Inner Man, Inner Life

Our staff is attending the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors Annual Conference for a few days this week.  We are privileged to have been approved as a NANC training center!  Please watch our Facebook pages for updates from the conference!  While we are away, I am posting foundational truths about true and lasting change.  They are also the basis of our ministry.  I hope you learn and grow as you read! 

I do not believe that a biblical counselor who looks to the example of Christ as our Wonderful Counselor and follows His example could be accused of being harsh or unloving. Christ was loving, truthful, honest, confrontational, discerning, wise and a host of other things.  He did not excuse sin, He called people to repentance, and He expected change in the hearts and lives of those who heard the truth. He understood the emotional component of a person, and how emotions can sway their actions. He challenged them not to live by their feelings, but to live in obedience to His commands. And He gave the Christian the Person of the Holy Spirit to enable them to do that.

Jesus ministered to the whole person. He healed their physical ailments and often used their physical ailments to point to their spiritual sickness or their spiritual needs.  He ministered to the material man and the immaterial man.

The Bible makes a distinction between the “outer man” and the “inner man,” material and immaterial. The material man is all that you can touch- flesh, bones, and organs. The outer man is the part of man that is subject to decay (2 Cor. 4:16). When a person has a disease it is said they have an organic problem. Organic or biological problems are the domain of the physician who provides medical care.

The immaterial man is everything that you cannot see or touch - It includes your mind, will, emotions, spirit, soul, thoughts, beliefs, desires, feelings, and conscience. The inner man refers to the immaterial or spiritual man that is either dead (Eph. 2:1-3) or alive (Eph. 2:4-10). This is the domain of the biblical counselor who provides soul-care.

Many of the cases I deal with in our counseling center have both a medical and spiritual component. There are times I must work with a physician because some diseases have as a side effect emotional problems. There are times I have to work in cooperation with a counselee’s psychiatrist as the counselee desires to be weaned off psychiatric medications.  I also work with nutritionists when a counselee has an eating disorder.  I am not there to discount or deny their medical or psychiatric diagnosis, but I will most certainly help them to see their diagnosis through biblical terminology, and help them understand it from a biblical perspective.

What we think, believe, and desire in our inner man, is what our outer man does. We are used to our physical bodies automatically responding to desires such as thirst and hunger. We also automatically respond to other kinds of thoughts and desires. For example, when we become angry, we may curse or hit. When we desire escape from problems, we may drink or use drugs. When we are in trouble, we may fear exposure so we lie.

No one denies that these two “parts” of us, if you will – interact with each other constantly. The inner man is the place of thought and reason (Matt. 13:15). The inner man is also the place of feelings or affections (Ecc. 7:9, Isa. 35:4) and the will also resides there.  The will strongly influences our choices and decisions.

The Bible says that whatever is spiritual proceeds from the heart, and the heart is the battleground for the mind, will, and emotions. As a part of building our understanding that heart means soul let’s look at the role of emotions in the problems people face, and how we can understand them biblically and help the counselee to address them.

I have already stated that Biblical counselors believe emotional and behavior problems have either an organic (biological) cause or a spiritual cause.  We view man’s emotions, perceptions, cognitive abilities, and behavior as having their origin in biological functions that interact with the living soul or spirit that God exclusively gives to every human being.  There is no doubt that we are complex beings (Proverbs 23:7a).

A person’s spiritual condition will determine what he does with his thoughts, emotions, perceptions and behaviors so we cannot separate the physical actions and attitudes from their spiritual aspects.