A Friend Indeed.

Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem, Shammah of Harod, Elika of Harod, Helez the Paltite, Ira the son of Ikkesh of Tekoa, Abiezer of Anathoth, Mebunnai the Hushathite, Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai of Netophah, Heleb the son of Baanah of Netophah, Ittai the son of Ribai of Gibeah of the people of Benjamin, Benaiah of Pirathon, Hiddai of the brooks of Gaash, Abi-albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth of Bahurim, Eliahba the Shaalbonite, the sons of Jashen, Jonathan, Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam the son of Sharar the Hararite, Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai of Maacah, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, Hezro of Carmel, Paarai the Arbite, Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah, Bani the Gadite, Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai of Beeroth, the armor-bearer of Joab the son of Zeruiah, Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite, Uriah the Hittite: thirty-seven in all. – 2 Samuel 23:24-39 ESV

Chapter 23 closes with a list of 37 men. Several things should jump out at us. First of all is the inclusion of the name of Uriah the Hittite, the man David had exposed to enemy fire on the front lines in order that he might be killed and so that David could take his wife, Bathsheba, as his own. And all of this had been done to cover up David’s affair with her and the pregnancy that had resulted from it. While Uriah had been killed early on in David’s reign, he is recognized here at the end of David’s life as one of “the Thirty.” We don’t know exactly what that title entails and what the responsibilities were for each of these men, but we do know that they were considered men of distinction. Even David had to admit that Uriah, though long dead, was a man of integrity, having refused to give in to David’s attempts to get him to sleep with his wife while his fellow soldiers were battling the enemy. Uriah had turned down David’s counsel to enjoy the comforts of home, instead choosing to sleep at the doorstep of the king’s palace. And he willingly returned to the front lines, unknowingly carrying his own death certificate, in the form of a letter from David to Joab, commanding that Uriah be exposed to deadly enemy fire on the front lines and left to die.

Another thing that should jump out at you is the variety of the men in this list. Some were Israelites. Others were not. You have groups listed like the Paltites, Hushathites, Ahohites, Arbathites, Shaalbonites, Hararites, Gilonites, Arbites, Gadites, Ammonites, Ithrites, and Hittites. We don’t much about many of these people groups, but it reveals the ethnic diversity of David’s mighty men. David’s kingdom and his army were multicultural. These men loved and supported David. They were willing to sacrifice their lives for him, if necessary. We are not given any specifics regarding the actions of these men or how they had come to be included in “the Thirty”, but they were special to David. They had proved faithful to him over the years. No doubt there were some, like Uriah, who gave their lives for David. Others fought for him or gave him counsel and advice. They had diverse backgrounds and different duties, but they all shared a common bond with David. 

Conspicuously absent from the list is Joab, the long-time commander of David’s armies and the man who had stood beside him all the years of his life. Joab had disobeyed David and killed Absalom, David’s son. He had also killed Abner and Amasa, against the wishes of David. So he is not included in David’s inner circle. But his armor bearer is.

An important character quality of a true friend is that of loyalty. These men had proven themselves loyal and dedicated to David. Joab had as well, but he had also shown himself to be blunt and brutally honest with David. He loved him enough to call him out. When David was stuck in a state of perpetual mourning over the death of Absalom, it had been Joab who called him out and demanded that he act like a king or face the loss of his kingdom. David needed to hear what Joab had to say. It seems that there were times when Joab did what David was either afraid or reluctant to do. That too, is an important character quality of a true friend. Someone who always agrees with you or overlooks your faults and sins, is not someone who loves you. Solomon, the son of David, would record the following sayings in his book of Proverbs:

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. – Proverbs 27:6 NLT

In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery. – Proverbs 28:23 NLT

The truth is, we all need someone like Joab in our life. It’s always great to be surrounded by those who look up to you and who are willing to do whatever it takes to make you successful. But sometimes we just need one individual who is willing to say the hard things and to hold us to a higher standard. Joab and David didn’t always get along. They didn’t always agree. But Joab had proven himself faithful to David, time and time again. And he loved David too much to watch him do nothing, risking his kingdom by losing the respect of his people.

