Going Deeper for Real Change

Real change happens at the level of the heart.

Real change happens at the level of the heart.

How do people change? Entire books have been written to answer this question.

People need knowledge to change, but knowledge isn’t enough. We all know we should eat more vegetables, but we don’t always do it. Reading books, attending classes, and learning new things are helpful, but they don’t always change our lives.

Knowledge isn’t enough. Neither is behavior change. We can try to change our actions for a while, but behavior is just the tip of the iceberg. Only a small percentage of our behavior is the outcome of conscious, deliberate choices. The rest of our actions and behaviors come from a much deeper place.

Many of our efforts to change focus on knowledge and behavior, and don’t really work over the long term. We need to go a lot deeper if we want to change.

The Importance of the Heart

Real change happens at the deepest possible level. It happens in the heart.

The Bible contains an important truth:

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Prov. 4:23 NIV)

In Scripture, the heart represents the inner being of a person. It’s more than just the mind or actions. It’s the control center of our lives. According to the verse, everything we do comes out of our heart.

We often try to change our actions, thoughts, and feelings. God wants to go deeper and change us at the level of the heart, the source of all our behaviors. Growth involves knowledge and action, but it goes much deeper. Real change happens at the level of the heart.

What Do You Want?

Jesus asked two of His disciples a penetrating question: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36). Their answer revealed a misshapen desire: they wanted to sit at Jesus’ left and right hand, places of prominence. Jesus didn’t just deal with their behaviors. He probed their desires, and then showed them how their desires could change to be more like His.

In the same passage, Jesus repeated the same question to a blind man named Bartimaeus. This time, the answer to Jesus’ question revealed a legitimate desire: “Rabbi, let me recover my sight” (Mark 10:51). Jesus answered his request and healed him.

“What do you want me to do for you?” What an insightful question. Our desires and longings determine everything about us. They shape our actions and behaviors, sometimes without us even knowing it. The Christian life involves asking God to change what we want. It’s praying something like this: “Father, teach me to want rightly, and help me to live in obedience to those right desires.”

We need to aim for more than knowledge and actions. We need to experience change at the deepest level: in the heart.

Discipleship is about growing as a disciple of Jesus in every area of life. What comes to mind when you think of a mature Christian disciple? The goal of discipleship may surprise you.

Sam Storms, a pastor in Oklahoma, explains: “God is most glorified in us when we are most happy and delighted and satisfied in Him.”

The single most important principle I ever discovered is this: the goal or purpose of the Christian is precisely the pursuit of happiness—in God. The reason for this is that there is no greater way to glorify God than to find in Him the happiness that my soul so desperately craves.

Jesus told us that the greatest command is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). David, the psalmist, modeled this when he wrote:

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Ps. 42:1–2)

The goal of discipleship is happiness, joy, delight, satisfaction, and intimacy with God. The holiest person you will ever meet is also the happiest person you’ll ever meet. That’s the kind of Christian maturity all of us can get behind.

Excerpted from </em>8 Habits for Growth: A Simple Guide for Becoming More Like Christ <em> by Darryl Dash (© 2021). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

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