"Be Perfect! How to Grow Up" by Tricia Tillin
PART ONE: LET US GO ON TO MATURITY
WHAT PREDISPOSES US TO ACCEPT FALSE TEACHING?
These are probably the most dangerous times that we have ever known. And the dangers are subtle, not blatant or obvious. Heresies today come so close to the truth that even those who know the Word fail to spot them.
Deceptions come across our path that are based on the Bible, with enough truth to make them seem acceptable. These heresies are almost undetectable. The strange thing is that some Christians see the errors and withdraw before they are caught, and others - (seemingly good Christians) - fail to see them.
Why is this? Is it:
God's sovereign grace - yes, in part, but why does God not rescue ALL his children from deception?
Some people are biblically educated - not necessarily. Many knowledgeable bible students fall into error. Knowledge without discernment is not enough.
Some have discernment - some people listen to the inward voice of the Holy spirit - and obey it! They are sensitive to the Spirit. YET - some spiritually-minded people DO accept the false teachings. STRANGE! Why?
THE GREATEST DANGER TO OUR SOULS IS NOT THE HERESY ITSELF, BUT OUR PROPENSITY FOR FOLLOWING IT.
Some Christians have a predisposition for following false teaching. Some people, although soundly saved and biblically knowledgeable, seem to stumble from one deception to another without ever learning how to avoid them. What causes that? I believe that it is caused by IMMATURITY.
Immaturity is rampant in the Church! Immaturity is possibly the biggest blight in the church today, and it's not seen as a danger at all. In fact many leaders actively encourage their flock to remain immature - because it's far easier to lead people who are passive, dependent, gullible, unstable in their emotions, easily duped, and easily manipulated.
People who are immature make themselves a prey for all kinds of evil - including abusive authorities. To a large extent the shepherding movement would not have made such huge inroads into the Church without the passive acceptance of thousands of young and immature believers.
It is not a suggestion, but a vital task for every Christian to GROW UP to Christian maturity.
".that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ-" (Eph 4:14-15)
It is mature believers who are called to eldership and ministry roles. It is mature believers who are able to help others and give counsel to those who are in trouble. It is mature believers who perceive dangers and earn others of them. Furthermore, maturity bestows many spiritual benefits on us as Christians - yet few have heeded the command to seek maturity. Most people do not even consider the process as an option and many have never even heard of it!
IMMATURITY OPENS THE DOOR TO DECEPTION:
"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things". (Cor 13:11)
My ministry is that of a watchman. If you look at that calling from a biblical standpoint you will discover that it is a "prophetic" calling. I have spent many years pointing out dangers, often before they occurred, so that Christians could be warned. I have done so in an attempt to encourage Christians to educate themselves about scriptural doctrine and deception.
Some people think a ministry like this is all about presenting a never-ending stream of deceptions and error, hitting out at leader after leader, exposing ministry after ministry in some kind of witchhunt.
That would just be voyeuristic, and counterproductive. The aim is not to give the deceptions more publicity but to use them as textbook examples, so that believers can school themselves in the subject and hone their discernment skills on them.
Some believe my only motive is to accuse and judge everybody. Nothing could be further from the truth. No true minister of God has the motive of pulling down and destroying just for the sake of it. Even the boldest of the Old Testament prophets, with the most extreme prophecies of doom, did not speak from hatred of those who offended God. They spoke out to warn, to persuade, to reason with any who would listen, and to call the people back to God's laws. But my intent goes further even that that. The idea is to put myself out of a job! I would love the day to arrive that Christians become so practised at spotting the foundational errors, and knowing what God says about them, that they no longer need a watchman.
Whenever examples have been given or errors exposed it was with the intention of making them educational tools for spotting deception. The principle is, that people should be encouraged to seek God and his Word for themselves, to grasp the principles involved, and so go on to maturity.
BUT THAT ISN'T HAPPENING - not to the extent that it should. I'm disappointed that we are not growing up as a Body. I'm disappointed that so many believers are still at the baby stage of growth. I'm deeply worried that so many Christians have "itching ears" for the latest rumour or scandal, instead of growing up into a more mature attitude.
What I intended for the best has often been used for the worst. When sites like this are simply seen as gossip-columns for obtaining the latest titbit of information on the revival, then the main purpose for which they exist is obscured and lost. The whole Body is robbed as a result.
