Frequently, counselees ask me for practical ways to change. Previously it has been stated in this book that all true change begins in the heart. Religiously following a list of “how to-s” will not produce true change it may not necessarily change the heart. It may help a person to become a better Pharisee, but over time their true heart condition will be revealed. The suggestions that follow are a display of the heart that desires to change. The suggestions that follow are a display of the heart that desires to change. I recommend completing as many of these practical application items as possible. When applied to the heart, you will benefit greatly!
When a person ceases their love affair with their sin and has begun to view their sin with distain or even hatred, these things are the most effective.
Following are biblical suggestions you can share with those who are looking for practical application:
1. Ask yourself if your thoughts, words, actions, or desires are glorifying to God before you do them. I suggest making index cards that say, “Does this __________ glorify God?” and place them on your mirrors, books, dashboard, workspace, television or computer monitor. Literally any place that you know you are prone to sin as a reminder of what you are trying to do. This has proven to be a very helpful tool in the early days of change to keep the mind focused in the right direction and to catch one’s self in automatic behavior.
2. Memorize Scripture that specifically relates to the sin that you struggle with. Writing out these applicable verses on cards and putting them together in a flip chart can be helpful. They are easily portable, fit in a pocket, purse, or book bag and can be used anywhere. Repetition is the most effective way to memorize, so frequent readings of these cards will be very helpful.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11 (ESV)
3. Think about your thoughts On the surface this may appear odd, but thinking about what you are thinking about is actually a critical step in mind renewal. Begin by asking God to search you and know your heart.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)
Be comforted in the truth that God is all-knowing. There is nothing that God does not know about you; you cannot shock Him. He knows what is in your heart before you do; He is acquainted with all your ways. God’s desire is that you are aware of the thoughts that must be changed. See also verses 1-4 of Psalm 139.
This request is a sign of humility and submission to Who He is. To ask God to see if there is any wickedness in you indicates your desire to change.
4. Confess your sin to God. If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. 1 John 1:8-9 (NLT)
Admitting you sin is a sign of the Holy Spirit working within you. Confession is agreeing with God that what you have done is wrong and is offensive to Him. When you know you have done wrong, you are responsible to change your behavior through the renewing of your mind.
5. Try keeping a thought journal. Initially, this may be a struggle for you. Typically, I receive resistance to keeping the journal, but I tell you it is one of the most effective tools for change. The objections for this activity tend to be along the lines of struggling with putting thoughts on paper, and this is exactly why it is so effective. Those who struggle with automatic behavior are not actively thinking, they are reacting to long-standing habits and behaviors.
These reactions are comfortable for them, and I am often told that the counselee feels awkward putting this on paper. All the more reason to do this project!
I suggest writing down what you are thinking, believing, and desiring in your heart throughout the day, especially during times when you have sinned or want to sin. Then, review the journal and see if you can support your thoughts, beliefs, or desires biblically. The goal in this assignment is to help you see your thoughts in an objective manner. See if you can find Scripture that contextually supports your thoughts or reveals that you were wrong and sinned. Confess your sin to God, thank Him for His forgiveness, and seek to memorize the verses that speak to your specific sinful struggles to help you overcome them.
6. Take every thought captive
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)
When you are beginning the process of mind renewal, there are many old thought patterns to be battled with. You cannot conquer your thought-life with traditional weapons; your battle takes place in the unseen world of your mind and heart.
While turning off the TV or leaving corrupting company is a tangible way to do battle, the bulk of this war is internal; and, it is a war.
You must assault your old and sinful thought patterns with the truth of God’s Word. You must capture these thoughts and subject them to biblical scrutiny. Do they pass the test of heart change? Do they pass the test of glorifying God?
The above verse says you must, “demolish arguments (thoughts, ideas, speculations, reasonings, philosophies, and false religions) and every pretension that sets itself up (exalts itself) against the knowledge of God. (amplification added)
This is a battle that takes place in the mind– and you can expect a battle! You may have been living with sinful thought patterns for many years. Is it reasonable to expect your thoughts to rapidly change? Indeed, some change may come easily; but, some of your behaviors, thoughts, and desires will not be so easily changed (Gal. 5:17).
These two natures are at war with each other; they desire opposite things. The flesh will lead you toward sinful behavior; the Spirit will remind you of what is right and what God desires - obedience that glorifies Him.
This will be an ongoing war until you reach glory.