1 John 1:5-10
No more secrets
in our community. in our church
by which i mean: NOT that everyone knows your deepest secret but SOMEONE does.
No more secrets among us
What is it that no one else knows about you?
Maybe there are details of your life that you would hate to be disclosed. The idea fills you with dread, with terror. A decision you wish you’d never made; an event you want to forget, a pattern of behaviour that you can’t shake. Maybe it’s not something you did but something done to you. Perhaps you wrestle with tormenting thoughts and feelings that you are convinced no one will understand.
Secrets. We all have them. Human nature seems wired to withhold and tuck away areas of our lives we deem undesirable. The best option seems to be keeping our secrets in check and out of sight.
We dare not come into the light to show who we truly are because we fear shame and we fear rejection.
But there’s great danger in keeping secrets hidden. Secrets have the power to hurt everyone you know and love.
Brené Brown is a straight talking social scientist from Texas who had a breakdown and who’s TED talk ‘the power of vulnerability’ went viral. It’s been watched 33 million times.
She describes Shame as ‘the swampland of the soul’
The warm wash of shame is something we all know. Those who feel no shame have no capacity for empathy or connection. But that doesn’t mean that shame is a good thing.
Shame runs two tapes on loop in our heads ‘You’re never good enough’ and ‘who do you think you are?’
Shame is not the same as guilt, says Brené Brown
Whereas Guilt is a focus on behaviour
Shame is a focus on the self
Guilt says I did something bad
Shame says I am bad
Guilt says ‘I’m sorry i made a mistake’
Shame says ‘I’m sorry, I AM a mistake’
Shame is highly correlated with addiction depression, violence, aggression, bullying, eating disorders, suicide. Whereas Guilt is inversely correlated to those things.
This is very biblical stuff from someone who wasn’t a christian when she gave that talk.
guilt is good - leads us to forgiveness and life.
shame paralyses us.
And shame only needs 3 things to grow. Secrecy, Silence and judgement.
No wonder shame is an epidemic in our super-judgemental, PC, witch hunt culture.
And the church with its expectations of good behaviour and sorted lives can all to often be tragically judgemental also:
Listen to Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his classic book Life Together:
“the pious church permits no one to be a sinner. Hence all have to conceal their sins from themselves and from the community. We are not allowed to be sinners. Many Christians would be unimaginably horrified if a real sinner were suddenly to turn up among the pious. So we remain alone with our sin, trapped in lies and hypocrisy, when we are in fact sinners!”
Secrets and shame.
we keep our secrets, they end up keeping us.
Keeping us isolated and alone.
Isolated from others. Parts of us unavailable - a piece of my heart walled up and you can’t come in.
Isolated from God. If your highest motivation is to protect a secret you’re not gonna choose to put yourself in a relationship with God who knows all
and Isolated from ourselves. ‘keep our secrets long enough and we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are as little by little we come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in the hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the REAL thing.’
Sin and Shame grows in the darkness. Already affecting things far more than we care to admit. But secrets also have a horrible way of bursting into the open creating mess and harm. It’s a bit like when you’re in the swimming pool with a beach ball and you try and keep it under your body under the water and it’s difficult and any moment it moves around the side of your body and bursts the surface of the water. So Secrets have the power to hurt everyone you know and love.
No more secrets
God does not want us to live burdened in fear, hiding, pretending, lacking assurance, in the darkness.
God wants us to live in freedom. in fellowship with others, known for who we are struggles and all, assured and loved. In the light… with the hope of change.
The path to freedom begins with an act. the act of confession.
firstly confession to God.
1 John 1:8-9 “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess ours sins God is faithful and just and will forgives us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness…”
Relationship with God never ever has been about us having to have it all together before we can come to him!
The people who God engages with and uses in the Bible are sinful, selfish, broken people. Why? because these are the only kinds of people there are! People like you and me. All of us are broken. We all have issues and struggles and baggage. If we could have cleaned up our act would God have sent his son to die for us? He knows what we are! he loves us as we are. So stop hiding from God!
Start living raw and real, brutally honest before God. Confess to him your sin. Pour out your true self to God.
We’re often tempted to simply give an excuse or to offer to God a justification or explanation of our motives and intent. Now of course there may well be reasons; brokenness behind the sins that we commit that God wants to heal in us - we’ll come to that. But there’s a danger that we use these as excuses to minimise the importance of the sin we’re confessing. Don’t do that. Be raw and real. be like David in Psalm 51. Chastened by the discovery of his secret adultery and unlawful killing he doesn’t just resolve to change. (He probably knows that he can’t). He repents to change. He doesn’t deflect, minimise or rationalise. He calls himself a sinner and evil and admits his inability to fix the problem. Brutal honesty before God. Speak what you’ve done. It makes it real. Pour out your heart. he wants you to receive his forgiveness.
Confession to God …is the key but it’s only the beginning.
the second crucial step is to confess to someone else.
be raw and real, specific, hide nothing, face to face with another.
that sounds hard doesn’t it? excruciating? No way. They’d be so disappointed. They’d reject me. They’d never understand. … You think? We’re all sinners. None of us are sorted. We’re to love one another.
some people say - you don’t need to confess to others as long as God knows.. He forgives!
But James 5v16 says, the Bible says..
‘confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.’
you cannot heal without this…
confess your sins to one another
It’s not confessing your sins to a priest - it’s any christian can hear and pray
Neither is this open confession - it’s a trusted person, an other.
It’s not imply your sins - it’s confess your real. Be specific. Raw and real.The other person can’t read your mind..
It might feel excruciatingly embarassing but look at the result … that you may be healed..
‘you’ individually and ‘you’ as a community - healed …as you confess your sins to one another. We need to be healed.
why is confession to another so powerful in healing the individual and the community?
