95: The Call To Discipleship -VS- Psychological Theory

We’re going to look at the message of psychology contrasted with the Bible. Psychology is having a heavy duty impact on our culture, our nation, and thereby upon the church. 

The most seductively dangerous area of psychology is the part which seeks to explain why people are the way they are and how they change. The theories and techniques of psychological counseling and psychotherapy fall into this category. That’s what we’re basically concerned about and what we’re contrasting with the word of God. 

Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (or destruction).”

The Call To Discipleship

Let's look at Matthew 28:19 and Luke 9:23 to define discipleship and our "call". 

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus gave us the great commission. We've been called to "go therefore and make disciple of all nations." That's our joy. That's what we do as a church - the people of God. This is the big picture. Wherever we go and as we go - in the home, the marketplace, at church, on the job or at school. Jesus said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." That's what we are to be reminding each other about. Calling one another back to the Word of God and the Great Commission.

Luke 9:23 describes the terms of discipleship. How to get on the right path and follow Jesus. If anyone desires to follow Jesus, they must deny themselves (the independent self-life), pick up their cross and follow Him. No to self. 

What is independent self-life? It is the life I build and design independent from God. I make decisions based on my personality, my intellect, my will, and my desires that get shaped and formed independent from God. We are called to renounce this tendency moment by moment, day by day. We're called to say "no to self" and "yes to Jesus". 

Why is this so radical? Because this is what prevents people from following Jesus Christ. It's really self-righteousness. All those self hyphenated words, it's saying, "I don't need a savior. I'm not really that bad. I just need a little boost. Bear with me a little bit longer." That's self-righteous language.

Learn more about discipleship versus psychology in this podcast. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!


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  • I die daily! Yes hard message! And so hard to counsel hurting people with this message. I can see now very clearly many years ago when I was so hurt in my marriage. Very hurt by actions from my husband. We did go to Christian counseling and the counselor said that I had pride, self-righteousness and I was judgemental. Now all those things were true but I was so hurt I was incapable of receiving that message. Prior podcasts talked about speaking truth in Love. Love can take some time. Relationship and trust needs to be built. I am also seeing so many hurt women that feel and live in constant condemnation from their husbands. I would love help in getting them to see their own selfishness and instead die to self! I really do struggle with this because of my bad experience with a Christian counselor. I totally agree and love the podcast. I love the reminder of the sticky notes as a daily reminder. I just struggle bringing this message to hurting women. And I want to because I know this could set her free. I think I need the link between condemnation and self-righteousness to self denial and humility?

    • Hi Kendall,
      Speaking the truth in love is a key ingredient as we seek to counsel others with the truth of the Word. God has a way of using our bad experiences to shape us and grow us into what He desires. I know it is hard to bring truth to a woman hurting from sin against her, but to gently show her where sin resides in herself is key. We cannot rightly see another’s problem clearly until we take the log out of our own eye. God bless you as you seek to minister God’s truth!

      • Agreed!! Yes you are right that we can’t rightly see another’s problem clearly until we take the log out of our own eye!! Speaking that truth is critical and in love all the more. Receptivity when hurting is a hurdle that I consistently come up against! When I finally have their trust and they know they are loved the receptivity goes way up!!

    • I totally agree with you on this point. It is so very important how a counselor handles the situation and the hurt that people are experiencing. It sounds like the counselor who met with you many years ago did not give you the room to express your very real pain. The counselor should have given you grace so that you could also hear the truth. I am sure you have forgiven him and now that the Lord has comforted you he will enable you to give this comfort to those you counsel.

  • Pastor, by saying that 90% of the time the starting point with people you counsel is to somehow let them see that they need to deny self, really illuminated a primary reason for Biblical counselling. The “all about me” society we live in gives no thought to the possibility that this viewpoint might be wrong, in fact they promote it as the path to success. This can destroy relationships; and especially marriages, when each person reasons within their heart that the person they married committed themselves to meeting all “my” needs and to making “me” happy. This is such a self-destructing life. “… even what he has shall be taken away from him.” Matt 25:29b NASB
    To deny ones-self is one of the hardest things we will do in this life; and we need to do it daily; but as we walk in the Spirit, we will reap greater peace and joy than we could imagine; enough to say we have life, and that more abundantly.

