How To Keep Your Secret Sins From Taking You Out

By Tom Gilson Published on November 25, 2017

Every sin takes you down, but your secret sins will take you out. It’s always been true, but past few weeks have proved it over and over again. 

Who to Open Up With

Wisdom says not to share your sins with just anyone. Undiscerning, careless disclosures can  be as harmful as much as any secret.

So choose people as your confidants who understand both grace and truth. Jesus Christ Himself came to us “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He told the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11) Both halves of that answer are essential: There’s no condemnation, but there must be repentance. 

The person you open up with might be your pastor or priest. It could be a professional counselor. It might be a wise and trusted friend. It might even be a small group you can trust, like a 12-step group or a support group.

Whoever it may be, find that person or persons. Find someone to share with who:

  • you can trust to keep it confidential
  • has enough biblical and relational wisdom to help
  • will keep you oriented on the truth, especially the truth that sin is never right and always needs repentance
  • will keep you also focused on grace: that there’s no condemnation in Christ, but rather forgiveness and life for all who will accept it from Him, no matter what we’ve done

Everyone knows the real problem with Watergate wasn’t the break-in, it was the cover-up. Not long before he passed away, I asked Chuck Colson what he’d say to my daughter’s history class, which was studying the Watergate era. He answered, “I’d tell them that to this day, I have no idea why those two burglars were at the Watergate.” If Nixon and his team had opened up a lot sooner, they’d have gotten in a lot less trouble.

Secrets are like that. Still, we think we’re better off hiding our secrets. We don’t dare let on what we’re doing. The stigma would kill us.

A Living Death

That’s what one man told me once. It was in the late 1980s, and I was working HR for a global Christian mission agency. This person had applied for a ministry position. We’d accepted him based on a strong application and solid interviews with our staff where he lived.

But one day he called me at our headquarters and said, “I can’t stand the guilt any longer. I lied on my application. I’ve had sex with several men in the past few months.”

He knew that would disqualify him from our ministry. More than that, he knew that it was wrong; I didn’t have to persuade him of that. He was in severe emotional pain over it, and for good reason. So at one point in our long conversation, I said, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea for you to open up about this with someone who can help you, right where you live?”

He said, “I couldn’t do that. It would be death to me.”

I asked him, “Isn’t it already a lot like a living death?”

His answer came back slowly, reluctantly: “Well, yes. Actually it is.”

The Freedom of Life Lived In the Clear

I don’t know what he did. I never heard back from him. But around that time I did hear back from another applicant who’d owned up to a pornography problem six months earlier. He thanked me for our organization’s holding him accountable. He told me, “I’ve trashed all the magazines, I’ve asked my pastor to hold me accountable, I’ve entered into counseling, and I am so much more free now!”

It’s when we confess our sins for what they are that we may be healed (James 5:16) and experience God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

The great error we make is to think, “First I’ll stop doing what I’m doing. Then I can own up to having had the problem.” But that works only rarely. As long as the sin remains in the dark, we’re prone to falling back into the dark. The route to getting rid of secret sins passes first through getting rid of the secrecy, then the sin, not the other way around.

So I implore you, for the sake of Christ and His kingdom, for yourself, for your family and your friends, for all those who look to you, if you’re harboring secret sin, open up and share it with the wise and gracious confidant who can help you repent and accept God’s healing grace.

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