Over the last few years, a number of high-profile Christians have been caught in scandals. Most recently, it’s been reported that the late apologist Ravi Zacharias sexually abused a number of women whom he befriended. These acts were egregious, but what’s worse were the lengths Zacharias went to cover up his sin.
Sin is serious, but secret sin is deadly. That’s why those in recovery often say, “We are only as sick as our secrets.” You see, sin is like mold; it grows in the darkness. The only hope is to step out into the light so that sin can be exposed, forgiven, and those involved can find healing.
As King David was reflecting on his own cover-up, he wrote:
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin (Psalm 32:3,5).
David described the torture of “keeping silent,” the importance of confessing his sin, and the relief of God’s forgiveness. But it’s not just leaders like David or high-profile Christians who need to go through this process. We all need to “confess [our] sins to each other and pray for each other so that [we] may be healed” (James 5:16).
That might be more of a challenge in the middle of a pandemic. But because we are living such isolated lives, it’s even more important that we seek out ways to go through the process of confessing our sins and receiving God’s forgiveness.
So how can you make sure you’re living in the light and not walking in darkness?
Confess your sins to a pastor or a trusted friend.
It’s becoming more socially acceptable to talk to a therapist about internal struggles. That’s a good thing. Frequently I talk to a professional Christian counselor to help me organize and process my emotions. But we need more than a therapist. We need someone with whom we can say, “Yesterday I committed such and such sin.” Then we need to hear from that person, “The Lord Jesus has died for that sin. You are forgiven in his name.”
(If possible, you may want to take the Lord’s Supper together as well. Even though you’ve heard you are forgiven, Holy Communion is a special way of receiving God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ body and blood in remembrance of what he did on the cross.)
You might be thinking, “But what if I want to confess my sins to God privately? Why do I need to tell a person?” Yes, speaking directly to God is important. But remember, sin grows in the dark. Confessing your sin to a person keeps it from being a secret. And remember, we are only as sick as our secrets.
I know of a strong Christian who had struggled for years with an addiction to pornography. He tried every spiritual practice he could think of to stop sinning. He prayed, memorized Scripture, attended extra worship services and Bible studies. And yet he continued to struggle. It wasn’t until he told somebody and received personal absolution that he was finally set free.
Everyone sins. As Pastor Mike Novotny says, “Everyone you know who’s spiritually mature has sinned. Sin is not the biggest problem; the stupid is.” Our biggest problem is not sin. Our biggest problem is trying to cover up and “deal” with our sin on our own. And that’s just stupid. Trying to conceal our sin is like trying to hide an elephant in our living rooms.
I know it’s not easy to tell someone the truth about your sin. You might be afraid they will think differently of you. You might be concerned about the consequences of coming clean. But it’s the way to freedom and healing. Or as the apostle John said, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8,9).