How Hidden Sin Almost Destroyed My Life
But there's grace in the light.
After eight years serving as the associate pastor at my church, I resigned last week after admitting to secret struggles with alcohol. My own choices have caused myself and those around me a lot of pain and confusion. My own failings have reminded me of my own words.
It’s interesting how so much of my preaching is either preaching from my past self, to my present self or to a future self.
So, I find myself now reflecting on my past teaching—and discovering all the clarity I wish I would have had on the front end.
After My Fall
Sin Makes You Stupid.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is” (Jeremiah 17:9)?
All of us have an incredible ability to discern where other people’s bad choices will take them.
We all know of friends who dated someone who we knew was a poor choice. We all know someone married who made choices which clearly were headed towards an affair. We all know someone who made reckless financial choices where everyone knew where it was headed.
But somehow, we all find ourselves blind to our own sins. We find ourselves blind to our own weaknesses and clueless to the foolish paths we’re on.
We don’t see our own faults in the mirror. The reason is simple: Sin makes us stupid, and the heart is deceitful.
Sin Grows in Secret.
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:7).
We are meant to live in community, and with confession. When we live with secrets, we fail to enjoy all the benefits of community. When we fail to confess, we carry burdens we’re meant to share.
Without real community, iron can’t sharpen iron, and without confession, others can’t beat the dents out of your soul.
On a practical note, our sinful nature always desires more. When you get away with something in secret, the deceitful nature of sin will convince you that it’s a reason to keep going. Eventually, you find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be, and there are only painful ways out.
I do not know the original source of this quote, but it certainly is true:
“Sin takes you further than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you want to pay.”
Sin Hurts Everyone Around You.
From the very first sin recorded in Genesis 3, sin has always affected more than the person committing it. Sin is both rebellion against God and acting against the natural order that God intended. Therefore, any sin brings damage into the world.
Sin in a family damages the family. Sinful thinking damages you and your actions. Sin in the church hurts His Bride.
Stepping Up After My Fall
Whereas the darkness causes sin and pain to grow, the light brings redemption.
The Light Makes Sins Look Even More Stupid.
As a youth pastor, I spent years teaching students about the power of retreats.
When they’re away from their favorite sins, suddenly they see clearly. When they’re in musical worship and prayer regularly, they see clearly. When they’re in the Bible daily, they see clearly. When they’re hearing the Word taught twice per day, they see clearly.
They’re in the light, and in the light the small things of this world look very small. The petty squabbles seem even pettier. The appeal of sin doesn’t seem so tempting. When you’re in the light, you can see sin for what it is. It’s foolishness.
When you realize your foolishness, the hard part is realizing the fool you’ve been.
Sin Shrinks in the Light.
“Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light'” (Ephesians 5:11-14).
If sin grows in the dark, conversely, it shrinks in the light. When our sin is in the open we have accountability and freedom. Our secrets creates all the atmospheres which cause it to spread whereas the light creates all the environments for support: community, confession, support, advice.
In the light there is Grace.
“And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble'” (James 4:6).
When we step into the light with our sin, we choose to humble ourselves and receive grace but, when we stay in the dark, we set ourselves up for God to oppose us … or to humble us.
“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The strength to overcome weakness comes through God’s grace, and God’s grace is activated through humility.
Whatever your sin is, wherever you struggle, humble yourself in that area and access God’s grace to overcome it. You can’t do it on your own, and the consequences of keeping it secret aren’t worth it. The freedom of God’s grace is far better.