How Secret Sin Almost Destroyed My Life
After eight years serving as the youth pastor at my church, I resigned last year after admitting to secret struggles with alcohol. My own choices have caused myself and those around me a lot of pain and confusion. My own failings have reminded me of my own words.
It’s interesting how so much of my preaching is either preaching from my past self, to my present self or to a future self. So, I find myself now reflecting on my past teaching—and discovering all the clarity I wish I would have had on the front end.
After the Fall
#1 | Sin Makes You Stupid
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? -Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT)
If you’re in ministry, you probably have an incredible ability to discern where other people’s bad choices will take them.
- We all know of students that started dating someone that we knew was a horrible choice.
- We all know of students that started to distance themselves from church activities and we had a good idea where things were headed.
But somehow, we all find ourselves blind to our own sins. We find ourselves blind to our own weaknesses. We find ourselves clueless to the foolish paths we’re on.
We don’t see our own faults in the mirror. The reason is simple, sin makes us stupid, and the heart is deceitful.
In recent times, my heart has certainly deceived me.
#2 | Sin Grows in Secret
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:7 (New Living Translation)
We are meant to live in community and with confession. When we live with secrets, we fail to enjoy all the benefits of community. When we fail to confess, we carry burdens we’re meant to share.
In ministry, this might be more important than ever. We’re walking into the front lines of spiritual warfare and attempting to tend to the wounds of others. We’re uniquely vulnerable to attack. We’re not meant to carry those burdens alone.
Without real community, iron can’t sharpen iron, and without confession, others can’t beat the dents out of your soul.
On a practical note, our sinful nature always desires more. When you get away with something in secret, the deceitful sin nature will convince you that is a reason to keep going. Eventually, you find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be, and there are only painful ways out.
I do not know the original source of this quote, but it certainly rings true:
Sin takes you further than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay and costs you more than you want to pay.
#3 | Sin Hurts Everyone Around You
From the very first sin recorded in Genesis 3, sin has always affected more than the person committing it. Sin is both rebellion against God and acting against the natural order that God intended. Therefore, any sin brings damage into the world.
- Sin in a family damages the family.
- Sinful thinking damages you and your actions.
- Sin in the church hurts His Bride.
One of my greatest fears in coming forward with my sin was the ripple effects of my failure. While truth is truth no matter what, I feared that my sin and hypocrisy would disarm the integrity of my teaching to others. Of course, no one’s faith should be in me, but there’s something very unsettling about watching someone you respect fail morally.
My failure would hurt everyone in my ministry
Stepping Up From the Fall
Whereas the darkness causes sin and pain to grow, the light brings redemption.
#1 | The Light Makes Sins Look Really Stupid
As a youth pastor, I spent years teaching students about the power of retreats.
- When they’re away from their favorite sins, suddenly they see clearly.
- When they’re in musical worship and prayer regularly, they see clearly.
- When they’re in the Bible daily, they see clearly.
- When they’re hearing the Word taught twice per day, they see clearly.
They’re in the light, and in the light, the small things of this world look very small. The petty squabbles seem even pettier. The appeal of sin doesn’t seem so tempting. When you’re in the light, you can see sin for what it is. It’s foolishness.
When you realize your foolishness, the hard part is realizing the fool you’ve been.
#2 | Sin Shrinks in the Light
Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” -Ephesians 5:11-14
If sin grows in the dark, conversely, it shrinks in the light. When our sin is in the open we have accountability and freedom. Our secrets create all the atmospheres which cause it to spread whereas the light creates all the environments for support.
#3 | In the Light is Grace
And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” -James 4:6
When we step into the light with our sin, we choose to humble ourselves and receive grace, but when we stay in the dark, we set ourselves up for God to oppose us…or to humble us.
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. -2 Corinthians 12:9
The strength to overcome weakness comes through God’s grace, and God’s grace is activated through humility.
Whatever your sin is…wherever you struggle…humble yourself in that area and access God’s grace to overcome it. The consequences of keeping it secret aren’t worth it.
As someone who was stuck in sin while in full-time ministry, I fully understand just how much easier it is to tell someone else to humble themselves than it is to humble yourself. This last year has been incredibly difficult. But there is hope on the other side. You don’t have to be stuck living in sin and with hypocrisy.
The freedom of God’s grace is far better, and life begins when we step into the light.
Sean Chandler is a blogger, speaker, YouTuber, and 10-year student ministry veteran. He has written for numerous ministry publications, including Youth Specialties, RelevantMagazine.com, and FaithIt.com. You can read his thoughts on life, sin, and grace on his personal blog, www.seanchandlerlive.com. For his movie reviews, check out youtube.com/seanchandlertalksabout/.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.