    • This is so true Rick. Last week, I found out that one of my loved ones was making terrible decisions, and was deceiving herself into thinking that she was skating by with the Lord. I didn’t want to react in the flesh, and I knew that this battle was mainly spiritual, so I decided to fast and pray. Denying my flesh daily and praying fervently was a joy. It truly did re-align the situation in my heart at least, where I can entrust her into the hands of the Lord. Fasting, however, is much easier than say, taming the tongue on a daily basis or curbing all of the other ways the flesh acts out in our daily lives. But you are so right in saying that heeding the Spirit gives life and peace.

      • It is a hard thing Becky, to see someone we love making terrible decisions, especially when we love them with Truth and they reject it. It was a wise thing you’ve done by not reacting in the flesh. May you have the opportunity, in God’s perfect timing, to communicate with her by the Spirit the Truths of God and gain your sister back.
        As for the flesh, a Pastor friend of mine once pointed out to me that the “fleshly-self” will never be saved; it will always desire sin; this is why I believe Jesus said we need to take up our cross DAILY, and why Paul said “I die daily”.

    • “we will reap greater peace and joy than we could imagine”
      This is so true Rick. I wonder why it is so hard? I do know one thing: the more we do the hard and see that peace and joy you referred to the more faith we have to deny self the next time. I suppose that is growing in sanctification and becoming a mature man in Christ! Nothing to lose worth anything in the end.

      • You are right, when we do the hard work of denying the flesh it does build our faith and provide more strength; and yes I agree, this is part of the sanctification process. One of the great things about our God is that He also brings us times of refreshing; during which He also reveals Himself by granting us peace within that resounds to praise back to Him; this too builds our faith.

    • Denial of Self is impossible to those who do not know Christ! I am convinced that many many people have and will come to Christ through the biblical counseling ministry and I am excited to be equipped and ready to meet with people especially marriages that are failing. I believe the 90% reality of his statement maybe even higher!

  • This has been my prayer, especially of late, that I would align my life to Christ and would lead others well into Christ-likeness. I want Christ to reign in every aspect. Self-righteousness = I don’t need a Savior. I know someone that is very self-righteous, and thus has blindspots and is unwilling to have honest conversations. She uses her self-righteousness as a sort of tortoise shell around a very fragile belly. Whenever anyone tries to approach her on a level of honesty, or vulnerability, she lashes out and stops communicating with them. It is sobering to see the level of blindness one can have when sin is left untamed in the heart. Self indeed wants to keep us from Jesus, and from those who seek to follow Him. A main theme in my next women’s Bible study is going to be on the blessing of receiving correction from the Scriptures! It is so important in our daily edification, to be receiving that correction from the Lord. He corrects in such a grace-filled, gentle way, when He is correcting from His Word!

    • Becky,
      Your description of the tortoise with a fragile belly reminds me of a few believers swollen with self-righteousness that I know! And when I hear the words self-righteousness, I immediately think of the religious leaders that Jesus opposed throughout His time in ministry here on earth. May your Bible study bring much fruit and grow others in awareness of the “self-life” pit we can easily fall into!

    • Hi Becky,
      I agree with you –> I want Christ to reign in every aspect of my life as well <3 !

      When I think about the tortoise shell with a very fragile belly, this reminds me of the wall that surrounds the pain that a person feels because of some type of trauma that was experienced. The self-righteousness may be a front that keeps away additional pain; this is evident as she "lashes out and stops communicating" with others. That person needs to be saturated with love from those surrounding her, while groups discussions are had of their own experiences with the hardening of the heart and how Christ softened their heart by healing their pain through forgiveness. I know I certainly have had this experience with the tortoise shell because of being "church hurt" and traumatized without resolve before Christ filled me with His love and understanding. My husband and I are constantly surrounded by attendees who have a hardened heart because of the consistent pain with life, and then homelessness forces them to be "all about the self" out of sheer survival-ism. It takes a LOT of persistence on our part to reach them (it has taken years for some), and then when we reach them it takes a LOT of love and understanding, and then when they receive that love we do a LOT of listening to their story, where we then can start to inject scriptural messages according to their experiences. The pain is real when they are relying on their self for everything, rather than the Lord to intervene and fill them with the understanding of forgiveness and His love and their need for it. Sadly, some just outright reject it.

