Marital problems; depression; anxiety; fractured relationships with teenagers; a lifestyle of drunkenness; etc. are serious issues, even in the church today. When persons find themselves in similar circumstances, they need help. They need the power of Christ. They need to change. They need joy in Him.
People come to counseling because they have a problem and are in need of change. Sometimes they feel that others are the ones who need to change, but, it is they themselves who need to change. The goal of all counseling is change whether that counseling is psychological or biblical. The good news is that for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, real change can occur and joy can be had in Him. The question is: how can Christians change so that they might find the joy they desperately need in Christ? Before they can change, they need a foundation for change. To that dynamic we turn.
First, the Christian has a foundation for change if he understands that change comes by grace from God. We do not have the power or the desire to change apart from the grace of God working in our hearts. Paul wrote, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me (1 Cor. 15:10)." Here Paul says that God’s grace made him what he was. Because he had been granted grace, he labored abundantly. He constantly labored for the Lord and changed day by day as a result of the Spirit's sanctifying work. He labored, yet, it wasn't him but the grace of God in him. Let the one who wants to change look to Christ and His powerful grace.
Second, the Christian has a foundation for change if she appropriates the abundant resources that God has given her. Those resources include, among other things, the word of God, the Holy Spirit, and prayer. The word of God is given to us for instruction and hope (Rom. 15:4). The Holy Spirit is given that we might have spiritual power from His application of the word to our hearts (1 Thes. 2:13). Prayer is given to us that we might approach the throne of grace boldly for help in time of need (Heb. 4:16) and obtain wisdom to apply the word to our hearts in the right way (Jas. 1:5). Paul affirmed that God the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Let us meditate upon the word and pray for the Spirit to work in our lives. As we have been given every blessing from the Spirit, He will no doubt work in our hearts for change. Let us look to Christ and His abundant provision.
Third, the Christian has a foundation for change if he embraces the sufficiency of Scripture for change. That dynamic implies that Christ is sufficient for change. He is all and everything and what we need. Peter said that "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him." In other words, through knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, God has given us everything we need for life and godliness by virtue of His divine power. When the counselee has a problem that is not physiological (sleep deprivation, hormonal imbalance, etc.), his problem is spiritual. The bible calls depression, anxiety, anger, lust, fear, worry, etc. sin. But, the good news is that Christ came to save sinners from their sin. He has given His Spirit that we might deal with sin every day of our lives. We have everything we need for life and for godliness. Christ is sufficient. Let us look to Christ and His perfect sufficiency.
Fourth, the Christian has a foundation for change if she acknowledges her complete dependence upon Christ. The Lord Jesus Himself said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing (Jn. 15:5)." Here the Lord exhorts us to abide in Him. That is, we are to remain in Him, look to Him for our salvation and sanctification, call upon Him in the hour of trouble, keep close to Him for instruction and guidance and rescue among other things. He says that we are to abide in Him because apart from Him we can do nothing. Let us not seek to change apart from His life-giving power. Let us not seek man-made methods and solutions to problems that relate to our created souls. Who better to fix the problem with that which He created than God Himself? Let us live in such a way that we truly are dependent upon Christ so that when change occurs, He is the One who gets the glory. And, that is as it should be. Let us look to Christ and His effectual work.
Fifth, the Christian has a foundation for change if he submits to the operation and power of the Holy Spirit in his life. We have already mentioned the Spirit, but He deserves special attention in regard to our need for change. Paul wrote in Eph. 5:18, "And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit." He commands us to be filled with the Spirit and tells us what the result of such is in the subsequent verses. The results include admonishing one another with song, giving thanks to God, and submitting to one another. He demonstrates how that plays out with regard to husbands, wives, parents, children, etc. The word picture conveys influence or control. We are not to be controlled by alcohol but by the Spirit. Paul wrote Colossians from the same prison he wrote Ephesians. He repeats himself in large measure in Col. 3:16f. The two texts are almost identical. The one thing that Paul says differently is the initial imperative command. In Eph. 5:18 he says be filled with the Spirit. In Col. 3:16 he says let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. These phrases are synonyms. In Gal. 5:16 Paul says, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." He then proceeds to divulge the fruit of the Spirit. In other words, if we want to change, we must walk in the Spirit. That is, we must let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. That is, we must be filled with the Spirit. That is, we must obey the Lord. Let us look to Christ and His Holy Spirit.
Sixth, the Christian has a foundation for change if she sets her heart on God's purpose for her life. The reason we exist is to glorify God. We do that by giving Him the praise that He deserves and we do that by putting His character, His power, and His grace on display. As we reflect Christ in our lives, the greater glory He will get as others see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16). Paul admonishes us, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)." And the wonderful reality here is that the Christian derives no greater joy than the joy of seeing Christ glorified. The Psalmist says to the Lord, "You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11)." Christ came into the world that we might glorify Him for His mercy (Rom. 15:8). As we turn from our self-focus and find our joy in Christ, God gets the glory. Let us look to Christ and His ultimate purpose.
[An article on how to change practically will be posted in the near future.]
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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