2 Tim 3:12 says: "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted"
No doubt all of us gathered here have our own stories to tell. And while these are fascinating to hear, and I admit that, I often wonder if I am not too frequently, guilty of talking more about me and our painful departure from Adventist ministry than in being a little finger pointing to Christ. It is my personal conviction that our central focus, energy and attention should not be about being a Former Adventist, or what our dramatic exit entailed, or haranguing over the Investigative Judgment teaching and other sore points; but the central focus must be upon Christ and His glorious Gospel. Jesus IS the Gospel! Can you say Amen?
I have grown reticent to talk about our termination from Adventist ministry or about the suffering my entire family experienced. While the human ego enjoys attention and admiration, placing the spotlight on Jess Dixon is not that which is truly important.
The most important Person in all the Universe is Christ. It is ALL about Christ!
Col 3:11 says, "Christ is ALL and is in all."
Jonathan Edwards said, "All that a Christian is, he is in and by Christ." In Col. 3 Paul admonishes us to set our minds, our focus, our energy upon things that are above, not on this earth !
Other things are un-important in true reality. Man is nothing SO THAT "God may be all in all." 1 Cor 15:28
I began my ministry as a Singing Proselytizer in the New Jersey Conference. (While the Church insists upon using the term "Evangelist," this is incorrect, for their primary motive is not to win souls to Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Gospel, but to make Adventists out of those who attend the public meetings.)
I worked with many popular ministers, including, George Vandeman, and C.D. Brooks, the popular black preacher. I loved that man. I first worked with C.D. in the first integrated series of meetings in the denomination's history. I was the white song leader / singer. One night following my singing of the song, "Ten Thousand Angels," Elder Brooks paid me a high compliment in a manner I shall never forget. He walked to the pulpit as I was sitting down and said, "Jess may be white on the outside but he has a black heart." Over 1200 people applauded. Most of them were blacks. I felt honored, for he meant it as the highest compliment for a singer, as I took it, meaning that I sang from my heart with emotion and deep expression of feeling.
Former G.C. President, Bob Folkenberg and I were a visitation team with another popular "Proselytizer". And I believe I am the only individual in the denomination to have ever been physically kicked by George Vandeman. Not once but four times in anger. And yes, in public.
I pastored the Salem and Vineland, NJ churches; Alexandria, VA, Sheridan and Buffalo, WY churches. I also served as Conference Ministerial Secretary for the Wyoming Conference under Al McClure. My last pastorate was for the Bozeman, Montana Conference headquarters church.
My departure from Adventist pastoral ministry I think is unique, in that it did not center upon the controversial doctrines so central in the departure of many Adventist ministers. My only issue at the time was the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ. It remains my primary issue today!
The Holy Spirit led me to purchase a copy of Martin Luther's commentary on Romans. I DISCOVERED the authentic Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! After Bonnie and I knew we WERE saved,, I knew this was the primary message my congregation needed to hear so that they could smile, and believe when they sang, "Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!"
And so for 18 months I preached on nothing .. I repeat, NOTHING but Justification by Faith.
I must point out that during part of this time the events of Glacier View were occurring. I did not preach a single sermon, nor make one statement about Des Ford and his position relative to the Sanctuary doctrine; nor Ellen White's inspiration or plagiarism or anything about the conflict brewing within the Church at that time. The ONLY subject I preached upon for 18 months was 100% Gospel, focusing upon the grand master subject, Justification by Faith alone.
Time will not permit me to tell of traumatic events which took place during those 18 months, but they included:
Being totally ostracized and cut off from virtually all association with those we thought to be true friends was a shock. I was not prepared for the dark valley my wife and I were about to enter, including over ten years of severe, chronic depression.
God laid me in a sepulcher of the deepest despondency. We had no support group. I was not prepared emotionally for the shock of not only being called an apostate and heretic, but treated as one.
Charles Spurgeon wrote: "To feel utterly forsaken of the Lord and cast away as though hopelessly corrupt is the very climax of heart desolation. The mind can descend far lower than the body, for there ARE bottomless pits. The soul can bleed in ten thousand ways and die over and over again each hour."
I praise God today and will not cease, for the freedom in Christ He eventually led us into; the unspeakable glory of His grace and the preciousness of the authentic Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Compared to the burden Adventism lays upon a believer, Christ's yoke is as light as balsom wood!
Rom 9:5 says, Christ is God over all. Is He God over all things in my life? In your life? Are we progressing in holiness?
Rom 13:14 "make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." How is this done? By putting "on Christ Jesus."
Often we are big on head things, but what about heart things? Are we spending enough time watching and paying attention to the motions of the Spirit in our heart? Are we progressing in holiness?
Incidentally I did give my public statement of loyalty demanded by the Conference President.
After the benediction, I would walk down the center isle of the church where the second love of my life, would stand up from her seat next to the isle and take my hand and we would walk out hand in hand where together we would wish the people leaving God's blessing. After my last sermon I repeated the words of this hymn, identifying it as "my statement of loyalty:"
"On Christ the solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All OTHER ground, IS sinking sand."
Praise God for the glorious freedom offered in Christ Jesus our Lord!
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