Biblical Methods of Change

The Principles of Change (from the Book Principles for Life)

 1.  God desires right actions, right motivation, and right thinking.  Even when we act right, God sees our right actions as filthy rags if they are motivated by selfishness.  If we think evil thoughts, to God it is the same as if we actually did them because we really wanted to do evil in our hearts. 


Mt 25:34  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  35  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  36  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  37  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed [thee]? or thirsty, and gave [thee] drink?  38  When saw we thee a stranger, and took [thee] in? or naked, and clothed [thee]? 39  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  40  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me.

Isa 64:6  But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Mt 5:28  But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 


            2.  Right actions come from sowing right deeds.   However, it is important for us to understand that to God, deeds include thoughts, words, and actions.  Entertaining wrong thoughts can be just as much of a sin and speaking or doing something evil.  We can sow good or bad seed through our thoughts, words, or actions. 

Ga 6:7  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 


            3.  Wholeness requires a pure heart.  Because our heart determines what we think, say, and do, we cannot hope to become whole or healthy without purifying our heart from evil.  We can only truly love (or have the best interests of others in mind) if we have a pure heart devoid of selfishness. 


1 Ti 1:5  Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:  


            4.  Understanding the heart is difficult but necessary.  If we do not understand our own hearts, we cannot purify it or have any control over our thoughts, words, or actions. 


Jer 17:9  The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it?  10  I the LORD search the heart, [I] try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, [and] according to the fruit of his doings.

Pr 4:23  Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.   


            5.  The heart consists of our mind, emotions, will, and spirit.  This is clear from the definition of Greek word kardia which denotes “the center of all physical and spiritual life.”  We can also prove this to ourselves by examining the verses listed below when we realize that we understand with our mind, we love with our emotion, we intend with our will, and we are condemned by our conscience, which is part of our spirit.  


a.       Mind: Mt 13:15  For this people's heart is waxed gross, and [their] ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with [their] eyes, and hear with [their] ears, and should understand with [their] heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.


b.      Emotions: Mr 12:33  And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love [his] neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.


c.       Will: Heb 4:12  For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 


d.      Spirit:  1Jo 3:20  For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 


           6.  We are changed at the deepest level by what we believe.  In my book, Faith Therapy, I explain how the process of salvation changes us from the inside out at the need or root cause level through faith.  As we believe that God has and always will meet all our needs (including our psychological needs for security, love, worth, and significance), we are set free from our selfishness (bias toward the self) to truly love others for the first time.  Through faith, we can feel secure in every situation, experience so much love from God that all we want to do is give it away, feel completely worthwhile, and see ourselves as so significant that we can not possibly ever become more significant.


Ro 10:9  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Ro 3:22  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

Jo 20:31  But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.


Methods of Change

          Over the years, since the time of Christ, a number of specific methods of change based on the Bible have been developed which provide the basis for what is today called Biblical counseling.  These methods can be categorized into several basic approaches.  Unfortunately, all are somewhat limited in scope and application.  Each can be effective in its own area of application and each can teach us something about how we, as people, function psychologically.


            1.  Acting on the Word of God.  At its most fundamental level, change comes simply by choosing to act according to the Word of God.  If we simply obey what we are told, we will be blessed in what we do. 


Jas 1:22  But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  25  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [therein], he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 


               Truth      >      Right Actions      >      Blessings and a Good Life 


            2.  Replacing the lies we believe in our minds with the truth.  This method is based on the renewing of our mind and is suggested by McGee in Search for Significance (1990).  When we recognize an ungodly emotion, motivation, or desire; it indicates that we must have believed a lie in our mind that has resulted in this feeling.  If we do nothing about the lie, it will eventually result in wrong actions.  We need to search our hearts to discover the lie and then replace it with the truth.  When we do, the truth will result in Godly emotions (which will replace the original ungodly ones) and we will then be predisposed to take Godly actions. 


Ro 12:2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.


                       Lies     >    Wrong Feelings and Desires    >   Wrong Actions                              


                      Truth     >    Godly Desires    >  Godly Actions


3.  Replace old behaviors with new ones.  This is what has been called the “put off, put on” method of Biblical counseling.  This method recognizes that there is a void to be filled when we stop doing evil and that this void needs to be filled with positive action if the change is to be long-lasting.


Eph 4:22  That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 24  And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.  25  Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.  28  Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.  29  Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.


  Truth > Remove Wrong Actions > Replace with Right Actions > Godly Change 


            4.  We are changed by the way we perceive things.  This is what has been called a paradigm shift.  The underlying principle is that we will act according to the way we see ourselves and our circumstances.  In marriage counseling, this has been called “reframing.”  Valid perceptions bring valid actions. 


Luke 11:34  The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.  35  Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.  36  If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light. 


Truth in the Mind > Changes Perceptions of Self and Others > Changes Actions


            5.  Accountability can motivate us to change.  Accountability partners, support groups, and others who we love us, can motivate us to face our faults and to change.  Adding caring prayer can be very effective.  This is a type of external motivation. 


