. . . that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Like everyone else, you are pretty good at pretending. It is not malicious, but you can put on a good face when in reality things are not that good. You want to appear strong even when you are weak, or you at least do not want to appear weak. This superficial persona is the front of pride that only encourages the sin to continue in yourself, and it ultimately robs you of gospel influence—the kind of influence Paul had with the church in Rome, and they had with him.
When you pretend, you lose gospel influence in two ways—inwardly and outwardly. You lose the inward influence of the gospel in that you are not honest with others and deny them the opportunity to speak into your life. When you lack transparency, people are left without the opportunity to encourage you where you need it most. For example, sometimes you become anxious, but you have a good poker face. So you hold it together on the surface, but underneath it all you are in trouble. You need to tell the truth about what you are going through, and you need someone to tell you the truth of God. You need to hear of God’s sovereign and good plan for the lives of those who love him, and how this is rooted in the gospel. You need to see the strong faith of others so that you can persevere through such times of anxiety and fear. You pretend to protect yourself but wind up sabotaging your own spiritual life by not being real. And you aren’t hurting only yourself by pretending.
You lose outward influence of the gospel in the lives of others because you can’t offer them anything that is real. Your best resource for speaking into others’ lives is from what God is doing in you, the fruit that God is producing in you. But the fruit you want others to see is plastic. It is believable from a distance, but it nourishes no one. It is not real.
Know this—it is the gospel that allows you to be real. It admits us all as sinners and establishes us all as saints. Your local church is the only place where this reality, and not pretending, can be the culture of gathered community. Be real. Admit where you are and what you are. This will allow others to minister to you, and you to minister to others.
Joe Thorn (B.A. Moody Bible Institute; M.Div. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the founding and lead pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL, and the author of Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself (Crossway/ReLit).