Should I therefore lay down my pen and deny God's call on my life? Should I stop doing what I'm doing and take this site off the Net? Possibly, if God shows me that is the best way to respond to the problem.
BUT, I believe God raised up these Watchman Ministries for a reason - to lead us as a Body towards discernment, understanding, and strength against the coming apostasy. But Watchman Ministries that should have been stimulating a desire for biblical truth, have ended up, in certain circumstances, creating a market for controversy.
EXAMPLES OF IMMATURITY
Most of the e-mail I receive shows a certain level of understanding, a zeal for the truth - but a tremendous amount of immaturity. That manifests itself, most often, in people seeking for somebody to lead them by the nose, to do all the work for them, to spoon-feed them. Too many Christians want me, or somebody in authority, to do all the work for them. They don't want to think it through for themselves.
I refuse to play Holy Spirit in your life! How can I know which church you should attend, or what leaders you should follow, or whether you should reject the teaching that you heard last Sunday? You shouldn't even be asking me to do that. You should be praying and asking GOD to show you!
What do I know about your life, your faith, your circumstances? What power do I have to make you a better and more effective Christian? And how come you trust me to be right? I could be horribly wrong and lead you up the garden path.
You know, it troubles me deeply when people hand me that sort of authority over their lives. It would be SO EASY to mislead them, if I were that way inclined. Just thank the Lord that I'm not.
Every truly born-again believer has the Holy Spirit, prayer and the word of God. Every member of the Body has an equal opportunity to learn about God and to know his will. The Body of Christ is not a dictatorship (however hard the leaders try and turn it into one.)
As a humble peasant of a communist state, you are expected to submit to the leader's every command. You are expected to toe the line and be fearful of punishment if you do not. You are dependent. No independent thought or action is allowed. You are simply there to OBEY.
But in the Body of Christ, each and every member has the right and RESPONSIBILITY to stand on his or her own feet and be independent. You have the right to object to false teaching and abuses! You have the responsibility of ensuring that you are following the word of God correctly, even if nobody else does.
Just a few examples of dependence on others. Somebody writes:
"I have read all of the works of Agnes Sanford and I think they are unbiblical and heretical. But my pastor is going to introduce her teaching into our church. Please send me an article that I can give to the pastor that will change his mind."
This person knows infinitely more about Agnes Sanford than I do, and is uniquely qualified to speak to her Pastor about the Sanford teachings. But instead of that, she comes to me, asking me for an article. Why? Why doesn't she have the confidence to write an article of her own? Or why could she not simply voice her own concerns to her pastor? Yet you know, if I reply and suggest this, it's likely she will be deeply offended. Or:
"I need to have your opinion of a man called Terry Virgo. I have attended his church and sat under his teaching for ten years and I think he is doctrinally wrong. But what do you think?"
These are based on real mails I have received. This man has attended Terry Virgo's church for ten years and he still wants me to tell him what to think about the man. Doesn't that strike you as wrong somehow? Why can't he trust what God has been showing him all those years? Why doesn't he trust his OWN discernment?
I have had mail saying: - "It's so confusing to know who I can safely follow. Please send me a list of every ministry that is OK, in the UK and overseas, so I will know who to support."
I kid you not. I do get mail like this. Imagine if I did come up with such a list. There's one unforeseen problem with it. What if I'm not OK - or my judgement is faulty? What if I don't have the correct information? Or I'm biased? Or my information is out of date?
What does MY opinion matter anyway? I would be scared to trust somebody as much as some Christians trust me!!
Wouldn't it be wonderful if some infallible authority were able to send us a list of everybody sound in the world, so we need never worry again about being deceived. But we all know it can never be that way. We must learn to think and act for ourselves, not depend on others.
SOME MINISTERS ENSLAVE YOU TO THEIR OPINIONS.
They have a vested interest in making you idle and passive. They actually encourage you to be dependent on them. You can't move until you have their latest tape. You can't make a decision until you know what your minister believes about it.
Unlike a lot of popular ministers, I don't encourage that - I don't like to be followed! I go out of my way to discourage people from following me or depending upon me, and for that (oddly) I get a lot of anger and criticism.
But you know, it's a sign of immaturity to seek out somebody to turn into your personal "guru". It is children who need mothers and fathers to look after them, not adults.