    • What a lesson we all need to learn and grasp- the blessing of receiving correction from the Scriptures! It is His goal that we be more like Him the only way that this can take place and root in our lives is when we are denying self and receiving from Him! We need to surrender to Him! We need to be finding our identity in Him and in His word and not in this world! No to self/Death to self- Yes to Christ/ Life in Christ!

  • I am so thankful to have the opportunity to soak in this teaching. I feel that the Lord is equipping me more and more to help the body of Christ through genuine discipleship, based on God’s truth and denial of self. Psychology has taken denial of self completely out of the equation. I am seeing the “independent self-life” destroy marriages and relationships. I know that ultimately this is God’s battle, but I want to be faithful as best as I can in the areas that God has called me to serve Him. Thank you, Pastor Jeff, for the reminder that this endeavor must begin with me – I must deny myself – say NO JOANN!

    • It is so true that the battle must begin with me, it has been proven time and time again that the battle for our sanctification begins with self-denial. When we are independent, and self-reliant of the Lord we are on the opposite path of sanctification and holiness. He has so much more in store for us! Yet, it is such a daily struggle against the flesh that wants to take over!

    • I am just feeling so blessed also! Marinating in all of these beautiful truths! I asked a question and I believe you answered it! Thank-you! My question was about telling hurting women that they must deny themselves and just say NO and how to go about doing that? The answer is do it myself! Daily! Getting my sticky notes now for my bathroom mirror! Funny how we listen to the same podcast but they way you put it is what broke through whatever was blocking me!!

    • Yes! I’m seeing the same thing JoAnn. I get that it is pervasive in the culture but it is so disorienting to see it accepted as “okay” in a Christian’s life. It’s like a daily dose of poison labeled, “Be Happy.” The tragic, ironic thing, is that this lifestyle never leads to happiness because no one can control the way their self is treated by others–we can try but deep inside we know we have just manipulated a false affection or devotion.

    • “independent self-life” so dangerous as you mentioned it is destroying marriages and relationships, it is destroying the church. A message that Satan has wrapped in such nice packaging, be kind to yourself, know how to take care of yourself so that you can be a better spouse! Now this does not mean we sit around and become slobs and do nothing but it does mean that we seek Christ more and grow in our knowledge of Him so that we can be a better spouse! exactly what Christ tells us and Jeff said and you said- I must deny myself-

    • JoAnn, that is very brave of you and I pray that the Lord will continue to give you the grace to say, “no” to your “Self.” It is not easy for any of us to do this, but once we do, we find the benefit of freedom to become all that God has made us to be and are able to draw near to the Lord and closer to those he has placed around us.

    • I agree with what you are saying as far as the “independent self-life destroying marriages and relationships”, I see this to be very evident and very true. Not only does focus on self hinder our relationship with the Lord and being fruitful for Christ, but it is hindering the relationships that God has allowed in our lives to be broken, hurt, and even destroyed. It seems like self care, self worth, self esteem, are all in this ‘movement’ that is gaining rapid ground called “health and wellness”. I am not putting down being a good steward of all God gave us, including our bodies, but I have seen so much modernism and mysticism and false religion creep up in the name of “wellness”…being well in body, mind and spirit. It is an easy influencer, especially when everyone is striving for some kind of peace of mind in this world of turmoil. But this world and its circumstances and trials can never be a reason or excuse from turning to anything other than the all sufficiency of God. Denying “self” should be the mark of a christian. This semester has been so eye opening. <3

  • What an excellent podcast! I’m almost afraid to respond to this, and embarrassed because of my understanding of psychology and how much I pondered on it over the years; even while I pondered on the Word and lived life in ministry… but here goes.

