Last week I wrote a blog post titled, “We Travel An Appointed Way,” from the Palace Inn in Humble, Texas, where I stayed for three weeks during my time here in Houston. This week I am staying at a different hotel a few miles down the road. Both of the rooms (from last week and this week) were/are very spacious; however, the room this week has a partial wall partition with an opening in it between the sofa area in the front of the room and the bedroom area in the back. Also, a distinct difference between this room and last week’s room is the number of very large mirrors in this room (a total of five–and the three largest mirrors are located in the bedroom area). In fact, they are so large that it is hard not to see an image of myself at every turn.
Since I personally have no desire to constantly see an image of myself at every turn, I covered two of the largest and most obvious mirrors on the walls with bed sheets (one on the wall to the left of the bed and one on the wall facing the foot of the bed). At least now I don’t feel like I am surrounded by images of myself all the time. There is also a very large headboard on the king-sized bed that is also a mirror, but that one isn’t quite as obtrusive as the other two. I’ll leave any assumptions regarding the mirrors and their specific placement in the room unstated. The ceiling in the room is painted with a nice blue sky with fluffy white clouds scene, and a ceiling fan hangs over the bed (and I’m glad it’s not another mirror).
I had to laugh as I settled in for my first night’s stay as I thought about those mirrors and their purpose. With me staying in the room for a week there will no doubt be a lot less activity than is normal for a room with so many mirrors. While I haven’t lived a particularly sheltered life (at least not since I was a child before my parents’ divorce when I was very young), I am mostly an observer to even the seedier side of life that is a part of all cultures and not just here in America. I try not to make judgments; after all, Rahab (a Canaanite prostitute who ended up marrying one of the two Jewish spies she protected–see story at this link) is in the lineage of Jesus Christ which just goes to show us that God doesn’t play favorites in his plan of redemption as we often find ourselves doing–especially regarding strangers in our midst and those with backgrounds that we hold in disfavor. After all, we have a big tendency to hold some sins as much worse than others and have no problem showing our disdain even if it is often shown nonverbally (as in facial expressions and gestures).
However, this morning I ran across a chapter in a book titled, “The Size of the Soul,” by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), and available online at this link, titled, “No Sin Is Private.” While I have little doubt that “secret” rendezvouses (and perhaps some legitimate ones like honeymoons) have most likely taken place in a bedroom full of mirrors in a hotel, none of them are private, at least not to God. The timing of my discovery of Tozer’s essay couldn’t have been more perfect. So without further ado, here it is:
by A.W. Tozer
No sin is private. It may be secret but it is not private.
It is a great error to hold, as some do, that each man’s conduct is his own business unless his acts infringe on the rights of others. “My liberty ends where yours begins” is true, but that is not all the truth. No one ever has the right to commit an evil act, no matter how secret. God wills that men should be free, but not that they be free to commit sin.
Sin is three-dimensional and has consequences in three directions: toward God, toward self and toward society. It alienates from God, degrades self and injures others. Adam’s is the classic example of a secret sin that overflowed to the injury of all mankind. History provides examples of persons so placed that their sins had wide and injurious effect upon their generation. Such men were Nero, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin, to name but four. These men dramatized the destructive social results of personal sin; but every sin, every sinner injures the world and harms society, though the effects may be milder and less noticeable.
When Sigmund Freud’s mother rubbed her sweaty hands together, her curious son noticed how little pellets of dirt rolled together and fell to the floor. This rather disgusting sight is said to have started the young Sigmund thinking in directions that finally led to his world-shaking theories that turned certain time-honored concepts of human life upside down. Someone with a bit of imagination has wondered where popular psychology would be today if Mrs. Freud had kept her hands clean!
Have you ever wondered what the world would be like today if Napoleon had become a Christian when he was in his teens? Or if Hitler had learned to control his temper? Or if Stalin had been tenderhearted? Or if Himmler had fainted at the sight of blood? Or if Goebles had become a missionary to Patagonia? Or if the twelve men in the Kremlin should get converted to Christianity? Or if all businessmen should suddenly turn honest? Or if every politician should stop lying?