Instead of responding to your perceived needs, as so many others do, and making you more dependent as a result, I will always tell you to grow up and think for yourself. You may hate me for it, but I believe it's in your best interests.
Have you ever seen that bumper sticker - "Don't follow me; I'm lost". Well, I'm not lost, but I might not be going your way! If you follow me, you'll end up where I'm going - not where God is leading you.
Some friends of ours were following an ambulance taking their relative to hospital after a fall. They were only visiting her on that day, so they had no idea where the hospital was. The traffic built up and they kept losing sight of the ambulance. Eventually they saw it again and continued to follow. Only after half an hour - when the ambulance drove into a housing estate and stopped outside a house - did they realise they had followed the wrong ambulance!
The moral of this story is: IF YOU FOLLOW SOMEBODY ELSE YOU WILL END UP WHERE THEY ARE GOING, not the place you need to go!
JESUS DIDN'T ENCOURAGE HANGERS ON (John chapter Six)
Remember that Jesus did the same - he actively discouraged people from following him around. He made it hard for people to follow him! That's because he knew they would follow him for the wrong reasons.
We can trace the attitude and actions of Jesus as see how he dealt with this situation by looking at John 6:4-68. In verses 4-13 we have the story of the feeding of the five thousand, when Jesus miraculously fed the crowds out of nothing more than five loaves and two fishes. This impressed them to the point that they were ready to accept Jesus as Messiah:
"Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world."
Now at this point, at the peak of his popularity, with 5,000 awe-struck listeners, you'd expect any minister today to play to the crowd and make the most of the opportunity to preach his particular message. Is that what Jesus did - NO! Read on.
Verse 15: "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone."
Just think of it! He walked away from that golden opportunity, just when he had the people eating out of his hand (no pun intended.) Now see what happens. Jesus had departed and gone over the lake, and the disciples had followed him:
"When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed". (verses 24-27)
Jesus then sets about preaching the REAL message that he wanted them to hear:
This was not the message the people wanted to hear. Jesus seemed to be going out of his way to give them something HARD to chew on! He knew they had come to him looking for miracles, but he refused to supply them. That would have been "easy-believism". No He preached an uncompromising message that angered and upset the people:
"And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.."
"The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. . saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
But instead of sensing that he was losing them and offending them, Jesus presses right on, making the message so hard and direct that nobody but a determined disciple could ever accept it. Jesus does NOT want a popular following and names on his mailing list; he wants converts and disciples who will stand by him for ever, no matter what. And this message meant that even some of his disciples turned away!
"From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."
Jesus didn't come to feed the poor, much as the liberals would have you believe that. When he himself was tempted to create food miraculously to satisfy his own hunger, he refused.
The miracle of the loaves and fishes was a sign of his divinity, and also a parable about Jesus being the LIVING bread that came down from heaven. However, the majority of those who witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes didn't want spiritual food. They turned away from Jesus when he said "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." (John 6:53)
SPOON-FEEDING CREATES IMMATURE BELIEVERS
Jesus discouraged the crowds from following him around. But many ministers today encourage you to be dependent. It's easier to cultivate a following with those who never question, never think, just unquestioningly accept whatever you say. Such leaders make sure you are never able to stand by yourself. They will NEVER teach you to mature.
It's a bad shepherd who will hand-feed the flock personally - why? Because if one day he's not around, the sheep will starve! What if he's ill one day? His sheep have been made dependent - they can't find pasture for themselves.
It's a bad parent who panders to his children's every whim, and does everything for them. A father should train up his children to be proficient in many fields - encourage them to take risks, do things under supervision, achieve something for themselves, embark on a journey of learning and doing that will prepare them for life. Not wrap them in cotton wool and let them vegetate.
And it's a bad minister who encourages and trains the people in his charge to be dependent on his thoughts, opinions, beliefs and teachings. Ministers can be "helpers of your joy" and lead you to pasture, but they must not make you dependent upon their every thought and idea.
The REASON why so many people are immature in the Body is just this: MINISTERS HAVE ENCOURAGED IT! The Church system is designed to create passive, pew-sitting people who do nothing but "repeat after me".
