Tony Cooke

secrets by tony cookeIn recent years, we’ve seen vivid examples of secular leaders, high profile sports figures, and even ministers having their world implode because they were leading a secret life (or double life). Such disclosures not only provide fodder for tabloid news, but leave a legacy of shattered trust, and the people close to them reeling in shock, pain, and disillusionment. What is it that causes otherwise intelligent people to think that their toxic secrets will never have consequences or be exposed?

The first deception mankind perpetrated was the misbelief, “We can keep this a secret.” Adam and Eve engaged in the first attempted cover-up when …they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings (Genesis 3:7). Hearing God calling them, they still felt guilt and shame and endeavored to hide themselves further among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8).

Even Moses thought he could get away with murder as long as no one saw him do it. Exodus 2:12 (NLT) says, “After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.” This is a good examination point for our lives: Is there anything we only do if we think no one is watching, or that we think know one will ever find out?

Other biblical accounts remind us that so-called secrets have a way of remaining not-so-secret:

  1. Achan (Joshua 7:10-25)
  2. David (2 Samuel 12:12)
  3. Gehazi (2 Kings 5:25-27)
  4. Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:1-11)

Jesus & Paul on Secret Things (Good and Bad) Coming to Light
You will note that the following Scriptures not only deal with negative things (such as “secret sins” coming to light), but also good things later being revealed and rewarded.

Matthew 10:26 –
…there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.

Mark 4:22
…there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.

Matthew 6:4
…and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

Romans 2:16 (NLT)
And this is the message I proclaim that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.

1 Corinthians 4:5 (NLT)
So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.

2 Corinthians 4:2
But we have renounced the hidden things of shame…

1 Timothy 5:24-25
Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden.

Hebrews 4:12-13 (NLT)
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword… It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

What Do We Make of These Passages?
Does this mean that our past sins—ones which have been confessed, repented of, and forsaken—will be brought up by God and used against us? Not at all. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Let’s not forget the mercy of God, and let’s certainly not forget the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin!

I’m not talking about a sin that is acknowledged and renounced, but rather attitudes and behaviors that are nursed, cultivated, and perpetuated, often establishing a lifestyle involving a so-called “secret” or double-life. One of the great challenges and temptations believers (and especially ministers) face is to become totally focused on outward appearance while neglecting the care and health of one’s inner-life. Ultimately, our lives and ministries must be based upon substance and character, not merely image and reputation.

When a leader’s life and relationships – his real world – become painful, full of pressure, lacking fulfillment, etc., he can be drawn into what he thinks is a “private world” in order to escape from reality. In this “alternate reality,” he medicates himself through illicit relationships, pornography, drugs, alcohol, etc. A deceptive process typically occurs where the leader begins to believe that God must somehow be condoning or allowing this behavior, because, after all, people continue to be saved and blessed, and the church may even continue to grow. Mistaking the mercy of God for divine allowance, they fail to realize that God is simply providing “space to repent” (Revelation 2:21).

What Do We Need to Do?
It starts with being brutally honest with ourselves. If we are engaging in any type of behavior that we would not want our spouse, our friends, other believers, or the public to know about, then we need to get serious with ourselves and with God about the matter. We are kidding ourselves if we think that we have really been “concealing” anything from God anyway.

The only “secret life” we are called to have is one with God, not from Him. Psalm 31:20 refers to, “…the secret place of Your presence.” Psalm 91:1 tells us that the person who, “…dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

In some cases, accountability to a trusted person can be most helpful. Joe Jurkowski said, “Recovery programs have taught us that you are only as sick as your secrets. Secrets do indeed have great power over us. When sins are kept in the dark, they take on a life of their own, creating an untenable double-life.” Paul Tournier said, “Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets.” James advocated establishing a godly partnership in overcoming certain issues when he said, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16, NLT). 

As representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, may it never be said of us what Peter said of false teachers in his day, “They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you” (2 Peter 2:19, NLT). Remember that God is for us, not against us, and He wants to help us in becoming everything He intends for us to be. He doesn’t just care about our outward performance, but He cares deeply for the health and well-being of our soul.