David had no shortage of faithful followers, brave companions and dedicated servants. But there were times when he could have used a few more men like Joab in his life. What kind of friend are you? Are you steadfast and faithful, always there when your friends need you? Are you willing to risk losing a friend by speaking up and calling them out over their sins? Joab was far from perfect. He had his own struggles with anger, impulsiveness and seeking revenge. But he loved David greatly. So much so that he was willing to risk David’s wrath by standing up to David when he knew that David was wrong. A godly leader who has followers is fortunate, but a godly leader who has faithful and honest friends is blessed.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Men of Integrity.

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

We are traveling together to guard against any criticism for the way we are handling this generous gift. – 2 Corinthians 8:20 NLT

Ministry has always had its critics. There will always be those who deem it their responsibility to find fault within the church and among its leadership. Paul was very familiar with this concept, having suffered all kinds of verbal and physical attacks by those who disagreed with his message and ministry. But Paul was more concerned with the reputation of the cause of Christ than his own well-being. He wanted to make sure that he never gave a reason for anyone to dispersions on the gospel or the name of Christ. He knew there were those out there who were constantly looking for even the smallest hint of impropriety, so that they could discredit Paul and the ministry.

So when it came to the collection of funds for the saints in Jerusalem, Paul knew that he had to do everything with integrity, taking extra special precautions to insure that no one could accuse him of financial mismanagement. He understood that accusations, even if false, could do lasting damage to the cause of Christ. That's why he went out of his way to develop a plan for the collection and delivery of the financial gift for the Jerusalem church. Paul had assembled a team of three men, all well-known and respected among the various churches throughout the region. They would be coming to Corinth to retrieve the funds given by the believers there and combine them with the gifts given by the churches in Macedonia, Asia Minor and Galatia. Then this committee of three would travel together to Jerusalem to deliver the funds to the church leadership there.

Paul knew that he was handling the funds correctly. He had every confidence that what he was doing was God-honoring and morally ethical. But he also knew how important it was that others view his efforts as above-board and blameless. "We are careful to be honorable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honorable" (2 Corinthians 8:21 NLT). Paul was taking no chances when it came to the reputation of his ministry and the honor of Jesus Christ's church. He was not going to give his critics or the enemies of the gospel any cause to question his integrity or cast doubt on his ministry. Isn't it interesting that even in Paul's day it was normal and natural for people to assume wrong-doing when money was involved? Financial mismanagement was common and expected. Paul knew that there would be those who simply assumed he was lining his pocket with the funds collected or skimming a percentage of the proceeds for his own benefit. That kind of thing went on all the time. But Paul wanted to prove that Christians weren't like other people. He wanted to make it clear that believers handled their affairs with integrity and could be trusted to do the right thing – even when money was involved. It is so important for us to manage our affairs well – both corporately and individually. We all know well the stories of ministries and ministers who have been caught mismanaging the financial gifts given by trusting individuals. We've seen the news reports of greedy pastors and televangelists, growing wealthy off of the contributions of their flocks. The actions of these individuals, while few in number, have done a great deal of damage to the cause of Christ. They have caused many unbelievers to reject the message of Christ because they could no longer trust the messengers of Christ. Even believers, those who have found themselves tricked and deceived by men they once trusted, have walked away from the faith disillusioned and disappointed. The cause of Christ is too important to take risks. The name of Christ is too valuable to ever allow it to be damaged by our acts of indiscretion or failure to take the proper precautions. We are to be men and women of integrity in all that we do, because we represent the King.

Father, may we live in such a way that we never give our enemies a reason to discredit our ministry or Your Son's name. We know that we will be attacked, but help us to live with integrity, so that there is no basis for those attacks. May we be honest, faithful, without reproach and constantly careful in how we handle every area of our lives – all for the glory of Your name and the good of the gospel. Amen.

Tough Love.

