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You build your best relationships on honesty. Being honest with each other is how you measure the strength of any relationship. It is this concept about honesty that makes your relationship with God so powerful.
God’s Word is the truth, and He is completely trustworthy. You can trust the Lord because He never withholds the truth from you. He is transparent, honest, open, and self-disclosing.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17).
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John 4).
God makes much of truth because He knows how being honest with another person is the only way to have a right relationship with someone. The devil, on the other hand, is the opposite of truth.
Satan understands what truth can do for a person, so his main agenda is to hide and distort the truth, so your relationships will never be all that God intends. God is truth, and the devil is dishonest (John 8:44).
Individuals fall somewhere between total honesty and total lying. None of us are completely honest within our relationships; though the hope is that we’re not entirely deceitful within our relationships.
There is always a tension about revealing our true selves to other people. The temptation is to live behind Adamic fig leaves while rationalizing why we don’t want to tell the whole truth about who we are (Genesis 3:7-12).
I understand the tension: we are sinful people living in a sinful world. There are consequences for being honest. You can be uncharitably judged, ostracized, alienated, condemned, shunned, made fun of, mocked, ridiculed, or put down if you reveal your true self to certain individuals.
Perhaps you have experienced the darker side of being honest with a spouse, a friend, or an institution. Maybe you wanted to come clean about an aspect of your life, but the people you shared your story with were not mature enough to steward your honesty.
No doubt this is a dilemma for everyone. You have to weigh the benefits of being honest versus the liabilities of holding on to your secrets. Though there is much to say about the dangers of being honest, I want to address the risks of secret keeping in this chapter.
Biff has a secret sin pattern in his life. Mable, his wife, does not know about it. Every time he commits this sin, there is a confrontation in his soul: should he come clean or keep his dirty little secret to himself?
For the past fifteen years, he has remained silent. It was his choice. The problem with his silence has been the unexpected and unintended consequence of his conscience, his inner voice taking revenge on him. He never saw it coming. He never perceived how his silence regarding his sin would trigger another kind of action—the revenge of his conscience.
The conscience cannot compete with sin. It was not designed to do this. The battle against sin is a war for the gospel, not the conscience. When sin makes its way into the soul, the conscience becomes easy prey.
If a person does not heed the alarm of the conscience when sin is in play, there will be a negative consequence—you will spiritually break down. Your conscience is fluid and manipulatable, and it will take its revenge on you if you allow the cancer of sin to sit unattended on your soul.
But if you soak your inner voice in the Word of God, your conscience becomes a sweet guardian for your soul. Whenever sin makes its assault, a biblically informed conscience will apprise you while steering you in the right direction.
Even our unregenerate friends have a God-given, prewired conscience that tells them the difference between right and wrong (Romans 2:14-15). This is a mercy from the Lord to have an internal warning system to give directives when sin approaches.
The downside is if you don’t heed the warnings of the conscience. In such cases, the conscience is still manipulatable, but instead of being tendered by the truth of God’s Word and your obedience, it reacts another way.
If you choose not to heed the warning of your conscience, it will begin to harden. Like skin basking in too much sunlight, your conscience cannot withstand the heat of unrepented sin.
This is what happened to Biff. Because of his ongoing decision not to come clean about his secret sin, his conscience reacted. It took its revenge out on him. Biff became a dull boy.
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing (Hebrews 5:11).
Your inner voice is only an alarm to let you know sin has entered your life. Once you are alerted to the problem of sin, the next thing that should happen is the unleashing of the gospel.
This begins with your simple agreement (confession) with God that you have sinned. After you agree with God–your conscience and God are on the same page–you can now finish the process of repentance by seeking forgiveness from God and others.
This was not what Biff wanted to do. He chose to hide his sin from others. In the beginning, his internal warning system blared away. After a while, and because of a few justifications, his conscience began to take on a hardened condition.
