Sunday, October 16, 2011
Pastor Joe Wittwer

#1—Dark Secrets


This week and next, we’re talking about secrets.  There are good secrets and bad secrets.  This week, we’re talking about our dark secrets, those things that we hope no one ever knows.  Next week, we’ll talk about the good secrets: God sees every good thing we do in secret and rewards us for them.  Every good secret will be rewarded. 

But today, we’re talking about the dark secrets that are like ticking bombs.

ILL: For 43 years Zinaida Bragantsova had been telling people there was a World War II bomb buried under her bed.

In 1941 the Germans advanced toward the Ukrainian city of Berdyansk. One night at the very start of the war, she was sitting by the window and sewing on her machine. Suddenly she heard a whistling noise. She got up and in the following moment was struck by a blast of wind. When she came to, the sewing machine was gone and there was a hole in the floor as well as in the ceiling.

Zinaida couldn’t get any officials to check out her story, so she just moved her bed over the hole and lived with it for the next 40 years. Finally, the woman’s problem was uncovered. As phone cable was being laid in the area, demolition experts were called in to probe for buried explosives. “Where’s your bomb, grandma?” asked the smiling army officer sent to talk to Zinaida. “No doubt, under your bed?”

“Under my bed,” she answered dryly.

And sure enough, there they found a 500-pound bomb. After evacuating 2,000 people from surrounding buildings, the bomb squad detonated the bomb. According to the report, “The grandmother, freed of her bomb, will soon receive a new apartment.”

Many of us live like that grandmother, with a bomb under our bed; a dark secret that’s been hidden for years. But no one is safe until it’s removed.

Prayer time:

We’re talking about our dark secrets today, and later in the talk, I’m going to encourage you to come clean before God and admit those secrets.  He already knows.  This is called confession, and confession is kind of a lost art these days.

ILL: Did you know that there is a website called “PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.”  People send postcards to confess their secrets.  Some write it.  Most create art that says it.  But this thing is an internet phenomenon.  Thousands of people have posted their secrets here.  Why?  We need to confess.  We want to come clean.  We are burdened by our secrets.

I am going to show you a few of these postcards.  I want you to sit and read people’s confessions—in silence, respectfully.  Then we’re going to pray.  Friends, you don’t have to send a postcard.  God is ready to hear your confession. 

Pictures in silence.  (Please leave each slide up for 10 seconds.)  Let’s pray.


Keeping a dark secret can consume you—I think our dance powerfully portrayed that.  Dark secrets lurk in the back of our souls, in the shadows, and gnaw on us.  We are burdened by our secrets.  And when you least expect it, they often come to light, and the fallout can be catastrophic.  What do you do with your dark secrets?

Several months ago, we were reading 2 Samuel in our Bible Reading Plan, and I read again the story of David and Bathsheba.  I was struck by the fact that David did something terrible in secret, and then while he was trying to keep it a secret, did something even worse.  The dark secrets piled up, and he thought that he had gotten away with it; then something happened that he hadn’t counted on, and the whole house of cards came crashing down. 

I want to look at David’s story and let it teach us about secrets.  Here’s what I hope you learn.  Every secret will one day come to light.  You never really get away with anything.  So live transparently.  Live as though everyone knows everything you do, because one day they will.  And if you have a dark secret, let’s take care of it—we’ll talk about how.  Here’s David’s story.

1. The story: David’s secrets.  2 Samuel 11-19

The story starts with David lounging on his deck; it was on the roof of his palace, so he had a nice view of the city.  He also had a nice view of a woman bathing, and she was smoking hot. 

What should David have done?  Turn away.  Go inside and forget about it.  What did he do? He googled her and got her contact info.  He sent someone to find out who she was.  Her name was Bathsheba, and she was a married woman.  In fact, she was married to one of his top army officers, a man who at that moment was away from home in battle, fighting for David!   Warning lights are flashing like crazy!

What should David have done?  Delete the info.  Forget about it.  What did he do?  He sent someone to bring her to the palace, and he seduced her.  David, a married man, had sex with the wife of one of his most loyal officers.  But no one knew, and what people don’t know can’t hurt them, right?  It was David and Bathsheba’s dark secret.

Then Bathsheba missed her period. She sent a messenger to let David know that she was pregnant.  Their dark secret is about to come out.  So David launches a cover-up.  Bathsheba-gate makes Watergate look like child’s play.

David brings Uriah home from the front, asks for an update on the war, gives him gifts, and sends him home to relax.  What’s David counting on?  A soldier who has been away for months comes home and sees his wife for the first time—you get the picture.  But Uriah throws him a curve.  Uriah doesn’t go home, but sleeps at the king’s gates.  When David hears this, he asks Uriah why he didn’t go home.  “How could I go home and sleep with my wife when my brothers are in battle?”  This is one crazy loyal soldier! 

David goes to plan B.  He invites Uriah for dinner and gets him roaring drunk, counting on the booze to overwhelm his honor so he will sleep with his wife.  But even in a drunken haze, Uriah’s honor trumped his sexual drive, and he slept at the king’s gate again.

Now David is forced to improvise, and the cover up gets really ugly.  David writes a memo to General Joab, telling him to put Uriah in the front lines where the fighting was fiercest, and them pull back so he will be killed.  David seals the letter and sends it with Uriah—how sick is this! Loyal Uriah is carrying his own death sentence and doesn’t know it. One dark secret on another.  Why?  All so David can keep his tryst with Bathsheba a secret.

Joab does the deed as instructed, and Uriah dies.  Bathsheba mourns the proscribed time, and then David brings her to the palace as his wife, and a few months later, she bore a son.  It looks like David got away with it.  His dark secret is safe.  No one knows, except for David and Bathsheba and Joab…and God.

2 Samuel 11:27 But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

Someone else did know.  God knew.  And God was displeased.  God knew and God was not pleased.  So God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David.  Now Nathan knew that the king had already killed one man to keep this secret, and probably wouldn’t hesitate to kill him too.  He had to find a way to David’s conscience.  So he told a story.

A rich man had a large number of sheep and cattle.  Nearby lived a poor man who had only one lamb.  This lamb had grown up with the man’s children.  It was the family pet.  It ate the scraps from their table; it slept in their arms.  It was like a daughter to the poor man.  One day, the rich man had a visitor, and rather than slaughtering one of his own flock for dinner, he took the poor man’s one lamb and prepared it for his guest.

How does that make you feel?  David went ballistic!  He shouted, “The man deserves to die.  I can’t believe anyone could be so heartless!”

Then Nathan pointed a finger at David and said, “You are the man.”

Nathan went on, “God says, ‘I gave you the kingdom and your wives, and if that wasn’t enough, I would have given you more.  But you despised me and did evil.  You took Uriah’s wife and you killed him to cover it up.”

The cat is out of the bag.  The secret is out in the open.  David thought he had gotten away with it.  But he hadn’t counted on one thing: God.  He had left God out of the equation, and God knew and God was displeased.

I was talking with a friend who is divorcing his wife for another woman.  He told me that David sinned, but God forgave him, so he wasn’t worried; God would forgive him too.  Yes, God did forgive David, as we’ll see.  But there were still consequences, and they were devastating. Nathan is going to spell out the consequences of David’s secret sin.

2 Samuel 12:9–10 You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

Here is the first consequence: David used violence to keep his dark secret, and now violence will devastate his family.  In the next chapter (2 Samuel 13) the trouble begins.  David’s oldest son, Amnon, heir to the throne, gets the hots for his half-sister, Tamar.  When he tries to seduce her and she resists, he rapes her.  Then adding insult to injury, he tosses her out in hatred and disgust.  Tamar’s brother, Absalom, hears all this, and bides his time for revenge.  Two years later, the opportunity comes and he kills Amnon, heir to the throne. 

It’s a sick and sad story, but the Biblical writer wants us to know that it didn’t happen in a vacuum; it all started with David’s secret sin and violent cover up. 

Nathan continues:

2 Samuel 12:11-12 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”

You did it in secret—David’s tryst with Bathsheba was a secret, but it will come back to bite him in a very public way.  One who was close to David would sleep with his wives in public.

After Absalom killed Amnon, he lived in exile for a few years.  When he came back, he began to lay the groundwork for a coup.  When Absalom declared himself king, David and his loyal subjects fled Jerusalem; he left ten concubines from his harem behind to care for the palace.  Then Absalom pitched tents on the roof of the palace—the roof where this whole story started—and he took David’s concubines and slept with them in full view of everyone in Jerusalem.  David’s dark secret had come home to roost in public.

Absalom’s coup ended when he died in battle, and David returned to Jerusalem to resume his rule.  But violence had claimed another son. 

2 Samuel 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

Did God forgive David?  Yes.  David acknowledged his sin, and was forgiven.  But did that remove the consequences?  No.  Besides Amnon and Absalom, David and Bathsheba also lost the son she was carrying.

One dark secret.  David thought he got away it.  He didn’t.  You never do.  Our dark secrets come back to haunt us.  Here are a few lessons I want you take away from this story.

2. The lessons.

A. You can’t fool God; don’t fool yourself.

2 Samuel 11:27 But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

David might have kept his secret from everyone else—he might have fooled everyone else—but he didn’t fool God.  God knew.  God always knows.  And God knows your secrets and my secrets too.  So really, there are no secrets with God.  He knows everything: every thought, every word, every deed. 

Hebrews 4:13* Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Wow!  Think about that.  Nothing is hidden from God’s sight.  He knows everything you think and say and do.  We do something in secret, something we think no one knows or sees, something hidden.  But it is not hidden from God.  God sees. 

  • God sees when you secretly look at pornography on your computer.
  • God sees when you secretly cheat on that test.
  • God sees when you secretly lie to your neighbor.
  • God sees when you secretly steal from the office.

God sees.  God knows.  Nothing is hidden from God’s sight.  There are no secrets with God! 

Everything is uncovered and laid bare before God—some versions translate it “naked and exposed.” 

ILL: Naked and exposed!  One of my recurring nightmares is showing up somewhere in public completely naked and suddenly realizing that I’m naked and can’t do anything about it.  I wake up in a cold sweat!  How many of you have that nightmare?

We don’t want to be naked and exposed; but we are before God.  God sees everything.

Psalm 44:21* God knows the secrets of the heart.

God knows your secrets.  God knows what you think no one else knows.

Psalm 90:8* You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.

Our secret sins that lurk in darkness are known in the light of God’s presence.  God knows.

You can’t fool God—He knows everything.  So don’t fool yourself!  Stop fooling yourself by thinking that you’ve got a secret, or that you’ve got away with it.  I’ve listed a lot of verses on this first point, and most of them say the same thing: don’t deceive yourself.  Don’t fool yourself. 

Human beings have an amazing capacity for self-deception.  We tell ourselves all kinds of lies. 

  • It’s ok.
  • It’s not that bad.
  • No one will know.
  • What they don’t know won’t hurt them.
  • It will all work out.

All lies.  Stop fooling yourself.  God knows.  And sometime, others will know too.

B. Your secrets will be revealed.

Not only does God know, but sooner or later, other people will know too.  Nothing will be hidden forever.  Some things will come out in this life and some at the judgment, but they will all come out.  Everything will be laid bare and known.

Think about David.  He thought he got away with it.  But God knew.  And soon, the secret was out; David was exposed as an adulterer and murderer.  Now how many people know David’s secret?  A couple billion!  Jesus made it clear every secret would one day be revealed.

Luke 12:1–3 Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

Jesus is warning against hypocrisy; he is calling us to live with integrity, to be the same in private that we are in public.  Integrity is what you are when no one is looking.  And in that context he says that nothing will stay secret forever.  Everything concealed will be disclosed.  Everything hidden will be made known.  The secrets you have whispered in private will be proclaimed in public!  Yikes!  Those are such strong words!  But he is calling us to live without secrets, and with integrity.

ILL: Imagine this.  What if we each had a little screen on our foreheads—a little hi-def, full color screen—and it showed exactly what we were thinking at every moment!  Imagine if our thoughts were laid bare for all to see!  I would want to wear a hat pulled down low, or even a mask!

