(Hebrews 5:11-14 ESV) (11) About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (12) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, (13) for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (14) But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Babies are rather helpless creatures. Especially human babies. And they stay that way for quite a long time. It is the task of faithful parents to raise those babies up to maturity so that they can feed themselves, support themselves, and hopefully, not wear diapers anymore. One sure mark of maturity is coming to a place in life in which we see selfishness progressively fading away. Another mark is developing the ability to see a wolf, to discern truth from lies.
As in the days of the Apostle to the Hebrews, many Christians today are still in diapers sucking on a bottle. They are self-centered and they are foolish and gullible to deception. They are in an incredibly dangerous position.
If the Christian is going to be able to stand against deception, he or she must grow up. Most readers here understand, at least in part, how deceptive and cunning and even charming abusers can be. We have discussed the “fog” of abuse in other posts and many of you have told your stories of many years in confusion of mind. Other readers are still in the process of coming out of that fog. And as we see the deception for what it is, we simultaneously are growing in the truth of Christ. We see the lies for what they are, but only because we are seeing the truth of God’s Word as never before and “connecting the dots” by correcting one lie after another with the Word of God. We are learning to use the armor of Christ: the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the sword of the Spirit and so on. Flaming missiles are shot at us, but we are intercepting more and more of them before they can do their damage. e are taking every thought captive, increasingly, to Christ —
(2 Corinthians 10:4-5 ESV) (4) For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (5) We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
Now, all of this growing up takes the Spirit of God working in us to apply the Word of God and transform our minds. But, it also requires effort on our part. Lots of effort. It requires diligent prayer, diligent study of Scripture, and diligent use of other means of grace such as fellowship with other believers, including pastors and teachers given by God to equip us:
(Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV) (11) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (15) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (16) from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Many of you faithfully gave yourselves to the fellowship of believers in your churches, and sat under the teaching ministry of pastors. And then you were shamefully treated and in some cases put out of your churches through the deceptions of your abuser and the ignorance of the church. But you must not permit that experience to stop your use of every means of grace you can to facilitate your continued growth into maturity in Christ. We are surrounded with massive amounts of wonderful resources. In addition to the Scriptures, which must remain our primary object of study, we have classic Christian books that faithfully represent God’s Word. Take the works of J.C. Ryle for example, which can be obtained very cheaply. Practical Religion and Holiness, and Light From Old Times and Old Paths are just a few that in themselves will go very far in taking a Christian to maturity even during the time when a sound church is not available.
Don’t be satisfied with spiritual infancy. It is a dangerous condition to remain in. We all need to be prepared to meet that evil “angel of light” when he comes round knocking at our door, and be ready to counter his wiles with the fiery hammer of the Word of God.
[April 2, 2023: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to April 2, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to April 2, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to April 2, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (April 2, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
7 thoughts on “Deception and Truth: The Danger of Staying in Spiritual Diapers”
One aspect of maturity is self-discipline: developing regular habits that are life-enhancing, and weeding out habits that are live-sapping. A biblical term for this is “sanctification” but that’s a fairly archaic word. Sanctification — becoming gradually more like Christ — is the path we are meant to be on as Christians, and practising self-discipline is one of the central ingredients.
Self-discipline might have negative connotations for some, especially those who were raised in highly Patriarchal environments where there was guilt tripping over secondary or non-essential lifestyle issues. But there is a good form of self-discipline, and we can all work at improving our habits in ways that are appropriate to us. One small example from my own life: when I was suffering depression at one stage, I still made myself have a shower and make my bed every day. (And I patted myself on the back for achieving that, which helped my self-esteem from going totally down the plug hole.)
At first I thought the word dangerous was too strong, but as I thought about it – yes, dangerous is a fitting adjective.
And it is not only dangerous to the person who is spiritually immature, but can become dangerous to others. Isn’t that what we see with the abuser — an emotionally, socially, relationally, and spiritually immature mentality? Isn’t an abusive mentality in its infancy an immature mentality? (I’m not suggesting that all immature people are abusive, but that all abusive people are immature.) And for various reasons, both known and unknown, if the immature mentality is allowed to move into adulthood without growing up, the experiences, choices, and opportunities for power that come with adulthood can somehow warp an immature mentality into an abusive one.
