Recently I have been under great and gentle conviction by the Holy Spirit for some areas of sin in my heart. As I was speaking to God about this in my prayer time I told Him that I was surprised at how easy it was for me to be blinded to my own sin- so self-deceived! Knowing what Scripture says, I should not have been surprised.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB)
The next verse tells us that God is the one who searches the heart and tests the mind and this is what I have experienced. The next step after conviction is change. Contrary to what many people think, change is not just stopping doing a wrong thing and beginning to do what is right. That is merely behaviorism, and is not usually permanent.
The desire to stay stopped will last only as long as my desires are willing to be denied. This is why it seems that most people who stop a bad habit make it about 3 days before they return to their former way of life. When the pain of denying self becomes strong enough, they will resume their former way of life. This is demonstrated over and over in the lives of people who lie, steal, or have illicit sex. They may want to stop because of the consequences their behavior brings them. They may even succeed at stopping for a while! However, when the heart begins to demand it be satisfied all resolve and determination to never do “that” again flies right out the window.
This is why real, genuine change takes place as the heart is affected by God. When God and love for God begin to mean more to a person than love of self we begin to see some small changes take place. The heart must turn from worship of my own wants, feelings and desires, to worship of God and toward living for His glory.
“I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind…” Jeremiah 17:10 (NASB)
This is why heart change is an act of God, not something that we as humans, even Spiritual ones can conjure up. Very often parents, spouses and even counselors attempt to lead people into change that they are not ready for at the heart level- God has not affected a desire for any sort of change yet! We cannot command change folks… the reality of repentance being granted only by God is enough to remind us of that. Especially since repentance and heart change are inseparably linked.
If you are in a position of ministering to someone who is not changing, you perhaps should take a step back and see if the Spirit of God has been at all active in the heart of that person. Has there been any evidence of conviction? Do they demonstrate any desire to glorify God? Is there a God-centered conscience about them? If not, they are not ready to change.