Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things — things that belong to salvation. (Hebrews 6:1-9 ESV)
For you know that afterward, when he [Esau] desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:17 ESV)
It is my conviction that many pastors, counselors, churches and Christian ministries are wasting a lot of time. I know that in my 32 years as a pastor I have too often done the same thing. We have wasted resources, which are really the Lord’s resources of which we are stewards. Time. Energy. Prayers. Money. Teaching. All for nought. The ones we were laboring to help, to save, to rescue — wouldn’t have it in the end. As I look back, I can see very clearly that there were many times that I should have shaken the dust off my shoes and moved on. Increasingly this is what I do now. And so do our Elders and our church members.
Notice the Scriptures above very, very carefully. Let me try to explain what I believe they mean.
When we first encounter a person who is lost in their sin, what do we do? We present them with the “elementary doctrine of Christ.” We lay this foundation for them — the Gospel. We call them to repentance from their dead, so-called “good works” and exhort them to turn to Christ in faith. We give them the ABCs of the New Covenant: baptism, spiritual gifts and the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer, the certain hope of the resurrection, and the promise of eternal judgment.
Now, as we do this and the person responds, they are (as Hebrews puts it) being enlightened by the Holy Spirit to the truth and reality of these things. They are “tasting” the heavenly gift and the goodness of the Word of God. They have even shared in the Holy Spirit in the sense that it is the Spirit who is showing them intimately the very “taste” of these Gospel truths. The seed is sown and it has sprung up. But….
Some, and we could probably say “many,” fall away. They go back to the world when following Christ begins to cost them something. Like a field that was blessed with abundant rain and good seed, they only bring forth a crop of thorns and thistles. The Apostle says that he hopes for better things from these professing Christians he is writing to, but nevertheless they must take care. They must see and heed the danger of becoming an Esau, for whom repentance was impossible. In Christian theology, we call these people reprobates.
Notice once again back at the beginning of the passage cited above. The Apostle is telling us — sit up and listen carefully now — he is telling us to stop doing a spiritual re-boot when dealing with people who have heard the Gospel clearly, who have appeared to respond in faith and repentance, who have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit so that they know full well the Gospel is true, and yet who then return to or continue in their wickedness and love for the world. “Stop it”, he says. “You’ve already laid a foundation for that person. Don’t go back and lay it again because you can’t.”
These kinds of people — people who perhaps have professed to be Christians for many years or maybe they even grew up in the church, went forward to profess Christ at an altar call, received baptism, and all the rest….these kinds of people who demonstrate by the evil fruit of their lives that they are only going to yield thorns and thistles (signs of the curse)….are not to be permitted to sap our time and resources and energy. They are a waste of time. They are not going to change. They crucify Jesus Christ all over again and hold Him up as it were on a cross to be mocked by the world.
Walk away! Walk away from these people. See it? The Apostle, speaking God’s own Word here, is instructing us to move on and quit trying “to save” this kind.
This is why I am simply not interested in counseling abusers. Particularly abusers who use Christ as their chosen façade. Abusers who profess Jesus, who attend church, who know all their Bible verses and preach to others — abusers who have tasted the goodness of God, you see, but who only in reality bear a cursed crop of thorns. An abundant harvest of cruelty, abusive tactics, and wicked deception.
I realize that there are some Christians who do try to counsel and provide therapy for abusers. I am not trying to hammer them in any way, nor do I claim that they never do any good. But what I am saying is that when it comes to the kind of abuser that most of us here at ACFJ come across, God’s Word tells us — “don’t waste your time.” Give me a totally pagan man who makes no claim at all to belong to Christ. There is a man we can expend some time on laying the foundation of the Gospel for him. But those who have heard, those who have tasted, those who know full well the Word of God is true — walk away. Or better, send HIM away! Your energies will be much better used being poured into the victim.
Oh, and by the way. Don’t feel sorry for Esau as he sheds those crocodile tears. He isn’t crying because he really wants Christ, but Christ won’t have him. Nope. He is crying because he wanted the inheritance back that he squandered away for a bowl of Quaker oats. As with all abusers, his tears are selfish and have nothing to do with repentance.
