Ever had something in your eye? It’s painful. Irritating. And blinding!
The invasion makes your eyes water and forces them shut. Everything gets blurred, and clarity of sight becomes difficult at best. Without having your eyes flushed or dislodging the intruder, you remain blind and everything else stays blurred.
Sometimes–oftentimes–that happens to us spiritually. We become blinded by something in our own hearts, but think we see ourselves and others with full clarity and precision. It’s a sad reality. Most of us experience it at some point–or at several points–in our lives. If we live long enough, then we’ll likely experience both ends of spiritual blindness. We will be blinded and interact with those who are blind.
Jesus talked about this:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)
Paul Tripp, in his most recent book Dangerous Calling, identified some of the heart-related dangers characteristic of ministers of the gospel. He speaks of these tendencies within his own heart: “There are three underlying themes that operated in my life, which I have encountered operating in the lives of many pastors to whom I have talked. These underlying themes functioned as the mechanism of spiritual blindness in my life, and they do so in the lives of countless pastors around the world.” (21)
1. “I let ministry define my identity”: He writes, “You are constantly talking to yourself about your identity, your spirituality, your functionality, your emotionality, your mentality, your personality, and your relationships, etc. You are constantly preaching to yourself some kind of gospel. You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of your own righteousness, power, and wisdom, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of deep spiritual need and sufficient grace. You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of aloneness and inability, or you preach to your self the true gospel of the presence, provisions, and power of an ever-present Christ.” (21)
“Either you will be getting your identity vertically, from who you are in Christ, or you will be shopping for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of your daily life. This is true of everyone, but I am convinced that getting one’s identity horizontally is a particular temptation for those in ministry. Part of why I was so blind to the huge disconnect between what was going on in my public ministry life and my private family life was this issue of identity.” (22)
“My faith had become a professional calling… My calling had become my identity… We come to our relationship with God and others being less than needy. And because we are less than needy, we are less than open to the ministry of others and to the conviction of the Spirit… Tender, heartfelt worship is hard for a person who thinks of himself as having arrived… They are content with a devotional life that either doesn’t exist or is constantly kidnapped by preparation. They are comfortable with living outside of or above the body of Christ. They are quick to minister but not very open to being ministered to. They have long since quit seeing themselves with accuracy and so tend not to receive well the loving confrontation of others. And they tend to carry this unique-category home with them and are less than humble and patient with their families.” (23)
“You are most loving, patient, kind, and gracious when you are aware that there is no truth that you could give another that you don’t desperately need yourself. You are most humble and gentle when you think that the person you are ministering to is more like you than unlike you. When you have inserted yourself into another category that tends to make you think you have arrived, it is very easy to be judgmental and impatient… It is all too easy to mete out judgment while I was all too stingy with the giving of grace… Blind to what was going on in my heart, I was proud, unapproachable, defensive, and all too comfortable… It was producing a harvest of bad fruit in my heart, in my ministry, and in my relationships. I had let my ministry become something that it should never be (my identity)…” (24)
2. “I let biblical literacy and theological knowledge define my maturity.” He writes, “It is quite easy for students to buy into the belief that biblical maturity is about the precision of theological knowledge and the completeness of their biblical literacy… Maturity is about how you live your life…. Sin is first a moral problem. It is about my rebellion against God and my quest to have for myself the glory that is due him… It’s not just my mind that needs to be renewed by sound biblical teaching, but my heart needs to be reclaimed by the powerful grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The reclamation of my heart is both an event (justification) and a process (sanctification)… Biblical maturity is never just about what you know; it’s always about how the grace has employed what you have come to know to transform the way you live.” (26)
3. “I confused ministry success with God’s endorsement of my lifestyle.” He writes, “Without knowing I was doing it, I took God’s faithfulness to me, to his people, to the work of his kingdom, to his plan of redemption, and to his church as an endorsement of me. It was a ‘I’m one of the good guys and God is behind me all the way’ perspective on my ministry, but more importantly on myself… God was acting as he was not because he was endorsing my manner of living but because of his zeal for his own glory and his faithfulness to his promises of grace for his people. …The success of a ministry is always more a picture of who God is than a statement about who the people are that he is using for his purpose.” (27-28)
Lord, we need much grace–to find our identity solely in You, to embrace our maturity as a heart and life increasingly reflective of You, and our success as given and sustained by You for Your glory! Lord, protect us from the spiritual blindness that subtly makes us the center of our lives and ministry. Let us recognize that we are recipients of grace, and intended to be vessels of grace, that we would humbly pour out your love through grace and truth. Lord, help us… Lord, humble us. Lord, remove the logs from our eyes so that we can better serve those who need help removing the specks.