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Individuality and Heart Allegiance: Counseling Those Controlled by the Fear of Man

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God made each person unique. It is this uniqueness that makes each human an individual, distinct and different from every other human.  Ephesians says that all of us were born following the ways of Satan, so that we naturally followed the cravings of our corrupted flesh. Satan’s deceptive work is to make individual humans believe that true individuality can be achieved only by rejecting God and his ways. So, humans are deceived into thinking that they can be really free only if they reject God and his law. In reality, however, individuality is absorbed into slavish submission to the enemy of God, Satan.

 So  instead of fearing God, with whom true freedom and individuality lies, man fears other men and the brilliance of his individuality is dulled, if not altogether extinguished. When a person lives in the pure and enduring fear of God, he is truly free to be the individual that God made him to be.

People who are ruled by the fear of man are common visitors to the biblical counselor. Indeed, this is a sin that is often obscured by more spectacular presentation issues; but the real problem of being dominated by the fear of man is one of heart allegiance.  Christians often carry over fears originally learned before they knew Christ—when they still craved the desires of their flesh and were counted as enemies of God.

Wrong heart allegiance will lead to unwise and stupid choices. Poor choices may lead to many problems, resulting in the need for counseling. Jesus warns that where one’s treasure is, his heart will be also.  The Holy Spirit has provided many vivid narratives in Scripture, stories that show the folly of—and the cure for—wrong heart allegiance. Here is an example.

Jehoshaphat was the son of a faithful king of Judah. He began his reign following the example of his father, Asa. He fortified his borders against Israel and its king. But then, somewhere along the way, Jehoshaphat became enamored with King Ahab of Israel. He became allied with him through marriage, and when Ahab invited Jehoshaphat to come and see him in Samaria, Jehoshaphat agreed. Even though God had blessed Jehoshaphat with honor and wealth, he acted as if he needed still more. Perhaps it was Ahab’s reputation as a warrior, or perhaps it was because Ahab and Jezebel knew how to throw a great party; but for whatever reason, Jehoshaphat’s heart became enamored with Ahab. He began to fear Ahab and crave his attention and affirmation. His heart allegiance had shifted from fear of God to fear of man.

The key to understanding the story that unfolds in 2 Chronicles 18 is found in the beginning of the chapter. In the midst of a huge party in Jehoshaphat’s honor, Ahab asks if Jehoshaphat will join him in battle against Ramoth Gilead. The response tells the whole story:

Jehoshaphat replied, “I am as you are, and my people as your people; we will join you in the war.”

The man and the country who were the enemy of his father and his God had now become one with Jehoshaphat. Even though it is not immediately apparent, Jehoshaphat is now toast, because his heart allegiance is now with Ahab! No amount of maneuvering or second thoughts about God would protect him from stupidity and harsh consequences.

In the rest of the story, laid out in chapter eighteen, we see that Jehoshaphat tries to include God in his strategy. He attempts to gain the wise advice of the prophet of the Lord, but because his heart is given over to his alliance with Ahab instead of his loyalty to God, he is defenseless. He has no protection against the deceitfulness and empty comfort of trusting Ahab. He hears the voice of God through the prophet but he continues headlong into folly. You see, doing the right thing with the wrong heart allegiance still equals the wrong thing.

You will hear the same weak excuses from counselees who have aligned their hearts with the world, the flesh, and the devil. They will say, “I prayed, but God didn’t answer. ” They will say “I sought counsel, but it didn’t seem to be sound. ” They will say they trusted this person or that plan, but they let me down— how was I to know that I would do something so stupid?

And stupid is exactly the right word to describe what one’s behavior can be when his heart is in the wrong place. Notice the stunning turn of events in 2 Chronicles 18:29:  after Jehoshaphat witnessed Ahab ignoring the counsel of the Lord’s prophet, Ahab turns and gives this plan for the upcoming battle:

The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.

Even a casual reader of the text has got to be saying to himself, What on earth was Jehoshaphat thinking?!? Ahab dresses as a common soldier and Jehoshaphat goes out to battle in the splendor of his royal robes, so that the enemy will chase Jehoshaphat and not Ahab. Astonishingly, Jehoshaphat agrees to do this!

If your heart is aligned with anyone or anything other than God, you will be given to doing stupid things too. This is the message that your counselee must hear from you. If you have a counselee who has done something outrageously stupid and destructive, compassionately and lovingly take him through this 18th chapter of 2 Chronicles. Show him where Jehoshaphat went astray in verse 3 by giving the allegiance of his heart to another. Encourage your counselee to see clearly what happens when people fail to love and fear God exclusively.

Also encourage your counselee that, as God was gracious to Jehoshaphat, he will be gracious to him if he is a Christian. He provided protection for him even when he did not deserve protection. After Jehoshaphat’s escape back to Judah, God sent another prophet with a message for Jehoshaphat, and this time Jehoshaphat listened. In the message of 2 Chronicles 19:2 he learned that he must not entrust himself to those who hate God.

Your counselee must see that Jehoshaphat’s problem was not only that he had listened to bad advice, as perhaps your counselee has done. The real problem was that he had given his heart to another. He  feared man rather than God. He lost the freedom of an individual loving God, and instead, became like an animal of the herd, lost in the trap of the flesh. Praise God that he does not treat us as our sins deserve. Encourage your counselee with these words: Christ is to be the treasure of our hearts!

Posted on October 16, 2014