2 Corinthians 2:1-13

I wrote that letter in great anguish, with a troubled heart and many tears. I didn't want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you. – 2 Corinthians 2:4 NLT

Paul's love for the Corinthians believer was like that of a father for his children. He was proud of them and felt a strong responsibility for their welfare. He worried about their spiritual health and was concerned for survival in the high-pressure context of a pagan city like Corinth. So Paul wrote them words of encouragement and instruction, as he did in 1st Corinthians. But there were times when he had to take a harsher, sterner tone, in order to deal with actions and attitudes that were dangerous and un-Christlike. Paul loved the believers in Corinth enough to say things that caused them sorrow – for the time being. He evidently wrote a second letter, which commentators refer to as "the sorrowful letter," which has been lost. Paul refers to it in verse 3: "That is why I wrote you as I did, so that when I do come, I won't be grieved by the very ones who ought to give me the greatest joy." He had written them a letter containing some strong words and loving admonitions. He had written that letter "in great anguish."  It had been accompanied by "a troubled heart and many tears." Paul loved them very much, but he loved them enough to say things they needed to hear, but that were hard to listen to. His words were written in love, not anger. They were expressed out of heartfelt concern, not pride or arrogance. But his words hurt all the same. And he knew it.

Paul had a reason behind his words. They were not written flippantly or thoughtlessly. "I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions" (2 Corinthians 2:9 NLT). It was vitally important to Paul that they accept him for who he was – an emissary of Jesus Christ, a God-sent messenger of the gospel and a legitimate apostle of the Church. He wasn't on some kind of an ego trip, but was simply trying to get them to understand that he spoke on behalf of and with the complete authority of God Himself. It was essential that they listen to and obey what he said. He was not just sharing his opinions, but the word of God and the message of Jesus Christ. Paul was dealing with some specific issues going on in the church in Corinth. There was a situation that involved a member of the congregation that had caused a great deal of division and strife in the church. It may have been the man Paul dealt with in 1st Corinthians who had had an immoral relationship with his step-mother. It could have been someone who had personally insulted Paul by speaking against him and leading the church into accepting false teaching. But whoever the man was, he had been opposed by the church, punished for his sin, and now it was time to reconcile and restore the relationship. Paul urged them "to reaffirm your love for him" (2 Corinthians 2:8 NLT). He wanted them to extend grace, love and mercy to this man and restore him to the fellowship. Paul knew that Satan would love nothing more than to divide the church from within. He knew that the enemy would be far more successful destroying the cause of Christ if he could cause division and disunity among believers. External pressure tends to solidify and strengthen the church. But internal strife causes cracks and chasms to weaken the spiritual infrastructure of the church, diminishing its power and effectiveness.

Paul loved the cause of Christ too much to allow that to happen. He was not going to stand idly by and watch the Corinthian believers self-destruct. So he said what needed to be said. He spoke the truth, but always with love. When he spoke, he shared God's will, not his own. He was not driven by ego or self-preservation, but out of love for the Kingdom of God and the spread of the gospel message around the world. He knew that the greatest barrier to the gospel's expansion was a weakened church. Compromise, complacency, disharmony and disunity among God's people would be deadly to the cause of Christ. Unforgiveness, hatred, resentment, jealousy, pride, self-centeredness, and injustice had no place among God's people. And when Paul saw these things, he spoke against them. Paul had told them what God expected of them. "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT).

Paul loved the believers in Corinth. He loved them enough to speak truth. He loved them enough to cause them sorrow, if only for the moment. Because he knew that exposing their sin was essential if they were to grow. Later on, in his letter to the believers in Ephesus, Paul would write, "Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church" (Ephesians 4:15 NLT). Love is honest. It does not lie or tolerate falsehood. Love doesn't overlook sin, but confronts it. Love doesn't minimize unrighteousness, but exposes it. Love can hurt, but love never fails.

Father, help me learn to love like Paul did. Show me how to speak truth, Your truth, in such a way that it results in conviction and produces righteousness in the lives of others. Show me how to say what needs to be said, but always in love, not out of pride, arrogance or ever with a heart filled with hatred. Amen.

As Good As Your Word.

