Can a Person Really Change?

Tim Bryant
I have been director of the Lowcountry Biblical Counseling Center (www.lcbcc.org) in Charleston  South Carolina since 2003.  We have seen God do great things for His glory in many lives and marriages.   The reason for the successes is because our counseling seeks to be carefully and methodically based on the biblical theology of sanctification.   The testimonies that come out of LCBCC affirm to you that people can truly change when Christ is at work through the truth of His Word.  No one is in a hopeless state. But God must supply you power to change as you supply the effort. Both are needed! You cannot change on your own, but God will not choose change for you. Indeed God will, if He loves you like a Father, place you in some very difficult circumstances to persuade you to change. (See James 1:2-4, John 15:3, Heb 12:6,7 & 10-12, 1 Peter 1:6-9) He has done this in my life. But in the end, the process of change, according to the Bible, is a cooperative effort between God and you. Both must be active. God is the initiator and you are the responder.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work  out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.                           Philippians 2:12-13

 

Testimony – “I had some private addictions that had hurt my wife repeatedly for years. I had tried and tried but could not break free. Finally, I lost control to my sin and made a bad decision that cost me my job. My wife as devastated. Through biblical counseling my eyes became open to how practical the Word was as the Spirit began to persuade me to repent and change my heart. For the first time I had a power to choose to think Truth in temptation! God’s Word has now so replaced my addictions that when my 4 yr. old son pretends to be “dad” he now bows his head and starts reciting little scriptures he has heard me praying. Apart from LCBCC teaching me how to use Christ’s Word in my battle against sin, there would be no restored life or marriage.”

Testimony – “Last year my depression had become more and more dark, and panic attacks had become more and more frequent. God was using suffering to teach me to trust in His control and His promises, to increase my faith to give up my anger, to be more disciplined in meditating on His thoughts, not mine, to give up my desire to be a super mom and wife”

Testimony – “I had anger that had not been dealt with and unforgiveness in my heart mixed with an enormous amount of pride. I would listen to no one. It led to explosive and destructive behavior. I ended up losing the most precious gifts to me – my wife and son. God broke me. Through Biblical Counseling I have been restored to God, my wife and son. If God is willing to help change me, I know He will do the same for others.”

Do you see a common thread in each of these testimonies? It is Philippians 2:12-13. God gave each of these the power to change. He placed them in tough circumstances that provoked them to change and then spoke through the ministry of His Word to convince them of their need to change. But, each of these responded to this power of God at work in them and around them by “working it out” in daily life. They made choices to think on and act on the Word of God. Apart from the cooperative effort between them and God, change would not have happened. God supplies the power, we provide the effort. (See 1 Cor 15:10, Rom 8:12-13, Phil 3:10, 2 Cor 9:8, Phil 4:13, 1 Cor 9:24-27)

Note that Philippians 2:12-13 uses the word “salvation” in the context of “working out”. This may seem confusing because of other passages like Ephesians 2:8,9 that says we are “saved not by works but by grace”. The moment your heart first responds in faith and repentance, you are saved, meaning you are no longer under the penalty of your sin. Yet, the more your heart responds in obedience, you are in the process of “being saved” or experiencing the ongoing benefits in this life of being saved. You are becoming less controlled by sin’s power and more by Christ’s reign in your life. The Bible uses the concept of justification to speak of that initial work of God upon a man, while it uses the word sanctification to speak of the continuing work of God upon a man whom he has already saved from the penalty of sin. Both are indeed what it means to be “saved”. So, the Christian is at both times ‘saved’ from sin in one sense and ‘being saved’ from sin in another. The first requires no work – God does it alone, while the ongoing work of God in sanctification is a process that requires man to work for continued freedom from the bondage of sin. Both require dependence upon God’s power and provision in Christ, for you can do neither on your own.

LCBCC views everything we do in counseling and training as an extension of this process of sanctification as defined in the above statement. Any success is a direct result of God through Christ working in a person’s life and heart, learning how to depend on that work as they respond in obedient thoughts and actions. I encourage you to look up the verses mentioned in this article. Pray for God to speak to you as you meditate on them. Add to this effort a meeting with a mature Christian leader whose life reflects active participation in the process of sanctification and change. If you and God cooperate together in the process of change, you will be the next person to have a testimony of the glory of God’s power.

For more information or help on biblical counseling and change visit our website at www.lcbcc.org

*Image courtesy of by wiangya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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