to God and Others
Small Group Network, September 2000
Joel Comiskey, Ph.D.
"Joel, there are very few entryways into your life," my
brother Andy said to me. "You have a tendency to make yourself look
good--always putting your best foot forward. Itís hard for people to relate
to you, " he said. The painful truth of my brotherís words dug deep
into my soul. He was right.
My brother Andy knows the importance of an honest, transparent
lifestyle. God delivered him from homosexuality twenty-four years ago. Now
Andy and his wife Annette constantly magnify Godís grace in their lives by
helping others overcome sexual problems. For Andy, this means sharing his
testimony continually. Open and transparent communication helps him to
minister Godís grace to others.
The words of my brother Andy continue to speak to me today. Iíve tried
to apply Andyís counsel by creating entryways.
Entryways. Synonyms include: door, entrance, access. Over the last
several years, Iíve had to confront my tendency to erect doors and barriers
instead of entryways. I like to look good. I have an inbred inclination to
impress and magnify my accomplishments. I want others to say great job, Joel.
Honest living before God and others doesnít come natural for me.
Actually, there is nothing in the Bible that talks about creating
entryways. There are many examples, however, of transparent living before God.
In effect, my brother Andy was saying, "Joel, you need more transparency
in your life."
The words of the apostle John have helped me to understand transparency.
John says, ". . . 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" (1 John 1:7). Walking in Godís light enhances transparency and
vulnerability. Godís penetrating light reveals who I really am and removes
the need for pretensions or false expectations. When Godís penetrating light
is present, transparency and honesty abound.
My good friend, Bill Mangham, excels in transparency. Others feel
relaxed in Billís presence because they know heís real. Just last week,
Bill walked into my home and showed me two photos. One revealed his son
successfully surfing a wave; the other showed Bill falling flat on his face as
he tried to do the same. "A typical example of Bill Mangham," I
thought to myself.
Bill creates friends by creating entryways. He doesnít try to impress
others. In fact, Iíve never heard Bill boast about his accomplishments. He
doesnít need to because they are so evident. Bill is respected by all and is
constantly elevated to leadership positions.
Living a life of transparency first begins by acknowledging that God
knows every aspect of our lives. The writer of Hebrews declares, "Nothing
in all creation is hidden from Godís sight. Everything is uncovered and laid
bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account" (4:13).
Bare. Naked. This is the reality of my situation before God. My wife
Celyce knows me well after twelve years of marriage. At times, she can even
read my thoughts. Yet, her knowledge pales in comparison to Godís
ever-present gaze at every aspect of my life.
Although God knows me intimately, the good news is that He declares me
righteous through Jesus Christ (Romans 3:9-26). Paul spends considerable time
in Romans chapters 1-3 highlighting our sinful condition. He then recommends
that we acknowledge our sinful condition (rather than impress God with our
good works), place our faith in Jesus Christ, and receive His unmerited favor.
Paul concludes, "Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what
principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith."
Iím discovering that Godís grace eliminates boasting in my own
accomplishments and merits. It helps me strip away the barriers of pride and
superficiality and exposes the folly of trying to impress God by our good
works. The more I acknowledge Godís unmerited grace toward me, the less I
need to prove myself before Him and others. Iím liberated to live an honest,
Honest to Others
The book of James elaborates on the transparent lifestyle and shows us
how to practically live it. James says, "Therefore confess your sins to
each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a
righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). James is writing
to believers in passage. He affirms that a certain healing takes place when
believers share sin and weaknesses and then pray for one another. Mutual
concern for one another is the way to combat discouragement and downfall.
I lead a small group in my home each week. During one lesson, we
discussed the passage in Ephesians 4:32 that says, "Be kind and
compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God
forgave you." I knew that Michael was struggling. He claimed that once a
seminary student had raped his daughter. Our church dealt with both Michael
and this young man, yet Michael continued to hold deep bitterness toward him.
That night, I asked each member to quietly search his or her own heart.
Michael broke the silence saying, I need to confess my bitterness toward
Jim (not his real name). Iíve been holding resentment, and Iíve become a
slave to my own sin. Please pray for me this evening.
That night, we cried out to Jesus on Michaelís behalf. Michael
confessed his sin to the entire group, and that night he received healing.
Since then, Michael has experienced a new freedom in his life. God healed
Michael as he walked in transparency before God and others.
I admit that discernment is needed. There is a time and a place for
everything, and you donít need to share every detail of your life with
everyone you meet. You also need to know that what you share will be kept
confidential. What is shared in the group goes no further than the group.
Although caution is in order, Iíve discovered that we as believers
have the tendency to error on the conservative side. We expose too little of
our lives, thus erecting barriers instead of entryways.
A few weeks ago, we discussed Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and
strength, an ever-present help in trouble." Paul, who was leading the
discussion time, asked the question, "When have you had a crisis and how
did you handle it?" Paul followed with another application question,
"Share with the group how God has been your refuge through a difficult
Everyone had something to share. "Many years ago I administered the
most successful tailoring business in the country," Jim began. "I
loved my job and even made suits for the president. At the height of my
success, the doctors told me that it was either my health or my job, so I had
to leave it. But God. . . ." Then Mary shared, "Recently, my
daughter Nancy said sheíd be home at 10 p.m., but at 1 a.m. she still hadnít
arrived. Iím a nervous person anyway, but this time I was beyond myself.
Yet, through prayer God began. . . ."
Our group shared deeply that night. We bore each otherís burdens. We
went away edified, encouraged, and eager to come back for more. Honesty before
others means sharing your trials, hurts, and weaknessesónot only the
victories and joys.
Weíve all experienced "fellowship" times when everybody
tried to impress each other. You feel pressure to perform. You only reveal
those areas of your life that make you look good in the eyes of others. True
Christian fellowship, on the other hand, is transparent and honest. You donít
feel inhibited to express your true feelings. You share the good as well as
the bad because there is nothing to hide.
Open sharing and transparency work well to cement relationships. In The
Art of Mentoring, Shirley Peddy says,
Vulnerability has a way of disarming others. Itís a way of saying,
"Iím no better than you are. I have my problems too." Recently, I
spoke at a South African seminar on small group ministry with 1,500 people
present. Those attending saw me as Dr. Joel Comiskey, author and cell church
expert. I sensed, however, a distance between the participants and me. They
had placed me on a pedestal. Toward the end of the conference, I shared my
testimony how God delivered me from a wild past and many of my own weaknesses.
The next day, I noticed a dramatic change. The pastors and lay leaders felt
the liberty to approach me and ask questions. Suddenly, I was a real person
with entryways into my life.
Iíd encourage you to begin the journey of honest living before God and
others by taking action:
continue to speak to me today. Iíll admit that I havenít arrived. I still
have the tendency to impress and hide behind a veneer of strength. Yet as I
meditate on His grace and realize that He is glorified in my weakness, Iím
encouraged to live honestly before God and others.
Now itís your
turn: Are there many entryways in your life?