2 Corinthians 1:12-24

You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say "Yes" when they really mean "No"? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you does not waver between "Yes" and "No." – 2 Corinthians 1:17-189 NLT

Paul's authority was in question. There were those in Corinth who didn't think he had the right to say to them the things he had written in his previous letter. They were raising doubts about his claim to be an apostle. They were contradicting his teaching and casting dispersions about his character. They seemed to claim that his previous letter to them was full of hidden meanings and purposefully obscure teachings. And, in essence, they were labeling Paul a liar because he had promised to come see them again, but had failed to do so. As a result, his word could not be trusted. So Paul had to defend himself. He had had a change of plans, but not a change of heart. He had a good and logical reason for his delay.

Paul had no problem professing his innocence and defending his righteous actions in the matter at hand. "We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings" (2 Corinthians 1:12 NLT). He could say, without a shred of insincerity, that his actions were completely above board and God-honoring. His letters had been straightforward, with no hidden meanings or agendas. The fact that they could not understand what he had written or simply refused to agree with his had been a disappointment to Paul, but he could only hope and pray that one day they would see the truth and sincerity of his teachings. 

But Paul's main concern was that they would understand and appreciate his integrity and honesty. He was a man of his word. He could be trusted. His "Yes" meant "Yes" and his "No" meant "No." There was no reason to ever doubt that what Paul wrote, he meant, or that what he said was true. Paul viewed himself as a representative of Christ, having been sent by Christ on a mission to spread His gospel to the world. And Just as Christ had been God's representative and had always done what God had commanded Him to do, so Paul was a faithful representative of Christ. One of the amazing things about Paul, is that even while attempting to defend his own name, he pointed the people to God. He reminded them of God's faithfulness. God was never duplicitous or deceitful. He was trustworthy and true. "For all of God's promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding 'Yes!'" (2 Corinthians 1:20 NLT). Jesus Christ was the ultimate fulfillment of all of God's promises. He was a physical representation of God's love, having come to earth, taken on human flesh, lived a sinless life, died a sinner's death, and rose again on the third day. Jesus could be trusted, and because Paul was His chosen representative, Paul could be trusted as well. 

There will be those who doubt our word or question our sincerity. They will misread our actions and misunderstand or misrepresent our intentions. But the important thing for us to remember is whether or not we can claim as Paul did, "Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth" (2 Corinthians 1:23 NLT). Can we, with a clear conscience, endure ridicule or rejection, knowing that what we have said or done was neither misleading or untrue? Was our intention to tell the truth in order to further the Kingdom and encourage the spiritual growth of others? Was it to strengthen their faith and increase their joy? Paul was confident and at peace with himself because he knew that what he had said was true and that his motives were sincere. He was a faithful, trustworthy representative of Jesus Christ. They might not like his message, but they could never question the integrity of the messenger.

Father, sincerely want that to be true of me. But I know that far too often, my desires and agenda get in the way. I want my "Yes" to be "Yes" and my "No" to be "No." Never let me forget that I speak on Your behalf, not my own. I am to represent You, not me. My words and actions reflect on You, either positively or negatively. If I claim to be Your child, what I say or do must represent You well. Continue Your life-transforming work in my life that I might care more about Your cause than my own reputation. Amen.

The Intimacy of Honesty.

Proverbs 24

"An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” – Proverbs 24:26 NIV

Honesty is in short supply these days. We live in a world mired in half-truths and deception. Oh, we have plenty of people who claim to "tell it like it is." But this is usually just another way of saying that they have an opinion and aren't afraid to share it – no matter how many people they hurt along the way. Honesty in the Hebrew scriptures is about much more than bluntness or frankness of speech. It's not just speaking your mind or getting something off your chest. It has to do with saying the right or equitable thing. There is an aspect of appropriateness and timeliness to honesty. It entails a certain degree of sensitivity and intimacy. Thus, the comparison in the passage to a kiss on the lips. In Solomon's day, a kiss on the lips carried a lot of meaning. It was not something done lightly or flippantly. It signified love, devotion, sincerity, and commitment. It was a visible expression of what was in the heart. To kiss someone insincerely would have been unacceptable. To kiss someone on the lips would have given them the impression that you cared for them and that your relationship with them was close. But to do so insincerely, but without meaning it, would have been as unacceptable as lying to them.