[September 5, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to September 5, 2022 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 September 5, 2022 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 September 5, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 5, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
God only did one counseling session with Cain
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.
20 thoughts on “Don’t Waste Your Time Counseling Esau — He Isn’t Going to Change”
Thank you, Jeff, for this insight. As I dig around in your website closets for the wisdom that is hidden there I have realized how many truly abusive people I have had in my life. Several abusers are like your post describes:
Unfortunately these people have often been women. Women I have cared deeply for, and my very own sister who led me to Christ is wickedly abusive to everyone in her life. So as it is easier to see my husband in this light it is much harder to reconcile the truth about these controlling, manipulative destructive women that our churches are filled with.
For years I have beaten myself up with Scriptures whenever I have felt like these women were wrong. As I read more and more of the truth here I am like one rising up out of a great and oppressive fog.
Thank you again!
This is powerful and so true! I wish more Pastors had your insight Jeff….what a different place our churches would be!
I talked to my Pastor briefly a few weeks ago, I opened up to him just a little, letting him know that my marriage isn’t what it seems to be (my husband is a total fake at church, as are most abusers) and he used the dreaded words, “Sometimes God calls us to suffer in marriage”. I tuned him out after that….I’ve only been at this church for 3 years, and I really love and respect my Pastor….but I now know that I’m going to have to have a little heart-to-heart with him in the future….because I can’t keep quiet about his wrong-thinking on abuse in marriage! No way!
Thanks for what you and Barbara do, Jeff….if it weren’t for your blog and a few others, most of us women would have no place to go to get the reassurance that we are not to blame for our abusive marriages!
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Another good post, Pastor Jeff. Thanks! My Friend (Target) thought it was good too. She reminded me of how 1 Timothy 5:8 also applies:
I.e. The reprobate is worse than the pagan.
Thank you for this powerful and hard hitting truth! The beauty and power of the truth is the freedom it brings. The Gospel involves announcing the good news of freedom to those taken captive by marriages that are nothing more than a trap by the enemy to enslave and rob Christians of their true identity in Christ is the Lord’s work.
I was in bondage to doctrines of men based on patriarchal deceptions that marriage was the reason I was created and that my (non)-husband was my lord and I was to serve him because that was my ministry. Oh an abuser loves those doctrines, built-in slave, what self-worshiping person wouldn’t? I was robbed by those doctrines and false beliefs that a woman’s prime identity was found in her marriage. Divorce was akin to some terribly heresy and I spent 24 / 7 bound up trying to appease the person that had absolutely no intention of being appeased. What I didn’t know was in the battle to rob me of my identity in Christ, the enemy of my soul was winning ground. I forgot who I was as a beloved child of God given a sound mind and a spirit of love and power!
I forgot I was put on the earth to serve the One who loves me enough to die for me, sacrifice Himself entirely and lives to intercede for me. That One deserved my devotion 24 / 7 not the person that beat me, used me, and exploited all my good intentions. I have wasted decades, decades of dysfunction and mental and physical injury where I did nothing but seek man’s wisdom to get healed from PTSD. That treatment further robbed me of identity as a blood-washed, overcoming, infused with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, child of the King. I saw myself as a broken, crushed, ruined PTSD survivor too fragile to be of any use in this world. You can spend your whole life stuck in the broken identity or you can receive the one Christ died on the cross to give you. Overcoming by the blood of the Lamb of God, all the years that the worm ate up. Amen to this blog, where truth is shouted, where abusers are not coddled while their victims are condemned. In my own life I think of the passage often “if they don’t receive you, shake the dust of them off your feet”. We don’t argue, cajole, plead, give second chances, present it another way, go to counseling, read books, prostrate ourselves on the ground, we just turn around, and walk.
It was fear that kept me from doing this years before, fear there wouldn’t be enough to survive, and I’ve been hungry in all kinds of ways. Yet, in my hunger and fear my faith grew as God made away for me. I will not, by the grace of God ever idolize marriage or a man again or let my primary identity as loved of God and precious child be robbed.
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Oh, AMEN! Prodigal Daughter, AMEN!!!
