Throwing Away the Key

by Dan Shipley
via Gospel Power, Vol. 15, No. 8, Feb. 24, 2008.

"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16).

Sin is bad, but concealed sin is even worse. If deliberate sin is like putting oneself in jail, then covering such sin is like throwing away the key.

The concealed sin -- the one a man attempts to hide and refuses to confess -- shuts one off from spiritual prosperity and divine mercy. "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not proper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy" (Proverbs 28:13). There can be no trading on God's mercy because it does not ignore sin. It is not a question of whether His mercy saves the sinner -- but whether the sinner will allow it by confessing and forsaking his sins.

In concealing sins the sinner spurns the mercy through which forgiveness and salvation are possible. If a merciful God provides the feast, sets the table, and invites all to partake, then how can He be faulted by those who choose to starve themselves? No, "the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save," (Isaiah 59:1) neither can limitations be placed on His mercy - except by the rebellious sinner who refuses it. What sin could be more pernicious than the one a man will not acknowledge nor repent of? Little wonder God says a one "shall not prosper."

But not only does the concealed of sin preclude forgiveness, it easily becomes the launching-pad for yet other sins. Nothing encourages sin like sin. Lies and deceitfulness are popular camouflage for hiding evil. This in turn leads to the development of a compromising attitude toward all sin, both in self and others. The unwholesome attitude that permits one sin will soon permit another. Why? Because it involves more than one's disposition toward a certain unlawful act; it involves his attitude toward God Himself -- the One whose law is violated!

When tempted by Potiphar's wife, Joseph reminds her of his obligations to his master then asks, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). To wrong his master was bad: to wrong God was worse. How men need Joseph's perspective of sin and regard for God. Ungodliness is essentially a wrong attitude toward God, the expression of which is lawlessness which is sin (I John 3:4).

No sin can be considered as isolated or insignificant. Notice carefully Jamess 2:10.11 in this connection, especially "For He who said" in vs. 11. "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law."

One might just as well talk about the size of God as to make distinctions in "sizes" of sins -- for the deliberate practice of any sin constitutes a rejection of Him and His Law.

"Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, Who has also given us His Holy Spirit" (I Thessalonians 4:8). It is not difficult to understand why no man can prosper while perpetuating disrespect for God in the concealing of sins.

Finally, and logically, the practice of concealing sins has the effect of hardening the heart (Hebrews 3:13). How could it be otherwise when one persists in violating a truth-trained conscience? Who could court such ungodliness without a corresponding adverse effect on the inner man? "Can a man take fire into his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?" (Proverbs 6: 27). Surely anything that can harden a man's heart while causing him to dishonor God and shun His mercy is a dangerous sin. It may be that the worst sin is to hide it.