From time to time a counselee will ask me why it seems they are not changing. I admit, it is a frustration to me as a discipleship counselor when I see people seemingly trying to bring about biblical changes in their lives and their attempts falling short.

There are some specific reasons as to why a counselee fails to change. The first would be they are not truly regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 1 John 3:9 (NASB)

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NASB)

An unregenerated counselee may be able to take your counsel and make behavioral changes, but they will not be able to effect the lasting life changes that are necessary to glorify God by how they live. I have counseled women before who have been in this position, and part of them knows this is true yet they are very confused by their apparent inability to truly change.

Much of what will be asked of the counselee is in the realm of change of heart that leads to change of life and behavior. The goal is heart change for life change and the glory of God. There is not enough good in any of us (apart from Christ) to change the human heart. 

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB)

To the best of your God-given ability you must repeatedly present the gospel to your counselee and patiently explain that according to Scripture their greatest need is repentance and regeneration. You and I are not in charge of their salvation, but we are responsible to deliver the message of the cross to them and pray for the Spirit of God to reside within them.

Another reason regenerated people can’t change is they have too much love for their sin. It means more to them than God does and is deep down very precious to them.  Rare is the person who readily admits this, for self-deception and self-justification are the powerful allies of the sinful heart.

Those who struggle with change often display behaviors that will lead a less experienced counselor to conclude the counselee thinks poorly of themselves. Hiding their face in shame, refusing to meet your gaze, squirming and verbal rabbit trails are all methods of this type of counselee.

In reality, the counselee is revealing their heart of great pride to you. We can see pride in their “all about me” manner of living, even during the time they spend with you in a session. This counselee has got to be willing to look at their thoughts, beliefs, desires, and their behaviors through the lens of Scripture.  Pray the Lord will give them eyes to see their sinfulness and that it would lead to an understanding of their heart of pride.  As they come to see the reality of their sinful state, pray for them to repent and to desire to live their life for the glory of God.

Tomorrow we will continue learning about the counselee’s who can’t change.