Behind the Closet
By James King’ara
What are private sins?
A fairly exact definition of sin based on Biblical data would be that sin is the transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4 ). Ordinarily, sin is defined simply as “the transgression of the law”.
Private Sin, therefore, is that transgression of the law that is not public yet or that have been kept as secret. Usually, this is not a one-time act, more often than not it is a habit. A deliberate continuance in the sinful deeds. E.G. Cheating, stealing, sexual immorality, deceit, etc.
Commonly, most of us in this community refer to private sin as a ‘struggle’. Whereas this is true, we overlook the fact that this is a habit we have built out of the decisions we make every day. It begins as a one-time compromise, to only one more time, then this is the last time, then only one more time, and so it continues. As they say: Mchovya asali hachovyi mara moja…
The problem is, once you let it happen the first time, you open yourself to the influence of the enemy and the next time becomes easier and easier. This is a violation of your conscience again and again.
Effects and impact of private sin in our lives and the church as a whole
There are many effects of private sin some of which include: Low self-confidence and self-esteem, condemnation, halted spiritual growth, strive and conflicts in the Church, etc. I will, however, focus on one effect which I believe is the root cause of every other effect of private sin.
Private sin destroys faith [1 Timothy 1:18, 19].
When you continue in sin, your faith is greatly affected. Now, remember Hebrews 11:6. Without faith it is impossible to please God.
The deliberate violation of your conscience shipwrecks your faith. Private sin, although it may be a struggle you want to overcome, violates your conscience every time you engage in the same. If you are born again, you may never be comfortable with the state of sin, but it always becomes easier for you with time. This is the continual violation of your conscience whose results is a shipwrecked faith.
Also remember, Romans 14:23, that which is not of faith is sin. So, when my faith is affected, it means I easily continue in sin. So the shipwreck of your faith becomes a root cause of every other effect that you experience as a result of walking in that sin.
Very important to note: your sin does not at all affect God. In any case, you are forgiven. Your sin affects your faith in God. The result of this is that you withdraw from Him because of shame and self-condemnation, thus your fellowship with Him is affected.
What promotes private sin occurrence and growth in the life of a Christian?
Well, there are a few factors some of which include:
The nature of man.
When Adam sinned, he introduced sin into every man. And so within everyone born of man is a sinful nature. The soul of man just wants to live in this very nature. When you get born again, your spirit experience a total transformation. And behold, you become a new creation: the old one is gone, the new one have come.
But as for your soul, it remains the same. You have the same mind as you had before salvation. It does not change with the transformed spirit. We will talk about dealing with this in the next question.
This is what I mean: As long as it remains private, then the sin will have power to grow. The biggest threat of private sin is exposure. And you see, this is the greatest fear amongst believers especially, getting exposed in a sin that you have been committing privately.
Well, as long as this privacy is maintained, then the sin will continually hold power against you. You cannot overcome it because in such a state, it is fully armored.
Lack of accountability.
As long as there is no one checking on you, then you are prone to continue in sin. Walking alone in Christianity is one of the most difficult things.
It is the easiest, yet the one of the riskiest things to do. Walking alone. We rarely want to be accountable to anyone because that will keep us on our toes. We do not want to answer the tough questions, we do not want to be answerable for our actions.
In such an environment, private sin thrives.
You see, because the sin is private, it thrives only when you can commit it. That means whenever you are alone and idle, your mind will wander and land on that which you are used to doing while alone.
In the Old Covenant, condemnation was one of the outright consequence of sin. But this did not eliminate the sin. Today God does not condemn us, but there remain a condemnation from self and the devil. Whenever we are condemned, we tend to continue in the very thing that brings condemnation in the first place.
And you see, condemnation is one of the enemy’s weapons against believers. Of course it’s all built on a lie, but do we know that?
You are conformed on where your focus is. The more you focus on sin, the more you dive into it even if your focus was directed on how to overcome it.
Focus makes us to conform to whatever we are focusing on. So, the sin grows from within me, as much as my eyes are set on it.
Lacking in the Word.
This goes without saying. If you do not dwell in the Word, then you are vulnerable. You are up for grab by every other force. The word is the foundation of Christianity and the basis on which we get defense. If I am lacking in this, then it means it cannot defend myself. I cannot be able to say no.
