Yes. It’s true. I love sin. Don’t get me wrong – I love God; I really do. Or, at least I’ve convinced myself that I do. But my love for God is imperfect. It’s a weak love — an inconsistent love. And when I’ve been self-focused (Galatians 6:8), when I don’t “retain God in [my] knowledge” (Romans 1:28), my love for God weakens even more. Sometimes my love for myself grows stronger than my love for God. When that happens, I sin. What bothers me most is Christ’s warning that I can’t really hold both loves at the same time.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” — Matthew 6:24
So in those moments when I love my sin enough to yield to its temptation, I’m showing that I actually hate God. Ouch. Surely I’m not alone in this. No, even the apostle Paul shared struggles like these. He saw himself as the chief of sinners.
“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” — Romans 7:19 “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” — Romans 7:24
Recognizing my tendency to sin, and knowing that I’m not alone, I’m faced with one huge question…
Why do I work so hard to hide it?
I’ve noticed two unhelpful tendencies that often plague those of us in leadership. I see them in myself and I hear stories of them from others. Here are those two tendencies
1. I ignore my weakness. (“Superstar Syndrome”)
When I recall the “Evangelical Superstars” of past generations, my flesh desires their power and influence. I never saw their weaknesses, so I turn a blind eye to my own. If I compare myself to my contemporaries, I can choose to look only at areas of my strength. It’s easy to feel superior when I do that. There are those who say there should be no Evangelical Superstars. I agree. When I seek to become a superstar, I’m sowing to my flesh again. That puts me in great danger – not only to weaken my love for God, but also to yield to the second tendency.
2. I’m afraid I’ll lose my influence. (“Fear Of Man”)
Because we have believed the image of the Evangelical Superstar more than the transparency of the apostle Paul, we naturally feel the need to keep up the charade. After all, that’s what people expect. If I show weakness, some will abandon me. I wish I could say that’s only your imagination. Sadly, it may be true; some might abandon you in favor of one who wears a better mask of perfection. But those who stay will be far better served by your honesty. Christians are so quick to erect pedestals for their leaders – to invent superstars. The moment we begin to accept the honor, we begin to fear losing it. Consider Barnabas and Paul’s response in Acts 14:11-18 to those in Lystra. As soon as they were aware of the misplaced honor, they corrected the misunderstanding. The lower the pedestal, the safer the step down. Tweet The key is to reject each pedestal the moment someone starts building it. One preacher often says, only somewhat joking, “If you knew me the way I know me, you wouldn’t listen to me.” Even a statement that simple and vague shows a rare boldness that helps to disarm the unrealistic expectations we place on our leaders. (To lighten the atmosphere, this preacher also jokes, “… and if I knew you the way you know yourself, I probably wouldn’t bother preaching to you.”)
So now what?
Now that I can admit both my weakness and my tendency to hide it, what do I do?
1. Be Honest And Accountable
About a year ago, I tapped a handful of men I highly respected, asking them to join a Growth and Accountability group with me. My aim was to surround myself with more mature, godly Christians so that I could grow to be like them. Eventually I shared some personal struggles with recurring sins, fearing their reactions to even my vaguely-worded confessions. Two things surprised me. First, instead of shaming me for my weakness as I had feared, they encouraged me. Second, after the group disbanded for the morning, one of these men approached me. He had read between the lines of my comments and confided that he shared the same struggles – among others. Here was a man I highly respected – with the same weakness I had. And until we spoke, I had no idea. We’ve met regularly since then to build safeguards and accountability around that weakness. We end each session with a time of prayer.
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” — James 5:19
Because we had the honesty to share a specific weakness with a fellow Christian, we now have the accountability and prayer support of another believer to encourage us in Christian growth. I plan to write later about some of the ideas we’ve discussed.
2. Extend Grace To Others
It’s oh so easy to find fault with others when my strength is in an area of their weakness. It’s even easier when I’m ignoring my own weaknesses.
“Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?” –Matthew 7:4
Extending grace does not mean condoning sin. Christ’s grace to me does not say my sin is okay. On the contrary, the grace of God works in me, giving me power to overcome my sin while confirming God’s love to me. Admitting my tendency to sin will certainly change how (or even whether) I confront another brother. Consider an example: When I must edit or delete my own careless tweet or facebook post after someone corrects me (yes, that actually happens), I am less likely to use a critical tone when I must point out dangers in someone else’s post or tweet. When I understand my own weakness, I may even be more likely to remain silent about an action that’s merely “questionable.” According to Proverbs 10:19, that silence isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If you don’t already have someone who deliberately holds you accountable for Christian growth, think of about six to eight peers with whom you can be honest about your weakness. Reach out to them and form a small accountability group. I would recommend against including people who you lead. It’s often difficult to be effective at respectfully holding a leader accountable. You most likely don’t want to put someone in that awkward position.
Here’s a template of an email that I used when I reached out to the men I respected. I customized it for each person, but it served as a good starting point. Feel free to start here and adjust it to reflect your own relationships and personality:
Lately I have seen the need for personal growth in several areas in my life, and it’s time to do something about it. One common way to foster growth is through regular fellowship with godly men who are also growing. I would like to assemble a small, 6- to 8-man “growth and accountability” group to meet monthly to share personal goals, to edify one another, and to hold each other accountable for personal growth. As I considered men I respected, you were one of the few who immediately came to mind.
Would you please pray about participating with me in a growth and accountability group? I would like to start meeting together by time. This will be a very small group, and you are one of the first men to be considered, so please respond by deadline if you may be interested. Otherwise, I’ll ask someone else to join in your place. As the team forms, we can decide what schedule works best for everyone.
I’m excited about taking a new step in growth and accountability, and I hope you will consider starting this journey with me.