I was in a Bible study this past week that preached through these exact same verses. The teacher said that this passage is not talking about “backsliding” — or sinning again after you’ve heard the Gospel, because “we’re all sinners” and we can’t fix that fact. Therefore, what this passage is really talking about is “don’t go back to the practice of works-righteousness”. To continue to live in grace, not in works.
Maybe he was right, but the whole time I kept thinking about Judas. So I am more confused than ever. Maybe this passage is talking about the Judas Iscariots of the world — and maybe it is ALSO talking about abandoning works-righteousness and continuing on in grace instead.
I dunno. What do you think?
I haven’t studied up on these verses or really read much about them at all, but….just off the top of my head and kind of my gut-instinct-reaction leads me to say that, as I understand it, the book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians. In the New Testament (especially in the book of Romans) the Apostle Paul goes to great lengths to distinguish between Jews and non-Jews. Walls that previously divided the groups are of course non-existent in Christ, BUT….that doesn’t change the fact that earthly origins and heritage still exist (women are still women, men are still men, ethnicity doesn’t change, etc.), AND…. as I have listened to teaching and in the little reading I’ve done, I believe there still is a future for the people of Israel as defined by God (Israel as its always meant Israel — the Jewish people). Sooooo….I said all that to say that I think in the context of the audience to whom Paul was writing, what your pastor said about not returning to a “works-righteousness” type of thinking makes a lot of sense, given that it was the Law that Israel was always striving to keep. There was always a remnant in the Old Testament (and New) saved by grace through faith and not depending on themselves for works, but….even today and even among non-Jews we have a tendency as humans to THINK we’re contributing SOMETHING — be it ever so small — to our own salvation. Though we are not.
So that’s the way I’d tend to understand those verses. All of us think we’re depending on ourselves for something (not taking away from our own God-given responsibilities, of course), when in fact we truly are dependent on God for all of it. That’s my understanding of it anyway, but again — take it with a grain of salt because I’m not really versed on, well, those verses. 🙂
I’m not sure where the confusion comes in about Judas. There’s no way he was saved, being the son of perdition, so I don’t think those verses could ever apply to him. My understanding of Scripture is once saved always saved — and since one can’t lose one’s salvation, then Judas never was saved. He was a wolf among sheep from the get-go. A liar, like his father the devil, from the beginning.
Could the gist of your post be what Matthew 7:6 means? True and false prophets and disciples are also mentioned in that chapter, to which I referred for context.
Yes! Great verse that sums it up. Thank you.
Matthew 7:6 was pointed out to me several years ago, as the Scriptural crazy-making in my life involved a husband and many others who professed to be Christians. I didn’t even have to make a Scripture reference; my very presence brought disdain. It was very confusing; these were supposedly Christians and all I was attempting to do is live a simple, humble and obedient life to the Word; the Word that transformed my life from darkness into Light.
The “turning on me and tearing to pieces” is painful. Times of attempting to walk away instigate accusations of me not being loving and kind; that I think I am better than them, etc. Doesn’t matter what I do; I’m mud!
So many of these types of verses are starting to leap off the page to me in ways I’d never seen before. I do understand why some Christians who have not experienced evil of this kind face-to-face (or have but don’t recognize it or don’t have close relationships with it) don’t “get it” — at least not right away. Still, the labor must be done and the clarion call sounded so evil isn’t allowed to grow like mold on food left unattended.
I have very, very dear Christian friends (husband, wife, daughters) who have pro-actively helped me with needs related to my child over the past year, [now] that my ex-husband abandoned us. (The wife has an abusive father, so I think she “gets it” more quickly than her spouse does.)
I saw them yesterday. (She offered to watch my child while I went to sign contracts at a place where I will soon be working.) I showed her an email my ex- just sent. It states that he is begrudgingly agreeing to allow our child to attend a Christian school but is angry at me about it because he flat out stated that he’s “losing control.” (So he then said she can attend for one year, but needs to go to public school the next year.) He made all kinds of allegations and demands in the letter (insisting I pay the lion’s share of tuition, etc.).