How do we overcome private sins and uphold a blameless and spotless life?
Well, the first step of overcoming this is acknowledging that you are entangled and you need help. What makes private sin such a struggle is that you are alone. The devil lies to you that there are no big consequences especially because no one sees you. For example, most of us take masturbation as a lesser sin than fornication. May be because it’s only you involved, or because it is not explicitly written in the Bible as a sin, or whatever other reason we give to justify this. Well, this is a lie of the devil and it will remain just that to the very end. The truth is, this sin is destroying you. It is destroying your faith.
Once you acknowledge that there is a problem and help is required, you have taken the courage needed for the first step. I am taking it that you already have a relationship with Christ through salvation, because this is actually the very first step. You cannot overcome sin if you are not born again. You must first belong to Christ.
Of course this is a process and you must learn patience. That said, to overcome this, what we need is to disarm the private sin. We’ve seen some factors that makes it thrive, now what we need is to deprive the sin of those factors.
You deal with this by renewing your mind through the Word of Truth which leads to the transformation of the soul. As I mentioned earlier, your soul needs transformation even if you are born again.
Salvation transforms your Spirit immediately, but you need to deal with your soul. Your mind was used to the patterns of this world and so you have to teach it a new way of life. You have to change the nature of your soul from the normal nature into the new nature.
Put on the new nature, which is truly holy and truly righteous. All this you do through the study and meditation of the Word, prayer and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Finding out what the will of the Lord is, and being conformed to the same.
Romans 12:1, 2; Ephesians 4:3; John 17:17
The Privacy and Accountability
As long as the sin remains private, then it will keep growing. You take the privacy away by trusting someone with that secret. Share with someone who can pray with you. Mentorship comes in here.
Who asks you the hard questions? Who checks on you even when no one else will? Who rebukes you? Who corrects you in love? Who prays for you? Who is your mentor?
The biggest mistake people make concerning this is to think exposure is going to kill you. On the contrary, exposure will save your life. Be vulnerable to someone. Sharing what you are going through isn’t a sign of weakness as many people make it to appear like. It is actually a sign of strength. The devil will lie to you that if you share you will be condemned. Well, you already are condemning yourself. And sharing will not make it worse. In any case, it will take away the condemnation. The moment you open up, you take away the power of self-condemnation, now that whatever sin you’ve been committing is now known to someone else. Therefore, the grip of guilt that existed is now powerless. With that, you can now face it and work on changing that character.
And just to be clear, confessing your sins to one another is for the healing of your soul. As long as you remain under self-condemnation, your soul cannot be healed. The devil cannot condemn you either once you’ve opened up, because you have taken away the only leverage he had against you. James 4:7, resist the devil, and he will free. The devil plays with what you’ve kept secret, so don’t let him.
Opening up is one of the most difficult things you will do, especially when you are ashamed of what you have been doing. But this is also very necessary if you will win that war on sin. Most often than not, we tend to cover it up when we decide to open up. We give a version of your story that is close to the truth, but that does not make you look so bad. That won’t help. Be honest with yourself and with the person you are opening up to. Rip off that cover, say it as it is. Gather all the courage you need, but make sure you are honest. This is one way of resisting the devil, and taking charge of your story. And trust me you, the devil will free from you. Be vulnerable.
Of course on this, you must consider whoever you want to open up to, you must be able to trust them. It must be a confidant. This is what mentorship is for. Someone who is ahead of you, and who is able to listen to you without prejudice, and one who can actually give you some directions. It needs to be someone who is deep rooted in the Word, one who can pray for and with you. One who can correct and rebuke you in love, and one who can also give you a shoulder to lean on. One who can tell you the truth, however ugly it may look at the moment.
Still on accountability, you can identify a group of 3 to 4 persons of your sex. You can call them a band of brothers or sisters. Approach them and share your vision with them. In identifying such a group, here are a few qualities you should consider (Lessons from Pastor Simon Mbevi):
- Shared convictions: Two cannot walk together unless they are in agreement. These convictions are underlined in your faith. In other words, you must be of the same faith.
