You want to encourage real change in your counselee.
Your counselee or friend says she wants to change. And she talks and talks and talks about her struggle. Her follow-through on assignments—say, reading several Bible passages and jotting insights—is poor at best.
So how does a biblical counselor encourage a counselee to commit to change?
Knowing Versus Believing
A place to begin:
Determine whether she believes in Jesus as Savior and acts on her beliefs. Did you know that when people know something, they don’t necessarily live according to their knowledge a majority of the time? However, when a person holds fast to godly beliefs, these beliefs guide and direct every part their life.
We all know someone who claims to be a Christian, but the way that they live may cause us to scratch our heads wondering if they truly are a Christian. Anyone can be knowledgeable about the gospel, but deny it by not living according to it. A few examples:
- Romans 1:21–22 (ESV): For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.
- 2 Timothy 3:1–5 (ESV): But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
- Luke 6:46 (ESV): “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
Often those who are Christian in name only aren’t yet convinced of the need for a Savior.
Is Your Counselee Working Against You?
If the person you are counseling is not working with you, then the person is working against you.
Counseling becomes difficult and tedious. The counselor can become perplexed, wondering why the person isn’t getting better or why the counseling has been effective. There are times when you will find yourself counseling someone who is growing as slow as molasses. This type of person is continually showing up for counseling, but helping this individual is like pulling teeth. Therefore, examine whether this person is a Christian and committed to living for Christ according to the following questions:
- Does this person clearly understand the goal and procedure for change?
- Have you identified the obstacles that are hindering the sanctification process?
- Are the results of being changed into the image of Christ more desirable?
The Joy of a Gospel-Believing Counselee
A counselee who wants to change believes the gospel.
She knows she needs to be saved and trusts that Christ can save her. She knows she cannot save herself by trying to be a more moral person so God will accept her. She knows self-improvement doesn’t work.
Only Jesus lived a perfectly holy life. He alone is the person who can provide salvation. Fully God, fully man, Jesus faced God’s wrath when he became sin on the cross to atone for our sins and he died. Gloriously, after three days in the tomb, he was raised from the dead and forty days later, ascended into heaven.
Yes, a committed follower of Jesus Christ is someone who not only knows the gospel, but believes it.
She is becoming like Christ by trusting in God. The Holy Spirit enables her to live according to the Bible’s imperatives and know true joy.
Your Counselee: Committed to Change!
Remember how your counselee loved to talk about her struggle but made no real progress?
Now, gospel-centered, she’s excited to believe God’s promises that Jesus can and will help her live a godly life, develop godly patterns in thought and behavior, and consider daily how much Jesus loves her, responding with thankfulness and praise.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Eph. 5:1, ESV