The problem is not just that we sin — everyone has that problem. Our problem is that we can’t talk about it. — John Ortberg
I preached a sermon about being real with God when we pray Stop Faking It, in which I said;
Stop faking, it. It's okay. You can say anything to the Lord anytime you feel like it, and in any way you feel like it. Now that doesn't mean that you can be disrespectful. Don’t ever forget that He is God and He can, like like our parents use to say, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out, and make another one just like you”. What I mean is that you can be real with God, He won't come down on you for telling Him how you really feel. He is always open and real with you and he wants you to be real with Him. He's your friend and he loves you. When you have a true friend you can talk to them about anything, anytime, and pour out your soul to them. So let’s be real with God in our conversations with Him. Our prayers should be conversations where we talk to our friend and He talks to us and we are both open with each other.
We should let our real emotions show in our conversations with Him. After all He has emotions and He doesn’t deny them, or hide them from us. Our friendship with God deepens when we risk being open and honest as we talk with Him. Let’s stop “faking the funk”,
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Earlier this month a published a post in which quoted an excerpt from the book No More Faking Fine, by Esther Fleece. In the excerpt Esther says, and I agree, that much of the thanks that Christians give at this time of year is really fake. We “fake the funk” and don’t really take the time to remember the good times and the good things that our good God has done for us in the bad times as well as the good times. When we remember what He has done and then remind ourselves of those things stop “faking the funk” and “faking fine.
Those posts tell us that we need to stop faking it with God, but it’s also important that we stop faking it with each other. When we fake it by covering up our shortcomings, failures, and sin, we damage ourselves and may do extensive damage to our brothers and sisters. The Bible tells us that we should confess our sins to one another;
James 5:16 (NLT)16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
I don’t think that means just the little sins like “I forgot to pray this morning”, or I lied to my spouse about who ate the last piece of cake, or that I ran a red light yesterday. Yes we can confess those sins and think we’ve done something. We really feel good about ourselves, that we “confessed our sin to our brother. But what about those “bigly’ ones like watching pronography, cheating on our spouse, having a drinking problem, the “bigly” ones.
Now I’m not saying that we should start telling everything to everybody.. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you for the right time, place and person. Some people may be at a place in their walk with God where the shock of your past can damage them much like example of food that Paul mentions in his letter to the Church at Corinth.
1 Corinthians 8:9-13 (NLT)9 But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.10 For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol?11 So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed.12 And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ.13 So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.
Your confession may encourage a brother or sister to open up about a struggle in their life and allow the Holy Spirit to encourage both of you in the assurance of God’s love, and forgiveness. We have plenty of company in the Scriptures of men who have sinned “bigly” who God used as examples to us of His mercy and grace.
Yes, honesty, openness, and vulnerability… are scary. But how else can we grow, and get better, and live in community the way God designed us to do unless we share what’s true with safe people around us?
This may help you make that first step.
Be Human: Get Real with Others and God
by John Ortberg, from The Me I Want to Be
In the church, we have a sin problem.
The problem is not just that we sin — everyone has that problem. Our problem is that we can’t talk about it. Our problem is that we pretend we don’t have a problem. We are comfortable with stories about people who used to sin, and people often get invited to give testimonies as long as they have happy endings, the way television sitcoms used to in the 1950s: I used to have a problem, but then I met God, and now I’m doing much better.
Imagine going to see a counselor and saying, “I only want to talk about problems I used to have. Please do not ask me to acknowledge having any current problems. It would be embarrassing. I’m afraid you might reject me.”
Why would anyone go to a counselor to try to convince the counselor that they don’t need a counselor?
Why would anyone go to church to try to convince the people there that they don’t need a church?
Years ago in southern California, I was part of a small group in which we were all relatively new husbands. We talked about our adjustments to married life, our sexuality, our jobs, our faith, and our money. We went to movies, baseball games, and weekends in Palm Springs. But one day one of the guys didn’t show up, and we found out that week that he had struggled with compulsive gambling for years. This put him in huge financial problems, which then led to financial dishonesty at work. Eventually he got fired and got divorced. He had lived in fear, compulsion, and self-loathing for years — but none of us knew.
Maybe he didn’t have the courage to tell us. Maybe we sent subtle signals that talking about such deep problems would be unwelcome. I found myself wondering afterward, How deep did the roots of these issues go in his life? When did they start? If we could have talked about them, would his life have gone differently? How much did my own need to look better than I am contribute to a culture of superficiality? All I know for sure is that what should have been the place of greatest safety and healing was not.
People are okay telling a doctor that their body has a problem or telling a mechanic that their car has a problem. Couldn’t sinners be okay telling other sinners they have a sin problem? If I want God (or anyone else, for that matter) to love the real me, I will have to work at getting real.
David was Israel’s greatest king — but he was also a polygamist. He was a terrible father. He coveted another man’s wife, committed adultery with her, attempted to deceive the husband, eventually had the husband murdered, and covered up his crime for a year. He was a liar, an adulterer, a coveter, and a murderer. As a friend of mine noted, no one at the time was wearing a “What Would David Do?” bracelet.
Yet he was called “a man after His [God’s] own heart.”
Is it possible for someone to be struggling so deeply with sin and yet still long for God at the same time?
I heard a Christian leader speak about the two great sins that plagued his spiritual life. One was that there were times when he was on an airplane and was not as bold in witnessing to the passenger next to him as Jesus would have been. His other confession was that there were times when his mind wandered while he was praying. He expressed great angst over these sins.
What hope does that leave for those of us who, as the author Anne Lamott says, do things that make Jesus want to drink gin out of the cat dish? Even in writing this, I confront a strange problem. If a pastor confesses to serious sin, people think he should leave the pastorate. If he only confesses to safe, non-scandalous sins, people think he is inauthentic and hypocritical. So at this moment I find myself wanting to make some confession that will look vulnerable and honest, yet not be so scandalous as to cost me my job. I cannot confess sin without sinning in the act. You don’t have to be victorious to join Alcoholics Anonymous — just needy. There are no “recovered addicts,” only people in the process of recovering, because as soon as sobriety leads to self-righteousness, for disaster to come is just a matter of time. However, relationships grow deep when people become real, which is to say, honest about the sin common to us all.
Excerpted with permission from The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg, copyright John Ortberg.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.