bible that had a list of how to know someone was Spirit-filled. She took the page to heart on evidence of a believer and literally made a check- list about her husband, and he came up lacking in her book. She judged him to be an unbeliever!
She could not, would not see her own self-righteous pride, or any of her other sinful thoughts, beliefs, or desires. She would not admit to any major sins, and figured that as long as she was following the list she was fine. She forgot she needed the gospel!
Folks who are perfect and acting in all the right ways don’t need the gospel anymore. In many ways they set themselves up as superior to the rest of us and sinfully think in their hearts they are more spiritual and holier than the rest of the unwashed masses.
It doesn’t have to be to that extreme though. Many who struggle with growth that is not gospel-driven practice the spiritual disciplines; they do try and work on their heart issues and sin areas. They recognize that they are lacking and inconsistent in all those areas, so they live with an ongoing sense of guilt at their failure to perform. Their thought track is something like, “After all God has done for me, how I can I be such a failure?” “I owe God for all He did for me.”
They also live with a sense of never measuring up because their flesh is still very strong. They are constantly measuring themselves against themselves, and coming up short. They are not meeting their own expectations as Christians and believe that God is displeased with them; they are out of fellowship with Him, not walking rightly, and so on. There is little to no joy in the life of a person driven like this. Life is lived on the performance treadmill and they are never quite able to keep up.
This leads to sorrow, hopelessness, fear, anxiety, worry, and a host of other issues. As a Biblical Counselor/Discipler I try not to make more issues for my counselee's to deal with than those they came with! My goal is to help them understand how to glorify God by how they live their life. I want to help them to know Jesus more than they did prior to coming to see me, and I want them to be renewed in the spirit of their mind (Rom 12:1-2).
I point them to Christ and nothing more than the truth found in His Word. I point them to Calvary and the cross. We will pick up there next time.