Catching up with my friend Scott over a lunchtime bowl of chili, we covered the conversation gamut as usual, from our families, to leadership, to what we were learning along life’s journey. At one point in our free-flowing conversation, Scott shared this observation: “I think of people as having three lives: our public life, our private life, and our secret life.” The profundity of his insight struck me like a jolt, my next heartbeat pounding a little harder and the following breath drawing a little shorter. Scott was right—we all showcase what we want others to see in us, reserve what we choose to reveal to but a few, and hide that which we resolve to show no one. As I pondered my friend’s comment that day, I recalled from my childhood a Sunday liturgy in which we acknowledged our sin against God “not only by outward transgressions, but also by secret thoughts and desires which I cannot fully understand, but which are all known unto thee.” It was a healthy confession of our human nature.
A centurion in the Italian Regiment, Cornelius was a Gentile and a Roman—a demographic normally drawing both political and spiritual scorn among the Jews of his day—yet this was a man “respected by all the Jewish people.”1 His public life and his private life were admirable and aligned, for “He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.”2 Even an angel appearing to Cornelius affirmed his integrity, saying, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”3 We would call him a “good man,” yet something was missing from the humble centurion’s life. “Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter,” the angel commanded Cornelius, “He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.” 4 The “good man” had yet to become a new man, “a new creation”5 born of the Sprit into Christ.
The glory of transformation begins at the moment of salvation. Writes Paul of this grace: “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”6 All of us need Jesus, for in Him, all of our sins—be they “outward transgressions” of the public and private variety, or the secret ones we “cannot fully understand”—are washed away.
Father, my sins are all known unto you, and you love me anyway. Thank you for forgiving me and making me new in Christ. Change my heart to be like Him. Amen.
1 Acts 10:22 NIV
2 Acts 10:2 NIV
3 Acts 10:4 NIV
4 Acts 11:13, 14 NIV
5 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
6 Titus 3:4-7 NIV