Don’t Waste Your Time Counseling Esau — He Isn’t Going to Change
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)
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)
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 ABC’s 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 facade. 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.
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