Guest post by Daniel Wilson of Desire Spiritual Growth.
You know what it’s like to struggle with secret sin that has a death-grip around your throat…
Secret sin gnaws at your conscience more than anything else…
You feel like a hypocrite with moral standards fluctuating with the presence or absence of an audience…
Endless cycles of determined resolve and dismal failure continue as you try to break off the secret sin…
Your soul has some sickened bent toward feeding at the swine trough even though every taste leaves you with a regretful hangover…
Intimacy with God is almost nonexistent because no two lovers can remain relationally intimate while one plays the harlot…
You may rightfully doubt your own salvation because–despite having gained a lot of knowledge about God and the gospel–you look back on the past few years and see little victory over secret sin…
And you are weary of new techniques and three-step processes to bring freedom.
They never work.
If that sounds like an insider’s description, it’s because I left tracks in mud on the miserable path of secret sin.
Secret sin creates an inconsistency between our outer and inner lives.
Hypocrisy. We do behind mentally or physically closed doors what we would never do out in the light. This shows that whatever is motivating our public deeds is not strong–or not relevant–enough to govern our private deeds.
Where Does the Struggle with Secret Sin Originate?
In general, we sin because we are sinners. Until our sanctification is complete, we will not cease to wrestle with sin.
We are seduced by promises that sin cannot deliver on. We struggle to believe that sin is profitless and costly and thus we are blindly attracted to something that is repulsive in reality.
In particular, our heart is fertile ground for secret sin when we use righteousness to gain approval. We become concerned only with outward appearance. That opens the door for secret sins because they are hidden from view and do not affect public approval ratings.
Struggling with secret sin is an indicator that our outward righteousness is primarily motivated by a love for man. If our outward righteousness was motivated by a love for God, then we would use the same motivation to live righteous private lives.
This is a heart problem: love for God is not filling our heart, enabling and motivating our deeds publicly or privately.
Jesus gives us a profile of this problem in His diagnoses of the Pharisaical heart. The Pharisees did all of their deeds to be seen by men. That’s all they wanted. Concerned only with outward appearance, their hearts were far from the Lord. They were like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness (Matthew 23:5, 26-27; Mark 6:7).
Contrast that with a former Pharisee whose heart was changed–the Apostle Paul:
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
The difference between convenient obedience and full obedience is a matter of where our heart’s affections lie. We either serve and love God above all, or we serve and love man. And only one of those two loves can enable and motivate us to reject secret sin.
The Unsurprising Yet Singularly Effective Solution
Where do we get such a love for God that enables and motivates us to obey?
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15
We are not naturally filled with love for God. Nor are we the filler that we may fill ourselves. We are helpless to bring about the required heart change so that we can overcome secret sin.
On Our Knees
Gripped and crushed by our powerlessness, we are finally where we ought to be. We are ready to cry out for God to fill us with love for Him. Let Him break, mold and fill us as He sees fit.
Let thy personal weakness, O Christian, be an argument to make thee pray earnestly to thy God for help…Let not the doctrine that you, unaided, can do nothing, make you sleep; but let it be a goad in your side to drive you with an awful earnestness to Israel’s strong Helper. – CH Spurgeon
By the law is the knowledge of sin’ [Rom 3:20], so the word of grace comes only to those who are distressed by a sense of sin and tempted to despair. Martin Luther
The loss of all confidence in one’s self is the first essential in the believer’s growth in grace. A. W. Pink
What is our desperate prayer request? That the Lord will direct our hearts to the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ so that we will do the things that we have been commanded, for our good and His glory.
But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5
[Also see Ephesians 3:14-21]
That is the gospel: God requiring of us what we cannot supply on our own. And then giving us the supply.
Does anyone wish to overcome secret sin, to be rid of it at last? Then take hold of the gospel daily. You will find no victory as you wage war against sin until your heart is filled with love for God.