Friday, October 6, 2017

Book Review: Counseling Under the Cross

Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life
What does a man do when he encounters the grace of God and finds peace with God? In Counseling Under the Cross, Bob Kellemen introduces us to Martin Luther and shows us how he learned to apply the Gospel to daily life. Initially, "Luther had attempted to care for his soul through his own wisdom and it earned him nothing but despair. Only as Luther clung to the sufficiency of Christ and Scripture did he find peace for his troubled soul" (pg. 25). Kellemen relates how God used His people and His Word to open Luther's eyes to the Christ of the cross, transforming him into a man whom God would use to minister His Word to others.

If you have read any of Bob Kellemen's works, then you likely know of the significant influence that Luther has had on him and will recognize the lens through which he views Luther's counseling. Through Luther's writings, Kellemen illustrates his four biblical compass points to speak gospel truth in love, what Kellemen refers to as "gospel conversations," compass points which Kellemen would contend were derived directly from Luther's works. In a fresh way, Counseling Under the Cross demonstrates that:

“Changed lives occur as we apply Christ’s changeless truth to help suffering people know that it’s normal to hurt (sustaining) and possible to hope (healing), and as we help sinning people to know that it’s horrible to sin but wonderful to be forgiven (reconciling), and supernatural to mature (guiding)” (Robert Kellemen, Equipping Counselors for Your Church, pg. 65).

According to Kellemen, "...Luther's counseling followed the historic focus of pastoral soul care and spiritual direction...[that] dealt with the evils we have suffered in a fallen world and with the sins we have committed" (pg. 40). This pastoral concern of Luther's became the spark that ignited the Reformation making this work a timely gift in light of the upcoming 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Kellemen demonstrates how the: "'Sufficiency of Scripture' is the heartbeat of the Reformation. God's Word is sufficient, authoritative, and profoundly relevant for all of life and all of ministry" (pg. 221).

Counseling Under the Cross is well-documented and includes many quotes from Luther's letters, sermons, table talks, and other writings. While at times, Kellemen's terminology may seem cumbersome, his message is faithful to God's Word, centered on the Gospel, and provides useful categories for ministering the Word to others. Each chapter concludes with a "tweet-sized" summary for review, and the entire book wraps up with a call to make application from what we've learned. Kellemen shows how he has spent that last two decades of his ministry standing on the shoulders of a faithful brother who has gone before us. The thoughtfully selected quotes in Counseling Under the Cross are like flowers plucked out of books that will likely lead many readers to the garden of Luther's works in the future.** May we all continue to minister the Word to our brothers and sisters who are suffering, fighting sin, and seeking to grow in holiness, standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us just as Dr. Kellemen has done with Luther.

If you'd like a taste of the content that you can expect to find in the book, Dr. Kellemen has put together an edifying PowerPoint presentation.

You may also be interested in these related book reviews: Gospel Conversations, Equipping Counselors for Your Church, and Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling.

*Many thanks to New Growth Press and Litfuse Publicity Group for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

**(Many thanks to Aimee Byrd for introducing me to Hannah More's  excellent analogy through her book, "No Little Women". In it, Aimee Byrd writes: "One of the best treasure troves is the footnotes of the book you are reading. Authors pluck flowers out of books that will hopefully lead you to the garden they came from!" -- pg. 212.)

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