Proverbs 28:13 "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy."
Be sure your sins will find you out.
It was our first year of marriage, and it was Halloween time. Candy was everywhere in the stores. If you know me, you know chocolate is my weakness. Everywhere I turned, it seemed like those bags of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups were calling my name. We really had no money, and in fact, at that time, we were going in the hole each month. But those Reese's Cups still kept a-calling.
My husband was a pastor in Ohio, and I remembered hearing another lady in the church talk about her "stash" of chocolate that she hid from her husband. (She had chocolate-induced migraines, but she loved her chocolate so much that it was worth it. Her husband, however, was not so fond of the migraines, and that's why she felt the need to have her "stash.") Lightbulb illuminated in my head. Hmmm. Maybe I could go ahead and get those Reese's Cups and just have my little "stash" so my husband wouldn't know...
Now, problem #1 with that is that I knew my husband wouldn't want me to waste money we didn't have on chocolate. Problem #2 is that my husband doesn't even like chocolate. We had no children at the time to get into my little greedy stockpile, so there was absolutely no need to hide my purchase. The truth is, if I did give in to temptation and purchase those Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, it really would have been ok with him. It would not have been the unpardonable sin in the Banfill home to spend $3 on something we didn't need. So if I did go ahead and purchase those Reese's Cups, I certainly didn't need to hide them.
But no. Not only did I buy, but I also stashed those Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in what I thought was a very safe place. Now, you have to understand. I was young. And apparently, I wasn't only young, I was stupid, too. You see, I grew up in a home with an electric stove, but the home we lived in during our first few years of marriage had a gas oven. You may know where this is going, and it is not a pretty thought. Yes, I stashed that bag of Reese's Cups in the "storage" drawer of the oven. A storage drawer, right? That's where my mom always kept a bunch of pots/pans/lids when I was growing up. Little did I know that in a gas oven, that's no storage drawer -- that's called a broiler.
So one Wednesday, I called up my husband at the church and asked him what he wanted for dinner. "Spaghetti?" I suggested. "No, how about fishsticks?" he replied. "How about spaghetti?" "No fishsticks." We went back and forth, but when it was apparent I would not be persuading him, I actually said in gest, "OK, I will be a submissive wife and make those fishsticks."
That's when the problem started.
I pre-heated the oven, and then I jumped on the couch in the other room and turned on Oprah. Now, I always kept my oven pretty clean, so when I was on the couch and smelled something burning, I just assumed something had spilled over into the stove from the previous time it was used. I jumped up, pulled the layer of tin foil off the wire rack, put the fishsticks in, and jumped back on the couch to watch more Oprah.
Within a few minutes, I looked up and noticed soot flying out of my kitchen. I jumped up and ran to the kitchen, only to find flames shooting out of the back of my oven, my kitchen filled with smoke, and me still clueless as to the problem. I called my husband at the church, trying to stretch the phone cord almost out the door to get away from the smoke. My husband had already left the church, so then I decided to call 911. Why I decided to call him first instead of the fire department, I can't even explain. I told you I was young and stupid.
The fire department came. They cleared the house, and eventually they let me back in one of the back bedrooms. I cried, still unaware of the real problem. My husband came home, noticing the fire department at our house. In a panic, I heard him yell, "Where's my wife? Is she ok?" They directed him to me in the back of the house. I remember crying in his arms, shaking like a crying baby. He consoled me and tried to calm me down. Once the fire was put out, we ventured to the kitchen to talk to the firemen.
"Do you know what caused it?" I asked. The fireman pulled what was left of my Reese's Peanut Butter Cup stash out of the broiler. "Yes, ma'am. Can you tell me what this is?" Eyes wide open, embarrassed, with shock on my face, I answered, "Uh, those are my Reese's Cups I was hiding from my husband."
The fireman then pulled out my fishsticks from the oven. His exact words, "Ma'am, I don't think your sausages are salvageable." Those fishsticks that Frank had his heart set on had shrivelled and darkened up to what looked like Jimmy Dean's breakfast sausages. I was too much of a basket case to realize I really needed a picture of them, for posterity's sake. What I wouldn't do to show you the end result of those poor fishsticks.
We ended up having to eat dinner out at the local Chinese restaurant. Here's the kicker, and it's proof God has a sense of humor. I mentioned it was a Wednesday. We had prayer meeting that night, and we were doing spiritual preparation for a revival that was upcoming at our church. In our prayer meeting, Frank called out a list of references, with those in the congregation randomly volunteering to look up the verses and read them when he called for it. The verse I randomly chose: "The Lord does not delight in burnt offerings."
Now, I can look back at that story and laugh. It's ok, you can, too. I used to be so embarrassed by it, but I've grown up a little, and I can now laugh at myself. After all, that was almost twenty years ago! But the truth is, every thing that led to that fiasco was sin. Let's call it for what it was. Sure, there's no sin in buying a bag of candy. But if you know you really shouldn't, if you know you can't afford it, and certainly, if you think you have to hide the fact that you bought it, there's definite sin involved. Yes, the Lord did not delight in my burnt offering that day.
Over the last few days, the Lord has repeatedly brought this story to mind, for various reasons. He's also brought to my mind the question of hidden sin. Just as regularly as we spend time in prayer interceding for others and praising God, we should also be asking Him to reveal sin in our lives. This is something too often we neglect to do as Christians. This is something I've not been disciplined to do, either. Yet, it's what God expects, nonetheless.
The verse for this week says a person who conceals sin does not prosper. It goes on to say that if we confess our sin and renounce it, we will find mercy. Maybe you're not concealing sin, like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup kind of sin, but do you have unconfessed sin in your life? When is the last time you've asked the Lord to show you what cancerous sin areas He wants to carve away? The verse says we should renounce our sin. That means to turn from it!
I challenge you to make a list of sins. If you're having trouble thinking of any, you can find some in Colossians 3:7-8. Are any of these present in your life: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, lies? Later in the chapter, Paul tells us to have compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. Those are character qualities Christ commands, and if they aren't present, then that's sin, too. Think of the fruits of the Spirit, found in Galatians 5:22-23. What is the antithesis of those things mentioned?
I'll be honest, my first reaction to a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in the past has been nothing short of lust, but I'm hoping to change that now. I hope the next time you see a Reese's Cup, you'll use it as a reminder for self-examination. To grow closer in our walk with the Lord, we must have regular times of confession, admitting the sin. Then we must also renounce the sin and turn from it.
Confession and renouncing sin can be painful and raw. I admit it, it's not easy seeing the ugly truth about yourself...the truth you try to hide from everyone...the truth you don't want anyone to see. The end result, however, is being conformed to God's image. I don't know about you, but that is my end goal, no matter how hard it hurts. That's what matters in life, becoming more like Christ. It's my prayer for each of you this week that you will set aside time for prayer focusing on confession of sins.
Be sure your sin will find you out. Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, anyone?