One of the first things I thought of when I thought of transparency was cartoons. The old cartoons, especially, had this gag where a character would be on a movie lot and a scrim would be placed in front of them that looked like a walkway. When they try to walk down it, it is just a scrim with a picture of a walkway and there is really a wall behind it so they run right into the wall. Had the scrim been transparent and not painted, they would have seen the wall and not have been harmed. Many times, we place a scrim or a mask or a facade over our lives to hide the parts that we find shameful. It may surprise you, however what you are actually hiding.
Transparent with Yourself
How often do we lie to ourselves? Do you ever allow yourself to get into a situation in which you know you will stumble and fall into sin? Let me give you a very simple example:
Let’s say you have a group of friends that use foul language. You have tried time and time to hang out with them and every time you do, you find yourself talking exactly the same. The right thing to do is to not hang around them if you cannot control your tongue, but what do we do? We tell ourselves that we just need to be stronger. I just won’t say those things today. We lie to ourselves.
When anyone has an infectious skin disease, he must be brought to the priest. The priest is to examine him, and if there is a white swelling in the skin that has turned the hair white and if there is raw flesh in the swelling, it is a chronic skin disease and the priest shall pronounce him unclean. He is not to put him in isolation, because he is already unclean.
If the disease breaks out all over his skin and, so far as the priest can see, it covers all the skin of the infected person from head to foot, the priest is to examine him, and if the disease has covered his whole body, he shall pronounce that person clean. Since it has all turned white, he is clean. But whenever raw flesh appears on him, he will be unclean. When the priest sees the raw flesh, he shall pronounce him unclean. The raw flesh is unclean; he has an infectious disease. Should the raw flesh change and turn white, he must go to the priest. The priest is to examine him, and if the sores have turned white, the priest shall pronounce the infected person clean; then he will be clean. (Leviticus 13.9-17)
Why did I just read that? What does this have to do with anything. The priest is trying to find out if the man is clean or unclean. In essence, that is what we need to do in order to be transparent with ourselves. How does he do this? By examining the man and comparing it against God’s law. Therefore, examine yourselves. Check your motives. Why do you do what you do and are you lying to yourself because you do not want to give up sin or you do not want to give up something as a result of sin. Examine yourself and make sure your motive is pure. The priest could easily make excuses for the infectious person because it is his friend and he doesn’t want to cast him out of the city, but the result would be that the disease—the sin—would spread.
Why: Because, when “the Lord returns…he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due” (1 Corinthians 4.5 NLT). When Christ returns to judge, he is not going to judge us by our appearance. He will not judge us by our works or our accomplishments. He won’t judge us by how much we went to church or how much time we spent in prayer or in reading the Bible. He will judge us only according to the motive by which we did these things. One simple fact: If we do not have pure motives in anything we do, then there is no praise from God—we have no reward in heaven.
Transparent to Others
In ancient times, when potters would make jars or other types of pottery, they would place them outside in the sun to harden in the sun. In many cases, this would cause tiny cracks, barely visible to the naked eye, throughout it because the heat causes it to shrink and dry quickly, challenging the structural integrity of the jar. In an attempt to still sell the faulty pottery, they would rub wax on the jar which would cause it to appear smooth, without cracks. But the jar is still structurally unsound. In the same way, we often place wax on ourselves in an attempt to cover up our cracks.
Others need see past the wax. They need to know that you are a sinner just the same as them and that you have been saved by grace. Think about it. How many of your friends know you are a Christian. How many of them know anything more than that—what it means to be a Christian? Do they know that you are still a sinner, but you are saved from that sin by God’s free gift of grace? Or do they think that you are a self-righteous hypocrite because you still sin? It is important that they understand what it means to be a Christian in order to understand Christianity.
How: I’m not suggesting you sin intentionally in order to demonstrate this, but as you sin—demonstrating you hypocrisy—make sure that they also understand you are forgiven and see your repentance. It is in this way that we are able to fulfill Matthew 5.14-16:
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (NIV)
This passage is in direct reference to your work, which you do for God, but it is no less applicable to this situation. Do not allow others to see you as righteous or unrighteous; rather let them see that you have been redeemed, that you are repentant and let them see your faith.
Why: “So that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven [too]”. One of our strongest tool for evangelism is to simply make ourselves transparent so that others will desire the same redemption which we have experienced. This is in no way a substitute for direct evangelism, though.
Transparent with God
“The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men” (Psalm 11.4). Even from heaven God can see what we are doing and why we are doing it. He sees right through us.
Why: So why should we try to be transparent with God if He already can see through us? Hebrews 10 says, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (v. 22 NIV). If we are not sincere before God, that is transparent, we have a guilty conscience. We are lying to God. He knows it. We know it. And we have a guilty conscience because of it.
How: The solution is simple. As the passage says, “draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” Bring Him your troubles and anxieties. If you are mad, tell Him. If you are struggling with sin, tell Him. Whatever burdens you, give it over to God. And do so truthfully, sincerely and transparently, holding nothing back. Your “full assurance of faith” is your ability to do this. If you truly believe in God and have faith, then give all things over to God in order to demonstrate it.
Faith is far more than believing. Faith is far more than doing. Faith is your life reaction to God. Your life should exhibit the characteristics of faith and salvation. If you believe “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15.3,4) and that “by grace you have been saved, through [your] faith” (Ephesians 2.8) then the LORD, Jesus Christ, should see that as He examines you. You should see it as you examine yourself. And others should see it as they examine you. If we coat our lives with wax and hide our faith, then that is no faith at all.
Image credits: ba1969, fabcabrera, sxc.hu