Look at 1Samuel 3:1-18. This is the story of Sameul in the Temple. Samuel hears the voice of God calling him in the night. He goes to his Mentor, Eli the Priest, to have it interpreted. But did Eli say "OK, I am the priest, only I should hear from God. I am your covering - you shouldn't be listening to this voice on your own. I will come with you and if it happens again I will tell you want it means."
That in fact is what a modern-day shepherd or elder might do.However, (see verse 9) Eli trusts the young untrained Samuel to go back to bed and hear and obey the voice of God FOR HIMSELF! Samuel didn't need to run to an elder to hear the word of God, or to know how to obey God. God shows us here that he does not need to speak through a Priest, or "your covering" - he will speak directly to YOU!
Some people will hardly move a muscle before they have the OK of their elders. They are scared to think or act without approval from the authorities to which they have submitted themselves.
But just try getting away with that in your place of work - go into work, sit there and wait for somebody to tell you exactly what to say and do. And every time something comes up, go to the Boss and say, "what do you think I should do? Tell me how to write this letter. Tell me how to answer this query - give me the information" and so on and so forth.
Pretty quickly you'll be told - if you are not self-motivated, you're out!
The Boss hasn't got the time or inclination to run around you all the time! The Boss wants to train you up so YOU can make the decisions, YOU do the research - that's what you are there for. You do your job and let him do his - or hers! CONTRIBUTE to the profession, not be a drain on resources.
Many Christians act like capable intelligent human beings, fully functioning and self-reliant all the week, and on Sunday they somehow revert to childhood! They sit down and expect the elders to do it all. THE MINISTERS have to interpret the scriptures to you, to tell you want's sound and what isn't. THEY have to get the information for you. You become a baby!
IT'S NEVER GOING TO WORK THIS WAY!
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO GROW UP?
These days, we are just not going to survive if we are not developing survival skills.
If you can't or won't think for yourself - develop discernment, pray it through, know how to hear God's voice for yourself without asking your favourite minister - then sooner or later you WILL be taken in! Other people are not a reliable source of information - have you learned that.? I have!
You ask them - is Mr Smith, or Mr Jones OK? Can I follow them? He says - yes, he's on my recommended list. So you follow Smith or Jones - but what you don't realise is that Smith and Jones went over to Toronto last week and now they are into heresy in a big way.
Situations and people change! Things don't remain static!How do you really know? Not by asking around - but listening, thinking, going to God, going to the Bible - praying, seeking God, as well as examining all the evidence.
The Holy Spirit is your guide, that's the only way you will really avoid error. And that is a function of a mature believer - to sort out the good from the bad.God is desperately trying, it seems to me, to produce maturity in the Body.
Since people will not choose that for themselves, he's had to set up an environment in which maturity is developed faster than normal - how? - ISOLATION.
In the isolation tank, in solitary confinement, that's when you find out if you really have the ability to stay the course or not.
Yes, you can easily stand when all your friends are around you. Yes, you know a lot when your elders tell you about the bible every week (if they do) but what happens when you are on your own? Can you still maintain your spiritual life? Can you still hear from God, know good from evil, and stay true to God on your own?
The wilderness experience has always been a test-bed for faithfulness, in Jesus as well as others. We are in a wilderness for the same reason - to develop the hard skin that we need to survive.
THINGS ARE GOING TO GET WORSE FOR US BEFORE THE END!
What happens if leaders, pastors, elders and ministers are taken from us? What if all those we depend upon to know the truth and lead us, all those we hero-worship, are gone? Without self-reliance, self-motivation and MATURITY - many will falter and fail.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT MATURITY?
Firstly, let's look at what being mature really means. The bible uses the word "perfection" in this context, but it means something that has matured, like a fruit, to the fullest extent of its growth.
You CAN eat a fruit that isn't mature, but it's better to wait until it reaches perfection.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till WE ALL come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ" (Eph 4:11-15)
Notice how many are expected to become mature in the Body of Christ. ALL. How many is ALL? Is it one or two specially anointed pastors and teachers? A few intelligent ones who can master the bible and theology? Half of us? Most?
Obviously, ALL means EVERYBODY. We all have the capability and responsibility to grow up, because the Bible says we can and should! Ministries are given, as God wills, not to make certain people special - but for the equipping of ALL in the Body, so that we all grow up "in all things". Ministries are there to do themselves out of a job, to make YOU into ministers too.
