Why Are Christians Hypocrites?
I believe in God. I believe Jesus as my savior and that he sacrificed himself for our sins. When I go to church though, I find many people to be hypocritical. I know I’m not perfect and neither are they, but as a teenager (16) what can I do to show people I take this seriously. I pray and I’m starting to read the Bible for myself, but sometimes I find myself secluded from everyone. Like I’m different and even my friends, but I don’t want to be alone.
It sounds like to me that you’re in a church filled with spiritual children. The greatest tragedy in the Christian Church are spiritual children who never grow up.
No wonder your heart is spiritually aching. I’m so sorry. Unfortunately, you are exposed to people who choose to remain spiritual children instead of growing up to maturity as spiritual mothers or fathers. Try not to be disillusioned by them. Grieve for them.
You are well advised to look for others with hearts like yours—desiring to go on with Christ at any price. While the journey may at times be lonely and difficult, you are not the only one on the –is path. Pray and keep your eyes open to find spiritually-like -minded followers of Christ. They are there.
A.W. Tozer wrote: “Every man or woman is just as spiritual as he or she wants to be.” Pray for God to make you a spiritual mother at any price. This is one prayer I guarantee He will answer.
I am going to share with you a tragic failure in spiritual growth that I’ve observed during forty years of leading seminars and disciple groups on the topic: Most Christians are not nearly as spiritual as they think they are.
Let’s imagine that I have 100 people in the class. During the initial session I ask everyone to close their eyes and raise their hands in turn to designate how far along they are in their spiritual journeys.
“How many consider your selves to be spiritual children?” Twenty-five hands raise.
“How many consider your selves to be spiritual young men or women?” Sixty-five will raise their hands.
“How many consider your selves to be spiritual mothers or fathers?” Ten signify by raising theirs.
Five weeks later, after I have detailed the characteristics of each spiritual level, I repeat the test. Their perceptions have radically changes. “Raise your hands,” I say to them.
“Spiritual Children?” Sixty-three hands.
“Young Men or Women?” Thirty-four hands.
“Spiritual Mothers or Fathers?” Three.
God intends to mature His children from infancy to full-blown-spiritual maturity. He grieves when His children choose otherwise.
In Hebrews 5:11–14, the author was desperately concerned about young Christians who were lagging behind in their spiritual growth:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Christians who refuse or neglect to grow up are in danger of becoming hardened and insensitive to the promptings of God—or even worse—of slipping and sliding back away from Christ. The writer to the Hebrews pleaded continuously with his readers not to stagnate and fall away from Christ (Hebrews 3:12-14; 4:1-16; 6:4-6; and 10:26-27).
Peter pleaded with his hearers to grow up. As infants, they could handle only milk. He encouraged them to grow up so they could chew on the deeper things of God (1 Peter 2:2).
The Greek word translated here as “slow to learn” is often translated as “lazy”. These young Christians were lazy. The writer of Hebrews expected them to grow up, learn the foundational truths, and be well on their way to maturity. But by their own choices, they’d quit. They were stymied, moving backwards on their spiritual journeys.
Baby Christians, who choose to remain babies, do so for many reasons.
Some drop out early because they can’t handle the persecution that comes with following Christ.
Others drop out early because earthly distractions are so alluring.
Some babies aren’t lazy at work or at home or with their hobbies; but they are lazy and inattentive to spiritual things. The Bible is to be studied and learned diligently. The spiritual life is to be cultivated and lived with endurance and consistency.
Some are proud—so full of themselves that they rarely seek the Father’s guidance.
Others imagine that whatever they don’t already know and experience is not really necessary.”
But, by and away, the reason most spiritual children fail to mature is because the cost is too high.
In the latter days of my mother’s life she refused to use her walker. It wasn’t long until she fell and broke her hip. Shortly after the surgery, she was in agony. Nevertheless she was forced to get up and walk the hospital hallways in order to rehabilitate her rapidly deteriorating muscles. The alternative was never to get out of bed again. During the first session with the physical therapist, my mom yelled again and again, “Stop it! Stop it! You’re hurting me!” The young woman patiently explained that she had done this many times and knew what was best. My mom replied, “You do not know best. I know better than you do what I need!” She refused to get out of bed.
Later that night, I was exercising Mom’s leg. She was not happy. She wanted to be left alone. No matter how I moved it, she hurt; she cried out in pain; she begged me to stop. Then, she started calling me, “Idiot!” I was shocked! She had never called me names in my life!
I patiently explained how I loved her too much to stop—even if it did hurt. She looked at me with anger and said slowly and deliberately: “And I thought you were the good son.”