    Pastor Jeff made a statement about the red flag, that “they are mixing, or giving a message that’s different than what the Bible teaches; It’s the message, not necessarily the person.” This made me reflect on my childhood not being filled with the teachings of Jesus. The Bible tells us to train up our children in the way they are to go, and for the “red flag” reason, this is why; so that as the child matures, they no longer rely on the milk of human teachers, but rather the meat of the Word that comes from God. Wanting to feel “accepted by their Christian peers” is not an excuse to pondering on psychology and adding a little bit of it, over the Creator’s Word who has given clearly, everything that we need.
    I pondered on the fact that each person is unique, is full of ideologies from their own life-experiences and the messages that they have been exposed to that has resonated with them to some degree; this has caused their understanding to be swayed so that the mixture of the Biblical message and psychological ideologies seems logical. While I was learning Psychology, I had to think on the things of psychology and the more I thought about it, although I was skeptical and desired the truth of God’s Word applied to each ideology, “some” of it sounded logical, and I myself had begun to think that psychology was not that bad and could really help some people. I even thought that I could get my degree in psychology and apply biblical truths to it; but that was a lie straight from the pit of hell.
    The only people who will receive the message and not question it, are those who do not ponder on the Word of God, those who do not dive into the Word of God and pray about it asking God for answers, and dive again into the Word for those answers and understanding – like the Boreans. Like Adam & Eve were wandering through the garden and had to make a decision about the forbidden fruit, they were pondering, and deceived into partaking of the fruit because they chose to act rather than be slow – and ask God since they were in communion with Him.
    I needed understanding that was beyond human interpretation and as I heard more and more of psychological explanations, my spirit was pining because I wasn’t being filled with the Holy Spirit; rather, my soul was feeling the rerouting, or overwriting, of what the Lord wanted me to learn, know, study and go-forth with. I honestly didn’t care about what my classmates thought, because I was constantly interjecting, but over time when a lie is repeated, there comes a sense of belief where statements like the Christian Association for Psychological Studies has made, and I’m sure they believe. Their fellowship is with others who believe the same thing.

    Another statement P. Jeff made: “the problem is that we want to say that people need self-esteem and pride” and this made me think about my time living in and for the world. The result of personal achievements, small to large, cause a sense of self-esteem and pride, and personality-wise they are already puffed up with themselves. The apparent low self-esteem that many say causes a person with low self-esteem to act out in frustration foolishly, is because they have reached a plateau and needing to be puffed up even more. <– Just an observation, doesn’t mean its true. But it is true that Godly people need reinforcements from other believers (God's Army), and worldly people need praise, and those who have not sought out and committed themselves to a job in the body of Christ feel unfulfilled, where the "explanation of low self-esteem" may resonate with that person.
    There are people who attend our ministry, that after they have learned about, and received Christ, want to help serve in the outreach, and denying a person for any reason would cause them to go back to the world for fellowship. Its that spirit of service to others that begins to fill them first because they are grateful for what they have first received. Before covid, we welcomed it, now, some of our board members say that we cannot risk anyone being the contagion. Wow! A contagion being that fine line between the continuance of following the Lord, and administering psychological theory into one’s life. Thus, the importance of Berean fellowship and mature leaders.

  • Thank you, Jeff. I am absolutely on board for the idea of the sticky notes on the mirror! What is lovely about it is that it distills down the Christian walk to two words: no and yes. The simplicity is truly the simplicity of discipleship. “Deny self. Pick up your cross. Lose your life to save it. Take my yoke.” I’m sure there are many more verses of denial of self-love that I’m missing but the verses in Philippians 2 are so clear, 5 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” So clear!
    Most of my counseling is taking down the idol which the counselee has made of their needs. Such a bondage to be a slave to self. No one can control the meeting of self needs which is why they have complaints about husbands, kids, employers, etc.
    So, in the end, which is the harder path? No to self? Yes to self?

  • Some great points in the podcast:
    “When the church mixes Psychological Theory with discipleship it diminishes it!”
    Discipleship is becoming a Christ Follower! Psychological Theory would have us become a Self Follower, a Self Enabler. Well in order for us to be a Christ Follower we must deny our self, we must die to self. Self life get in the way of us having a life in Christ.
    This as Jeff mentioned is a destruction that has crept in and is destroying many from within with the lie that somehow we have it in ourselves to better ourselves and the situation we are in, this is simply a lie and not biblical!
    Let us as Jeff said, Be for the Bible nothing more, nothing less! it is all we need!
    Want to better yourself, return to knowing the Word not knowing yourself! This is how you will become a better you! Because you will be found in Christ (Ephesians 1)

    • Amen brother the call to return or never leave the Word of God for other promises of the world remains a critical message until we leave the earth. I know that man cannot come up with any source of salvation. Yet we have this religion of self realization and self actualization that has diminished the message actually inside the church! I wonder what the percentage is among the church that is really trusting the Lord’s word? I pray that he increases and has his way in His Church!

  • Psychology has invaded the church: Psychological theory is all about self-development, self-analyzing, and self-improvement. When psychology is mixed with Christian teaching discipleship is diminished. It is very sad to see that the message in Luke 9:23 is being misinterpreted. We are called to follow the Lord who only wants our best, but I guess the word “deny” scares many people. If they really understood how we ultimately benefit by following Jesus they would willingly leave the pursuit of self. When we follow Him, we are transformed into the person He created us to be, we find ultimate peace and purpose for our lives, and our eternal destination is secured. Before I knew Jesus, I was restless and had no peace. I was frustrated with my life and saw no purpose or meaning in it. This deeply affected my behavior and caused me to be constantly confused. I lived under a cloud of deep sadness. However, after I encountered Jesus, my life was dramatically changed. I was filled with the joy and peace of the Lord and people noticed I had become a happy and communicative person. Jesus became my closest friend. Although the way of the cross is not easy, it is not confusing because we find who we are in Him and where we are going because of Him. This is why it is a travesty when Christians replace repentance and following the Lord with the pursuit of “Me.” I pray that the Lord opens the eyes of all Christian psychologists to this reality.

  • The thing that the Lord has really been pressing on my heart the past year and a half is the importance of discipleship. I see the Lord continue to confirm it in all areas of ministry I am involved in right now. The Great Commission is something that we are instructed and commanded to do and yet I think that not many know what that means or what that is supposed to look like. Many may even be seeking it out, but not sure where to find it. I am finding more and more though, that those who are mentoring, counseling, or discipling, are not doing it biblically and therefore it is not spreading the gospel of Christ as intended and not gaining power and revival in our homes, cities, countries, etc… and its because everyone wants to lead, but no one wants to follow. When in reality we all need to be following Christ. Every ministry should have active discipleship happening. But I believe that the truth of “deny yourself and follow Me” is being passed over for other “business”, gain, notoriety and self righteousness. This in reality is keeping people, or even hindering others, from following after Christ. I for one am stirred to continue learning what true discipleship is and live it out as such. I happen to be reading two other books on discipleship for two other ministries. Thinking HE is equipping me for this calling, lol.

    There is a ministry I am about to be handed over at the Church for moms of preschoolers (and younger). I have heard the moms say they want surface, topical conversations and teachings, while wanting practicality tips more than spiritual “food”. Yet my desire is to encourage and exhort with the Word. I will be giving them the Word, even the practical will have spiritual. My desire is to have them build relationships in three and four’s, which lead to discipling one another. These ladies during prayer time share what they are really needing, they are going through HARD things, life altering things, devastating things, and practical tips aren’t going to bring joy, aren’t going to make you a better wife or a more attentive mother, and aren’t going to build deeper friendships. The Word of God resonating, convicting, and transforming our hearts and minds, and conforming us into His image is what will. The call to discipleship is what we are called to do, and that is what I will continue to do. Great message of encouragement in what that looks like and the heartbeat of what that is. I am girded up and ready to go!

