"Physicians of No Value"

Recent experiences have pressed upon the writer of this article the conviction that there is a kind of religious counseling that profits but little, being worth about as much as the barren and desolate advice offered by the scribes and Pharisees of by­gone days. We need to beware of it, lest it be said of us as was said to Job's well-meaning counselors, "But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value" (Job 13:4).

DAVID SIBLEY, President, Trans-Tasman Union, Australasian Division

When Jesus asked Nico­demus "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" (John 3:10), He was raising a question that needs to be asked again to­day. Here was a member of the Sanhedrin, a prominent churchman, one who had taken it upon himself to guide others in the way of right­eousness, yet not sure of that way himself. Nicodemus, no doubt, had an inner con­flict, and in that state was of little profit in the service of God. The Great Physician pointed to the only known specific for the cure of sin and for lasting peace when He said, "Ye must be born again" (verse 7). Masters in Israel, publicans and sinners, and all the world "guilty before God" may find peace and assurance only by regener­ation through Him who said to Nicodemus, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (verse 14). There was no other way back there, and there is no other way down here in these last days.

Recent experiences have pressed upon the writer of this article the conviction that there is a kind of religious counseling that profits but little, being worth about as much as the barren and desolate advice offered by the scribes and Pharisees of by­gone days. We need to beware of it, lest it be said of us as was said to Job's well-meaning counselors, "But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value" (Job 13:4).

What was it that caused the saintly Moses to have that brazen serpent molded and then raised high among a religious people? Was it not the conflict that came from their continual backsliding and re­fusal to surrender wholly to God? Failing to see the real cause of their misery, the people blamed God and murmured against Him. But "the curse causeless shall not come." The wise counselor will realize that sin in some form or other, even if it be but a failure to truly trust God, lies at the root of most human distress. It was the Lord who sent that affliction upon Israel, for we read in Numbers 21:6, "And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died." The purpose of the pain and dread that afflicted Israel was that they might see their sin and look to Him through whose fullness the human soul should find its sat­isfactions and peace. It was when the Israelites confessed their own carnality and cried out, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord" (Num. 21:7, 8), and then, as instructed, looked upon the brazen serpent that they were saved.

And our age, given up to rebellion against God, with men everywhere fearing the Lord and serving "their own gods," is cer­tainly crawling with the vipers of deadly sin, which sooner or later drive men in panic to find peace and healing they know not where. It took the sting of vipers to drive men to the Healer back there, and it takes the sting of sin to drive conscience-scourged men today to cry out for the peace this world cannot give nor take away. Surely our business is to clearly diagnose the symptoms, and refusing to leave men with a psychoanalysis and mere talk of how to conquer self by the control of one's mind, point them to Him who said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32).

True, men need to examine themselves, and be taught to think on "whatsoever things are of good report," and we should be thankful for the newer studies of the human mind, which in many ways help us, but we must beware of anything that would be of a substitutionary nature when it is the old-fashioned or "everlast­ing" gospel that is needed. When bitten by sin "it is His great work that saves us. It is not try, but trust." If we fail to lift up Christ in a way that will attract, so that sinners do not "look," they shall not "live." If autosuggestion is in any way substituted for His grace and power, then in days of distress, when physical strength burns low and the mind is weary, failure and despair will take over the reins.

Some time ago two church members whose business partnership was going to pieces asked counsel of me. They were in a great conflict and each arranged to settle matters by litigation. Each could point to the unfairness and dishonesty of his brother, and it would have been easy to have taken sides and endeavored to ar­range a patched-up settlement. Both were fundamentally good men, but they had brought themselves to that place where their Christian experience was in danger. It was only after prayer and the solid testi­mony of the gospel in the lifting up of Christ that these men decided that the peace of Christ was worth more than ma­terial possessions. Seeing themselves in the light of His cross, they decided to do right though the heavens should fall, and they went off with peace and assurance in their hearts.

A woman who left her husband on sev­eral occasions came seeking the church's seal on her decision to divorce him. True, she had been having a bad time, and her husband was not a worthy example, but the case for divorce was not clear, and it was not until after she had suffered a break­down, being thoroughly subdued by her miseries, that she realized that it was Christ she needed more than release from her husband. She saw herself as she really was, took Christ anew, entered into peace, and finished by saying, "I am going back to face whatever the future holds, and I know that I now have the inner strength to do it."

How many there are today in the church, and out of it, who live in a state of un­easy truce, not fully sharing the blessing of God, because of living in doubt as to the earthly arrangements they have made for their own peace and happiness. Our world today has a multitude of teachers who name the name of Christ, but go about dispensing mind cures for the people. They urge them to "look for the beautiful" until it is found, and then to "hold the thought." "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8).

In all our counseling we must mark well five simple basic facts if our teaching is to bring lasting peace and be unto the praise of God:

  1. Men need to see themselves in the light of truth, and unless we share largely in the blessing of the Holy Spirit, we shall fail, for it is written, "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you. . . . And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:7, 8).
  2. Whether in saint or sinner it is sin that separates from God and causes Him to hide His face from us. "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isa. 59:2). "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Ps. 66:18).
  3. There can be no lasting peace, how­ever well trained the mind may be in men­tal therapeutics or how strong it may be in self-discipline, without the confessing and forsaking of sin. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy" (Prov. 28:13). "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55:7).
  4. "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding" is not something that is worked up from within or perfected by a shrewd exercise of the mind, it is the gift of God and a fruit of His Spirit. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffer­ing, gentleness, goodness, faith" (Gal. 5: 22).
  5. Such peace is maintained by looking unto Him and by a life of obedience. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlast­ing strength" (Isa. 26:5,4). "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea" (Isa. 48:18).

In an age of philosophical cunning, the mighty apostle Paul learned to beware of the sophistries of his time, and to depend on the preaching of the simple gospel in the spirit and power of Christ, so that God could work His change-making marvels in both Jew and Greek. He exclaimed, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth" (Rom. 1:16).

Yes, "he is our peace." Let us lift Him up, and if in so doing we find that men are not drawn unto Him, should we not our­selves "weep between the porch and the altar" until we can say, "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demon­stration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:4, 5). In a time of pseudo religion God declares that He will have a church that will have the "everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6). This church will gather out a host who will "be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless," and "waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." This is our work. May God make us sufficient for it.

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DAVID SIBLEY, President, Trans-Tasman Union, Australasian Division

July 1962

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