Mom chose not to tolerate the pain necessary for a good recovery. She gave up too quickly—and walked with a painful, shuffling gait for the rest of her life.
Fortunately, some choose to go on to maturity at any price and they produce fruit—and a lot of it (Matthew 13:20–22).
Three Levels of Spiritual Maturity
God designed spiritual growth to move through three specific, well-delineated stages. In 1 John 2:12–14, John spoke to spiritual children, spiritual young men and women, and spiritual mothers and fathers. As you read this passage, be sure to notice the descriptions of each level:
I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
Spiritual children begin their relationships with Jesus. In their initial encounters, He is little more than an acquaintance or at most a casual friend. Full intimacy will come later. Children know that God has forgiven their sins and that Christ is their Savior. They’ve taken the first step on we hope will be lifelong journeys.
Spiritual Young Men and Women
According to John, the “Word of God” lives in spiritual young men and women. At face value, the phrase refers to the Bible. However, John has a much deeper meaning in mind. In John’s writings, the term “Word of God” consistently refers to the Person of Jesus Christ. The word “Logos” is a Greek philosophical term describing the unrevealed wisdom of God. John made a bold claim in the opening pages of his gospel when he declared that the “unrevealed wisdom of God” put on a body and lived on the earth (John 1:1-14). Jesus Christ was God in human flesh. Of course, the term Word of God also refers to the Bible. Spiritual young men and women are becoming very close friends with the Bible as well as with the Word of God Himself, Jesus Christ.
Overcoming the Devil
Young men and women have “overcome the Evil One.” They know how to resist temptation; they know how to fight Satan on his ground and win (2:14).
I pastored a small, rural church during my college years. Richard, one of the fine Christian men in our church, suffered a massive heart attack and was in a coma. On Thursday, Julie and I went to the hospital to encourage his wife, Jane. Because it was lunchtime, we offered to sit with her husband while she took a break.
Richard was unconscious and unable to communicate, so Julie and I chatted together and then decided to pray for him. About five minutes into our prayer, Richard uttered strangely, “Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh.”
Startled, I looked at Julie; she looked at me. We both knew 1 John 4:2-3:
This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
“Roger” Julie whispered, “Did he say, ‘Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh’?”
“I think so!”
“Do you think he has a demonic spirit of antichrist?”
“I wouldn’t think so.
Just that morning in my “Life and Teachings of Christ” class, the professor taught about Jesus’ encounter with the Gadarene demoniac. I looked at Julie and said, “Dr. Flanders said that whenever Jesus confronted a demon, He first found out the demon’s name. If this is a demon, let’s pray for it to reveal its name.” We had no idea what we were doing! We held hands, bowed our heads, touched his shoulders, and prayed, “If this is a demonic spirit, we demand in the name of Jesus Christ, by the blood of Jesus Christ, that you reveal your name!”
Our comatose friend moved his lips to pronounce the words, “My name is Clarissus.”
“Clarissus?!?” His name was Richard! Julie started to cry; I froze in shock. She took a deep breath and asked, “What do we do now?”
“I don’t know! The dismissal bell rang before Dr. Flanders finished the lecture. All I know is that Jesus cast that demon out into some pigs! Should we pray for the demon to come out?”
We resumed positions and prayed . . . nothing happened. After a while, his wife returned.
“Well, how’d it go?” she asked.
I looked at Julie; she looked at me. “Fine,” I lied.
Julie and I were in the parking lot when Jane ran out of the hospital lobby, yelling, “What happened in there? What happened in there?”
I looked at Julie; she looked at me. “Um . . . nothing . . . we just prayed for Richard.”
“Well,” she said, “he has this big smile on his face. Something happened in there!”
About ten o’clock that night, Richard regained consciousness, opened his eyes and said to Jane, “I had the strangest dream. I was climbing up the steps to Heaven, and when I got to the gate, Peter said, ‘You can’t come in now.’ So, I climbed back down the steps. I guess this means that God has some special things left for me to do.”
Ten minutes later, Richard had another massive coronary. I buried him three days later. Questions spun widely around in my mind as we laid him to rest. The answers that I wanted were buried with him.
When I was nineteen-years old I began to pray, “Dear Jesus, please make me a spiritual man at any price,” I never imagined that this might include “overcoming the evil one.” In the ensuing years, I’ve fought numerous spiritual battles with some exhilarating victories and many heartbreaking defeats. By the way, battles with Satan and his forces are seldom overt. Most Christians will never have an encounter like the one we had with Clarissus. Most spiritual battles are internal struggles that are won through consistent discipleship and by utilizing the biblical tools God has placed already at our disposal.