When we are honest with someone, it is an expression of love. It shows that we care for them. But it is NOT just a willingness to be blunt with them, telling them whatever is on our heart without any regard for their feelings. Honesty involves intimacy. Honesty requires love. We lovingly express what is on our heart because we care and desire the best for them. We think about how best to say what is on our heart, so that those with whom we sharing will receive it well. Our motivation is love. Our desire is that they will benefit from our honesty, not be devastated by it. Sometimes we can attempt to be honest, but our motivation is to hurt, not help. We can say what is on our mind, simply out of anger or in an attempt to teach the other person a lesson. But the honesty Solomon is talking about is always for the good of the other. It has the other person's best interest at heart, because it comes from the heart. It is honesty that aims at building the other person up, not tearing them down. It is honesty that is selfless, not selfish. We share what we share because we wish to make the other person better, not because we're out to prove a point or voice our opinion. An honest answer is a loving answer. It is saying what needs to be said because you care for someone deeply.

Father, give us the capacity to be honest with one another because we truly care for one another. Teach us to share intimately and honestly out of love. Reveal to us any selfishness or self-centeredness that may be getting in the way. Help us to see when we our attempts at honesty are nothing more than poorly veiled efforts to hurt the other person. May our honesty always be motivated by love and focused on the well-being of the other person. Amen.

The Detestability of Dishonesty.

Proverbs 20

“The Lord detests double standards; he is not pleased with dishonest scales.” – Proverbs 20:23 NLT

Dishonesty has become a comfortable, close friend to a lot of us. No, we would never admit it and some of us may not even be able to recognize it. But if the truth be known, dishonesty has become a natural and normal part of our lives. It's a subtle thing. We don't think of ourselves as liars or cheats. We don't try to take advantage of others by twisting the truth or falsifying information. But there is a tinge of dishonesty in our dealings with others and even in our relationship with God. And that should scare us, because Solomon warns us twice in this Proverb about God's disdain and dislike for dishonesty in all its forms. Yes, he seems to be talking about financial dealings or dishonesty in commerce, but God's hatred for double standards goes well beyond just false weights and unequal measures. If we deal with this passage so literally, we will all escape unscathed because none of us use actual scales and measures anymore. Those are antiquated business tools that no longer apply, but the heart behind them does. These verses are dealing with an attitude of dishonesty and deception in the heart of an individual that causes him to use any and all means at his disposal to take advantage of others for his own selfish gain. God despises it. He detests it.

While most of us would never think of cheating someone in a business transaction, we have probably fudged the facts slightly in order to make a sale or close a deal. We have withheld important information that we believe might hurt the negotiations. We may have not disclosed some income on our taxes or we might have over-estimated our income when applying for a loan. And what's interesting is that we would be the first ones to scream, "Injustice!" if someone had done those same things to us. We would cry foul and demand restitution. That's a double standard and God hates it. It flies counter to the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That is why God hates dishonesty. It is disingenuous and incredibly self-centered. It reveals an attitude and heart that is self-focused and cares little for the well-being of others.

The problem with dishonesty is that it can become a habit. We can do it for so long and so well, that we even end up deceiving ourselves. We begin justifying our actions as acceptable and understandable, given the circumstances. We become sly and subtle in our dishonesty. And it can take on all kinds of forms. One of the most common is our tendency to act as if we're something we're not. We put on a facade and pretend to be something or someone other than who we really are. We act more successful than we are. We pretend to be more sophisticated than we actually happen to be. We try to give off the impression we are financially better off than our bank account might reveal. These are all forms of deception and dishonesty. Another common form of dishonesty is our unwillingness to be transparent and open with one another. Our lives could be cratering and falling apart, but we will put on the happy face and muster up the energy to try and fool all those who know us, just so they won't know the truth about us. God hates it when we do this. It's dishonest and deceptive. It is untruthful, and when exposed, causes those who know us to lose trust in us. People lose faith in us because we refuse to be honest with them about who we are and what we are going through.

