You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ Matthew 15: 5-7

In both the teaching and practice of biblical counseling we are careful to guard against merely rearranging the flesh of the counselee. In other words, we are not behaviorists.

A behaviorist is one who is interested in changing the behavior without dealing with the root sin.  Jesus addressed this issue many times with the Pharisees as we see in the Gospels. The Pharisees were the religious men of the age. They were the teachers in the synagogue and the religious leaders of the Jews. They looked holy and righteous, and were very concerned with obedience to religion. Jesus and the disciples were questioned numerous times about their behaviors if they didn’t fit with what the Pharisees taught. One particular incident involved ceremonial hand washing which was a tradition of the elders. When confronted Jesus does not beat around the bush! Jesus got to the heart of the matter.

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;

The issue with the worship of the Pharisees was that they were about their own glory, not Gods. It is the same with the perfectionistic and behavioristic person. Yes, change can happen on the surface, we can look good and holy. And we may feel good and holy too, but the result is glory of self. I made the change, I made it happen. By my own actions I have made myself holy. There is no need for God and no room for God in behaviorism.

Jesus knew the hearts of the Pharisee’s were far from Him. They were religious people who were worshiping the wrong God! Their hearts were hard and far from Him. They had self-righteousness, not God’s righteousness!

Jesus told them that the basic problem is on the inside, not the outside (Matt 15:11). It is what is on the inside that is corrupted and what is being revealed by our behavior is the filth from within. Good behavior on the outside does not prove that good is within. Many people who are evil are capable of doing good things but that does not make them pure at heart.

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…” Matthew 7:11 (NASB)

 The Pharisees were offended by what Jesus said to them, and when I talk with some people about the need for change at the heart level they are offended with me! Very few people are overjoyed to hear that their heart is deceptive and full of sin. We do not want the problem to be “us.” It is much easier to blame others for our problems; the mother who didn’t love us, the father who abandoned us, the spouse who cheated on us…

It is also preferable to blame God for our problems. If God would have given me a better mom or dad I wouldn’t be this way. God is the one who made me with “mental illness” so I can’t help how I am. It is so much easier to foist all the responsibility on something or someone else for our behavior and our sinful responses.

Psychology ignores that there is something far more insidious to our sinfulness in fact, it does not even recognize sinfulness as an issue! Even the religious psychologist is often more about the believer being a victim who is in need of therapy rather than the victorious all conquering Christian of Romans 8. I find this terribly, terribly sad. I cannot imagine why a person would prefer or choose to believe they have an illness or are deficient in some organic/material way when presented with the issues of sin and the need for heart change, thereby locking themselves into a world that has no hope to ever get better or ever recover and live a normal life.

This is why we are so adamant that this thing we call biblical counseling must be about heart change! Heart change brings wonderful, glorious HOPE! The worship disorder must be corrected from the inside to the outside. This is why we believe that heart change- not simply behavior change- is what brings life change. A change in who is being worshiped has to take place in the heart before it will ever be seen in the life.

Worship is the central issue in biblical counseling, and I pray you are not worshiping in vain.