What is the Holy Spirit’s work in biblical counselling?

When I was growing up, my whole family would converge on my grandparents’ house at Christmas time. There were aunts and uncles, cousins and more. And the tradition was that, every Christmas Eve, we were allowed to open one gift.

The presents were all stacked under the tree and each one had a name on it.  So we would locate our “cache” of gifts and begin the process of choosing which one to open. The selection was often nerve-wracking – good gifts could come in small packages; presents were often double-wrapped so we couldn’t hold them up to the light. So we developed a system that wasn’t 100% perfect, but it worked for us. We would choose our gift on the basis of weight – whichever present was the heaviest, was the one we’d go for.

In John chapters 14-16, Jesus teaches the disciples about the work of the Holy Spirit. And at one point he says, “he will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you“ (Jn 16:14, ESV). That word “glorify” is often used in the Old Testament to mean to “make heavy” or “give weight” to something. Whenever God arrives on the scene, things give way to his presence. Mount Sinai trembles, the doorposts of the Temple shake. God’s way of showing that he is weightier and more significant than anything else we could base our life on. He has the most glory!

The work of the Spirit is to take the Person and achievement of Christ and make him weighty in our hands. The Spirit holds out Jesus and says, “This is who he is. This is what he’s done for you. Rejoice in all that you have in him!”

The world is constantly offering us gifts – “Invest in your health.” “Follow your dreams. ” “Find your soul-mate.” But the Spirit brings us to Christ and says, “Now choose him. He is more significant. He is more valuable and weighty than anything you can base your life upon.”

Jesus described the Spirit’s work: ‘…He will take what is mine and make it known to you.’’ He must have meant that the Spirit would, as Jim Packer puts it, take

“..all that is real and true about me … your divine lover, your mediator, your surety in the new covenant, your prophet priest and king, your Saviour from the guilt and power of sin … your shepherd, husband, and friend, your life and your hope, the author and finisher of your faith, the Lord of your own personal history, and the one who will someday bring you to be with me and share my glory” and press these glorious facts into his disciples’ souls, “so the words ‘what is mine’ come to mean ‘what is yours…'”

So what does this mean for us practically?  It means that the work of the Spirit is not just to teach us about Christ, but to make Christ personal.  We need to know him not just ‘know about him’.  So when we read the Bible, or go to church, or spend time in small groups, our aim is not just to gather more information, but for the Truth to ‘gather up us’ – to be swept up with the Person, work, and mission of Christ and to give him the weight he deserves.

The Apostle Paul prayed that the ‘eyes of our heart’ would be opened to all that we have in Christ.  And the Spirit does that as we take up our Bibles, listen to sermons, meet with other Christians, say our prayers and open our hands to the gift that is ours in Jesus Christ. Let’s be praying that for ourselves and those we seek to encourage too.

Bobby Warrenburg is currently senior pastor of Chessington Evangelical Church. He will shortly be heading back to the States to serve as senior pastor of North Shore Community Baptist Church, near Boston.