Recently I spent time with someone involved in ministry to students. Occasionally he is faced with difficult disciplinary decisions when the young people break the rules of the group. “I’ve dealt with everything you can imagine. Every sort of sexual sin. Cheating. Breaking the law. You name it, I’ve seen it,” he said. There is an established set of procedures in place to deal with those who get in trouble. And very often they are able to help the young people make amends and set their lives on a new path.
During our discussion the man made two comments that stayed with me. First, he has learned that lying has almost become a non-issue today. Everyone lies, and they lie all the time. It’s almost as if it’s not a sin to lie anymore. Perhaps it is a sign of postmodern relativism that we have come to accept that lying isn’t wrong. Or perhaps it is just a fulfillment of Romans 3:13, “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” After discussing how people routinely lie to cover up their sin, he offered this conclusion: "You can’t help a liar. You can help anyone struggling with any sort of sin as long as they tell the truth. But you can’t help a liar because you can’t trust anything he says."
The situation is compounded by the fact that when most of us get caught, we confess as little as possible. And that leads to the second key point. One sign of true repentance is when “they tell you something you didn’t already know.” If you knew A + B + C, but the person then adds D + E + F, you know their repentance is deeper than just, “I’m sorry I got caught.” True repentance always involves coming clean, and coming clean means owning up to the whole pattern of wrongdoing, not just to the thing you happened to get caught doing. God desires “truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6) or as Eugene Peterson puts it, “truth from the inside out.” It is very hard for all of us to come to this place of total honesty with God and with others. For most of us, it is a continual battle to be transparent in all our dealings, especially when we have sinned. David’s prayer in Psalm 139:23-24 speaks for all of us:
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!