Lasting Change Requires Head-Heart-Hand Counseling

by Jim Binney

Where are all our converts? Why do so few who claim salvation show a change in their lives? Why do so few who change really stick? Why do so few who stick really seem to make a difference?

The answer to these timeless questions may be found in a failure to follow God's plan for lasting change. "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you" (Rom. 6:17). Throughout Romans chapter six Paul makes a compelling case for a distinct change in the three basic parts of man's personality; the mind, the heart, and the will. In this single verse he summarizes his teaching. He commends the Roman Christians for changing at all three levels: the will; "Ye have obeyed," the heart; "from the heart," the mind; "that form of doctrine." Lasting spiritual change must address and impact all three.

God always addresses truth to the conscious mind of man, his intellectual part. From there it affects the heart. The heart in Scripture represents both the emotions and the convictions of a man. After the heart is changed a man is compelled to action: "ye have obeyed from the heart." That action is the result of the will being changed.

So the path of life-changing truth always follows a predictable course; from the head to the heart to the hand. First you learn it, then you love it, and then you live it.

To skip a step or focus inordinately on only one of them will deceive the seeker and distract him from lasting victory. And yet these are the common approaches to much counseling and discipleship. We choose a cold, academic approach with the notion that truth alone is the solution. Or we skip the "doctrine" stage and go right for the heart, in hopes of an emotional experience. The aggressive counselor may even attempt to force his own convictions upon the heart of the follower. The more self-sufficient seeker may be attracted to the purely volitional level of conquering via the power of the will alone. Each of these approaches may have a temporary effect, but none of them alone can bring lasting spiritual victory.

Isaiah warns of the danger of incomplete change. "...Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth (will), and with their lips do honor me (will), but have removed their heart far from me (heart), and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men" (mind) [Is. 29:13]. This is a picture of a busy-handed, empty-hearted, full-headed believer living in defeat.

Though it is not wrong at some point to address the heart or will directly, it is ineffective if not dangerous to do so while ignoring the mind. The beginning place of change is in the "doctrine," or truths that change the rest of man. "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." I have seen many people plead, "Help me to feel better," or "Show me how I can stop sinning," but I have yet to hear someone ask, "Help me to change my belief system." Yet effective counseling begins with the mind, where the counselee is enabled to put off the lies and put on the truth.

A crowd gathered to watch the victim of a tragic accident lying face down in a growing pool of blood. One man lit a cigarette while leaning against the guardrail. "Somebody should help that guy before he bleeds to death," he casually intoned. The paramedics arrived and turned the victim over. The man with the cigarette threw it down and screamed, "Somebody do something! That's my brother!" The truth had moved from the head that stirred the heart and changed the life. A changed life is always the result of "obey[ing] from the heart that form of doctrine."

Jim Binney is director of L.E.A.D. Ministries at the Moorehead Manor in New Concord, Ohio. He specializes in counseling for those in positions of spiritual leadership.

Phone: (740) 872-3816

E-mail: leadministries@juno.com

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