Dear Former Adventists,
I hope you will read my story and it will encourage you. Here it is, and its all true!
While I am not "technically" a former adventist, I suppose you could say I am. When I was 12 years old I was baptized as an adventist. I attended many church meetings. My mother and grandmother were adventists.
But by the time I "became a man", I turned my back on Adventism. That was not for doctrinal reasons. I simply wanted to live as all my friends were living. That was back in 1970 or so.
It ended up ironically that I joined the military, even though at first I was thinking I could "get out of it" by reverting to the convenience of claiming conscientious objector status. But I reasoned that I would be hypocritical at best to use the benefits of the Adventist teaching while not actually attending or even particularly believing their teachings. Don't get me wrong! It was the Vietnam War era, and I even had a high lottery number. So it wasn't so much a necessity as it was again, the "hypocrite factor".
So I made my peace with myself, and joined. Two years later, I had an interesting "road to Damascus" experience. At that time, I was stationed in the Micronesian Archipelago. This is a chain of islands situated near the Philippines. It was one of the islands won from the Japanese in WWII. Now, each year, the Japanese search these islands to reclaim bones of their war dead. They then consecrated the bones they found into a pagan shrine complete with an idol, along with a full Shinto ceremony. Well, us Americans were invited to participate. But at this point, suddenly, memories of my childhood came back to me. Particularly the first commandment teaching I had drilled into me "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" This happened while all my buddies were busy, literally, "bowing down" to this Shinto idol the Japanese hosts had erected. It hit me so hard, I took many hours walking back to the station through the jungle, crying like a baby for leaving my "faith" I resolved to God at that moment to use any means at my disposal to get out of this man's Army (even though it wasn't the Army. Actually it was the Coast guard) I immediately applied for conscientious objector status, and 11 months later was separated.
Well, of all things, the story really gets strange here! It turns out that the Adventist faith, to me, had been one of hypocritical idiosyncrancies. There was, in my mind, an awful lot of hypocrisy involved in their teachings. For example, while they decried the "pagan" practices of the world, it didn't seem to matter to them that they could participate in, what I knew even then, were "pagan" Christmas and Easter practices. They would make a big deal about believing the scriptures solely, but then allowed Ellen White to supersede scripture.
Nevertheless, the teachings about the Sabbath, were, to me, the one thing that was true. So during my days leading up to military discharge, I visited many SDA churches. But there were still the other problems I couldn't get around. Well, then I remembered a magazine my mother subscribed to. It was called the "Plain Truth". Some of you reading this may remember it was put out by a Sabbath keeping group called the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). At the time, the WCG was run by a Herbert Armstrong. The WCG was also at its height of power then, with three college campuses and about 100,000 members worldwide. I decided to attend one of those colleges (called Ambassador College) and received my BA degree in Theology in 1980. I also worked for the church for about 5 years, and have known all the leaders of that church, including Mr. Armstrong, and his successors, Joe Tkach Sr., and Joe Tkach Jr., who now runs the operation.
In any case, the WCG was a strict sabbatarian group, so strict in fact that you would have a hard time telling them from Orthodox Jews. They also kept the so-called "Holy Days" of the bible. This appealed to me, because of my beliefs on the paganism of Christmas and Easter, as I perceived them. I was an ordained deacon in the WCG, serving fully and zealously, with my family, for many years. I was a legalist of the legalists!
Well, an interesting thing began to happen to the WCG about 1995. About this time, I believe God began to impress on the leader of the group, Joseph Tkach Sr., the understanding about what some adventists now derisively call "New Covenant Theology", or NCT. I believe FormerAdventist.com understands this theology, so I won't go into it here. But Mr. Tkach began bravely to lead the entire WCG into an understanding that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. Needless to say, this was at the jeopardy of the very existence of the church. But he pressed on. I think God was wanting to perform a corporate miracle. And He did! Mr. Tkach was not to be dissuaded, but in the middle of the changes, he developed cancer, and was dead in 6 months. Of course, his enemies thought this was the judgment of God on him. But his son took over, and continued the work of his dad.
Well, here it is five years later, and the WCG is firmly entrenched in basic evangelical mainstream Christian orthodoxy. But not at some costs. First of all, all three campuses have been dissolved and sold. The headquarters church in Pasadena, California is under contract for sale, and is expected to be closed this year. The WCG membership has shrunk to about 1/3 of its former size, and contributions are down to only a fraction of what they used to be. In fact, tithing is no longer taught as a commandment, but rightly as an affair of the heart between the believer and God.
So what about me? Well, I have embraced the changes fully in their doctrinal nature. But I am not entirely happy with the corporate administration of the WCG. No need to go into all the reasons, but I can tell you that I only attend irregularly. But one thing I believe and rejoice in is knowing that legalism will not buy me any favor with God. Christ and Christ alone is our salvation. I am, of course, free to worship God on any day and on every day I wish. The Sabbath is not a command upon which I rest. My rest is in the paid sacrifice of Jesus. Now, many Sabbatarian legalists will tell me it is a "reminder of creation" or "a memorial" of Jesus, or a "primitive" command, therefore its antiquity to anything now means it is binding above "modern" Christian traditions. But the only thing "binding" on a truly free Christian, is to rest in Jesus fully. And as we rest, we become children of the freewoman. Freedom does not mean liberty to sin. It means liberty to do good as we see the goodness we shall never achieve in anything we do. It means that when we do good, it is not us that does it, it is Jesus in us, with our transparent self allowing the glory of God to shine through us. In doing these things, our reward is purchased, because it shares in the reward that is our Lord's. If anyone wishes to enter into the wedding through anyother gate, even the supposed righteousness that is in the Sabbath and the Holy Days, they will be cast out and their filthy rags of self-righteousness will be revealed. Only by taking on the glorious wedding garments given to us through the spotless sacrifice of Jesus can we ever hope to achieve immortality.
Well, I don't know why I wrote this letter to people I don't even know. All I can say is that I have taken your journey many years ago. It has been a long one, but I want to tell you that it will have its heartaches. I lost almost all my so-called "friends" These were people who only liked me because I believed like them. But now the way has been opened to such a huge army of friends who love me not for my beliefs in things, but because of my love for a person. That person is Jesus. Don't falter in your journey. You are doing the right thing, as long as your motive is to more fully know your Savior. Only you and God knows that. But I assure you that the freedom you will experience by getting a church out of obscuring your view of the Lord will be worth more than any friendship or family you can imagine. Give yourself time, and please, fulfill the Sabbath by resting--resting in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God's blessings on you all.
Sincerely and in Jesus' love,
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