Yesterday we began to look at the reasons a counselee would struggle to change. The first consideration has to be the authenticity of their salvation. Where there is no Holy Spirit there can be no biblical change for He is the agent of change in the heart and life of the believer in Christ.
We can describe this as a lack of true repentance. Repentance is obviously a key issue and is often misunderstood. The intellectual element of repentance is described as “a change of view, a recognition of sin as involving personal guilt, defilement, and helplessness.” The emotional element is “a change of feeling, manifesting itself in sorrow for sin committed against a holy God.” The volitional element is “a change of purpose, an inward turning away from sin, and a disposition to seek pardon and cleansing.” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 486)
Repentance is not simply stopping a wrong behavior, or performing a form of penance in an attempt to atone for the sin committed. Repentance is in every respect a change of heart that is a result of and a part of having saving faith in Jesus Christ. The fruit of repentance is the overflow of the changes in the heart of a person. These would be the visible signs in life that changes have taken place in the heart. Where there are no visible changes in life (fruit) the seriousness of repentance must be questioned. The reality of a false conversion cannot be overlooked.
When genuine repentance is present there will be turning away from the love of the sin that brought the counselee to the table. Again, this is because genuine repentance produces genuine change in the heart and life of the believing person!
Genuine repentance unto salvation will also lead to ongoing repentance for the sin of daily life. We could call that the visible evidence of genuine repentance. There will be a hatred of sin. I often tell my counselee’s that they have to develop as an intense of a hatred for it as they had a love for it. The desire to commit sin is always present in the human heart while we live in these bodies, however because of the new life in Christ we have an opposing force in the Person of the Holy Spirit. He reminds us that we are no longer slaves to the desire of the flesh, that we have been given the opportunity to choose. A choice to sin or not to sin is something that before Christ we were incapable of (Romans 6).
Repentance brings a new outlook and a new set of spiritual eyes to every day life. The truly repentant one will begin to see sin through the eyes of God. This is available to us through the Word of God.
I believe in letting the Word speak for itself to the heart of the counselee. When sin must be confronted it is much more effective to have the counselee read aloud the appropriate passages of Scripture rather than quoting them for her, or reading them to her. I suggest giving her the chapter and verse and asking her to read it aloud to you. Follow that up by asking her if she sees herself in the verses and press her to be specific in her answers.
This should produce sorrow that leads to the heart level desire to change in thought, belief, and action. If it does not the counselee will struggle with her inability to change and once again the possibility of a false repentance unto salvation is the root cause.