One of the realities about dishonesty is that we may fool others, but we can never fool God. "The Lord's light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive" (Proverbs 20:27 NLT). God sees all. He knows all. He is aware of every occurrence of dishonesty in our lives. He knows when we lie. He is aware every time we withhold the truth in any form or in any way. He is never deceived by our deception. And He despises, dislikes and disdains it when we attempt to cover up, hide, fake it, or live our lives dishonestly or deceptively. He is a God of truth. He longs to see His people live in integrity. The biblical concept of integrity is wholeness or completeness. It carries the idea of a life with no compartmentalization. There are no hidden areas. Not skeletons in the closet. We live our lives in integrity before God when we recognize that He sees all and so we stop trying to hide anything from Him. We wholly and holy before Him. No deceit, deception or dishonesty.

Father, help me to live openly and honestly before You. Show me when I am being dishonest because sometimes I think I have grown so accustomed to it that I don't recognize it anymore. Don't allow me to live in dishonesty and deceit. Remind me daily that You see the motives of my heart. Amen.

Honesty Really Is the Best Policy.

Proverbs 28

“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” – Proverbs 28:13 NLT

Honesty. Transparency. Accountability.

Those are not particularly popular words among most Christians, especially those of the male variety. We have been raised to keep things close to the vest, not to let the other guy see our hand, and to never reveal a weakness to the competition. This attitude has resulted in a level of dishonesty and disingenuousness that is dangerous for us as believers. We have become masters at hiding our sins, masking our faults, and faking spirituality. We struggle with sin, but refuse to let anyone else know, even God. Yet, we are told, "if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness" (1 John 1:9 NLT). In James we are told "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed" (James 1:15 NLT). Yet, we continue to cover up and gloss over our sins, allowing fear of rejection and our own stubborn pride prevent us from enjoying the life-giving benefits of confession.

Hiding your sins may fool others, but only ends up harming you. Unconfessed sin becomes like a deadly toxin in our soul, a cancer that slowly eats away at our lives from the inside out. It saps us of spiritual vitality, robs us of joy, and diminishes our capacity to receive and enjoy the love, grace, and mercy of God in our lives. Like a child who has done something wrong, we tend to ignore and avoid any contact with God because we feel guilty about what we have done. We hide rather than run to Him for forgiveness. When we are around fellow believers, we tend to put up a facade that all is well, refusing to let them know that we are struggling. When we do so, we miss out on their prayers, encouragement, and support. Confession is cathartic. There is something therapeutic about letting the cat out of the bag and allowing someone else to know our secret. The moment we share and allow someone else to know our struggle is when we begin the journey toward healing and recovery.

But while confession is essential, there is a second step that often gets left out. Admitting your sins to God or another Christ-follower is a huge step in the right direction, but it shouldn't end there. This verse says, "if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy" (Proverbs 2813 NLT). The word "turn" is actually the Hebrew word azab, and it means "to depart from, leave behind, abandon." This is a two step process. First, you have to admit your sin, then, you have to turn from it. To confess and continue in your sin is not enough. There have to be steps taken toward change. Even in the 1 John passage, there is an aspect of repentance built into the idea of confession. God forgives and cleanses, but He expects change. He expects us to turn from and abandon our sinful ways, not continue in them. "If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts" (1 John 1:8-10 NLT). Confession is a lost art in the church today. As a result, many of us walk around with unconfessed sin that is destroying our lives and damaging our walk with God. It puts up barriers between ourselves and other believers. We end up living fake, opaque lives that prevent anyone from seeing what we're really like. And the silly part is that we all know that we all sin. There is no one without sin. So confession should not be a shock. The content of our confession may be, but God is greater than our greatest sin. He is able to forgive any transgression, no matter how large. We should be able to hear and lovingly accept the confession of any believer, no matter how a shock to our system it may be. Their openness is a key to the Body's oneness. Our acceptance and love is a sign that we are truly Christ's disciples. Honesty, transparency and accountability are the best policy for us as believers.

Father, break down the walls. Help us get rid of our stubborn pride and resistance to admitting our sins one to another. Create a transparency in the church like we've never seen before, and let it begin with me. Amen.