But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban for Achan . . . took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel, Joshua 7:1
Things were going so well for Israel as they transitioned into the Promised Land. After Moses' death, God raised up Joshua to be their leader. Yahweh told Joshua to be strong and courageous, to fear Him and obey Him, to meditate on His word day and night. He then would have good success. As Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and on the seventh day, as they marched around it seven times, the wall around the city fell down and the city was routed. Next they were to take Ai, and their intelligence officers told Joshua that few men, only three thousand, would be needed. This would be a piece of cake. Surprisingly, however, Israel was put on the run by Ai and thirty-six of their men were killed in the battle. Joshua was deeply grieved and sought the Lord, along with the elders, in prayer and fasting for a whole day. God made clear the problem - there was sin in the camp. Yahweh had forbidden Israel from taking anything on the ban (Joshua 6:17-19). He had commanded Israel not to take for themselves any silver, gold, bronze, or iron objects they found there. These were to be given solely to the Lord. They must completely rid the nation of this sin of willful disobedience, fueled by the greed for wealth. God was angry with the entire nation for their sin. Yahweh revealed to Israel the culprit - Achan. He was brought before the people and he finally admitted his sin. He had seen the things on the ban. He desired them, and secretly took them, hiding them in his tent. No one saw him except, of course, God who knows and sees all things (Psalm 139:2-6). As long as they tolerated the sin in the camp the people would continue to find God resisting them. They would continue to be fearful and easily routed in battle. They must rid the camp of every vestige of evil. So Achan, along with his wife, children, servants, and animals were stoned to death and burned. The stuff he stole was also burned.
My friends, be sure of this - your sins will find you out. You may sin in secret, foolishly convincing yourself, like Achan, that no one sees you; but that which you sow, you will also reap (Galatians 6:7-8). There are consequences to all sin, even secret sin; and this sin affects many people. Please note the covenantal nature of Achan's sin. God was angry with all of Israel because of his sin. They all suffered defeat. God told them to rid themselves of Achan's entire family. To go further, a husband who runs roughshod over his wife eventually discovers she no longer respects him, that she finds it increasingly difficult to submit to him. A wife who berates her husband finds he eventually tunes her out, does not listen to her. And a man who secretly views pornography, for example, will sooner or later experience the results of his secret sin. Among other things, his auto stimulation will often adversely affect his intimacy with his wife, further dividing them. We all know these things. We see them everyday. But I am speaking of something far different, far more serious, something that often goes unnoticed. Secret sin robs God's people of boldness, power, fruitfulness, and efficacy. Do we not see this with Israel at Ai? Yahweh had promised them His victorious presence and power, yet they ran away in battle. They were easily routed by an inferior army.
Secret sin mitigates boldness. A man or woman engaged in secret sin lives with fear. He fears being found out. He knows the consequences of this revelation will be devastating to him and his family. A fugitive from the law looks everywhere for the FBI or State police. He can never rest. He becomes paranoid. A preacher who robs God by not tithing will not speak boldly to his congregation on tithing. A father hooked on pornography will fear his pubescent son's perusal of his iPad. He will also avoid "the talk" about sex because he knows he is failing there himself. A man meeting another woman weekly on out-of-town business trips at the Ritz-Carlton will avoid sharing the gospel with work associates and neighbors. He is ashamed and his shame and guilt have robbed him of supernatural boldness because the King of Glory, the One who alone sanctifies, has resisted Him. The man has grieved the Holy Spirit and is in danger of being left to his own devices which will clearly fail him. The early church, however, having been filled with the Spirit, spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31). Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him, that he would speak the word of God with boldness (Ephesians 6:18-20).
Secret sin strips away power. After David's guilt due to adultery and murder was brought to his heart in convicting power (2 Samuel 12:1ff), he prayed, asking God not to take the Holy Spirit from him (Psalm 51:10-12). The Holy Spirit empowers the believer for gospel witness. Jesus told the apostles to remain in Jerusalem until they had been clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:44-49). He told them that after the Spirit came upon them, they were to be His witnesses (the Greek word is martyr, Acts 1:8). Sin blunts the Spirit's power (Isaiah 57:14-15, 59:1-2, Psalm 66:18). Could it be that one reason for so little power and authority in local church ministry is the secret sin of God's people!
Secret sin foils fruitfulness. Jesus told us that He is the vine and we are the branches, that if we abide in Him then we will bring forth much fruit (John 15:4-5, 15). A branch severed from a grapevine will not bear fruit. It is cut off from its source of life. A star running back sitting on the bench is no benefit to his team scoring a touchdown. If we are not in the game spiritually, if we are not clinging to Christ by faith, then we will not bear the lasting, eternal, God-honoring fruit of disciples. Jesus promised us that if we believe in Him then we would do greater deeds than He did (John 14:12). He cannot be speaking of miracles or holiness. We could never match either. Instead He must be talking about converts, disciples. Peter saw three thousand converted on one day. Could it be that our churches rarely see conversions and societal impact because of secret sin in the covenant community!
And secret sin erodes efficacy. Paul the apostle saw remarkable manifestations of gospel efficacy everywhere he went. Churches were planted. People were converted. Idolatry was abolished. Demons were exorcized (see Acts 19 as only one glorious example). The church today rarely speaks with convicting, converting, and sanctifying power. Our words carry little weight with people. They view Christianity as merely one of many well-meaning religions. They are not moved by our sermons, our books, our blogs. They mock the Christian faith and we stand by, idly wringing our hands, fretting over the future. I wonder if our benign, largely unnoticed presence in our communities is due to the eroding effects of secret sin!
Are you guilty of secret sin? Be honest with yourself. You cannot fool God. If guilty of secret sin, what, then, must you do? You must do the same thing Yahweh told Israel to do, "Get rid of the sin in the camp." Ruthlessly dig it out, like a surgeon who removes every particle of cancer he can find in one's body. Just as cancer, if left in the body, will over run it and kill it; so secret sin will rob you of boldness, power, fruitfulness and efficacy. You will need to be vigilant in observing secret sin. It is quite deceitful. And when the Spirit reveals your sin, ask Him to give you Jesus' holiness (1 Corinthians 1:30). Ask Him to give you a holy hatred for your secret sin. Ask Him to make you repulsed by it. Fear God and live. Pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Daily run to the great lover of your soul, the One who died and rose again for your justification.
Reverend Allen M. Baker
Pastor Baker is ordained in the PCA and has been in the ministry for over 30 years. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he received his M.Div. degree from...