The news broke this morning that freight rail companies and unions representing tens of thousands of workers have reached a tentative agreement to avoid a strike. Following all-night talks, the agreement now heads to union members for a ratification vote. While the vote is tallied, workers have agreed that they will not strike.
Why is this news important to you?
The Association of American Railroads trade group estimated that a strike would cost the American economy $2 billion a day. According to the Associated Press, railroads carry cars, coal, chemicals, grain, imported goods, and other products and raw materials throughout the country. A shutdown, even if brief, would delay critical shipments and ripple across the economy.
A railroad strike would cancel commuter trains, cause energy prices to rise, disrupt deliveries of produce, meat, and building supplies, and add to inflation.
I do not know a single person who works for a railroad. Before this morning’s news broke, I had no idea that a railroad strike could impact me personally. But problems we cannot see are no less real. Because we don’t know they exist, we don’t respond to them until they grow so large we must.
As a result, our unseen problems can be the most dangerous problems we face.
Therein lies my point today.
“No creature is hidden from his sight”
Yesterday we discussed the power of private character. Today let’s focus on the alternative: the peril of private sins.
This topic became urgent to me when I read a verse in the book of Ezekiel that arrested my attention. The Lord said of his sinful people: “I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols” (Ezekiel 6:9a). We cannot see the “heart” of another person or the images their eyes see, but God can: “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). His heart is “broken” by such “secret” sins.
In addition, what God sees in a sinner’s heart and mind will eventually be known to the sinner: “They will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations” (Ezekiel 6:9b). And to the rest of us: “Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).
As a result, our response to sin should always be immediate and courageous: “Thus says the Lord Gᴏᴅ: ‘Clap your hands and stamp your foot and say, Alas, because of all the evil abominations of the house of Israel, for they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence” (Ezekiel 6:11).
Why Satan loves to use “secret” sins
Let’s take a moment to unmask Satan’s strategy behind “secret” sins.
Our enemy wants us to commit adultery, but if we refuse, he tempts us to view pornography with the justification that at least we are not committing adultery. If we will not view pornography, he tempts us with lustful thoughts with the justification that at least we are not viewing pornography. This is because he knows that, as Jesus warned us, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
If you are thinking that this paragraph does not apply to you, beware: Satan will then tempt you with other sins with the justification that at least you are not committing sexual sins.
Why does the devil love to use “secret” sins? Because he knows what they do to us: “desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). And he knows that any sins, known by others or not, are enough to grieve and “quench” the Holy Spirit’s work in and through our lives in the world (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).
Oswald Chambers warned: “Even the very smallest thing that we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is completely sufficient to account for spiritual confusion” and “can only be conquered through obedience.”
“Secret” sins and public religion
Paradoxically, Satan is pleased when we commit “secret” sins while maintaining public religiosity. When we persist in private sin while preaching sermons, leading Bible studies, attending worship services, or writing or reading articles like this one, we are tempted to believe that our “private” sins are not harming others or we could not be engaged in such religious activity.
However, because the Holy Spirit cannot fully use a person who persists in unconfessed sin (cf. Romans 8:6–8), our spiritual activities have little effect on the larger culture. Our salt “has lost its taste” and our light is “under a basket” (Matthew 5:13, 15). Neither can then fulfill their transforming purpose in the world.
The lure and prevalence of “secret” sin help explain the truth of A. W. Tozer’s observation: “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”
How strong are your batteries?
You have perhaps had this experience: the power goes out at night, so you hunt for a flashlight. You find one in a drawer and turn it on, but the bulb barely glows in the dark. You replace the batteries, but the flashlight still doesn’t work. It turns out that the contacts between the flashlight and the batteries are corroded with disuse.
Only when you clean out the corrosion and replace the batteries can the flashlight dispel the darkness it was created to defeat.
When the batteries are weak, the darkness is strong. When the batteries are strong, the darkness is weak.
Is the spiritual darkness of our day growing weaker or stronger?