Thursday, December 3, 2009

Coming Clean

I wonder how many people with some serious unloading of their “deep dark secrets” would find that a significant amount of their issues they struggle with would simply fall away. The year I gave my life to the Lord, I heard a message from Tony Campolo who advised that if a person was going to make it as a Christian, they would have to live a life of genuine accountability. When I heard this, it meant that I would have to get with a group of people and begin to live a life that exposed my daily sins and not hide the secret sins that invaded my life. I could hear the truth in that counsel.

I took this to heart and started living this out. I remember I went to my pastor at the time and another friend and asked them if they would like to on a weekly basis begin sharing the dirt in our lives; and they agreed. However, I quickly began to see how easily it is to hide even in an accountability group. This was new to me and I desperately wanted to be clean. I was baring my soul. I was young and so had a ton of stuff to get out. My struggles that were many just seemed to come out. My pastor, however, unbeknownst to me, believed in “sinless perfection;” that is, he believed that once you became a Christian you no longer sinned. In fact, with much of the dark stuff I was sharing, he believed it wasn't even sin! Our little group only lasted about two months because we just weren’t on the same page in terms of what our purpose was. On a side note: sadly, years later I learned he left his wife and family and attempted suicide a handful of times. I think now, if only he would have shared some of the darkness that was going on in his soul!

The other person in this group was a man who became a tremendous influence on my life. His name is Kent Copeland (Kent has a remarkable story in that when he was five he met a missionary/surgeon serving Cambodia and decided at that young age, he wanted to do the same -- today Kent is a missionary as a surgeon in Cambodia!). Soon thereafter, Kent and I started meeting on Friday nights to restart our accountability group. We invited anyone who wanted to come and another guy joined us after a couple of months, who also became a very close friend. We were young (I was twenty one at the time) and we would meet from 10pm – 1am most Friday nights (today, I would have to make our meetings earlier and probably shorter!). We would spend time in worship, reading the Bible together and then offering what was really going on in our lives.

Those nights I bathed my soul. I began to wash my garments of sin clean. Not even knowing it until years later, I was leaving behind years of anguish and pain. Demons were trampled, and I did not even know it. Looking back at those couple of years, who I am today, began a “good work” in me that lasts to this day. Really what we were doing those late Friday nights was practicing confession. I like how the dictionary describes the word, because this was exactly what we were doing:

con-fes-sion (kn fen) n. 1 an acknowledgment or declaration, especially of one's faults, misdeeds, or crimes

Do you have a couple of men or women who you can trust and with whom you can bare your soul and be the real you? If not, I highly recommend it. In my own life, I continue to learn Tony Campolo’s words well – if I don’t have a place in my life in which I can be myself and tell a couple of trusted guys who I really am, my life with God stagnates and loses that luster.

Perhaps you can start here:

1) What are the top three places you struggle and be specific (e.g., more and more, I have outbursts of anger, I struggle with pornography, I feel inadequate around others, I have a knack for rarely telling the truth, etc.). Write these out on paper and be honest with yourself. Begin the process of confession.

2) Who are the three people you have trusted most? What did they do for you or who were they that you trusted them so much? If possible, reestablish those relationships or pursue new ones.

The life of accountability is a good life if you can find a couple of people who you can genuinely trust and with whom you can be yourself. Trusting someone with your life’s secrets can be something that brings tremendous amounts of healing and growth. I love how the Message spells out the challenge of James 5:16:

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn't rain, and it didn't—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.

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