Only God could reconstruct the world and allow for such reversals of fact; but anyone can tinker at it theoretically. Had Hitler, for instance, been a good and gentle man, six million Jews now dead would be living (making allowance for a certain few who would have died in the course of nature); had Stalin been a Christian, several million Russian farmers would be alive who now molder in the earth. And consider the thousands of little children who died of starvation because one man had a revengeful spirit; think of the millions of displaced persons who wander over the earth even today unable to locate mother or father or wife or child because men with hate in their hearts managed to get into places of power; think of the young men of almost every nation, sick with yearning for home and loved ones, who guard the empty wastes and keep watch on frozen hills in the far corners of the earth, all because one ruler is greedy, another ambitious; because one statesman is cowardly and another jealous.
To come down from the bloody plains of world events and look nearer home, how many wives will sob themselves to sleep tonight because of their husband’s savage temper; how many helpless, bewildered, heartbroken children will cower in their dark bedrooms, sick with shock and terror as their parents curse and shout at each other in the next room. Is their quarrel private? Is it their own business when they fight like animals in the security of their home? No, it is the business of the whole human race. Children to the third and fourth generation in many parts of the world will be injured psychologically if not physically because a man and his wife sinned inside of four walls. No sin can be private.
Coming still closer, we Christians should know that our unchristian conduct cannot be kept in our own back yard. The evil birds of sin fly far and influence many to their everlasting loss. The sin committed in the privacy of the home will have its effect in the assembly of the saints. The minister, the deacon, the teacher who yields to temptation in secret becomes a carrier of moral disease whether he knows it or not. The church will be worse because one member sins. The polluted stream flows out and on, growing wider and darker as it affects more and more persons day after day and year after year.
But thanks be to God, there is a cure for the plague. There is a balm in Gilead. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). (From The Size of the Soul, Chapter 17–Available online at this link.)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Unfortunately in our enlightened age how often do we even admit our sins, let alone confess them to the only One who can forgive and purify us from them? No; more often than not we (e.g., those of us who claim to believe in Jesus Christ) justify our sins as being something we just can’t stop doing but that surely he will understand. Indeed, our faith has no “actions” to prove it is even real (see Hebrews 11). And faith without action is no faith at all (see James 2:14-26).
Shortly before his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ spoke these words to his disciples:
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:15-27).
Spiritually, Rahab was not in an ideal circumstance to come to faith in the one true God, the God of Israel. She was a citizen of a wicked city that was under God’s condemnation. Rahab was part of a corrupt, depraved, pagan culture. She had not benefited from the godly leadership of Moses or Joshua. However, Rahab had one asset—she had heard from the many men she came into contact with that the Israelites were to be feared. She heard the stories of their escape from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the wanderings in the wilderness, and their recent victory over the Amorites. She learned enough to reach the correct, saving conclusion: “For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11). It is this change of heart, this faith—coupled with the actions prompted by faith—that saved her and her family.
It is often said that Rahab, while being a true historical person, also serves as a symbolic foreshadowing or “type” of the church and Gentile believers. She was, in fact, the first recorded Gentile convert. There are many ways in which Rahab depicts the church. First, she was part of a pagan world system, a prostitute, who by her conversion was enabled to become a legitimate bride. In like fashion, Israel was the first chosen people of God, but they were set aside temporarily so the Gentiles could be brought into the kingdom of God, and the church is now considered the bride of Christ (Romans 11; Ephesians 5:25-27). Second, Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was saved because of her faith in “God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Hebrews 11:31). Likewise, Christians are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
Third, although Rahab and Christians are saved by an act of grace through faith, true faith requires and is exemplified by action (James 2). Rahab had to put the scarlet cord out of the window. Christians must accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord and then go on to live in a manner that verifies that our faith is real. Fourth, Rahab could have indicated the location of her home in any number of ways. But the only way that she could be spared was to follow the directions given to her by the Israelite spies. The world tells us that there are many ways to God and salvation, all equally valid. But the Bible tells us, concerning Jesus Christ, that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Fifth, Rahab’s faith enabled her to turn away from her culture, her people, and her religion and to the Lord. Commitment to a true faith in God may necessitate setting priorities that are contrary to those of the world, as we are exhorted to do in Romans 12:2.
