The Thing about Secrets…
This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They had worshiped other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced. The people of Israel secretly did things that were not right against the Lord their God. They built for themselves high places at all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city; they set up for themselves pillars and sacred poles on every high hill and under every green tree; there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the Lord carried away before them. They did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger; they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this.” Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law that I commanded your ancestors and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” They would not listen but were stubborn, as their ancestors had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. They despised his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their ancestors, and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false; they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do as they did. They rejected all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves cast images of two calves; they made a sacred pole, worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. They made their sons and their daughters pass through fire; they used divination and augury; and they sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.
Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. The Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel; he punished them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had banished them from his presence.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Time and life have a way of unraveling our conspiracies, setting the truth free. In fact, I believe that the best kept secrets are ones with a very specific plan to reveal the truth to certain people, at certain times. How many people have kept a secret for the majority of their lifetime, only to have it publicly shared upon their death. These post-mortem confessions have revealed thousands of hidden heroes and villains throughout history.
We love a good mystery, but the payoff for us occurs when the truth is at last revealed. In fact, our anticipation grows with every truth revealed. The question, the curiosity, the unknown secret may draw us in, but it will not keep us unless the truth is at last revealed. Cliffhanger stories in books and movies, the ones that end with too many questions, too many secrets left uncovered, are notorious for inciting the rage of audiences. Things can be hidden for a time, but they must eventually come into the light.
Sinning in Secret
Sin often begins in secret. Perhaps our conscience leads us to believe something is wrong, so we try to keep it hidden. Sometimes we are unaware of our own misdeeds and they are kept secret, even from ourselves. It starts small, but accumulates over time as we begin to realize that, once we start, we can’t stop. Habits form. Our expectations change. We become unsatisfied with what we have and want more, so we take what is not ours, harm relationships, and despise others from afar.
We become addicts. There is a lot of shame connected with that word, but, depending upon whatever sin is connected with it, we may or may not realize we have an addiction. People who are addicted to idolatry today are not called addicts, they are called fanatics or groupies, and they simply spend their time and energy worshipping a sports team or performer. They are not seen as being shameful, perhaps just a bit overcommitted to one cause. When we become fanatics of our own family, we are called devoted and we wear that name with pride. Yet loving something more than God is still a sin, and we will keep it in the dark, often by avoiding talking about God at all.
Sometimes we are forced into sin. Children are sold into sexual slavery every day. They are used to transport and sell drugs. We have used children all throughout history to get our own way, oppressing them into becoming sinners themselves, under our authority. I think God probably judges that a bit differently than when we go off sinning of our own initiative… however, that sin marks those children and often shapes them into becoming oppressors themselves later in life, addicted to their own sin and destroying the lives of others. At some point, everyone has to take responsibility for their own actions.
That leads us to the next type of sinner: the one who won’t stop. Addicts are the ones who have no power to stop sinning. Yet there are others who simply enjoy their sin too much and choose not to stop. This is us when we just don’t care enough. We want our way, regardless of what it will cost others. I think the best example of this is not the wealthy man abusing his servants (something that seems distant from ourselves) but the grumpy customer abusing her waitress, never satisfied with her order. Those who verbally insult and attack customer service people, treating them as less than human would fall under this category, as Jesus taught us that we are not to only love God, but also to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Complainers quickly become abusers of others and without gratitude, there is no grace present.
Seeking in Secret
Secrets are not inherently sinful though, they are simply meant to be temporary. Many good things begin in secret. Some of the followers of Jesus began by seeking Him in secret. Nicodemus, for example came to Jesus at night, when others would not find them, and learned about the Kingdom of God. Jesus Himself described His kingdom, almost as something invisible. It was a secret. Not a secret He was trying to hide from the world though… it was a secret He was trying to reveal.
Yet even in the revealing of this secret, Jesus took care that it was not passed like gossip in the street market. He shared about the coming kingdom in parables that invited people in, but made them have to do some seeking themselves. They had to work to discover the mystery of Jesus.
Some people did not want to have to do any seeking. They just wanted to be protected, healed, and fed. They wanted the miracles without the teaching and definitely without any commitment on their part. Their secret was that they believed in Jesus, but they did not believe in His Kingdom or His mission… and they wanted to keep that secret as long as possible.
Those who sought him during the day were sometimes looking for a quick fix to the problems they faced in life or sometimes just to fit in with the crowds around them. Those who sought him in secret were taking a risk and were looking for the truth about Jesus and the Kingdom He was bringing with Him.
How to seek
Aren’t we supposed to be open in sharing our faith with others? Yes, but there is a difference in sharing your doubts and questions and sharing what you have learned from Jesus. Sometimes we get the two mixed up and we are very public with our doubts, instead of taking them to Jesus in private prayer… and we are too timid with the testimony we have when Jesus makes a difference in our lives. As Jesus said himself,
How then do we seek God?
First, we need to get out of our personal darkness. We cannot seek God and hide from Him at the same time. That is not a limit on God’s ability, it is a limit of ourselves. Either we want to be found by God, or we do not. We have to decide for ourselves first.
Second, we need to seek the light of Christ. Disappointment with the results of Modern (18th-19th century) philosophy led many 20th century thinkers to conclude that anything could be true except Jesus. Having a bias against something is just as bad as having a prejudice towards something. It’s the flip side of the same coin. You cannot call yourself open-minded and refuse to seek Christ on principle.
Does this mean you cannot find truth anywhere other than Christ? No. But Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of God insomuch that all truth resonates in Him and all lies are exposed by Him. Because He is the Truth1, He can act as the ultimate filter of what is true and what is false. We however, will miss out on that benefit if we refuse to seek Him.
What secrets do you fear coming to light?
What can you do to bring Christ into those secret places in order to set you free?
- John 14:6 ↩