Do you know what the word hypocrite originally meant?  It was used of actors on stage who wore masks to play different characters.  We may not have screens on our foreheads we want to hide, but many of us wear masks, pretending to be something we’re not, covering up our dark secrets.  And one day, all the masks will come off, and everyone will see who and what you really are, as clearly as if you’d had a screen on your forehead!

1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

The day is coming when everything hidden in darkness will be brought to light.  Every secret will be revealed.  It may be in this life; it may be today.  Or it may be at the judgment.  But every secret will be revealed—good or bad—and we’ll talk about the good secrets next week.

Numbers 32:23 and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.

Here is a famous saying: your sin will find you out.  What does that mean?  You won’t get away with it.  Sooner or later, it will catch up with you and you’ll suffer the consequences. 

C. You will reap what you sow.

Let me say it another way: There are consequences for every act—even the secret ones.  You may do something and think you got away with it, but there are always consequences.  It will come back and bite you.  You never get away with anything.  Don’t fool yourself and think you got away with it.  You never get away with anything.  There are always consequences.  You will reap what you sow. 

Galatians 6:7–8 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Back to David.  He did something in secret and thought he got away with it, but he didn’t.  He sowed the seeds of sexual lust and conquest and violence, and he reaped a bitter harvest in his life and family.  He sowed sin in secret and reaped destruction in public.  You never get away with anything.

ILL: Five years ago yesterday, on October 15, my son Jeff died.  I didn’t plan this sermon to coincide with the anniversary of his death, but Laina and I were talking about this on Friday.  Do you know what killed Jeff?  His secret. 

Jeff was 22 and had Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism.  He was trying to treat himself.  In the previous year, he had experienced some real help from some new meds he was taking.  He reasoned that their might be other meds that could help him more and began doing research online.  I knew about the research; we talked about it.  I told him to make a list of meds he was researching and we’d make an appointment and talk to the doc.  We made the appointment for early in November. 

But Jeff had a secret.  He contacted a coworker who sold prescription meds illegally, and bought some oxycontin from him.  He had no idea what he was doing; he did this two times, back-to-back weekends.  The second time killed him.  My son’s secret killed him.  And of course, it wasn’t a secret any more—everything came out when he died.

Friends, you never get away with anything.  There are always consequences.  They may not be as drastic as death, like my son.  But there will be consequences.  You reap what you sow.  Your dark secrets will always come back to bite you.

So, what do we do?

D. Live in the light.

We live in the light.  We live our lives without dark secrets.  John spells out how to do this:

1 John 1:7–9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

John gives us three conditional statements; three “if-then” statements.

First, “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”  Walk in the light.  Secret sin thrives in the dark.  These dark secrets mean we are living two lives.  Let’s stop living two lives, and just live one, in the light.  Live transparently.  Live in the light.  Live with nothing to hide.  Live without dark secrets.  Live with integrity.  Integrity is what you are when no one is looking.  You have nothing to hide.  Live in the light.

If you live in the light, we have fellowship with one another.  Real friendship, true community can only happen in the light, when we’re honest and real with each other.  If we are hiding secrets, we are only pretending.  If I have a secret life, you don’t really know me, no matter how much time we spend together.  The friendship, the community that we all long for, can only happen when we take off our masks, abandon our secrets, and live in the light.

Does this mean you never sin?  Nope.  Notice it says that when we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.  You can sin while you’re walking in the light, but you don’t try to hide it.  You come clean and own it.  Next if:

Second, “if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  If we are hiding secret sin and pretending everything is ok, we are fooling ourselves.  God knows.  Your secrets will be revealed.  You will reap what you sow.  So stop fooling yourself and come clean.  Next if:

Third, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Come clean!  Stop hiding and pretending.  Confess your secret sin, and God will forgive and cleanse you.  Let go of that burden you’ve been carrying.

Notice the tension here.  On the one hand, walk in the light.  Live your life without pretense, without dark secrets, with integrity.  On the other hand, confess your sin.  If you fail, don’t hide it, don’t cover it up like David did.  Come clean and let God forgive you.