As a Christian and a pastor, I honestly believed that I had a righteous respect and reverence for the holiness of God. I often preached on God’s holiness. But I had been hiding something for years. In my journal I often wrote about a struggle with a “secret sin.” I never named the sin because I did not want to risk anyone discovering what was going on inside of me. But I knew what it was: I had a desperately impure thought life.
One night, God began to put His finger on this secret sin. I finally admitted to the Lord openly and honestly that I had been covering up this area of my life. Like so many men, I rationalized and justified it as part of being male. Yet I knew that what I was experiencing was more than just temptation. I had crossed the line. I had embraced immorality in my heart.
I went to the Lord—broken, humbled, and repentant. And for the first time in many years, I began to experience freedom in my life. The next day, I shared with my wife what I had confessed to God. I sought her forgiveness as well, for I had not honored her in my thought life. She lovingly forgave me. Then I asked her to hold me accountable and periodically ask me about what I watched on television or what I read.
In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah was confronted by the holiness of God. He cried, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” As I realized anew the utter holiness of our God, I too was confronted with my own sinfulness. I knew I needed to share with my congregation what God had done in my life. So I preached from Isaiah 6 the next Sunday.
With knees knocking and clammy hands, I told the congregation about my years of being entangled in thoughts of impurity. I asked them to forgive me. I was beginning to experience a wonderful freedom from the bondage I had known for years, and I gave all the glory and honor to God.
I longed for others to know this freedom, so I invited any men who were also struggling in their thought life to join me in our chapel. I hoped maybe three or four men might join me to pray. Imagine my shock at seeing sixty-five men file through the door! Sixty-five of us, many with tears rolling down our cheeks, stood in a circle and began to confess to one another how we had failed to maintain purity in our thought life. I would not take anything for that precious moment when my brothers in Christ rallied around me and together we pledged ourselves to be accountable to one another, to pray for one another, to challenge one another.
When we are confronted with His holiness and our sinfulness, God lovingly begins to make us into what He wanted us to be all along: holy and pure vessels.
The passage God used to convict this pastor’s heart is a familiar one. Read Isaiah 6:1–7 thoughtfully, asking God to reveal Himself to you in a fresh way. As you read, imagine yourself in this scene. What do you think it would be like to truly experience the awesome presence of a holy God as Isaiah did? How does Isaiah’s experience give you hope?