    • Hi Kristine,
      I agree with what you said, “Every ministry should have active discipleship happening. But I believe that the truth of “deny yourself and follow Me” is being passed over for other “business”, gain, notoriety and self righteousness.” I also believe that there are many many people who go to church because they are older, and have no other people and so they are looking for friendships to connect with outside of church, and have withdrawn from church after finding friendships; therefore, the importance of giving the pure unfiltered Gospel – weekly – in service, is imperative, because psychology and opinion have crept into the church. I have witnessed this in the church that I attend, as well as the women having a lot of women’s group gatherings; but I am not interested in going to them; first, because I’m just too busy with school and ministry; second, because I am more interested in the Word rather than using the Word to be built up or build each other up as in some type of self-ism. I am sure that these ladies think that I distance myself for other reasons that they are unaware of, but it’s for the fact that ministry is a lot of work and my duties are as much as a full-time job, that I do not receive income for, and am able to do since my husband works and I stay home.

      I think it’s nice that you’re going to be taking over the preschool ministry. My husband and I help a mom and dad who are considered to be homeless since they live in a motel with their child. They were homeless for the entire pregnancy until two weeks before she gave birth in April 2019. Since the little girl was just a couple of months old, we began to bring her to our home every weekend, and oftentimes, throughout the week – about 35-50% of the time. Having her is like the Lord is giving us a second chance at raising a child “in Christ” since we both were secular parents with a hint of belief, when we each raised our children, and regretted being secular. We are overjoyed with seeing this little 22 month old pray and say Amen, and understand that we are all praying, where at the end, we say Amen and seal it with a kiss. Her mother called me one day and asked if we pray with Lily, and told me that they were all on the bed, and Lily, sitting between the two, put her hands on their heads at the same time, looked up and spoke in baby babble, then said, A-men. Then kissed them each on the forehead. How beautiful! We couldn’t help but cry because our efforts are showing fruit in this tiny little person.

      “The Word of God resonating, convicting, and transforming hearts and minds, and conforming us into His image” is what we see in our little ones, and the call to disciple, as we are obedient will bring about fruit, as you rightly said. I understand the difficulties of parenting, and being a single parent, as well as being a homeless parent; I will be praying for your ladies.

  • Good day everyone! Great and tough message! We do have to take a tough stance on the things talked like self esteem and psychological terms. I have found these and other definitions to be very confusing to people. Taking time to clear up confusing terms and explaining the difference between God’s word and the worlds terms is very helpful. I do have some input and feedback I might add. One thing I have grown accustomed to over the years in ministry is the idea of self care. I might add that Matthew says to love your neighbor as yourself. [Mat 22:39 NKJV] 39 “And [the] second [is] like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ This does not mean that I can’t love until I am taken care of or am “feeling loved” it simply means to take interest and care through love to your neighbor as you would your self. So I might be somewhat trying to balance what was said about self love and contrasting it with love of self here in the verse. I also find that relating these messages vary greatly as we have read and anticipated the 2 paths we are given 1. The path of Evangelism and 2. The Path of Discipleship. When speaking of self worth I have been guilty of pointing to the price Jesus paid which of course Pastor Jeff said was incalculable point I think most people try to make is that “The worthlessness” that people feel” after experiencing a life in failure is the price/wages of our sin(death)which of course does seem to relate some sort of value although we could never find it for it is the price of righteousness but as I understand it each sin was paid for but also even breaking the Law once you have broken the whole Law. To tie it all together I believe what Is being said is that the message you give with the words you choose to use in your counsel either complicates or helps deliver clear Godly counsel.

  • I am so glad that each podcast lays a foundation on the last. Podcast 95 “The call to discipleship vs. Psychological theory” has really helped me define this issue even better. Becasue although this is so true that renouncing independant self life is what is needed to follow Jesus. And actually enables us to follow Jesus. The truth is the insidious evil of self-esteem and self-worth has invaded the church and crept in unawares! So it is difficult to see where I have bought into it and believed. But each week you layer by layer peel back the deception and are making it so clear, simple and refreshing. And although I agree it is so hard to say to a very hurt person, ‘the problem is you’, it is so loving to learn how to gently be able to do it in Love. I have been using what I am learning to help very hurt women and to my surprise it is being received well. I think the key for me was learning and practicing it daily for myself and then it is so much easier to disciple others to do the same!

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