Blind I was, but now I see

A personal confession


Editorial comment: This highly meaningful confession is made the more profound by the quality of life and service that stands behind the writer and, thus, what he has written.

I am an Adventist minister, long retired. As I look back over the years of my ministry, I recognize with pain a serious fault that under mined all the earnest service I attempted to give. Though blind to it then, I see it now and confess it to my fellow ministers, with the hope that my confession will help someone see the same fault in their own character and thus be spared the remorse that I feel.

I gave my life early to the Lord and, as I grew up, remained happy to be known as a "good boy." I also responded early to my call to ministry and was ordained after several years of varied service. Proud of my theological training, and pleased when called to a position of influence, I thought myself superior to my peers, though really all I had been given was superior privileges, nothing more. As one naturally serious, I intended to serve God with complete sincerity.

Looking back, however, I see that my main goal was to be personally successful. That was my priority. Carrying out the Lord's immediate purpose was, for me, secondary. In short, my sin wasn't some sexual deviancy or some secret vice that is socially unacceptable. Instead, I was grossly self-centered. What is worse, I didn't know it at the time.

I cared more about what good people thought about me than what God did. I wanted the praises of men more than the praises of God. This is such a dangerous sin, because it is easy to hide it from others and even easier to hide it from ourselves. While I was outwardly living an acceptable life and retaining a good reputation, my inward thoughts were often unworthy thoughts of self, of success, of praise. I cared about myself and my good name more than God and His good name. I would, in my mind, constantly link what was best for me as being what was best for God. Now and again I would venture to the limits of what God's standards of conduct were, sometimes even transgressing them if I thought doing so would work to my advantage. I would then justify my actions by telling myself that what I was doing I was doing for God. Few people are more potentially dangerous, or self deceived, than those who believe that whatever they do they are doing "unto the Lord."

"Not the amount of labor performed or its visible results but the spirit in which the work is done makes it of value with God."1 "In the light from Calvary it will be seen that the law of self-renouncing love is the law of life for earth and heaven."2

I wish now with all my heart that I had made these basic truths the foundation of my ministry 40 years ago. When Jesus said that one must "deny himself," I had always assumed He simply meant that one must practice self-denial for charitable purposes. Doubtless, that is partially true. But it never occurred to me that what He also meant was that I had to eliminate self-veneration, self-will, and in a word, my pervasive self-centeredness. That's why the Bible talks about the need for a person to die before he or she can have life. Reflecting now on what I could have been, as opposed to what I actually was, I fervently wish I had known for myself the depth of meaning in Paul's words, when he cried out: "I have been crucified with Christ: the life I now live is not my life, but the life which Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20, REB).

However much I wish I could, I cannot reclaim the lost years. Instead, all I can do is throw myself upon the wonder of God's grace and love for me and plead for others to learn from an old man with sadness in him for what the young minister in him years ago failed to see: To live for Christ is to be dead to self. For, truly, as the Lord said only by losing our lives will we gain them.

I confess this failure along with the loss it has cost in my life and ministry. All I can do in the face of it is to lean the whole weight of my soul on the merits of the One who died for sinners, of whom I am chief.

1 Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons
(Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn.,
1900), 397.

2 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Nampa,
Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), 20.

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November 1999

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