Finally, once we come to Christ, our pasts no longer matter. The slate is wiped clean for all who believe and accept the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross on our behalf. Rahab was no longer viewed as an unclean prostitute, but as one worthy by grace to be part of the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as she was grafted into the line of Christ, so we become children of God and partakers in His inheritance (Romans 11). We find in the life of Rahab the inspiring story of all sinners who have been saved by grace. In her story, we learn of the amazing grace of God that can save even the worst of sinners and bring them into an abundant life in Christ Jesus (quote source here).
Rahab’s life was forever changed by her encounter with the amazing grace of God. Her actions in helping the Jewish spies proclaimed her faith and not only did it save her and her relatives but she ended up leaving her lifestyle of prostitution and marrying one of the two Jewish spies, Salmon, (see Matthew 1:5) and they became the parents of Boaz, who was the great-grandfather to King David.
Genuine saving faith never leaves us where it finds us. Faith requires action– “deeds” (see James 2:14-26— “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” vv 15-17). Therefore, faith, by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead–nonexistent! Also, a genuine saving faith also believes that God is who He says He is (see Hebrews 11:6— “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”).
A saving faith will never excuse sin and try to justify it. Hidden sin may stay hidden to others, but it is never hidden to God. It matters not where we came from (our particular backgrounds), but everything hinges on Who we believe in (ourselves or the God we say we believe in). And our everyday actions point to who or what we truly believe in (ourselves and what we want, or God and what He wants).
No sin is private, even if it often stays secret until it is uncovered. We can fool others and even ourselves, but we can never fool God. When I first looked at this room where I am staying this week the manager asked me to take my time in looking at the room before I decided if I wanted to stay there or not. And when I first looked at it, I really liked the room but thought there was an excessive number of mirrors in it (although I didn’t give it much thought). It wasn’t until I paid for the week and got settled into the room that I understood what he was saying when he first asked me to consider the room before deciding to stay in it for a week. However, regardless of the previous activities that have taken place in this room full of mirrors, God is still in the business of redemption, and He goes where most folks don’t want to go when it comes to the redemption of human kind. He chooses the unlikely–those we tend to ignore or disdain. Am I appalled at staying in such a room? Not at all. After all, we all have secrets that we need to bring into the light of Jesus Christ to cleanse and redeem us.
Well, at least there is one thing I can say about staying for a week in room full of mirrors. It points out one very clear factor in my own life that I’ve had issues with for longer than I care to think about . . . and it’s time to start counting my Weight Watchers points again. The one good thing about my weight issue (not using it as an excuse, of course) is it has kept me from making far too many mistakes with men over the years since the heyday of the hippie movement back in the 60’s and early 70’s. Since we now live in an “anything goes” society since those early days of the sexual revolution; “no” is often a word we disdain as archaic and “uncool.” And I would have made a lot more mistakes in that area then I did had I not been self-conscious about my weight. Now I’m just too old to care . . .
Well, maybe not . . . .
Some sins are far more obvious then others (like weight issues); and there is no doubt that we all struggle with something. But too often the sins we struggle with just become a lifestyle that we excuse off over time. “Jesus covers it all,” we like to say. But an unrepentant lifestyle is detrimental to our relationship with Jesus Christ. And it doesn’t matter who knows or who we think we can hide it from. God sees it all.
For one week (unless I can change rooms) I’m faced with mirrors on all sides. It’s a bit daunting, but then reality can be when it is “point blank” in our face. As another new year is almost upon us once again, maybe it’s time for all of us to take some time for some serious reflection.
As the apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2:
As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
Now is the time . . .
And now is the day . . . .
YouTube Video: “Change Me” by Shannon Wexelberg: