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Seeing with New Eyes

Book Review

Aug 28, 2020 The goal is to draw our counselees into Christ—the only good Shepherd who knows how to lead His sheep well.

Our world has existing and often opposing views on how to help those who struggle. David Powlison, in Seeing with New Eyes, lifts God’s view of counseling to the fore, inviting us to share in his progression of thoughts through a coherent collection of articles that spans 18 years of his ministry.

Using specific passages in Scripture, Powlison walks the reader through how to connect the truths of God’s Word with particular problems people face in life.

He begins by showing that Ephesians is a practical, face-to-face theology where God teaches us to speak truth directly into people’s lives. As Christ has invaded history to make peace, we must ask for boldness that by grace we would always connect change in people’s lives to God’s work in Christ. Powlison explores the themes of leadership and submission in Ephesians, helping us understand that our various roles do not sit in tension with, but flow from our common calling, so that those in authority over others won’t lord it over them, but lead with gentleness. Powlison teaches us how we can incorporate Scripture into everyday life as the Apostle Paul did when he quoted poets of the day organically (Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12) as a bridge to help his readers understand the Scriptures.

Next, Powlison shows how Psalms 131, 10, and Luke 12 can help ourselves and those we counsel combat pride, depression, and worry. Through Luke 12, the author goes into great detail on how Jesus teaches us to think the way he does about life. Life does not consist in the abundance of various “possessions” which range from cravings, wanting rank above others, wanting money, having to have things our own way, and avoiding those who differ. What life does consist of is choosing to learn from Jesus to find rest for our souls.

After helping us view Scripture as Jesus does, Powlison addresses what motivates people to do what they do. As our Lord asked person-specific questions to get at the reasons for actions and desires, the author shows us how, with the help of the Holy Spirit by grace, we can train ourselves to listen well so we can do the same.

Powlison makes a series of important distinctions that carry great weight in counseling, distinctions between:

‘unconditional’ love (accept me as I am) and the better ‘contraconditional’ love (love me despite how I am),God as Father and our earthly parenting experience,human defensiveness and the warmaking of sin,blameshifting culpability and intelligent repentance,expressed feelings and correctly discerning the intent of feelings language so that we learn to talk with and not around, over, or at a person, andself-ruling love languages and Christ-ruling love.

Unwise life patterns can only be reversed with the Scriptures’ view that the human heart is active and accountable as opposed to a passive, empty receptacle that needs to be filled. The author makes clear that the latter view is a lie that leads us to pursue inordinate desires rather than crucify them.

There is danger in alienating people with Scripture presented impersonally. The goal is to draw our counselees in with Scripture to Christ—the only good shepherd who knows how to lead His sheep to still waters and green pastures. This is the desired end where the thread of thinking fueled by the mercy and grace of Christ, the thread that Powlison has relentlessly pursued throughout this book, can lead us.

Helpful Quotes

  1. “But if you expunge the human ingredient itself you actually interfere with how the Living Word uses both his Word and his servants” (page 39).

  2. “Even the most wonderful truths are not bold when stated impersonally” (page 57).

  3. “You may be a man, but you are a Wife [to Jesus Christ]…Each of us in our core identity is meant to live as a subordinate” (page 62).

  4. “Two saints growing up out of their sins can learn to communicate with grace, as each party heeds the common call” (page 69).

  5. “The Bible calls for a more straightforward form of self-examination: an outburst of anger invites reflection on what craving rules the heart that our repentance might be intelligent” (page 153).

  6. “Instead, the past offers a context where the active, willful heart reveals and expresses itself” (page 204).

  7. “Knowledge of a person’s history may be important for many reasons (compassion, understanding, knowledge of characteristic temptations), but it never determines the heart’s inclinations” (page 206).

TOPICS: Book Reviews 

Karen Wallace has been ACBC certified since 2019 and lives in North Carolina with her family. She manages

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