Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:12-13 (NASB)
There is little more difficult in counseling than ministering to a counselee with a hard heart. Our counseling methodology is built around the change of heart in a person. We believe that the Holy Spirit must effect salvific heart change (Ezk. 26:26, 11:19-20; Jer. 32:39) for any further change to take place. When a person professes to have been regenerated (saved, born-again, redeemed) it means to the Biblical Counselor that God has given them a new heart that is able to submit to God and to obey Him.
Each and every Christian has been enabled to change their mind, thoughts, desires, intentions, emotions, beliefs etc) through the Person of Jesus Christ. The Lord has enabled us to make practical changes in our lives because of the changes He has brought about in the heart; so when I am confronted by a person who remains unchanged and unaffected by the application of the gospel to their heart and their sin issues I have great concern.
seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:3-4 (NASB)
This verse teaches us that we have everything we need in Christ to be godly internally and to reveal that godliness externally. When a person consistently fails to do this and persists to live in their sin it is not the counseling that fails, it is not the gospel that fails, and it is not the Lord Jesus Christ that fails. It is most often the counselee has hardened their heart and is refusing to repent from their sin and change.
A hard heart is the result of refusing the promptings and urging of the Holy Spirit and the result of great self-deception. Self-deception blinds the person to the dangerous waters they are in.
Very often they exhibit more love for themselves than they do the Lord. This is evident by their love of the sin they are involved in. Of course, they don't come out and say they love their sin, but the refusal to repent and forsake it speaks more than their words could ever say. Loving anything more than God is idolatry so in essence the hard-hearted person is an idolator.
Sin compounds sin and once self-deception sets in the person is opened up to all manner of ungodliness. Pride, unforgiveness, bitterness, rage, selfishness, bragging, and many other things. The counselee will at some point find themselves involved in more sin than they ever could have imagined. Sin always takes you farther than you ever wanted to go. Those who have been there have told me it was almost as though they looked at themselves one day and where they were at in life and wondered, "How on earth did I get here?"
A person who is hard-hearted must be confronted about the sin they are immersed in by loving, caring, and compassionate Christians who understand all that is at stake in the person's life and in the church. The sinning brother or sister must be confronted for the sake of their soul.
Sadly, some refuse to hear the loving rebukes of brothers and sisters in Christ and persist in their folly. Their lives will be unfruitful and they will be miserable. I have been involved in these situations many times and I am always surprised by the responses from the person being confronted. When repeated rebukes are met with consistent resistance the church has no option other than to go forward with the discipline process.