I was asked this question as a follow up to the recent sermon on 2 Samuel 12.
Whilst some sins are obvious in the story of David, the contempt and disregard of the Lord was not. We often don’t see what’s driving our behaviour in our hearts. And yet that’s what we need to aim for.
When the Bible talks about our hearts, it uses many different words. Writers in the past have helpfully grouped these into 1) what we think/believe, 2) what we desire/want and 3) what we choose/decide. I’ll use these three ideas to guide us as we think about how to change.
Step 1/ Consider:
Start by trying to get a handle on the situation, event or circumstance in which you sinned. Three questions that help reveal details are: ‘What happened?‘ ‘What was my response?’ and ‘What were the results?’ Our answers here will get the ball rolling.
Once we answer those question, we can dig down further. Follow up with questions like ‘What was I thinking?‘ Here you are trying to expose what was going on in your mind. What were your thought processes in that situation? But go even further and ask ‘What was I believing about God, myself and others?’ (Also come at this the opposite way round: ‘What was I doubting?‘)
Next, continue with exploring your desires. Ask ‘What did I want?‘ You want to expose what you were loving or longing for. Similarly, look at it the other way round: Ask ‘What did you not want?‘ or ‘What did you fear?’. This gives you insight into what you were avoiding or seeking to escape from.
Lastly, you want to get a clearer understanding of the choices you made (or avoided). ‘What did you decide, plan or choose to do (or say)?‘ Or ‘What did you decide not to do (or say)?‘
These kinds of questions help you consider more fully the thing that you did and why you did it. You want to slow down and take stock. This can be hard when the very nature of our sin is that we are blinded. So get someone to help you open your ‘eyes to see.’
Step 2/ Confession:
Another step is to confess. Here you want to compare your thoughts, beliefs, desires, fears and choices with God’s truth, wisdom and goodness. Don’t make the standard your own or other people’s opinions. Ask, how does my way of living compares with God’s standards, righteousness and wisdom? By doing that, like David, you will see where ‘I have sinned against God and God alone.’ (Psalm 51v4). We want to get the right perspective on matters – which is the Lord’s.
And we tell the Lord. He knows anyway. But he wants us to confess. Rather than covering up, hiding or ignoring our sin; or explaining it away and blaming others, you take responsibility and own your sin. Refuse to say the words ‘but’ and ‘if only’. Instead speak humble and specific words of confession.
Step 3/ Commitment:
The third step is to move intentionally towards ‘doing the good works you were created to do’. Try and get clarity on how God is calling you live. What you are to ‘put off’ and ‘put on’. Know what you need to be and what you must do differently. Take responsibility to develop and practice habits that please the Lord, not self or others. Commit to making a stand for the Lord and live for him. Be intentional about your allegiances.
Step 4/ Change:
It can be easy to assume change will follow because you’ve gained all this insight and you’ve made commitments to change. But all this consideration and confession and commitment needs to lead to actual change in behaviour, speech, attitude, and character. We don’t stay at insight. We don’t stop at intention. We must move into action.
This can seem overwhelming so it’s helpful to focus on one area at a time. Take little steps. You can’t do it in your own strength. Rely the Lord and you ask him to give you a willingness to live for him (Psalm 51v12).
It is an ongoing battle and struggle. So enlist encouragement and support from those committed to you: those who love you and want to see you growing and changing. And take action to change. Remember that change takes place only when change takes place!
*The 4C’s of Consider, Confess, Commitment and Change are taken from Instruments in the Redeemers Hands’ by Paul Tripp.