How People Change

How do people change?

In my first post we unpacked the biblical mandate to counsel one another. Counseling one another is inescapable; God calls us all to counsel each other. Personal ministry is about helping others to be rescued from their own self-sufficiency. It is about pointing to a Redeemer and being a tool God could use to encourage change in someone’s life. God wants us to be changing (2 Peter 3:18). The central work of God’s kingdom is change.

To borrow a phrase, “If your faith isn’t changing you, it hasn’t saved you.” If you are genuinely converted, God is changing you. Conversion puts you on the road to change (Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:3). Are there areas in your life you want to change? Of course there are. When you change your behavior are you changing biblically? Depends. Is lasting change easy? Most of us would say, NO!

Me, change? Ouch!

Change is difficult and sometimes painful. Every one of us have sinful habits and behaviors that we wish we could put to death once and for all. What do you struggle with? Does worry, fear, bitterness, bulimia, anger, pornography, hopelessness, marital strife, pride, or loneliness define struggles in your life? What specific struggle is God working to transform in you?

If you are a Christ follower I know you desire to change God’s way, but I imagine you could list the many times you have tried and failed. If you have tried to change but failed it is because you have tried to change according to an unbiblical method. Pursuing God’s plan for change always works (Philippians 2:13). I hope that caught your attention. Change is possible. Changing God’s way works. It is God’s will to change you!

But I have tried to change!

Have you tried to change and failed? Are these failures the excuse you are using for not changing right now? You may be thinking “why would this time be any different?” We as Christians are commanded to change [1] but remember, God never commands without equipping.

If you have tried to change that particular struggle, you may have done so by one of the following unbiblical methods. Do any of these ring true for you?

  • I can’t change because of my past

  • My environment or upbringing has been a factor in who I am  so I can’t change

  • If my circumstance would change (environment) I would change (be happier, more fulfilled)

  • I just need more willpower and I will change

  • I need to discover my own potential, love myself more, and have a higher self-esteem and then I could change

  • I know what to change and how to live but there is a big gap between what I know I should be doing and what I am actually doing.

  • I don’t know why I don’t change but I know what is wrong!

  • Christianity is all about conforming to a code of conduct. My behavior is not as bad as _____ (so and so Christian).

None of these methods help us to change biblically. They may seem plausible but they are plausible lies; unbiblical ways of changing that take us away from God’s program for change. They attempt to change behavior and ignore the heart behind the actions.

Change that ignores the heart will seldom transform our life and almost always is not lasting.

Biblical change – different than worldly change

God’s focus is not on changing your behavior or circumstance but on changing the inner you (which will change your behavior and your response to the circumstance).

Our change is progressive. When we surrendered to God the habits of our old corrupt nature of thinking and acting were not automatically taken away. Because of remaining sin, they need to be renewed—WE NEED HELP! Our natural responses to the trials, challenges and pain of life are sinful because of this remaining sin.

Thankfully, God gives us help. He gives us all the equipment we need to change. He gives us very powerful equipment. He gives us the Holy Spirit so we can change to His glory. We can totally be transformed through His power. We have everything we need!

So let’s get practical. The third part of this series will unpack the “how to” of change. How can we change biblically when we:

  1. Have a fundamental problem of the human heart–idolatry and pride

  2. Fail to understand we must cooperate fully with God’s desire to transform us

  3. Possess knowledge but have yet to apply this knowledge to our life—we have not been mastered by Truth

Change is possible. Changing God’s way works!

About the author

Karen McMahon is passionate about helping others apply biblical truth to every situation in life. She is the Director of Discipleship Counseling at First Evangelical Free church in Maplewood, Minnesota and a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) She has a MA in Theology from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is completing her MA in Biblical Counseling from Faith Bible Seminary-Lafayette, IN. Karen loves Jesus Christ, her husband, their three children and their 12 year old yellow lab…and sushi too.

[1] Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18; Colossians 1:10; 1 Peter 2:2; Philippians 1:9)

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