When I was seven or eight years old, my parents took me to Sabbath School each week at Sligo Church in
Silver Spring, Maryland. My dad was teaching at CUC at the time, and Sligo was the closest church to our
home on Carroll Avenue. I don't remember a whole lot about my primary Sabbath School class, except that it
was big, and I got to wear fishnet stockings and black patent leather shoes to church.
After the Sabbath School program, we were sent to smaller classes of six or seven students for lesson study.
We sat around the table, and before starting the lesson, my teacher opened her record book and asked each one of us in turn, "Did you study your Sabbath School lesson every day this week?"
"Yes," I replied. The peer pressure was terrible. I always raised my hand affirming that I had studied my
lesson, and every Sabbath after church I carried home my Primary Treasure and a load of guilt. I didn't want to
lie, but it was more important to impress the teacher and the other students than to admit failure. No, I really
hadn't studied my lesson every day that week. I carried the load of this (and other sins) for years. I felt that in
order to be forgiven I must confess. But to whom? In the meantime we had moved away, and I couldn't
remember the name of my teacher. How could I ever make it right?
Seventh-day Adventists hold themselves to a high standard. When I was growing up, words like "perfection",
"overcoming sin", "repentance", and the "remnant" were part of the SDA vocabulary. I was born into a family
that had chosen to be a part of God's commandment-keeping people. That's what we claimed to be. But in my
heart I knew I wasn't living a life of integrity. Maybe I could fool my parents or teachers some of the time, but
inside I felt rotten to the core.
Integrity is a matter of the heart. It's more than doing the right thing when someone is looking or when we
want to make a good impression. A life of integrity is the awareness that all our actions, motives, and thoughts
are open to the God of the universe. We can fool ourselves, other church members, maybe even our spouse
(that's harder to do!), or our neighbors into thinking we're pretty good, but we can't fool God. He sees us as we are--"wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).
Paul expressed this condition eloquently in Romans chapter 7: "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but
the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that
dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the
law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my
mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!
Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (vss. 19-24)
That's the question we all want answered, isn't it? It's not that we don't want to live lives of integrity, it's just
that we're trapped in bodies that don't want to cooperate. If Paul had ended his treatise right there, we would be without hope. But praise God, there's more! Paul says, "I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin" vs. 25.
How do we serve the law of God with our minds instead of the law of sin with our flesh?
This is where the beauty of the gospel message as presented in 1888 and thereafter has been a source of great comfort and encouragement to me. It's nothing complicated--it's just the precious message of Jesus and what He did for each of us personally to rescue us from these bodies of death.
What did He do?
Brother Paul explains further in Romans chapter 8: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made
me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh,
God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: he condemned sin in the
flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh
but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh,
but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be
spiritually minded is life and peace" (vss. 2-6).
It seems to me that Paul is telling us that Christ has dealt with the sin problem that inhabits our very natures by
taking it upon Himself, then crucifying it every day. Not once did He yield to the sick cravings of our sinful
nature. He kept it under subjection to the mind as directed by the Holy Spirit.
The only way to live a life of true integrity: crucify the flesh with its desires and to live with the mind of
Christ. We must ask God to give us honest hearts. I haven't lived a life of integrity, have you? Do we just hide
that fact, ask God to forgive us, and hope no one finds out how bad we really are?
Years later, as best I can recall, I wrote a letter to the Sligo Church Primary Sabbath School department leader. I didn't know whose name to put, but I did confess what I had done. I knew God forgave me, but I wanted someone there to know what I had done.
If you, like me, have struggled to live a life of integrity and failed, what does the Bible say to do? The Bible
has an answer for everything. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to
cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is
not in us" (1 John 1:9). "Confess your [sins] trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16).
And to whom should we confess? Those who are affected by our wrong. Some sins are private and known
only to God, but many more affect those around us. When we realize what we have done, do we try and keep it a secret to preserve our reputation? No, we "confess our sins to one another."
For family worship each evening we've spent the last three months or so reading The Adventist Home. Now
that my children are in their teens or older, I read these pages with new eyes. I see myself in ways I hadn't seen before. Did you know that when a parent is fretful, impatient, and scolding, she is wounding the heart of her child and weaning their affections from her? I guess I forgot.
I've read this book before, but this time these words hit me between the eyes. When our children were small, I was often a fretful, impatient, scolding mother, and now my opportunity to re-do my parenting during the
younger years is gone. I can never retrieve the words harshly spoken. I cried for three days when the enormity of my sin hit me. To whom do I confess? To God? Certainly. But my words hurt more than Him. They injured my children and my husband, too. They too deserve my confession without excuse.
Where do we go when we are overwhelmed by our sin? To the cross of Christ. Will you join me there?
There's room for all of us. When we see what our sins have done to our Savior--and to our friends and family--let us confess them freely--even if it be with tears--and pray that God will give us the courage and honesty to live transparent lives in the sunshine that streams from Calvary.
"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and
supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for
his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn" (Zech. 12:10).