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Understanding & Counselling Youth: A Biblical Cardiology (Part 4)

2. A Biblical Understanding of the Heart (continued)

2.3 New Hearts 
God Himself knows that no teenager, or any person, will ever start to live, act, and feel rightly until they first think, want, and   worship rightly.  And where does all thinking, wanting, and worshipping begin? In the heart.  Thus God declared to His people, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;  I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  He also promised that He would put His “law in their minds” and “write it on their hearts” (Jer. 31:33).  In the same way, Moses and Jeremiah, like many other ‘people-helpers’ in Scripture, called for change starting at the heart level  “Circumcise your hearts…”(Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4).
Notice carefully – no man or woman on their own can obtain a new heart by their own righteousness or effort.  Only the Creator can perform the transplant.  It happens at the moment of conversion, otherwise known as regeneration – new birth.  A new heart and new life comes “not of human decision…but is born of God” (John 1:13).  As Peter exclaimed, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth… through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Pet.1:3, 23).  Any room where people hear and respond (in repentance and faith) to the gospel of Christ becomes a delivery room in which new life is born!  Africa and the world will find no lasting cure for troubled youth outside of this revolutionary message that awakens dead youth and transplants a new heart (cf. Eph. 2:1-10).  Only through biblically sound, gospel-centred counsel will we see teens becoming “new creations” where “the old” has really gone and “the new” has really come (2 Cor. 5:17)!
Conclusion
Of course youth ministry and any youth counselling does not stop with evangelism.  But sadly, most counsel today never starts with evangelism either, which is why it needed to be emphasised above.  Nothing is more practical and relevant than to introduce an unsaved youngster to the “Wonderful Counsellor” (Isa. 9:6), and to His chief “Comforter-Helper” the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7), and to His favourite advisor, the Scriptures (Rom. 15:4; Ps. 119:24). As Augustine, a great ‘cardiologist’ from the 5th century, once prayed, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”
The biblically wise and effective counsellor will learn to recognise what heart issues lay beneath the troubles a young person is facing.  If a teenager does not clearly understand the Christian gospel and give evidence of true saving faith, we must lovingly use their problems as a doorway into showing them that their greatest and most basic need is for salvation – a new heart (called “pre-counseling” by some) (Adams, 1979:309-326).
But once a youngster has come to Christ, the process of heart transformation has only begun.   Discipling these youth must not stop with such basics as Bible study, prayer, church involvement, and evangelism – they must also learn about the lifelong process of “progressive sanctification,” the dynamics of Christian growth (Tripp, 1997:107-125, 167-190; Adams, 1979:233-275).  Too often today’s churches train believers to be very active in church things, yet if asked how to overcome life’s problems biblically, many will answer with vague Christian clichés: ‘just go to church, pray, and read the Bible,’ ‘let go and let God,’ and the like.  How many of our youth are gaining a biblical “heart awareness,” learning to recognise idols of the heart and sinful
motives and to replace those with godly desires and habits (Tripp, 1997:89-92)?  They will never mature very far in Christ without learning how to relentlessly battle temptation by “putting off” ungodly attitudes (roots) and actions (fruits), and “putting on” godly attitudes and actions (Eph. 4:22-32; Col. 3:5-17).
Moralistic ‘fruit-stapling’ will never reach the root of the problems our youth are facing, even if it does polish up their lifestyles for a while.  And therapeutic remedies, which often turn the already self-preoccupied teenager to look even further inward for answers, also leave teens confused and still searching.  Anything short of a biblical cardiology – a careful biblical diagnosis and specific biblical remedy, applied in the context of a loving relationship – will fail to teach our youth how to best function in this world where God has placed them.  May our God launch a world-wide youth revival in our homes, churches, and nations as counsellors become better equipped with a more biblical understanding of the heart.

– Tim Cantrell, President and Professor of Systematic Theology, Shepherds’ Seminary

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