He muted the alarm to the point where he could no longer hear the sound. The unintended consequence of his lack of responsiveness was spiritual dullness. Biff no longer had a high spiritual acumen. He was flying blind when it came to discerning morality.
Mable perceived his spiritual think-headedness, but couldn’t figure out why he was that way. It was perplexing because he was sharp as a tack when it came to things of the world.
He had high capacity. He was a white-collar professional who could plan his day and prepare for the future. He was thoughtful and understood professional discretion in the workplace. His peers considered him as the person you’d want to emulate.
But there was one thing he did not possess. He did not have spiritual depth. When it came to spiritual self-awareness or discerning the lives of others, he was in the dark. The best he could do was mimic the things he observed from his church friends.
This is a dark place for any person. To be spiritually out-of-tune with God and others will lead to bankrupt relationships, which was the case for Biff. His closest relationships were falling apart.
He was relationally distant from Mable. His three sons were angry toward him and God. Biff saw these relationships falling apart, but could only proffer behavioral solutions, which were not solutions at all.
He could not see because he was spiritually blind. It all began with a simple choice not to repent. He left his conscience in a vulnerable position, and his conscience took out its revenge on Biff by hardening itself.
He was left to figure things out for himself. It’s like owning a car with no warning system of any kind. Biff was not in a position to do preventative maintenance. He could only react when something blew up and is reactions lacked spiritual discernment.
There is a simple solution to this problem: walk in the light. I understand the liabilities of being honest, but I also see the negatives of holding on to secrets as a far greater problem.
I realize there will be some people with problems, who will read this and think they don’t have a problem. They have already been dumbed down to the point to where they can’t see the prevailing darkness in their souls.
If they ever make a spiritual correction in their lives, it will be the mercy of God. Sometimes this happens when they finally crash and burn. In such cases, it takes a climatic event with God to stop the madness (Luke 15:17). There have been many Christians who have fallen into the deep trap of a hard conscience and could not get out until their families blew apart.
Maybe you’re not at this point. Maybe you’re sitting on a dirty little secret, and up to this stage, you have been unwilling to tell the whole truth. If your conscience is giving a faint warning signal, I appeal to you to spill the beans–at least with one other person.
Come out of the darkness and walk in the light. Be free from your sin, which begins with a simple acknowledgment to a friend that you have been hiding. Do not continue to twist your thoughts to the point of sinful allocations.
You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear (Matthew 13:14-16).
And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Mark 4:9).
If you have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to you, I appeal to you to respond to Him. Listen to your inner voice while you have the time and can hear it. Do not continue to harden your heart.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion (Hebrews 3:15).
You will know if you’re hardening your conscience if you begin to rationalize, justify, or blame the consequences of your actions away. Another way a person hardens his conscience is by ignoring his internal alarm system by alleviation.
Rather than responding to God, he chooses a tool to distract himself from what his conscience is telling him. This allows him to continue in his sin. Eventually, his conscience will stop sounding the alarm.
If you do any of these actions, you’re not far from shutting down your internal warning system. Be not deceived. It will shut down, but it will not shut up. Your conscience will take its revenge on you.
Your life will continue to escalate in dysfunction until something breaks beyond your ability to fix it. A Christian cannot live in habitual sin forever. If he chooses to ignore the merciful warnings of the conscience, the Lord will allow him to come to the end of himself through other means than proactive repentance.
The first step is to agree with God. If you feel a brokenness before the Lord, you will want to confide in a trusted friend, pastor, or small group leader. Let them into your world. Don’t hold back and don’t leave your conscience vulnerable to the deceitfulness of the devil.
It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. – Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets, P. 3.
If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect son of God was required that I might be saved. But when I stand at the foot of the Cross and am seen by others under the light of that Cross, I am left uncomfortably exposed before their eyes.
Indeed, the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha’s hill; and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations. With the worst facts about me thus exposed to the view of others, I find myself feeling that I truly have nothing left to hide. – A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).