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I stumbled across the social media account of someone who’d made a mess of her life. She was a struggling writer with suicidal tendencies, addicted to cocaine. She somehow got sober and wrote a book about it, becoming a bestselling author.

She got one of those emails recently threatening to expose her secrets online if she didn’t pay a bribe. “I’d love to see what they’d reveal that I haven’t already written!” she commented.

When you don’t have secrets, you don’t need to fear being exposed.

When you don’t have secrets, you don’t need to fear being exposed.

Secret Sex Addict

Nate Larkin was a pastor with a secret. He’d visit x-rated theatres and sex shops. One day, on the way to church, he picked up a prostitute. Scared of getting caught, he quit pastoral ministry and plunged deeper into secret sin. He carried the heavy weight of shame.

One day, someone invited him to a church in Franklin, Tennessee. He showed up reluctantly and heard a man named Scotty Smith (blogger with The Gospel Coalition) preach.

There he listened “to the gospel in a church where it was safe to admit brokenness, where the pastor talked about his own sin in the present tense and celebrated the mercy of God every Sunday. Here I would hear about the covenant of grace and the steadfast love of our heavenly Father. I would be reminded week after week that I am an adopted son of God, no longer an orphan, and that my Father never disowns his own. Finally—and this was the greatest miracle—it was in this church where I would meet many of my future comrades, the men whose friendship God would use to radically rearrange my life.”

Larkin began to recover, and wanted to help create room for people to come clean about their struggles in church.

“Contemporary church culture requires us to give the appearance of victory,” he writes. It’s often not safe to be honest in church.

Walking in the Light

“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin,” writes John (1 John 1:7).

Walking in the light does not mean that we never sin. It does mean that we don’t hide this fact. We don’t allow sin to grow in the dark. Walking in the light implies the idea of holiness and a refusal to keep secrets.

“Walking in the light is an honest relationship with Jesus and one another, so that we’re free to grow,” says Ray Ortlund.

In his book What Church Can Be, Matthew Kruse confesses his awareness of sin in his own life. “I sin the way Usain Bolt runs. The way Ben Shapiro talks. The way Vic Mackey lies. I am perpetually five minutes away from wrecking my life and ministry. Maybe three minutes, actually. I sin downhill.”

So he’s committed to torching sin ruthlessly in his life. He refuses to tolerate sin or hide. He’s given people on his team and in his church permission to ask questions about anything in his life.

“Settle this now in the souls of your leaders and people,” he says. “Whatever it takes, church will be a place where our private lives and our public personas align with our personal holiness.”

I used to be terrified of Jesus’ words that “nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17). In some ways, I still am. But I realize that it’s what we need. No secrets. Nothing to hide. Everything that’s wrong with us dragged into the light, and covered by grace as it’s brought to Jesus.

When we live like this, we won’t fear being exposed, because the worst about us has already been dragged from the shadows into the light and brought to Jesus. I can’t imagine a better way to live.