Jas 5:16  Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 


 Confessing Faults + Held Accountable > Motivation to Change > Right Actions                                                                         

            6.  Temptations can be overcome if we will submit to God and resist the devil.  Many times we have made the mistake of trying to resist without first submitting ourselves to God and trusting Him to help us. 


Jas 4:7  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.


           Submit to God   +   Resist the Devil    >   Overcome Temptation 


            7.  We can change the consequences in our life by changing the actions that we sow.  This is what has been called sowing and reaping.  It has been most often applied to giving to God and to the conflict between the flesh and Spirit.  Your crop will be determined by what you have planted. 

Ga 6:7  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  8  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 


                          What We Sow    >     Is What We Reap


            8.  Recognize our fallen state, repent, and act correctly.  These are the methods suggested by Jay Adams (1973), who is probably one of the best known authors concerning classical Biblical counseling.  His method of Biblical change called noutheteo counseling is to confront what the person is doing as sin and demand that they repent.  If they do repent, their life is changed.  It provides a very direct approach to counseling.


Re 2:4  Nevertheless I have [somewhat] against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.  5  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 


      Identify the Sin  +  Confront the Sin  +  Repent  >  Biblical Behavior 


           9.  Teaching, confronting, correcting, and instructing in God’s principles.  The Biblical Counseling Foundation suggests a four step change process: 1.  See it as God does.  2.  Build Biblical hope.  3.  Put off the wrong behavior and put on the new behavior.  4.  Practice the new behavior.  (Biblical Principles for Discipleship/Counseling, 1998, p. 13) 


2Ti 3:16  All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17  That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.


 Biblical Truth  +  Biblical Hope  +  Biblical Action  +  Practice  >  Real Change                                              

           10.  Spiritual hindrances can be removed by casting out evil spirits.  Because Christ has given us power over all the power of the enemy we have a right to cast them out in Jesus’ name.  Although this has sometimes been excessively applied by some Christian groups, it still has application in Biblical counseling. 


Lu 10:19  Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 


   Spiritual Oppression  +  Spiritual Authority  >  Freedom from Oppression


           11.  We can find the promised way of escape to overcome temptation.  This method helps the client overcome temptation when he feels overwhelmed.  Since God has promised that there would always be a way of escape in every circumstance, the counselor encourages the client and assists him in finding that way of escape. 


1 Co 10:13  There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 


Temptation + Promise of God + Find Way of Escape > Victory Over Temptation 


          12.  The spiritual armor of God protects us from attack.  Some of us have even gone so far as to “put on the armor of God” each morning when we arose to make this promise more real to ourselves.  Of course, the real emphasis here is that God has given us His truth to resist the lies or “fiery darts” of the devil so that they will not harm us.  We do not have to accept his ideas or the thoughts that he attempts to plant in our minds.


Eph 6:14  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;  15  And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  16  Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:                                                       

      Attacks of the Devil > |||||||[Armor of God] >  We Remain Safe                                      

            13.  Past and present experiences can be healed through changing our perceptions of them and releasing them to God through forgiveness.  Although we cannot change a past experience, we can change how it affects us by how we perceive it and process our feelings concerning it.  One of these methods is Theophostic Ministry (Smith, 1996)  which invites the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s truth about the event in order to change our perception of that event.  Through forgiveness, we give up our rights to take vengeance for an offense to God; and, therefore, release ourselves from the responsibly to personally resolve it. 

John 16:13  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.


Colossians 3:13  Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.


 Experience  >  Perceptions  >  Emotions  >  Actions


            Godly Perceptions  >  Godly Emotions  +  Forgiveness  >  Godly Actions 


 A Biblical Model for Psychological Wholeness (From the Book Principles for Life)

 Although each of the methods presented in the last chapter are clearly Biblical and valid in their areas of application, they unfortunately do little to address much of the complexity of the human heart.  In fact, even the idea that the heart consists of the will, mind, emotions, and spirit is too simplistic for actual application.  Many of these parts have multiple functions and interact with each other.  For example, we use our mind to store information concerning what we believe is true, logically process that information, and use it to evaluate our experiences.  How we evaluate our experiences determines our emotions.  Our emotions motivate us to act, and our actions result in new experiences which strongly affect what we believe is true.


If we are to more effectively use Biblical truth to bring dynamic change, we are going to have to find a more comprehensive model for psychological functioning in order to know where and how to apply it.  The Book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, and one who spent much of his time investigating the deeper issues of life.  So, it is not surprising that God would use him to provide us clear direction concerning what it takes to have a full and complete life.  In Proverbs Chapter 3, he provided the information necessary to identify the components of the heart and to understand how they are to function.


Pr 3:5  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  6  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  7  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.  8  It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.