A MINISTER IS A SERVANT
In the Bible, the word "MINISTRY" simply means SERVICE, service to the Body. Are you of service to others - or are you a drag on others, still begging to be led? Growing up means you become a helper rather than one who needs help. And you can do it! What does the scripture above say is the result of staying a spiritual baby? It says that we become a prey to false doctrine, and the trickery of men, to the cunning craftiness of deceitfulness - in a word, we are vulnerable to deception!
In these days, I don't want anyone to be vulnerable to deception - so what is the Bible's remedy? GROW UP!!
No, not MORE AND MORE INFORMATION, MORE AND MORE NEWSLETTERS, MORE AND MORE ARTICLES. Your home can be stocked full of every book and newsletter known to man, and you may have a thousand discernment websites in your favourites folder, but you will still fall into deception if you are immature and refuse to grow up. Notice how the bible contrasts the mature spiritual man with a child:
"Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature". (1 Cor 14:20)
"And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing". (1 Cor 2:4-6)
God is able to impart wisdom to the mature believer. That is something to be coveted and aimed for. Only mature men and women can really deeply understand the things of God. These things are not given to the babes - babies lack the facility for understanding these things:
It's fine to be a baby when you are first saved:
"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil". (Heb 5:12-14)
"as new-born babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (1 Pet 2:2)
BUT the Bible never envisages you staying that way. It may be comfortable. It may be easy, but it's not biblical: Indeed, Paul criticises the Corinthians for being babies, carnal, not spiritual:
"And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" (1 Cor 3:1-3)
WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTARY THINGS OF THE FAITH?
What does Paul see as the elementary things, teachings for elementary school, for primary children?
These things -
"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgement. And this we will do if God permits". (Heb 6:1-3)
Baptism in water and in the Spirit
Laying on of hands (gifts)
Resurrection from the dead (endtimes, Rapture and heaven)
These are just the bottom rung of the spiritual ladder according to Paul - yet many Christians and churches have hardly grasped these fundamentals, never mind going beyond them! The foundation on which the edifice is built.
We see the foundations in many churches - but no building.
They never get beyond the concrete floor and the damp-proof course! How would you like to live in a house like that? It's a start, but you can't live in it and it won't protect you from the cold and damp.
OUR FIRST HOUSE
When my husband and I were buying our very first house, we were so excited. We used to go out to the building site every weekend just to gaze at the foundations. This was our house! It was just a couple of rows of brick, a concrete base and a lot of mud, but to us it was wonderful!
But what if the builders said, well we had so much fun building the foundations last week, we're going to do them again this week. And again, and again - don't you think we would have got tired of that house?
Some churches are like that. Every Sunday they lay the foundation all over again. Even for the church members, not the unsaved.
I've been to churches like that. Every meeting the same ten people, and every meeting the same address - a salvation message! And once a month you might get lucky and have a different face telling you how to get saved. But after you have been saved - what then?
Everybody who attends the church has been saved for something like 50 years already but they are still laying the foundations in every meeting. How can the Body grow like this?
Some churches never even GET to this stage! And Paul says this is the kiddie stuff, the elementary things.
There's so much more in the Bible than getting saved, and going to heaven. God wants to be able to lead you into a deeper walk with Him, to touch upon deeper aspects of the spiritual life, to share his wisdom with you as He does amongst the mature. You will never move off the soft food and the milk if you don't co-operate with God in growing up.
CHILDREN VERSUS ADULTS:
Notice how the bible contrasts the mature spiritual man with a child: The same word is used in the Bible for "mature", "perfect/complete, entire" and of full-age = ADULT.
But notice also that this same contrast is made in the book of proverbs between the foolish and the wise. For example:
"Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature". (1 Cor 14:20)
"The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness". (Prov 15:14)
"A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards". (Prov 29:11) - (I have that one pinned up by the telephone!)
So, children are foolish and undiscerning, whereas mature adults in the faith are wise and able to discern.
In Part Two, therefore, we are going to look at the behaviour and traits of babies and toddlers and contrast them with the behaviour that the Bible expects of mature Christians.
CONTINUE TO PART TWOa: How mature am I?
© 2013 Tricia Tillin-Booth. All rights reserved. Birthpangs Website: http://www.birthpangs.org/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.