Maybe I haven’t explained myself well, but I was wondering about this because I had someone tell me that my ex-husband’s behavior was just a result of being immature. I replied that I would agree if he was 13 years old, but he’s not — he’s not an immature 13 year old: he’s an abusive 50 year old.
Immaturity is not just an innocent stage of ignorance, but is something that, if left unattended, can warp into something very dangerous…
Thank you for the post.
Yes, abusers are actually quite childish in all of the bad ways. That makes them dangerous. Of course, their selfish childishness excuses nothing. As you say, they are adults and fully responsible for their actions. Spiritual immaturity in victims (or in anyone) is dangerous because it makes us so vulnerable to deception from evil people.
I think George Simon Junior (the author of In Sheep’s Clothing [Affiliate link]) puts this well. I’m not quoting him exactly, but he says that these people have refused to be socialized, refused to control their aggression, refused to accept the social norms that society requires if we are all to get on with each other. They have chosen to not put limits on their selfishness, and have adopted and perfected tactics of covert aggression to get what they want. Covert aggression is a pretty successful lifestyle for these people because it is very hard to detect and therefore very hard to penalize.
To call these people “immature” is fine (they are morally immature) but the word “immature” does not fully cut it for me. These people have chosen to adopt a covert-aggressive personality; they do not have this personality merely because they lacked the appropriate conditions in which to mature.
If you look at it this way, it explains a great deal. It explains why some people grow up with alcoholic parents or family violence, and become alcoholics or abusers themselves; but others in a similar situation DO NOT grow up and become alcoholics or abusers. It is a choice.
Pastor Jeff wrote:
Sometimes I feel my actual learning can’t keep up with my desire to learn….
I understand growth stages, growth spurts, non-linear healing. I just wish I could increase my capacity for learning and integrating, for absorbing the staggering wealth of information.
On the other hand, I need time to savour the process. Not just because I’m not a “Type A” personality, but the flavour is lost. It becomes another task to check off the Pharisaical “To Do” list.
I can’t imagine not wanting to learn, although we each have preferences of what we want to learn.
For me, it’s wanting to know “Why?”….
Finding Answers, your wanting to know “Why?” is admirable. I think people who have that motivation can become some of the most effective victim-advocates.
Some people (not you) dig in their heels when they feel that God doesn’t answer their “Why?” question(s). Those people can sometimes end up spurning any interest in God. They hold it against God that they haven’t been given answers.
But your way of asking “Why?” is not like that. It is a true desire to know why so you can untangle all the false beliefs that have been imposed and implanted in your head. And you know that by dispelling those falsehoods, you will come more and more into the truth (the Truth) which sets us free.
Maybe it might help to bear in mind that we’ve been writing this blog since 2012 and I have been working on this subject since 1999. I didn’t learn all this stuff quickly. It’s taken me years. Many iterations. Many turns. Much digging, much garbage disposal, much polishing of rough diamonds and rough marble. And still much to do! And I still have “awakening moments”.
And I’m sure you’ve read our Backstitch analogy, but if not, here it is. Does the victim recognize the abusive patterns? Yes, and no. And then, by degrees, YES!
In hindsight, I have done this (one way or another), in every line of work….and I have never done the same thing twice. I was bothered by senseless, legalistic rules. People being stuffed into a “label”, regardless of the fit. People being stigmatized by these irrational “labels”.
Unfortunately, once a person has been “labelled”, they get treated as though the “label” fits. Their unique humanity is lost. And, after a while, some give up and act like the “label”. Then society (or whoever) feels vindicated.
I have, indeed, read the backstitch analogy. It frustrated some of my “friends” when I checked how clothing was finished off….colour of thread, stay-stitched seams, etc. But, as you say, the re-enforcement makes a huge difference.
I would like to continue being a voice for the voiceless, though I know I’m not designed for centre stage. In my reading, I came across a phrase that rang bells for me, a veritable pealing from a carillon:
I’m praying God leads me to where He can best use my gifts….