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Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

"A triumph of a maturing biblical counseling movement. Elyse Fitzpatrick, a counselor with uncommon insight into common problems, teams with Dennis Johnson, a seminary professor with a firm fix on justification and the centrality of the gospel, … see full wiki

Author: Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
Genre: Religion & Spirituality
Publisher: Crossway Books
1 review about Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken...

Changing Lives with Christ's Changeless Truth

  • Nov 13, 2009
Counsel from the Cross is the next generation text for Christian counselors and the next generation manual for Christian living for believers. This book excels at explaining the connection between the Christian gospel and Christian counseling.

Authors Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson state in their preface that they want to lay before their readers the provocative claim that "the cross of Christ and the gospel that proclaim it really are `the power of God for salvation [comprehensive rescue] to everyone who believes' (Rom. 1:16." Their book Counsel from the Cross engagingly demonstrates that in the cross lies the power to liberate hearts and to instill hope. Thankfully, they have the audacity to believe that change can actually happen--because of what Christ has already done.

Paul Tripp gets it right in his back-cover recommendation when he says the book is "a triumph of a maturing biblical counseling movement." At times, the modern biblical counseling movement has been good at communicating, "It's horrible to sin," but not always as good at communicating, "It's wonderful to be forgiven." Fitzpatrick and Johnson understand the truth of Romans 5:20 that where sin abounds, grace super-abounds. They understand our guilt before a holy God and our salvation from a loving God. As they beautifully state it, "The cross declares that we are loved with an intensity that defies our capacity to comprehend, not because we are intrinsically lovable but because God is intrinsically love."

The authors rightfully claim and artfully present throughout their book that "in the cross of Christ and in the surprising combination of ego-smashing humility and despair-smashing confidence . . . lies the power to set struggling people free." In this, they follow the ancient Puritan arts of loading the conscience with guilt and of lightening the conscience with grace. They follow the principle of historic reconciliation that combines the truths that "it's horrible to sin, and wonderful to be forgiven."

Here's the profound truth communicated in Counsel from the Cross. "We believe that when God the Creator provides a cure-all, it really cures all." Fitzpatrick and Johnson are convinced that "this reality is profoundly relevant to the way Christian counselors address the struggles of those who come to them for help."

Upon this foundation, the authors send the following invitation to their readers. "So we invite you to join us in a venture of exploration to discover the power to defeat sin and sadness, conflict and bitterness, and self-pity and self-contempt, not by walking beyond the gospel that first brought us into the favor and family of God but rather by moving more deeply into that same gospel."

Martin Luther based his ministry of spiritual consolation and spiritual direction upon the truth that "sanctification is the art of getting used to our justification." Fitzpatrick and Johnson similarly believe that the truth of our acceptance before God by Christ's righteousness alone must be made practical as we live our everyday lives. They say it so memorably. "We become people who ask WWJD (What would Jesus do?) without ever considering the gospel or WDJD (What did Jesus do?). They add: "We naively press the gospel out to the margins of our faith because we have never really been taught how it's meant to connect with our daily lives."

In the spirit of the book's entire message of applying truth to life, Fitzpatrick and Johnson include in each chapter personal illustrations, counseling vignettes, and real-life narratives. They also conclude each chapter with a built-in discussion/application guide aptly labeled Pursuing Counsel from the Cross. Their questions are carefully crafted to engage readers in personalizing the truths in each chapter by applying them to their lives and ministries.

Counsel from the Cross is a refreshing, nourishing, and nurturing examination of what makes biblical counseling truly biblical and what makes Christian living truly Christian. Pastors, counselors, educators, and students would all do well to build their ministries upon this model. As believers, we would all do well to build our lives upon the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ--as explained in Counsel from the Cross.

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