Three Essential Elements in the Change Process (Part 2)

April 27, 2017

BCC Staff: In the previous blog post, Jeff Forrey introduced us to a relatively new Christian, “Brock.” Unwise choices have made him aware of his need to make lifestyle changes. He has racked up a credit card bill that is beyond his means to pay off quickly. The pressure he feels has motivated him to seek a quick fix through casino gambling.

In the first part of this two-part blog, Jeff highlighted the need for Brock, as a Christian, to be primarily motivated to glorify God in his life. Then he introduced the second element, based on Ephesians 4:22-24, and expands on that in this post.

Element #2: Specifying What Needs to Change from the Inside Out (Continued)

Lifestyle change for Christians is succinctly laid out in Ephesians 4:22–24: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Specifying the Put-offs

You should make sure Brock understands what unbiblical aspects of his life must be stopped—and why it is important to the Lord that they be stopped (that is, how they are “corrupting” and “deceitful” for him). Brock might think, “Clearly, I have to stop going to the casino and stop my excessive spending.” Both of those changes would be valuable, but if he doesn’t appreciate how they are directly connected to his growth as a Christian, he will be more likely to resume them later.

So Brock needs to link his ungodly behaviors with the underlying unbiblical desires that produce them. The easiest way to do this is to ask him what he hoped to accomplish by going to the casino so often. That in turn can lead to an inquiry about what made each of his luxury expenditures so attractive to him. Once his desires or goals have been articulated, you can help him see from specific biblical passages how his goals and desires compare to God’s will for him. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with TVs, motorcycles, or necklaces, the pressing question Brock must answer is whether such purchases might reveal a commitment to pleasure over responsible stewardship, or perhaps a desire for status with others rather than a desire to serve others in love (see, for example, Prov. 21:17; 1 Tim. 6:6–10). Brock has made impulsive money-related decisions that will enslave him if he doesn’t break his pattern.

For well-established patterns, people benefit from tracking when the behaviors, attitudes, or thoughts occur and what triggers seem to prompt them (such as events, people, physical states like fatigue or hunger, and values adopted earlier in life). In Brock’s case, this tracking exercise might take the form of a “Dissatisfaction Diary.” When he is experiencing dissatisfaction, he can record:

  • The situation in which he finds himself dissatisfied
  • The types of thoughts he is entertaining
  • What these thoughts reveal about his attitude toward God’s provisions for him

Specifying the Put-ons

Every aspect of a Christian’s life should be infused with a desire to represent God on earth, just as Jesus did during His earthly ministry. Therefore, Brock must learn not only what ungodly patterns to remove from his life but also what godly patterns can fill the void, creating a new direction or sense of purpose for him. As the new patterns solidify, they will also help protect him from returning to the old ways.

In discussions with Brock, you would need to be attentive to the following “put-ons” (based on Prov. 22:7, 30:7–9; Matt. 6:19–21; Phil. 4:6, 11–13; Col. 2:6–7):

  • Learning to be content with basic necessities (fasting can help here)
  • Being thankful for all God’s blessings each day
  • Spending only what he can afford, based on a detailed budget
  • Selling luxury items that can’t be paid off in a month
  • Storing up “treasure in heaven” (spending time serving others in church and other organizations)

Element #3: Pursuing Accountability from Supportive Relationships

Finally, as a Christian, Brock should not think he needs to make these changes all by himself. Because he is a son of God, he is part of the family of God. He should forge relationships with other Christians who could encourage, support, and guide him through these changes (Rom. 15:14; Heb. 3:12–13, 10:24–25). Accountability to one or two other Christians will be intensive to start with, for example:

  • He might turn over debit and credit cards to someone (or lock them up and give the other person the key).
  • He might meet regularly with someone to discuss expenditures and review his bank statement.

Then as Brock’s resolve gets stronger and he shows evidence of thinking more biblically about money and possessions, the accountability can become less stringent and more sporadic—although he would likely benefit from some accountability for up to six months for the issues he now faces.

What Brock Has to Look Forward to

The changes Brock has to make probably will not come easily. He might go through periods of doubt or even some rebellion before he is finally comfortable with a new way of handling money and possessions. Temptations might be hard to resist at first, but they need not derail his eventual victory. You can help him face possible setbacks with patient love (1 Cor. 13:4). Just as you encourage him to persevere, you model that perseverance yourself. As he progressively sees his financial life improve, he also will become more and more excited about hearing from his Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23).

Note: This article originally appeared on (December 22, 2016).

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