So after reading the email, the wife told her husband about it, and her husband asked me, “Is he a believer?” I started to say, “No,” but then I decided to qualify it. I restated it like this, “Well, he’s a “professing Christian”, thinking that would ring a bell. (The husband is in the military in a position of authority and so I presumed acquaintance with evil. He’s soon to ship overseas – so evil isn’t just an academic thing to him, I would think.) The husband replied, “Oh, that’s good then.” I said, “Well….that doesn’t mean he’s actually a Christian,” to which the husband then said, “If he makes a confession with his mouth….” I countered with, “Jesus tells us that there will be people who will say to Him at the judgment ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we do all this in Your Name?’ and Jesus will say He never knew them.” The husband and wife looked at me quizzically and stammered a “Yeah, well….” kind of response. The subject dropped.
I like this couple and family an awful lot, and I consider them to be Christian family. I think the wife “gets it” quickly because she’s lived it in her home of birth (but without the deception. The abuse in her family is largely accepted culturally where she’s from.). The husband is a really great guy who respects his wife, asks her opinion, values it, and treats her well (and she him). Of all the professing Christians I know, they are two of whom I know may be receptive to the notion of even talking about (and maybe learning about) evil masquerading in the church. Sadly, I think I can count on one hand (not even including the thumb) how many “Christians” I know who are receptive to it.
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Still Reforming, I’m impressed at how you quickly and aptly countered the man’s comment ‘If he makes a confession with his mouth….”
I can recall so many times when I was lost for words, at times like that, dumbstruck by the person’s comment and unable to think of an immediate reply to it. Well done!
Another way one could reply to a comment like his is: “Romans 10:9 says —
If someone confesses it with his mouth but doesn’t believed it in his heart, is he saved?”
Still Reforming, thank you for sharing. Oh yes, the professing Christian is another issue. I am surrounded by those who believe that any profession of faith nails the person as a Christian forever. They really don’t want to deal with the ones who Jesus spews out. And there are countless excuses given for the “professors” that care not to obey the Word. They must be depressed or….whatever….
When someone asks me if he is a Christian, I tell them that he says he is but I`m not the judge. That gets them thinking anyway.
I think it means you don’t have to give anything valuable to people who destroy it. For example you don’t have to give your efforts and energy to people who trample you under their feet. I think it’s an anti-abuse verse. :)!
My prior comment was about Matthew 7:6, but unrelated I wonder if praying for the abuser is appropriate when the victim isn’t ready to leave because that would be praying for her safety at the same time.
Thank you for this timely post. I had not read this blog in about a month and decided to catch up. I had to file for divorce recently and was struggling immensely with being able to get in the car to drive to the attorney’s office. I was praying and crying out to God to help me, as I felt myself sinking into fear and doubt. I very clearly heard “Remember Esau.” That phrase came to my mind ALL DAY as God kept telling me to get up and keep walking forward in faith. You see, my husband’s pattern is to have a “contrite” heart….always with tears. This is what kept me deceived & trapped in the cycle of abuse for so many, many long & painful years….
Hi, In Christ Alone,
Here are some other posts on our blog which you might find helpful.
How to Recognize True (and false) Contrition — by Dr. George Simon, Jr.
Contrition, Repentance and Forgiveness: some articles by Dr George Simon Jr.
(Airbrushing through weighty fog….)
From Pastor Jeff’s Hebrews’ quote:
I feel this memory fragment heavy on my soul, though the scent of it no longer fills my mind with the stench of decay.
Hard, hard to write.
I am commanded by the Holy Spirit not to airbrush this one detail, though I risk someone assembling the pieces I have strewn throughout the ACFJ website.
Please, please, do not airbrush it for me.
The expert who saved my life as a baby was also my godfather.
He did not remain in contact, did not fulfil his Christian role.
I suspect he knew the household was abusive, but will never know for certain….he is probably dead.
My heart is breaking.
May God have mercy on his soul….
Re-writing part of my comment (8TH JUNE 2018 – 4:02 PM)….
Hard, hard (but not due to any fog, etc.) to write.
I’m not airbrushing this detail, though I risk someone assembling the pieces I have strewn throughout the ACFJ website….the expert who saved my life as a baby was also my godfather….he did not remain in contact, did not fulfil his Christian role.
I suspect my godfather knew my family’s household was abusive (and that I was being abused), but I will never know for certain….he is probably dead.
My heart is breaking….it would’ve been better for my godfather if he’d chosen not to be my godfather.