I’ve chosen to share this particular story in the beginning pages of this book so that we might engage with the fact that the lessons of each stage of growth must be mastered! Some children say, “I want to be a spiritual father/mother, but I don’t believe in that spiritual warfare kind of stuff.” They do not understand. Defeating the Evil One in spiritual hand to hand combat is part of the process. We can’t go on to maturity without success in this area.
Spiritual Mothers and Fathers
Spiritual mothers and fathers experience the infinite depths of a relationship with God the Father Himself. Twice John repeats: “You have known Him who is from the beginning” (1 John 2:13, 14). John was using this phrase to communicate some measure of the unfathomable depths of the infinite character of God. Just think of it! Spiritual parents are intimate friends with God.
The fruit of the spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23 includes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” These character traits flow forth freely in the lives of spiritual men and women. Rarely are they mired in the mud of their sinful natures (Galatians 5:16). Their lives are clothed with humility and grace. They remind others of what Jesus is like. They are more likely to live above difficult circumstances. They live the victorious Christian life.
Buck Craven, one of our church founders, was a building contractor who had planned and saved for retirement. His plans were foiled when a building job turned sour. I suppose he could have claimed bankruptcy like so many others, defrauding his creditors and leaving them high and dry. But, for Buck, his Christian testimony was at stake. He promised to pay off every debt.
He and Jessie Mae sold their house and moved into a small mobile home. The proceeds of the sale went to his creditors. The money earmarked for retirement paid off others. He kept working into his seventies until all of his debts were eradicated.
Spiritual mothers and fathers long ago waded through the questions, struggles, doubts, self-reliance, self-centeredness, and self-condemnation that cause so many to stumble or turn back from the journey. Mothers and fathers long to experience the resurrected life of Christ at any price.
The progression from spiritual childhood to young man/womanhood to father/motherhood parallels the spiritual progression of the three periods of Moses’ 120-year life. Moses spent the first part of his life thinking he was somebody important. He was a prince of Egypt, raised in the palace by Pharaoh’s daughter. Tradition tells us that he was a powerful soldier who led a successful military campaign against the Ethiopians during a border dispute in southern Egypt. Moses spent his first forty years in Egypt full of self-reliance.
When he was forty, he began sensing the pain and suffering of his Hebrews brothers and sisters. He murdered an Egyptian who was whipping a Hebrew slave. Fearing capture and punishment, he fled Egypt.
From age forty to eighty, Moses tended sheep in the deserts of Midian. He was a “nobody”—useless to God and man. He suffered debilitating bouts of self-condemnation during this second third of his life, as evidenced by his response when God called him to lead His people out of Egypt. Kneeling beside the burning bush at the age of eighty, he confessed, “God, I can’t do it. Surely, You don’t want me! Why don’t You use my brother, Aaron?” (See Exodus 3-4).
But God had plans for Moses. He spent the last forty years of his life discovering what God can do with anybody. With the rod of God, Moses confronted Pharaoh, instigated disastrous plagues, split the Red Sea, and led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt and up to the threshold of the Promised Land.
God loves to take no bodies and turn them into somebodies. He demonstrated with Moses what He can do with anybody!
A Lifelong Affair
The growth process John outlined implies a long-term commitment. Nothing less than wholehearted devotion will suffice. The process is not for the faint of heart. However, along the way, we will increasingly experience the deepening love and resurrection power of Christ. We can’t help but develop an irresistible urge to become like Christ at any price.
In Principles of Spiritual Growth, Miles Stanford laid out the process God employs in molding us to maturity:
It is more than comforting to realize that it is those who have plumbed the depths of their own failure to whom God invariably gives the call to shepherd others. This is not a call given to the gifted, the highly trained, or the polished as such.
Without a bitter experience of their own inadequacy and poverty they are quite unfitted to bear the burden of spiritual ministry. It takes a man who has discovered something of the measures of his own weakness to be patient with the foibles of others. Such a man also has a firsthand knowledge of the loving care of the Chief Shepherd. . . . The Lord does not give the charge, “Be a shepherd to My lambs . . . to my sheep,” on hearing Peter’s self-confident affirmation of undying loyalty, but He gives it after he has failed to keep his vows and has wept bitterly in the streets of Jerusalem.12
OK. Reflect on what you’ve just read. Think of what stands out most in your mind. Make it a marker point in your growth.
Now, not too quickly, with thought, meaning and surrender, let’s pray our prayer.
Thank you for the progress I’ve made together with you in my spiritual journey. Please nurture me along the path of maturity at any price.
By the way, you might enjoy reading, “Hinds Feet On High Places,” by Hannah Hurnard which is the road map of spiritual maturity in story-book fore as well as the sequel, “Mountains of Spices.”