Mark Driscoll continues to generate headlines. Last Sunday, The Seattle Times ran a long article called “The rise and fall of Mars Hill Church.” According to the writer, Driscoll “used his edgy, blue-jeaned, hip-preacher charisma and combativeness to barrel through turmoil and build up a membership of 13,000.” But a growing chorus of critics have accused him of plagiarism and egotism. Recently, 21 former Mars Hill pastors filed charges of abusive conduct against him.
Especially damaging was the revelation that Driscoll made dozens of website posts 14 years ago under the alias, “William Wallace II.” Many of his comments were too crude for me to reproduce here. Since Driscoll began his leave of absence, attendance and giving at Mars Hill have dropped as much as 40 percent, and the future of the church seems to be in question.
When we think our private sins will stay private, we are being deceived by the enemy. Preachers, politicians, athletes, celebrities—no one is immune. Ray Rice probably thought he and his wife were alone in an elevator when he hit her, but cameras told the world. Mark Sanford was governor of South Carolina when his adulterous sin was discovered and his marriage ended; further litigation with his former wife has put him back in the news this week. Scripture is clear: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
Why are hidden sins sometimes undetected for so long? I have a theory: Satan allows us to climb the ladder of success while continuing in private sin so that when we inevitably fall, our failure will be even more public and dishonoring to the cause of Christ.
How do we avoid the deception of secret sin? First, know that God knows. The Lord once asked the prophet Ezekiel, “Have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark?” They claimed that “the Lord does not see us,” but they were wrong (Ezekiel 8:12). David was right: “O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you” (Psalm 69:5). Your private sins are grieving the heart of your Father today.
Second, know that the devil plans to use your sins against you and your Lord. “Satan” means “accuser” (see Revelation 12:10). He wants to damage your witness as much as he can, and delights to use your secret sins for his nefarious purposes.
Third, ask God to reveal private sin to you before it becomes public. Take time today for a spiritual inventory—get a sheet of paper and pen, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind anything in your life that grieves your Father. Write down what comes to your thoughts, and confess each sin specifically with a repentant spirit. Do this often.
If we would be culture-changing Christians, we must be so godly that God can use us and the culture cannot condemn us. The ultimate answer is to stay so close to Jesus that his character and strength become ours. “Blessed are the people . . . who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted. For you are the glory of their strength” (Psalm 89:15-16).
Oswald Chambers: “True surrender” is being so close to Jesus that “nothing ever appeals to you that did not appeal to Him.” Are you surrendered to him today?