2 answers (there’s undoubtedly more):
because Confession to another brings assurance
and because confession to another exposes sin.
Confession to another brings assurance of forgiveness. Listen again to Dietrich Bonhoeffer from life together:
“Why is it often easier for us to acknowledge our sins before God than before another believer? God is holy and without sin, a just judge of evil, and an enemy of all disobedience. But another Christian is sinful, as are we, knowing from personal experience the night of secret sin. Should we not find it easier to go to one another than to the holy God? But if that is not the case, we must ask ourselves whether we often have not been deluding ourselves about our confession of sin to God – whether we have not instead been confessing our sins to ourselves and also forgiving ourselves. And is not the reason for our innumerable relapses and for the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living from self-forgiveness and not from the real forgiveness of our sins? Self-forgiveness can never lead to the break with sin. This can only be accomplished by God’s own judging and pardoning Word. Who can give us the assurance that we are not dealing with ourselves but with the living God in the confession and the forgiveness of our sins? God gives us this assurance through one another.’
Confession to a wise and compassionate friend brings the powerful healing assurance of God’s forgiveness.
And second confession to a wise and compassionate friend exposes sin. Bonhoeffer again:
‘Sin wants to be alone with people. It takes them away from the community. The more lonely people become, the more destructive the power of sin over them. …Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of what is left unsaid sin poisons the whole being of a person … In confession the light of the gospel breaks into the darkness and closed isolation of the heart. All that is secret and hidden comes to light.’
Confession disempowers shaming sin… Brene Brown says “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive.” We’re sudddenly on the journey towards real healing. Sin is not going to keep us away from the community in doubt and despair. No. “If we walk in the light as God is in the light we have fellowship with one another (we’re brought back in to community) and the blood of Jesus his Son purifies us from all sin (assurance of forgiveness)”
Do you see how important this is? Don’t deny yourself this grace out of fear. Don’t pretend that confession to God is enough. Don’t listen to the lies of shame. You can come out of darkness into light. The world won’t end. On the contrary if you own up to your struggles you will be loved as you are. I assure you. If anyone judges you.. they are wrong. Someone you confess to might not have the resources to help you, their struggles might be too great but they can tell you that you are forgiven and loved.
Before I talk about how to choose someone to confess to. Let me say a little bit about the journey of healing.
It would be nice to say that as soon as you’ve confessed honestly to God and confessed honestly to another you will never have a problem with that particular sin anymore - healed!
But that’s not going to be the case.
What is the case is that confession starts you on a journey towards freedom in which confession and being prayed for will continue to play a part.
Confession brings secretive sin out into the open - makes it real and out there but disempowers its shame so that by God’s grace and in his way and with the help of others you can begin to unpack the baggage that lies beneath your secret sin: your addiction, your destructive thought patterns, your relational difficulties. We’ve all got baggage. Some of us have been dragging around a Transit Van load of the stuff for years. Baggage from your relationships with parents and siblings and peers. Stuff you’ve said and done; Stuff said and done to you. Stuff that should have been said and done for you but never was. Baggage. Baggage that Jesus died for on the cross and now he wants to relieve you of. To exchange beauty for your ashes, joy for your mourning, honour for your shame.
Uncomfortable as it is to revisit painful things He wants us on the journey of unpacking our stuff that he might heal us.
Some of us are already on that journey and we need to continue. We might need bible and prayer in a small group of honest friends, maybe a refresher conference. Don’t give up..
Some of us haven’t started on the journey and we need to begin. That might mean reading a practical book in this area with a trusted trio of friends. It might mean seeing a counsellor - a professional baggage unpacker. I’ve had plenty of counselling and found it helpful in beginning my journey.
Let me point you to one organisation that I am full of praise for. Journey UK. I am currently half way through their 6 month course called Journey of Grace. It’s Monday nights and a few Saturdays. You hear a short powerful talk and then in small groups (and they ensure that you’re in groups with no one that you know) you don’t pray for others..you’re there for yourself..you’re given time to pour out your heart brutally honestly to God and the two group leaders sit on either side listening, bringing assurance of forgiveness, occasionally asking a question or sharing an insight, or a bit of the bible, or putting a hand on your shoulder, blessing God’s work in you.
Journey UK has a 'taste and see' day in March - details on this postcard - and they run one off days and retreats and one to one services. They are gold dust.
The reason why I think kick-starting your healing journey with an outside organisation is helpful is that the people are so experienced in running these courses. AND you’re not then placing the burden of accountability and healing work on your close friends who you have chosen to confess to and asked to pray for you.
When you do the Journey of Grace course they won’t let you get away with just confessing to strangers. You find 3 friends - preferably local so you see them regularly - who you can confess to and ask them to be praying for you. You tell them your baggage and your progress. That’s where freedom really comes … being known, being loved and supported.
They’re not there for accountabilty or to fix you. I actually have a bit of a problem with accountability because it tends to focus on behaviour successes and failures rather than direction of the heart. What you need is to find wise and pastorally hearted friends to give you assurance of forgiveness when you confess and who just pray for what God is doing in your life.
We’re all different and we need different things on our healing journey. But we all need honesty and support. No more secrets. I hope you know you can talk to me, no judgements. just love. Look around and you will find people to talk to.
And let me end with this. If you don’t feel that you can share your secret at the moment - that’s ok. You still belong. This is God’s work and God’s timing and we can’t do it without his help. You’re not forced to do anything. God will never let go of you. But maybe this is the time for us as a church and you’ll be able to step out in courage.
What’s the stuff that you’ve never told a soul? Maybe writing it down is the first step for you. Put your secret on paper. Expose it to the air, and get it out of the confines of your heart.
This tiny spark of courage will smoulder and spark into reality when you tell that stuff to another.
No more secrets …freedom is coming