Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers understand what spiritual warfare is, strategies to engage biblically in spiritual warfare, and how to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.
It was one of the scariest moments of prayer I have ever had. A young woman in our congregation expressed to me that she was being harassed with blasphemous thoughts every time she read the Bible to her son. I was concerned that she might be experiencing demonic oppression and so our pastoral team gathered to pray over her. It was a time of praying for the power of the Spirit of God, and yet I was very much aware of spiritual realities that were beyond my control. It was a somewhat terrifying experience.
Whenever people ask me if spiritual warfare is a real thing I think about that time of prayer. These dramatic demonstrations, however, are far less common for the majority of believers. Spiritual warfare is far more subtle and routine.
A Brief Look at 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 and Ephesians 6:10-18
The Scriptures speak frequently about the routine nature of spiritual warfare in the life of the believer. The whole of the Christian life is referred to as a battle in the New Testament. Perhaps the clearest description of this reality is from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He writes:
Ephesians 6:10-13, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
Notice that Paul says several important things about our spiritual war in this text. He establishes that the devil has schemes, that we wrestle, and that we have God on our side.
First, he establishes that the devil has schemes. The devil is planning and launching a strategy to attack believers. He does this primarily in one of two ways: (1) temptation, and (2) accusation. Satan works first to tempt us with sin. He convinces us that what we want he can provide. In these moments he is hiding from us the holiness of God, telling us like he told Eve “God won’t really care if you disobey.” At other times, however, Satan works to accuse us. He uses this tactic to hide from us the love of God. In these moments he reminds us of our sin, tell us we can’t be forgiven, we can’t change, and he leaves us defeated and discouraged. Both tactics are highly effective and can work in tandem. Both schemes are lies, and we need to be able to spot them when he throws such fiery darts at us.
If we can spot Satan’s schemes then we are better prepared for the wrestling part of our spiritual warfare. That’s what Paul calls it, “wrestling.” We wrestle against the spiritual forces of evil. This is depicted in Scripture often as a mental struggle. That is to say, since what we believe often drives how we live Paul calls us to battle against sinful arguments that would attempt to shield us from the true knowledge of God and His will. So in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 Paul writes:
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
Spiritual warfare often looks like fighting tempting thoughts in our mind, sinful deceits that come to us, and convince us to disobey God. In the Corinthian passage, the focus is on the arguments of false teachers, but often in our own lives, we are feeding ourselves false teachings. Satan is offering them up to us like he did with Eve, and we are eating the fruit again and again. Resisting such alluring thoughts, refusing to entertain them, is not easy! That is most assuredly a battle. I recall one young lady I counseled years ago who struggled with compulsive tendencies. She told me honestly in a session once that saying no to the sinful thoughts in her head when they arose was so painful that sometimes it made her sick to her stomach. It is hard to wrestle, to battle temptation in our minds.
Satan plays too on our emotions, our relationships, and our physical nature. We need to recognize the ways in which Satan can use all these common things to deceive us, manipulate us, and tempt us to bite the hook of some false teaching. We need to wrestle against such temptation. The encouragement Paul gives us in this battle is found in his references to the “armor of God.” We do not fight alone, we fight, indeed we can “stand firm” if we put on the “full armor of God.”
What does this look like? Ephesians 6:14-18 outlines the pieces of this armor:
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
Truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, Scripture, and prayer, these are the elements of our armor. This is how we defend ourselves against Satan’s attack. These elements are direct responses to Satan’s attacks. Satan tempts us to believe lies, so we need to preach truth to ourselves. He teaches us to substitute our own righteousness for that of Christ’s, but you and I have no righteousness. Meditate on the gospel, fight against self-righteousness. The devil tempts us to disbelieve God, we need to cling to faith. The devil seeks to distract us from evangelism and prayer. We need to be actively involved in these disciplines. Spiritual warfare often means doing the normal activities of the Christian life. Most significantly it means studying the Word of God which is the only offensive weapon we have. We fight against Satan by knowing God’s Word well.
There are other passages that support the reality of spiritual warfare too. Peter warns us that our enemy roams around like a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Paul describes his thorn in the flesh as a messenger of Satan, sent to torment him (2 Cor. 12:7). James too warns us to that we should “resist the devil” (James 4:7). Such warnings come because Satan attacks believers.
Some Final Thoughts
Most people think of spiritual warfare in a more elaborate and dramatic fashion. They think of spiritual warfare in terms of identifying, naming, and “binding” territorial spirits. There is simply no Biblical evidence to support such a theology. The often cited Daniel chapter 10 does make a connection between the demons and territories, but there is no Biblical guide to naming, confronting, and “binding” such spirits. The truth is that Satan’s attacks are far more subtle than we often think. He has had such great success working through our own temptations, struggles, and thoughts that he doesn’t need big demonstrations of power in our lives. There are instances, no doubt, of dramatic demonic presence. I know many people who have witnessed first-hand the supernatural evil of which Satan is capable: demon possession and demon oppression. I am still unnerved when I think about that prayer from our previous church. Most of us, however, will encounter far more subtle attacks from our enemy. That’s where the real wrestling happens, and we should be prepared for it by dressing in the armor of God.
Satan loves for us to go to extremes. So if we can either become obsessed with Satan or ignorant of Satan he considers that a victory. Some people know that spiritual warfare is real and they see Satan behind every flat tire, lost set of keys, and bout of the flu. This is not a healthy perspective. When we do this we give the devil too much credit. We must remember who the real sovereign Lord is; Jesus is on His throne, not in His tomb! He is Lord and He sovereignly directs the events and details of our lives. We can trust Him. Remember that it was pride which caused Satan to fall from heaven, he loves the attention. Don’t give him more than he deserves!
On the other hand, we should not be ignorant of Satan’s schemes and devices (2 Cor. 2:11). There are some who are living as though this life is a season of peace. We are at war, and we ought to dress for action and ready ourselves for wrestling. To be ignorant is to surrender. Don’t give Satan more credit than he deserves, but don’t pretend that he isn’t real. He is prowling around like a lion, be on your guard.
Spiritual warfare is a real thing, but it is far less dramatic for most of us than we think. For most of us spiritual warfare will look routine and commonplace. It will look like resisting sinful thoughts, committing to plodding obedience, and studying Scripture. Such an approach to routine attacks will better serve us when we do see the dramatic.
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John Knox was born in Haddington, c. 1514, though admittedly there is some debate on the exact date. We do know that Knox was born into a poorer family with not a lot of resources. Upon completion (another point of historical contention) of University in 1536, Knox was ordained as a priest. By 1543 he was converted to Christ after a couple of years working as a tutor and notary. While not much is known regarding the context of his conversion, so began the journey of the man who would thunder the gospel in a dark Scotland.
As a pastor, I am intrigued by the life of John Knox and taken back by the trials he persevered through. For example, in 1546, the French took the castle at St. Andrews and the aftermath led to Knox’s enslavement for 19 months. Yet Knox persevered. Eventually he went back to England to preach the gospel during one of the more difficult times of English history.
While history is undoubtedly under the control of the sovereignty of God, Knox would contend with both the religious establishment (fighting against Anglican formalism in worship and Roman Catholicism) as well as the civil establishment. The latter contention would escalate when in 1553, Mary Tudor (“Blood Mary”) would rise to power after King Edward VI died. Knox lived in a time of political uncertainty—something we can learn from indeed.
As God would have it, Knox fled to Geneva in 1554 where he developed a friendship with John Calvin. Knox would visit Geneva several times, but in 1559 returned to Scotland to pastor at St. Giles, Edinburgh. From there Knox wrote, taught, preached, and fought for the gospel, eventually dying in 1572. You can find his grave underneath a parking lot at St. Giles Church today.
Power of Prayer
It is said that Mary, Queen of the Scots, feared the prayers of John Knox more than the assembled armies of Europe. Though weak in stature, the Reformer was a man broken before the Lord. He was a humble man who trusted not in himself but in the greatness of God. Prayer is a sure and steady sign that reads, “God is really great and powerful, I am not.” Knox was this type of man.
From his rough childhood, run-ins with various Cardinals and Bishops, to his time in captivity and on the run—Knox knew that in the midst of all these circumstances that he had to commit himself to the Lord. And what better way is there to do so than through communion with him in prayer? A humbled soul is a prayerful soul.
Perhaps one of the most telling aspects of Knox’s prayer life was his ability to pray in defense of the gospel and pray for his enemies. A prayer for Queen Mary is worth noting,
Behold our troubles and apparent destruction, and stay the sword of the thy vengeance before it devour us. Place above us, O Lord, for thy great mercies’ sake, such a head, with such rulers and magistrates, as fear thy name, and will the glory of Christ Jesus to spread. Take not from us the light of thy Evangel, and suffer no papistry to prevail in this realm. Illuminate the heart of our sovereign lady, Queen Mary, with pregnant gifts of thy Holy Ghost, and inflame the hearts of her counsel with thy true fear and love.