The Train of Psychological Wholeness 

Without being fully aware of its significance, for years I used a method for helping a client change his emotions and feelings that I called the “Emotional Train.”  I would explain that a person’s emotions are primarily affected by his will, mind, and actions.  These form an emotional train in which the engine is his will, followed by his mind, followed by his actions, and finally followed by the caboose, his emotions.  In order to change how a client feels, he needs to decide to go a different direction (repent), convince his mind to agree, act according to what he decided to do, and eventually his emotions will follow.  Of course, a client may try to run his train backwards using his emotions to determine his actions which affect his mind and his will.  Attempting to run his emotional train backwards only leads downhill and into depression; since the caboose only has momentum, not an engine. 


            As I studied Biblical principles and ask God  to reveal a more comprehensive method for applying these principles, He led me back again and again to the very familiar verses of Proverbs 3:5-8.  As I meditated on them, I realized that this was a much more elaborate description of the emotional train.  It describes the principles for a healthy life.  In addition, it addresses the areas of intervention that must be addressed in order to change the whole person.  I now call it the “Train of Psychological Wholeness.” (See the chart at the end of this chapter for a graphic rendition of this train.) 


When we investigate the meaning of the words used in these verses in the Hebrew language we find that they provide specific direction for all aspects of our life: 


Pr 3:5  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart (we are to have faith in mind, will, emotions, and spirit); and lean not unto thine own understanding (our spirit, not our mind is to control the train).  6  In all thy ways (actions) acknowledge (or know) him (we develop the truth in our spirit by knowing God), and he shall direct thy paths (our will should be run by the spirit).  7  Be not wise in thine own eyes (don’t trust in your own perceptions): fear the LORD (we should be motivated by God’s truth), and depart from evil (our actions must resist evil).  8  It shall be health to thy navel (our emotional needs are met), and marrow (inner refreshing of the spirit) to thy bones (our experience will be inner health or wholeness). 


My paraphrase of this verse goes like this:  “Have faith in your heart, don’t think you can direct your life, know God’s truth in your spirit and allow it to direct your will.  Don’t trust your own perceptions, be motivated by the fact that God loves you and will do what is best for you, and in your actions avoid evil things.  If you do these things you will experience emotional, physical, and psychological health and all your needs will be met.” 


            We have now identified some Biblical concepts for living a full and successful life and some of the factors involved.  We must still integrate these concepts in order to understand how these components of the heart function together in order to produce a useable counseling model.  As we continue to analyze these verses, we find that they list each component of the heart and offer  suggestions for intervening to bring wholeness in the life of a person. 


These include:

 ·        Faith in the entire heart.

·         Direction of the will by the spirit.

·         Truth in the spirit.

·         A mind yielded and open to the spirit.

·         Not trusting our perceptions but seeing God’s viewpoint.

·         Perceiving our needs as God does.

·         Being motivated by our awe of and allegiance to God

·         Not acting wrongly.

·         Right actions bring wholeness and healing experiences.

·         Right actions and experiences bring positive emotions. 


          Condensing this information, we find that to affect the whole man, we must address the issues of the will, spirit, mind, perceptions, needs, motivation, actions, experiences, and emotions.  We should note that perceptions are a function of the mind and that motivation is a function of the emotions.  Our needs are a basic part of the self, and our experiences are the result of our actions which are directed by our will.  Faith is a function of all of the members of our heart.  Each of these affect each other in a rather complex way. 


This is the diagram of the train of psychological wholeness that explains human functioning based on Proverbs Chapter 3.
The Train of Psychological Wholeness

In the diagram above I have attempted to present a simplistic view of the human functioning and some of the dynamics involved.  Note that the spirit has little influence in unbelievers because it has not been regenerated by the Spirit of God and their will does not yield to it.  It is God’s plan that we yield our will to the influence of our spirit which, in the believer, is yielded to the Spirit of God.  It is through the influence of the Spirit of God that we should interpret or perceive our lives.  These perceptions, in turn, influence our will.  This is what I have labeled the mental process.


Our emotional process begins with our perceptions of our needs.  We are motivated to meet our needs as we perceive them and we will act in ways that attempt to meet these perceived needs.  Our actions will lead to our emotions and all of this will lead to new experiences that will again affect our mental process.  From a Biblical point of view, we will either be primarily influenced by our spirit and walk according to the Spirit or be primarily influenced by the perceived needs of our self and try to meet them by walking according to the flesh. 


Using this model, let us take a more in-depth view of what Proverbs 3:5-8 is telling us.  It says that the key to becoming psychologically whole is to have trust or faith in the whole heart (or the entire diagram).  Particularly, if we trust God to meet all our needs and to direct our lives, we will yield our will to the direction of the Spirit.  If we fill our spirit and mind with God’s truth and refuse to trust our own perceptions of things, we will see life from God’s point of view.  If we believe that God loves us and will meet our needs, we will be motivated by appreciation to avoid evil and selfish actions.  If we avoid these selfish actions, that result in negative experiences, we will also avoid the unpleasant emotions that they produce. Furthermore, our Godly motivation will result in Godly actions and Godly emotions.  These emotions will produce Godly experiences  that will result in positive emotions.  These verses suggest that following these principles of interaction can only lead to emotional, physical, and psychological health. 


Books about How People Change

Watch the Video Class on Biblical Change Methods from the Book Principles for Life below:

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