- Authentic love: There must exist an authentic love between you. All of you must be willing to sacrificially love one another. No room for false pretense.
- True loyalty: You must all be ready to be truly loyal to one another. Remember you are embarking on a journey of life together. You will be sharing personal details, things that should remain amongst you in order to help one another. You all must be confidants, and trust must be there.
- Honesty: If you will remain together, then you must be honest with one another. You should be able to share everything. And you should be able to honestly share what you think amongst yourselves, telling the truth even when it hurts.
Once you have identified such a team, and you are all in agreement to embarking on this journey together, make a commitment to one another. Be accountable to one another. Ask each other questions. Know what is happening in the lives of each of you. Challenge one another. Study the Bible together. Visit one another. Keep each other in check at all times. Share your stories. Share your struggles. Be open to one another.
James 5:16; Ephesians 5:11; Galatians 6:1, 2; Philippians 4:9
Now this is easier than all the others. Keep your mind occupied. Even when you have no activity to do and are alone, don’t let your mind wander.
Embrace the scriptures on this question of condemnation. Do not walk under condemnation even if you have sinned. If Jesus doesn’t condemn you, who else can?
You see, the devil plays with this. It is one of his greatest weapons. But you do not have to entertain him. Understand the scriptures, believe and walk in the freedom that you have received.
As I mentioned earlier as we discussed privacy and accountability, to take away self-condemnation, you may need to take away the privacy of whatever you did. Be strong enough to acknowledge your sin, and speak to someone about it, then you will experience a healing for your soul.
Romans 8:1; John 10:10; 1 John 3:19, 20
Withdraw all your focus from the sin. In other words, stop trying to stop it. Instead, focus on Jesus, and in turn you will be conformed in Him.
When you focus on Jesus, you are transformed into His likeness. So keep your eyes on Him. This is the way to overcome sin that so easily entangles you. Jesus is the light, to whom you should be exposed. When you expose yourself to the light of Christ, He transforms those weaknesses you have into strengths.
Hebrews 2:14-18. Remember what He did for us, he was made flesh because we are of flesh, was tempted in every way that you are and yet was without sin. He became a faithful servant and brother to us in order to help us in our weaknesses. What this tells you is that you can trust Him in any situation, because He understands. Not just because He is your creator, but also because He lived through that very situation.
Focus on Jesus rather than on your private sin. Of course the way to focus on Jesus is through the Word.
Hebrews 12:1, 2; Colossians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 3:18
To overcome private sin, then you need your mind stayed on Jesus. To keep your mind stayed on Jesus, then you need to keep studying and meditating upon the Word.
What more can I say about this? I think I have mentioned the Word in every factor above. Give yourself up to the study of the scriptures.
John 8:32; Psalms 119:9, 11
With your own effort, you cannot be able to do any of the above. You will remain in the trap of that sin until you quit using your own effort. Stop trying to stop it. Not that there is no hope, but the only hope is in Christ. This is why He was substituted for you and died your death.
Expose yourself to the Light, who is Christ. The very first step is becoming as Christ is in your inner man through being born again.
Once you are born again, stop wasting your time and life on these shameful deeds. The things you do in darkness where no one will see will just waste you and then bring a cloud of condemnation on you. Take courage and rip of the cover. Let them be exposed to the light of Christ.
Part of the exposure is sharing with a confidant. Deprive the sins of the privacy they need to excel. For the healing of your soul, be vulnerable to someone. Help each other grow. Pray for one another and keep one another accountable.
Then with that, delight yourself in the Lord and let the Holy Spirit expose you to His Light. Do not be stubborn, but let the Spirit help you out. Give Him control so that He will guide you. It is only through the Holy Spirit that you can have self-control.
You realize one thing, overcoming that sins begins with your decision. You must decide that you are done. Once you acknowledge there is a problem, and decide it’s time you get a solution, only then can you put your faith into action by taking the above steps. But most importantly, only then can you let the Holy Spirit take charge.
Yield yourself to Him. Yield your heart to Him. Yield your will to Him. He is the Spirit of truth. He is the Spirit of self-control. In other words, you cannot control yourself from living in that sin without yielding to the Holy Spirit.
The moment you let Him, is the moment you overcome.