The prayers of John Knox were answered no different than our prayers today. In some circumstances, the Lord grants our requests according to his sovereign will. In other cases, the prayer is not answered. Either way, our God is the Lord and he knows what is best.
The power of prayer lies not within the sinner but the Savior. Getting this order right for discipleship is crucial. The disciple of Jesus is to be a man committed solely to the glory of God through a prayer life marked by a humble posture and persevering spirit. Such was the great Scottish Reformer.
Necessity of Conviction
John Knox was man with conviction running through his veins. Much like the Apostle Paul who “[proclaimed] the kingdom of God and [taught] about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance,” Knox believed in both the grace and severity of God. His prayers, preaching, writing, and actions all aligned in such a way as to demonstrate the reality that conviction is necessary if reformation is desired.
Perhaps one of my favorite pictures in history is a painting of John Knox preaching before Queen Mary and her council that was drafted in such a way as to demonstrate the conviction that poured through the life of Knox. Towering in the pulpit above the crowd, Knox thundered the gospel to the magistrates present. As D. Martin Lloyd-Jones has pointed out, Knox was a man with “astounding energy,” “shrewdness,” and “courage.” His ability to discern, press on, and courageously preach the gospel was rooted in his conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that his crown rights must be acknowledged by all nations, especially his beloved Scotland.
Knox saw compromise and darkness in his homeland. It was in poor condition and immersed in moral decadence. What is someone to do in a situation like this? Have conviction. The world could use more conviction. For disciples of Jesus, conviction is a prerequisite, which is why Paul told Titus that an elder “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). Disciples who make disciples must be men and women who are committed to standing on the truth of God’s Word convicted to the deepest parts of our souls that Christ is King and that his gospel is sufficient. Nothing short of all-out commitment to raising the banner of Chris twould suffice.
Priority of Preaching
At one point in Knox’s young life, he didn’t want to preach. In fact, when he was confronted about this issue, it is said that he left the room in tears, buckling under the weight of the task. For Knox, preaching was an incredibly large task, not because the preacher was anything special, but because the message was so precious.
During Knox’s young life, preaching wasn’t the focus in the Roman Catholic Church. After his conversion, his chaplaincy at St. Andrews proved an opportunity for him to teach. Knox feared the pulpit, but not because the message wasn’t powerful to transform, or because he could never do it—no, the fear was the weight of its importance. It was of utmost importance which meant it must be done soberly.
His zeal for the gospel led to his power in the pulpit. Like a man wielding a sword in battle, so was Knox in the pulpit with the Bible. He didn’t shy away from cutting through the stone hearts of people with the truth of the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God and offering those same sinners hope in the gospel. Christ was the focus of his preaching because Christ was the focus of his life.
“When Knox stepped into the pulpit to preach the Word of God, he opened with a half hour of calm exposition of the text before him. Thereafter, he became more vigorous.” The Bible was a priority for Knox because the gospel was the priority of the church. It was this prioritizing of the gospel that fueled the fire that came from Knox. That fire led to the Spirit of God working in the lives of many people.
As disciples, we must commit ourselves to preaching. Like Knox, we must see it as the priority because God uses the foolishness of ourselves and the cross as the means by which He saves sinners. Knox’s example here is worth our consideration. Do we truly value preaching? Are we humble in our approach to this daunting task? Do we really believe that the preaching of God’s word is enough?
Need for Perseverance
We are in desperate need of perseverance. Some say desperate times call for desperate measures—we might say desperate times call for faithful measures. Without perseverance, which is a repeated theme throughout Scripture, discipleship falls flat.
The life of John Knox briefly outlined above demonstrates quite clearly that 1) Most of us haven’t walked through the things he did, and 2) We have no excuse for choosing to abandon the mission of God. Knox trusted in the sovereignty of God believing that God writes the story of history and He does so with us as His characters. He had a big God and big theology to boot. No doubt there were times of deep sorrow for the great Reformer—indeed there are plenty of times of sorrow for each of us!—but let us learn this last thing from Knox: Perseverance is water we drink during the times of seemingly unending fiery trials.
Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus endured for us so we in turn endure because of and for him. He gives strength. He gives wisdom. He gives conviction. He gives courage. He gives righteousness. Christ gives hope. Oh how prone we are to wander! God, grant your servants an unending supply of perseverance!
Follow Knox As He Follows Christ
Knox is a man worth emulating. While no stranger to controversy, Knox was committed to the Kingdom of God first and foremost. Like today’s culture, Scotland was a religious wasteland. Everyone did whatever was right in his own eyes. Knox reformed Scotland because the gospel light was dim. Though several hundreds years from our context, we can learn a lot from Knox. Knox had a sense of urgency—to make the gospel known everywhere. That, after all, is the heart of a disciple.
We don’t look to John Knox because he was great in and of himself. We don’t look to John Knox, we look to Jesus Christ, the King who John Knox served. We learn from this humble servant of history how to follow someone who is following Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). May the Church in America never lose hope, but instead cling so dearly to the gospel of King Jesus that John Knox so fervently clung to.
 John Knox, The Select Practical Writings of John Knox (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2011), 25.
 Acts 28:31, emphasis mine.
 See: D. M. Lloyd-Jones and Iain H. Murray, John Knox and the Reformation (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2011).
 Douglas Bond, The Mighty Weakness of John Knox (Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2011), 55.
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Podcast (equipping-you-in-grace): Play in new window
In this first episode of Equipping You in Grace, Dave Jenkins and Jason Garwood talk about what an abortion is, how to speak about social issues, and the gospel and abortion.
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Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers understand what spiritual warfare is, strategies to engage biblically in spiritual warfare, and how to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 4, Jesus is confronted by Satan in the desert. In this story, we learn how Jesus used Scripture in spiritual warfare against Satan. Today, I want us to look at Matthew 4:1-11. This temptation is an attempt by Satan to subvert God’s plan for human redemption by causing Jesus to fall into sin and disobedience and thus disqualify Him as the sinless Savior.
Matthew 4:1 says that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit guided Jesus in His earthly life, providing a pattern for His followers to be empowered and led by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-18). The Greek word for tempted (perirazo) can also mean test. While God never tempts anyone to do evil (James 1:13); He does use circumstances of all types to test a person’s character (Hebrews 11:17). Diablos (Greek, meaning slander, or accuser) is here preceded by the definite article to indicate the one who tempts. Although the devil intended to thwart God’s plan and purposes; the Father uses this evil intention for the good purpose of strengthening Jesus in His messianic role.
Jesus fasted “forty days and forty nights” according to Matthew 4:2. Jesus’ experience of 40 days of fasting in the wilderness corresponds to Israel’s experience of 40 years of testing in the wilderness (Deut 8:2-3). Jesus endured His testing victoriously and obediently. Moses also fasted and prayed for 40 days and nights on two occasions (Ex. 24:18, 24:28). Fasting was a means of focusing intently on prayer. Forty days is also about the longest a human can fast without permanent bodily harm.
Verse 3 in Matthew 4 says, “If you are the Son of God.” Jesus was and is the Son of God, but He refused to be tricked by the devil into using His divine prerogatives to make the trial any easier for Himself. Jesus obeyed as a man; as the representative for all who believe so as to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15) on behalf of His people. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said “It is written.” Jesus responds to each temptation by quoting from Deuteronomy; linking His experience to Israel’s in the desert. In Deut. 8:2, Moses remains the Israelites of God’s testing through hunger and his miraculous provision of manna.
The holy city is Jerusalem and the pinnacle of the temple is the southeast corner of the temple area, the top of, which was some 300 feet above the floor of the Kidron Valley (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 15.411-412). The devil’s use of Matthew 4:6-7, a quotation from Psalm 91 is a blatant misuse of Scripture, and is used by Satan in an effort to manipulate Jesus. Such a spectacular display as jumping from this great height unharmed would have gained Him an enthusiastic following but it wouldn’t have followed the Father’s messianic and redemptive plan of suffering and proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven.
Satan tells Jesus in Matthew 4:9 to “fall down and worship me.” The devil offers a shortcut to Jesus’ future reign in God’s kingdom— a shortcut that would side-steps Jesus’ redemptive work on the Cross and come at the cost of exchanging the love of the Father for the worship of Satan. Satan’s words, “All these I will give you” is a lie.
Matthew 4:11 records that the “devil left him.” Jesus resisted the devil by standing firm on God’s word setting an example for His followers. Angels cane and were ministering to Him and their ministering included much needed physical sustenance. All of heaven knew the significance of Jesus’ initial victory in this cosmic battle.
What We Can Learn from Matthew 4:1-11
The main lesson we learn from this passage is Jesus use of Scripture in battling Satan. As noted above, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy in order to fight against Satan. The believer must study to show him or herself approved as a workman not ashamed, but able to handle and interpret the Word of God with precision and great care. Jesus quotes Scripture and says “It is written” three times. How do you fight against sin and temptation? Do you quote Scripture related to your specific temptation and struggle against sin? Or do you rely on yourself? Jesus gives His disciples an example of One who fought against sin and Satan by quoting Scripture.
After quoting Scripture four times, Matthew 4:11 says that “the devil left him.” James 4:7 and 1 Peter 5:8 are instructive for believers because they teach the importance of humility and submission to God. The believer who rests in the finished work of Christ will be able to fight against sin and temptation, and make much of Him in and through their lives. The only way that the believer in Christ can ward off Satan’s accusations and attacks is to go back to who they already are in Him. This means that as the believer grow in Christ they increasingly grow in the knowledge of who they already are in Him—adopted, redeemed, sanctified (not yet glorified), which grants them the ability to stand (not perfectly) in the grace of God.
Knowing a lot of the Bible, and being able to recite from memory Scripture verses is a very good tool in the believers’ battle against sin, Satan and the world. These tools; however, are often treated as ultimate in spiritual warfare; when in fact they are not. The message that contains the power of God to save and sanctify is the gospel, which means only the gospel and not a tool is ultimate. The gospel calls believers away from self and to Christ; in order to put off the flesh and to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
This teaching has huge implications on our daily lives as believers, because it highlights the various ways in which we often fail to appropriate the truth of who we are in Him (adopted, justified, positionally sanctified) by exposing the fact that we are prone to embrace our sinful habits instead of putting our sin to death, and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer’s identity in Christ ought to motivate them to not only put sin to death, but also to appropriate His life into all of life. The identification of the believer with Christ in His death and resurrection frees them from hypocrisy to be who they really are in Christ. The failure then to appropriate who we are in Christ exposes our attitude towards sin, which in turn demonstrates our apathy towards our sin. Jesus was tempted in every way and yet never sinned, which means that as His followers we ought to look to, mediate upon and run to the Cross of Christ daily in our fleeing from sin in order to appropriate our identification with Him into every area of our lives.
Jesus’ use of Scripture in spiritual warfare demonstrates that Satan is no match against the Word of God. The Word of God testifies to the truth about who Jesus is and what He has done in His death, burial and resurrection. Christians ought to take what they know about Scripture, and appropriate that knowledge daily into their lives; as they fight against Satan, sin and the world. Believers ought to do battle every day, and every moment against sin, the flesh and the world, which means they need to daily preach the Truth about who Jesus is and what He has done to themselves. The believer needs to do this (preach the Gospel to themselves) so they will be able to resist sin when tempted and stand in the grace of God.
Jesus engagement with Satan in the wilderness and His use of Scripture is instructive to believers on many fronts. First, Jesus teaches believers that they can only overcome by appropriating the truth of who they already are in Him. Second, Jesus teaches the supremacy and sufficiency of His Word by speaking that Truth of His Word in confronting Satan. Thirdly, Jesus’ use of Scripture calls believers to use the Word of God in order to expose the inconsistencies and errors of Satan and his followers by pointing them to Jesus. Fourthly, Jesus use of Scripture is instructive to His people, because He alone grants His people; the gift of His righteousness in order that the Holy Spirit may illuminate His Word to them individually as they read and study it, and corporately in the context of the local Church as believers gather to hear the Word of God preached. Finally, Jesus demonstrates in the desert that only the Word of God provides the fount from, which the believer can draw from in order to put sin to death and put on the Lord Jesus in all of life.
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Gender dysphoria is unstable and unfamiliar ground for the church. As more and more people navigate their way through feelings of gender incongruence the Church must seek to understand it and navigate it with them. We must do so from within a Biblical framework and with compassion, but we must do it. The unstable and unfamiliar terrain makes Mark Yarhouse’s new book Understanding Gender Dysphoria makes it a welcome resource. Yarhouse gives the diligent reader great information, perspective, and challenge in this packed monograph. Yet, for all his information, he is missing some vital pieces in his counseling framework
The book’s seven chapters and 161 pages, give readers all the important information about gender dysphoria. We navigate the common nomenclature and the distinctions between biological sex, gender, gender roles, and sexual orientation. As well as the distinctions between the terms transgender, transsexual, cross-dressing, and intersex. We are introduced to the various theories of etiology and the divergent personal experiences of those under this large umbrella. The book also focuses in on distinctions between the gender dysphoric experiences of children, adolescents, and adults. A great deal of the first four chapters is simply information. Not all of it would be categorized as Christian, nor does all of it reflect the author’s beliefs. But he gives us all of it to help us see the whole picture before us in current counseling. Yarhouse reveals his depth of knowledge and research in the field and reminds readers of why he is so highly respected in the field of Christian counseling and sex therapy.
The book also pushes back on the knee-jerk reaction of Christians as they respond to those within the transgender community and those who experience some level of gender incongruence. He models for us some humility and great compassion as he writes about the subjects. He guides us, as well, in thinking through the dynamics and usefulness of narrative therapy. It proposes a plan for thinking about how to respond to both individuals and as Christian institutions. That is another unique feature of the work.
As there are not many works on this subject at present Yarhouse’s book will surely become a go-to resource. Add to that Yarhouse’s own reputation and expertise and you understand the impulse to make Understanding Gender Dysphoria a leading text for counselors. As a Biblical counselor there’s much that I love about the work, and yet there are some concerns I have with it as well.
Yarhouse is very careful to affirm a biblical framework that supports the “sacredness” of male and female. He disapproves of the gender deconstruction efforts by some in the larger Transgender community. Yet, his biblical-theological work on gender needs further development. A Christian counselor attempting to help people navigate their own gender incongruence needs to listen to a person’s experience, but they also must be able to give a fully developed theology of manhood and womanhood. Yarhouse’s treatment of 1 Corinthians 6:9 is lacking, and he spends more time quoting the EAPC than he does interacting with the text in context, as others have noted.
In addition I think Yarhouse fails to interact intelligently on the Bible’s doctrine of “identity in Christ,” which has to be a major part of counseling those with gender incongruence. Identity is not fundamentally rooted in gender, anatomy, or experience. It is fundamentally rooted in our relationship to God and grasping this can have a massive transforming impact. This is why Jesus can speak of the place of the various kinds of “eunuchs” in the Kingdom of God. Their identity is not tied to biological sex, but to their relationship with God. Yarhouse has much to say about meaning-making and identity throughout the book, but is nearly silent on identity in Christ.
There’s much to appreciate about this book. It will certainly give readers a starting place for “understanding” gender dysphoria. Counselors will need to consider more as they seek to be the most help to those who struggle with this kind of incongruity. Understanding Gender Dysphoria is a good resource, but not a complete resource.
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This is our weekly roundup of posts for 9/28/2015-10/3/2015. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel reviewed by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/onward-engaging-the-culture-without-losing-the-gospel/
Six Principles for Small Group Facilitating by Nick Batzig http://servantsofgrace.org/six-principles-for-small-group-facilitating/
John Calvin – One Who Rightly Handled the Word of God by Matthew Adams http://servantsofgrace.org/john-calvin-one-who-rightly-handled-the-word-of-god/
The Absurdity of Abortion and the Importance of Life by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/the-absurdity-of-abortion-and-the-importance-of-life/
Experiencing the New Birth: Studies in John 3 reviewed by Mike Boling http://servantsofgrace.org/experiencing-the-new-birth-studies-in-john-3/
Defining Success as a Pastor by Mike Leake http://servantsofgrace.org/defining-success-as-a-pastor/
Designed for Joy: How the Gospel Impacts Men and Women, Identity and Practice reviewed by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/designed-for-joy-how-the-gospel-impacts-men-and-women-identity-and-practice/
20 Reasons to Engage in Private Prayer by Mike Leake http://servantsofgrace.org/20-reasons-to-engage-in-private-prayer/
King Jesus: Lord of the Sabbath from John 5:9-18 delivered by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/27-king-jesus-lord-of-the-sabbathsermon/
Pastoral Ministry and Four Strategies for Spiritual Warfare by Nick Batzig http://servantsofgrace.org/pastoral-ministry-and-four-strategies-for-spiritual-warfare/
Five Reflections from a Young Pastor by Mike Cooper http://servantsofgrace.org/five-reflections-from-a-young-pastor/
Adoption: What Joseph of Nazareth Can Teach Us About This Countercultural Choice reviewed by Mike Boling http://servantsofgrace.org/adoption-what-joseph-of-nazareth-can-teach-us-about-this-countercultural-choice/
Spiritual Warfare and Growing in the Grace of God by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/spiritual-warfare-and-growing-in-the-grace-of-god/
Social Sin, Social Media and Social Interaction by Nick Batzig http://servantsofgrace.org/social-sin-social-media-and-social-interaction/
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