Many years ago I participated in a street outreach in Australia. With our loud and upbeat music we soon attracted a large crowd. This was good. Sinners were going to hear the gospel and get saved. Then the preacher got up to speak and it all went pear-shaped. “I have a lust problem.” Oh-oh. Instead of telling the people about Jesus, this man began to share about his private battles with sexual temptation. He said he had suddenly felt convicted about bringing his problem into the light. I was cringing on the inside. What a witness!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for being open and honest with our shortcomings but this was neither the time nor the place. The unsaved people who were there needed to hear about their Father in heaven who loves them so much that He sent Jesus to rescue them. I’m sure it was titillating to hear a preacher talk about his sin, but his words didn’t point anyone to the Savior.
Fast forward a few years to another youth outreach, this time in Hong Kong. In front of a large crowd of unsaved teens, the dynamic young man up the front decided that this was the perfect opportunity to confess his sin of “self-sex.” I had never even heard of that expression before but it didn’t sound like it was part of the good news.
What’s wrong with us?!
Somehow we’ve bought into the idea that “transparency” means hanging our dirty laundry in public places. But this is old covenant thinking. In the days of Moses you were supposed to confess your sins (Num 5:7) and sometimes this happened publicly (Ezra 10). But we live under a new and better covenant characterized by the complete and eternal forgiveness of sins. I’m not pretending my behavior is perfect and I’m all for being open and honest. If I sin I’ll talk to my Father about it and if I sin against you I’ll talk to you about it. In any relationship it’s always healthy to own up to our mistakes (Jas 5:16). But I’m not going to stand on a street corner and confess my sins to the whole world. That’s not being transparent; that’s just dumb. Why do we think we’re glorifying God by drawing attention to ourselves? We may call it humility but in truth it’s self-centered. We’re shouting, “Look at me everybody, I’ve got sin!” Well hip-hip-hooray.
Have you ever been in a small group worshiping God when someone interrupts and says, “I got a problem with pornography”? It’s like getting a bucket of cold water thrown over your head! Before you can react, someone else says, “God forgive me, I yell at my kids.” The next thing you know, the confession train’s pulling out of the station and everyone’s climbing on board. “I steal pens from the office stationery cabinet.” “I cheat on my taxes.” “Joey, I’m really sorry I said those terrible things about you.” It doesn’t take long before you’re completely distracted and wondering all sorts of things. What did they say about Joey that was so terrible?
Do you see the problem? We’re called to be Christ-conscious not self-conscious. We don’t honor Jesus by shaming ourselves. You’ve got problems? Guess what – we all have problems! But we’re not here to gather around your sins. We’re here to fix our eyes on Jesus.
We need to redefine what we mean by transparency. In the old covenant they confessed sins because that’s what they were carrying inside. But because of Jesus our sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west. Or think about it this way. Satan is in the business of accusing and shaming the saints (Rev 12:10), while Jesus is in the business of defending us to our Father (1 Jn 2:1). When you accuse and shame yourself, are you acting more like your old master Satan or your new master Jesus?
Transparency in the new covenant means something totally different from confessing sins. It means revealing Jesus who lives within. It means acknowledging every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus (Phm 1:6). It takes no faith to confess our imperfections. It takes faith to declare what God says is true about you in spite of your imperfections! In God’s eyes you’re righteous, holy and perfect. You are a walking, talking trophy of His amazing grace. You are a child of God, seated in heavenly places and the temple of the Holy Spirit.
If you want to be truly transparent, then reveal what’s really inside you. Sure, on the outside you’re just a jar of clay cracked and dusty, but look at the awesome Treasure inside! This is the Treasure that the world needs to see so let Him out. Don’t say, “I dare not – I’ve still got issues.” The Bible pronounces you a competent minister of the new covenant (2 Cor 3:6)! You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world and by the grace of God you are what you are!