Christian Biblical Counsel: REBELLION


Reclaiming the Rebel

by June Hunt

“Rebellion is in the heart of every person who lives byI WILLinstead of by the ‘WILL OF GOD.’ ”

—June Hunt

I.     Definitions

A. What Is Rebellion?

•     Rebellion is open opposition to authority or tradition.

—  Usually the word rebellion implies disobedience when there should be obedience.

•     The Old French word for rebel is rebelle, which means “to wage war again.”

B. What Is Obedience?

•     Obedience means being submissive to authority.

•     The Latin word for obedience is oboedire, which means “to listen.”

C. What Is the Biblical Picture of Rebellion?

This is seen in the Bible regarding a son (Amon) who succeeds his evil father as king.

“He walked in all the ways of his father.”

(2 Kings 21:21)

Rebellion Calls for a Balance of Law and Love

Israel’s   Rebellion:

Sin   Nature


God’s   Response:

Unfailing   Love


•     In   Bondage


•     In   Love


—  Slaves to sin.


—  God provides deliverance.


•     In   Rebellion


•     In   Love


—  Forgets God’s faithfulness; complains;   develops bitterness.


—  God fulfills needs and extends grace.


•     Results


•     In   Love


—  Failure to develop inner discipline; did not   mature; did not respond to God.


—  God establishes the Law.


Israel’s   Rebellion:

Sin   Nature


God’s   Response:

Unfailing   Love


•     The Law is necessary for rebellion.


•     Revealing God’s expectations


“We also know   that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the   ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious.” (1 Timothy 1:9)


—  The Law is made to reveal rebellion.


•     Obedience is necessary for holiness.


•     Revealing God’s purpose.


“Now if you   obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my   treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a   kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5–6)


—  Obedience to God brings us to holiness.


•     Discipline is necessary for maturity.


•     Revealing God’s character.


“The Lord   disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”   (Hebrews 12:6)


—  Confirmation of His unfailing love.


“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

(Hebrews 12:11)

D. Who Are Considered Rebellious?

•     Anyone who is violating the revealed will of God is rebellious.

“Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:2)

•     Rebellion can reside in the heart of anyone at any age.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

E. Is Everyone Rebellious?

•     Yes. We were all born with a sin nature.

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)

•     Yes. We have all willfully sinned.

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)



A. Characteristics of a Rebel

•     Insolent

•     Resistant

•     Unbelieving

•     Resentful of authority

•     Defensive

•     Independent

•     Complaining

•     Distrustful

•     Greedy

•     Defiant

“Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone too far!’ When Moses heard this, he fell facedown.”

(Numbers 16:1–4)

B. The Rebellion Cycle

Conceited           “I want what I want because I’m important.”

—  independent living (“I” oriented)

—  pleasure seeking (temporal values)

Calculating        “I’ll do whatever it takes to get it.”

—  deceptive (lying, cheating, stealing)

—  manipulative (using guilt tactics)

Condemning      “You don’t really care about me!”

—  complaining (“You’re too hard on me.”)

—  blame shifting (“It’s all your fault.”)

Calloused           “I don’t care who it hurts.”

—  apathetic (toward loved ones)

—  resistant (toward God)

Contemptuous   “I hate those who get in my way.”

—  disrespectful (irreverent, disobedient, foul-mouthed, messy)

—  rule breaking (extremes in sex, drugs, money, hostility)

Controlling        “I won’t give up what I have.”

—  possessive (uses power plays because of emotional insecurity)

—  abusive (verbally, emotionally, physically)

“These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction.”

(Isaiah 30:9)

“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”

(Romans 2:14–15)

The Cycle of REBELLION


“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

(Romans 13:1–2)

Q  “What will break the cycle of rebellion?”

Brokenness before God … breaking the willful attitude … praying, “Lord, I want to quit living out of my own resources. I’m letting You have rightful rule over my heart and life.”

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)

Breaking the Cycle of Rebellion


“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but … worldly sorrow brings death.”

(2 Corinthians 7:10)

C. Characteristics of Parents with a Rebellious Son or Daughter

“Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

(Psalm 94:17–19)




over   what could have been


Emotionally   dead


to   things that previously brought joy


Judgmental   of themselves


with   much false guilt


Envious   of others


who   have excellent relationships


Cut   to the heart


with   never ending pain


Threatened   by permanent rejection


disapproval,   disrespect




humiliation,   disgrace




a   loss of confidence and hope


“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

(Psalm 34:18)



A. Surface Causes

•     Legalistic homes where grace is not lived out

R + R – R = R + R

Rules plus Regulations minus Relationships equals Resentment and Rebellion.

•     Permissive homes where discipline is not established or enforced

•     Abusive homes where there is substance or sexual abuse

B. Root Cause

Wrong Belief:

“I will get what I want any way I choose because it’s my right to feel significant!”

“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ ” (Isaiah 14:12–14)

Right Belief:

I want to obey God in everything. He will meet my need for significance.

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)



A. Key Verses to Memorize

•     Help for one in rebellion

“Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord.”

(Psalm 25:7)

•     Hope for one hurt by rebellion

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.”

(Psalm 62:5–7)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Luke 15:11–32

C. Do’s and Don’ts for Responding to Rebellion

Don’t excuse or condone the behavior.

Do       Be confrontive toward the conscience.

“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth … someone should bring him back.” (James 5:19)

Don’t threaten rejection.

Do       Convey unconditional love and acceptance by …

•     accepting rebellious people where they are

•     apologizing for any offenses you have committed

•     displaying physical affection

•     extending grace when they fail

•     not manipulating their basic choices

•     giving the ultimate control of their lives to God (Read 1 Corinthians chapter 13.)

Don’t emotionally retreat or play the martyr.

Do       Examine your methods of responding.

“Now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:8)

Don’t bargain for appropriate behavior.

Do       Insist on a system of accountability with consequences.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)

Don’t exhibit intense anger.

“For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:20)

Do       Nourish an attitude of forgiveness and love.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

Don’t let unwholesome talk come out of your mouth.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Do       Determine the important battles—be firm in those areas.

“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:24)

Don’t withhold encouragement.

Do       Establish communication on the feeling level.

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5)

Don’t expect complete change at once.

Do       Expect God to respond in their lives by …

•     His desiring their discipline more than you do

“The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Hebrews 12:6–7)

•     His allowing adverse circumstances to come into their lives

“After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.” (Luke 15:14)

•     His producing an awareness of great need

“He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.” (Luke 15:16)

•     His bringing them dissatisfaction with their activities

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!’ ” (Luke 15:17)

Don’t embarrass or shame the rebel.

Do       Open your heart to your own motives.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

“There   is nothing more ruinous to us than to refuses to surrender ourselves in   obedience to God.”

—John   Calvin




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Arterburn, Stephen F. Surprised By God. Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family, 1997.

Bisset, Tom. Good News About Prodigals. Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1997.

Bisset, Tom. Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith. Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1992.

Graham, Ruth Bell. Prodigals and Those Who Love Them. Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family, 1991.

Greenfield, Guy. The Wounded Parent: Hope for Discouraged Parents. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

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Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

Inrig, Gary. Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay. Chicago: Moody, 1979.

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Nouwen, Henri. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

O’Rourke, Brendan, and DeEtte Sauer. The Hope of a Homecoming: Entrusting Your Prodigal to a Soverign God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003.

Scott, Buddy. Relief for Hurting Parents. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989.

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White, John. Parents in Pain: Overcoming the Hurt & Frustration of Problem Children. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1979.[1]


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Rebellion: Reclaiming the Rebel (1–12). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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