Exposure: A Painful, but Necessary Step toward Freedom
It happened again just the other day. Although it is becoming increasingly common in our society, it never fails to shock me. A friend shared with me the story of yet another minister caught in the act of sexual sin. Every time I hear these reports, a mixture of emotion wells up within me. I feel the heartbreak of the spouse and children involved, as I am all too familiar with the pain that sexual sin inflicts on innocent members of the family. I feel the discouragement of the congregation as they are left reeling from the aftereffects of their pastor’s sin. I feel angry at the enemy, who has successfully deceived another victim, and brought shame and ridicule on the church. And I feel a great burden for the one whose secret life was uncovered in such a damaging way. Nobody wins in situations like these.
On a recent ministry trip, I had several opportunities to share my testimony. When people hear my story, many can relate to the cycle of bondage to sexual sin, as it touches the lives of so many in our churches. Many men understand what it feels like to confess their sin to God and cry out for mercy—believing they have the victory—only to fall once again a short time later. I lived in this frustrating cycle for years, never being able to find true freedom.
As I was describing this to one man, he asked, “How did you get out of the cycle?” While there are several factors involved, there is one that is a necessary step to the repentance process. What I discovered was that I could not find freedom—no matter how hard I tried—until I was willing to expose my sin.
For years, I had attempted to overcome my sin in secret. I believed that the Lord would help me get free, and that I could avoid the guaranteed pain of allowing it to be revealed. I justified my secrecy by convincing myself that it was better that God and I deal with it alone, because of the pain that confession would cause others. I cried out to the Lord for forgiveness countless times. I felt that I was sincere and at times I pleaded with the Lord in tears. But no matter how genuine I felt my repentance was, the presence of continual sin in my life was evidence that something was missing.
The pressure to confess at times was overwhelming. I remember clearly thinking, “If I could just come out in the open with everything, maybe I could finally be free from this nightmare.” But my list of reasons to avoid exposure kept me from moving forward with that conviction. These excuses were not completely unfounded. My confession would indeed put my marriage, ministry and reputation at risk. I was fully aware that I would face painful consequences. But the longer I kept my sin covered, the higher the stakes became. Bringing my sin into the light early on would have saved myself and those I thought I was “protecting” much pain and humiliation.
When people ask me for practical advice on getting free from sin, I usually start here. An early step in the repentance process involves bringing our sin into the light. It does not mean that we need to broadcast our sin to everyone in our life. Depending on the depth of our sin and our position of influence, the amount of people that need to be involved will vary. At minimum, sexual sin must be confessed to a spouse. That is non-negotiable. I tried for years to deal with my sin without involving my wife, and it was my stubborn refusal to tell her that actually kept me in bondage.
By nature, sin grows in the dark. The best way to stay in sin is to keep it secret. When I look back over the years I spent crying out to the Lord for victory, it is as if He was saying, “I want to help you get free. But you will either do it on My terms, or not at all. Dealing with it in secret without anyone finding out is not an option."
I was counseling recently with someone who had confided in me about secret sin in his life. Hearing my story had given him the determination to avoid the misery that I had walked through due to my unwillingness to come into the light. I told him, “Confessing will be painful. There will be some consequences that you will have to walk through. But I’m really excited for you! Although you are looking at this side of the exposure and the humiliation and pain you will deal with, I can see the other side. The Lord can do so many great things now that you are willing to confess!” Despite the difficult circumstances that arise in the process, the end result is worth the momentary pain.
Perspective is everything when dealing with sexual sin. The devil will try to make people focus on the negative repercussions and use that to keep them in sin. But if they could just see the joy of living in freedom from sexual sin and having a clean conscience before the Lord, they would readily bring their sin into the light and pay whatever price that might entail.
When I hear the reports of ministers being exposed for sexual sin, it makes me wonder. How many times had the Lord prompted them to come into the light, but they refused? How many opportunities did they have to tell their spouse, but, instead, they justified keeping their sin in the dark? How much pain could they have avoided had they come clean in the beginning of their compromise?
If you are reading these words right now, and you find yourself secretly bound in sin, let me ask you a question. How many years will you waste away in your sin? How much more pain will you cause your loved ones by refusing to really allow the Lord to deal with your heart? Is it worth the gamble that you will find freedom down the road when the Holy Spirit is tugging on your heart today to bring your sin into the light?
John 3:19-21 says, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
There are two types of people in this passage: those who refuse to come into the light for fear of exposure, and those who willingly come into the light for the sake of living in truth. Which one will you be? The choice is yours.
If I could go back thirteen years to the time I began to lie about my sin, I would shake myself and say, “Bring it into the light right now! Don’t go into hiding. You can avoid years of pain, hardship and regrets if you expose your sin now and choose to walk in the light.” Of course, I cannot go back and change the past. But I can allow my failures to be an encouragement to others to not make the same mistakes.
Dustin Renz is a graduate of Pure Life Ministries and currently the Associate Pastor of Kettering Assembly of God in Ohio. He is the founder of Make Way Ministries and the author of Pile of Masks: Exposing Christian Hypocrisy. Dustin has a passion to see the Body of Christ awaken, mature and arise to its full potential in these last days.
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