I found “The Process of Biblical Heart Change” by Julie Ganschow and Bruce Roeder to be an informative introduction to biblical counseling. Beginning with “Understanding the Basics”, I learned about the different views of man. The trichotomous view of man teaches that we are a three-part being divided into physical, soul and spirit. Scripture, however, supports a dichotomous view where soul and spirit are considered one. Thus we have an inner man which refers to our thoughts, will, emotions and the outer man which is our physical part. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command in the Garden, man became corrupted by sin. Our hearts are now desperately wicked just as Jeremiah 17:9 confirms. Jesus Christ is the hope for our sinful hearts. According to 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made Christ to be an offering for our sin which made a way for us to be made right with God. Upon salvation we are given a new heart and the Holy Spirit which helps us with our struggles with sin. Salvation involves repentance which produces a godly sorrow in which we turn from our sinful behavior. On the other hand, worldly sorrow is a regret of being caught and feeling guilty. Worldly sorrow does not produce lasting change.
The next section “Understanding the Process” discussed our heart, the inner man/inner life and change. The heart is the immaterial (non-flesh) part of a person that includes our thoughts, beliefs, desires, mind, feelings, intentions, and emotions. Our hearts can be a storehouse of evil which is reflected in our thoughts and actions. The deceitful heart lives for “self.” First comes a thought, then desire followed by action. All of our actions begin as a thought, belief, or desire in our heart. We must follow the command of Romans 12:2 and renew our minds through God’s word.
An illustration of a tree with “roots” and “fruits” was used. Sin issues are the fruit of a root system grounded in some type of idolatry. Idolatry is when our affections are set on something or someone else instead of God. The first commandment is that we shall have no other gods before Him. Our “gods” of today can be money, possessions, our looks, our children and many more. What makes us happy can often be an idol in our life. Uprooting our idols begins with our heart.
The goal of biblical counseling is heart change that brings about a life that glorifies God. The process of this heart change is part of our sanctification. God is making us more like Christ. The Bible lists many things we are to “put off.” In the words of John Owens: We must be killing sin or it will be killing us. We must have a new, biblical response to our besetting sins. This results in a “putting on” of changed thoughts and behaviors that are in accord with God’s word. This is done through God’s grace. I had never thought of grace as power that enables us not to sin. That truth is very helpful in our battle against sin. God’s grace is sufficient in every circumstance.
I found the conclusion of section two to be a very practical application to help make change possible:
-Ask yourself if your thoughts, words, actions or desires are glorifying to God before you do them.
-Memorize scripture that specifically relates to the sin that struggle with.
-Think about your thoughts. Ask God to search your heart.
-Confess your sin to God.
-Try keeping a thought journal. Seek to memorize verses that apply to your specific sin issue.
-Take every thought captive. Pray for the Spirit’s help.
-Habits can be broken. Conquering sinful habits take time. It is a process. Keep persevering.
-Take heart. God is at work in you through your specific struggle. Trust Him!
The final section “Understanding the Specific Habits of the Heart I Want to Change” looks at the heart of idolatry and anger followed by understanding God’s sovereignty and Christ’s sufficiency. I am currently teaching through “Idols of the Heart” by Elyse Fitzpatrick so the chapter on the heart of idolatry was a helpful addition to what I was learning. The idolater’s heart is focused on self. What can I gain? What do I need? Where do I find fulfillment? What makes me happy? These thoughts lead us to envy, discontentment, anger and self-pity. Are we willing to sin to get what we want? If so, then idolatry is most likely present in our lives. We are to flee from idolatry! (1 Corinthians 10:14) We put off the sin of idolatry by first admitting that we do have an idol of the heart and confessing it. Look up any verses that apply to our idols and commit them to memory to help in our time of need. We need to place our idols on the altar of sacrifice to God. We must not only store up scripture knowledge but we must be doers of the Word also. Idolaters must direct their heart to worship and love God alone. They must commit to daily fight their “self” and sin.
The issue of anger often results in our not trusting in the sovereignty of God. We do not understand why He is not doing what we want done. We want to control people and circumstances instead of trusting in Him. Anger is generally handled in two ways: blowing up or clamming up. The angry person wants his own way. Anger can easily lead to other sinful behaviors. As with other issues, an angry person also needs to fill their mind with scripture. They need to train themselves to apply their anger toward the fixing, addressing and correcting of the problem. They need to learn about God’s sovereignty and focus on what He desires and not their self-focused desires.
Understanding God’s sovereignty is key to biblical heart change. God is at work in us through our circumstances whether good or bad. We saw that in this chapter through the lives of Job and Joseph. Romans 8:28-29 tells us that God causes all things to work together for good. This good ultimately is to make us more like Christ. We may not understand the reason behind the trial we are going through but we must walk by faith and not by sight. Christ’s love is with us through all our trials. Because of this we know we can overwhelmingly conquer them (Romans 8:35-37). Rest is found when we trust in His sovereignty.
Finally, Christ is sufficient. We do not need the philosophies of the world or the psychology of men. Man’s greatest need is Christ not the psychology of Freud, Rogers or Skinner. These men looked to the world and to self for the release of people’s problems. True freedom or release is found in Christ alone. We must preach the gospel of Christ to ourselves and not the psychologized gospel that revolves around our self-worth. The gospel is not about esteeming self but about esteeming Christ. Christian psychologists and psychotherapists use scripture but generally through eisegesis. They mix secular psychology with a view of the Bible being an inspirational resource. Biblical counseling is committed to letting God speak through His word to counsel people and to handle God’s word correctly in applying it to the counselee’s heart. We are complete in Christ. His divine power is all we need for things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
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