Why I Love to Assign the Sermon on the Mount for Counseling Homework

As a biblical counselor, my heart’s desire is to help others get to the heart of their struggles—to help them to experience life-transforming change wrought by the Spirit of God through the Word of God. The Confessional Statement of the Biblical Counseling Coalition emphasizes this commitment this way:

We believe that human behavior is tied to thoughts, intentions, and affections of the heart. All our actions arise from hearts that are worshiping either God or something else, therefore we emphasize the importance of the heart and address the inner person. God fully understands and rightly weighs who we are, what we do, and why we do it. While we cannot completely understand a person’s heart (even our own), God’s Word reveals and penetrates the heart’s core beliefs and intentions (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Wise counseling seeks to address both the inward and outward aspects of human life to bring thorough and lasting change into the image of Christ. The Bible is clear that human behavior is not mechanical, but grows out of a heart that desires, longs, thinks, chooses, and feels in ways that are oriented either toward or against Christ. Wise counsel appropriately focuses on the vertical and the horizontal dimensions, on the inner and the outer person, on observable behavior and underlying issues of the heart (Matthew 23:23-28). Biblical counselors work to help struggling people to learn wisdom; to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength; to love one’s neighbor as oneself; and to endure suffering in hope.

Therefore, when I assign Scripture meditation homework, I want to ask the person to ask questions of the text–to learn to talk to God about what He is saying to them through the Word. In the Sermon on the Mount we see Jesus, the master counselor, move backwards from outward behavior to heart’s desires and motivation. So, here’s just one example of an assignment that I often use to move from behavioral fruit to heart root.

Read and meditate on Matthew 5-7 three times this week, asking the Lord to reveal your heart to you (What is the condition of your heart? What are your heart’s motivations?)

In a journal or notebook, answer these questions:

  1. What does Jesus teach me about my heart? What are its characteristics?
  2. How does Jesus describe the heart of the “blessed” person?
  3. What does Jesus teach me about the fruits of my heart?
  4. What commands does Jesus give; i.e. what changes does Jesus call me to make?
  5. What warnings does Jesus give to me?
  6. What promises does Jesus give to me?
  7. Are there any spiritual disciplines that Jesus presents for my spiritual health?
  8. Which tree in Matthew 7 best describes me?
  9. Which man in Matthew 7:22-22 am I more like?

Spend time in prayer, confessing sin, expressing faith, and asking for the Spirit’s help to change.

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