On Tuesdays, I confess my sins at a coffee shop.
Every week, I meet with a group of four women to discuss Scripture and to share where I need help fighting my sin. This week was no exception. The coffee shop was fairly busy for a Tuesday lunch hour, and because it’s located in an old building with vaulted ceilings and wood floors, our voices tend to carry a bit louder than intended. At the end of our study time, I turned the conversation to prayer. I confessed to the group that I had struggled with anger that week, I shared where laziness had seeped into my habits, and disclosed how too much navel-gazing had kept me from serving others. Then, I shared some of the strategies I was putting in place to proactively fight those areas of sin in my life—preventative measures I like to call “guardrails.” And finally, I asked the group to pray for me so that I would follow through with constructing those guardrails. The other three women then followed suit with their own areas of sin and struggle. We brainstormed ways to practically resist temptation because desperate times call for desperate measures, as Jesus teaches us in Matthew 5:21-30. I’ve learned that fighting sin in community is the most effective way to kill it dead.
I wondered what the people milling in and out of the coffee shop might have thought about our conversation. Our Bibles and notebooks were spread open, and we spoke freely while sipping our coffees. What happens on Tuesdays at noon isn’t necessarily a remarkable occurrence. We’re just women sitting around a table, drinking coffee, and discussing what we learned from our weekly study. But the practice of gathering around Scripture, confessing our sins, and committing to help one another is a way to obey the command we’re given in Hebrew 3:13. “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” And obedience, even simple obedience, is always remarkable.
Throughout the first three chapters of Hebrews, the author repeatedly calls the reader’s attention to the superiority of Christ. Because of Jesus’s perfect position both as high priest and Son of God, His offering for our sin was accepted and final. More than a servant, more than mere man, Jesus shares His status as heir with us who have believed in Him and His finished work at the cross to atone for our sins. And the call to believers who have heard the truth of the gospel is to hold fast to that truth until we see Christ face-to-face.
The New Testament writers frequently call us to steadfastness until the end (see Matt 10:22, 24:13/2 Tim. 2:12/James 1:12, 5:11/2 Pet. 1:5-7). They knew how tempted we would be to run after the fleeting pleasures of earth rather than the enduring treasure of Christ. The guardrails Scripture has given to help us fight sin will keep us on the path of faithfulness so that we will see Jesus face-to-face, kept securely in Him because of His own faithfulness to us and our obedience to His Word.
But what are those guardrails, and how do we implement them? The author of Hebrews tells us to exhort one another every single day so that our hearts won’t be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (3:13). Here’s what I know about sin: it thrives in isolation. When our “pet sins” are kept quiet in the dark, they grow fangs and claws, and triple in size. We keep our sins to ourselves so that no one knows the truth; we pretend they’re not so bad. We feed them in the dark and ignore the conviction beating in our chests, convincing ourselves it’s best to leave those private sins alone. Meanwhile, our sins grow, taking us farther than we ever intended, blinding us with deceitfulness.
Sin promises everything and gives nothing. Jesus, however, promises everything we could ever need and gives exactly what He promised.
If we who have believed hold on to the truth that He is superior to every sinful pull of earth, we will share in His inheritance forever. If we are truly in Christ, nothing can take that from us. But claiming to follow Christ and willfully pursuing sin will never lead us to our inheritance in the presence of God in heaven. So, Hebrews warns us to take care and examine our hearts regularly (see Heb. 3:12), and to do that examination in community with other believers.
Fighting sin helps us remain steadfast, and the local church is a true gift when it comes to both. The women I meet with every Tuesday are members of my church, and we are each committed to one another’s growth and steadfastness. I am less likely to implement guardrails on my own. I’m also less effective at staying on the path between the guardrails on my own. Confession and prayer in community helps me to fight harder because there are others invested in my war on sin. When temptation speaks loudly, the prayers and regular check-ins from my sisters in Christ help me to resist sin’s siren call. Every week, we meet and turn our faces to Jesus in His Word so that every week we’ll turn our faces away from our sins more readily.
We are unable to obey the command in Hebrews 3:13 in isolation. We can’t exhort others if we don’t know their struggles; they can’t exhort us if we don’t share ours. In order to commit to regular heart examination and stay on the path of faithfulness, we must live our lives in community with other believers. We must bring our sins into the light, speak them aloud, seek wisdom, prayer, and accountability so that we are not devoured by the things we have hidden in the dark.
Regular heart examination might look like attending a weekly Bible study or accountability meeting where you are free and safe to confess and be held accountable. It might look like exercising transparency during a mid-week prayer service or a small group setting at church. It might look like asking an older brother or sister in the faith to share the wisdom they’ve learned in following Christ and combatting sin. Whatever it looks like, may it involve honesty with other believers who will help you stand firm in the faith.
Glenna Marshall is a pastor’s wife and mother of two energetic sons. She is the author of The Promise Is His Presence and Everyday Faithfulness, and writes regularly at GlennaMarshall.com on biblical literacy, suffering, and the faithfulness of God. She is a member of Grace Bible Fellowship in Sikeston, Missouri.