Letter to Pastor Evan
Following is an email I recently sent out to a few close friends in the church who were well aware of questions I had been wrestling with. Read this only when you have a few minutes. (It's not long but could take some time to review.) Then see my final comments:
Email sent to close friends
Below, I have copied a letter I wrote a couple of days ago. At the time when I was writing it, I didn't really know who it was for. It was and still is merely an expression of where I am in my faith. It is my personal testimony, not an attack on anyone or an attempt to change anyone's views. I simply want those I care about to know who I am and what I believe.
With all love and humility,
Copy of Letter included in email
October 28, 2004
Dear Friends in Jesus,
I have decided to write in an effort to express my faith. Verbal explanations come less easily to me and even my writing is inadequate, but it is what comes most naturally to me and I simply pray for the Lord's guidance and provision.
I have been a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian for just over eight years after having come in through a spiritual awakening of my entire family. I had a background of some Methodist churches and then Baptist in my early to mid teens. But I felt alone in my faith where my family was concerned. I turned to things which cannot satisfy. Then, when I was 20 years old and recently married, my brother embraced the SDA doctrines and his excitement about it was contagious for the whole family (my husband, John, and myself, my sister, mother and father). We attended evangelistic meetings and watched videos after which I felt a knowledge of Scripture I never had before. More importantly, I felt the Holy Spirit working in my life, and I returned to the Lord from whom I had been running for several years. This I will never deny and will always be grateful to the SDA church for their encouragement in. At the end of the evangelistic series, my entire family was baptized together on a day I shall never forget, September 14, 1996.
We were guided through Bible studies and I embraced every belief, though found it difficult to truly measure up to the standards, especially where the "Spirit of Prophecy" through Ellen White's writings were concerned. But still I believed, and witnessed whenever I had opportunity. Then one night in a prayer meeting just a few years in, I ran across a text that seemed in contradiction to the pastor's teaching. It was Hebrews 9:12. Being still a bit ignorant of all the doctrine concerning the sanctuary, I simply raised my hand in confusion when the pastor explained how Christ had entered the Holy Place upon His ascension into heaven, and the Most Holy Place in 1844. (Adventist theology on this point goes something like this. William Miller preached the return of the Lord and cleansing of the earth by fire in 1844. When this didn't happen, further study and visions "revealed" that Christ had moved into the Most Holy Place in the "heavenly" sanctuary at this time.) "My Bible says He entered the Most Holy Place," I stated. The response was something about inaccurate translations, and that was good enough for me, at the time.
Years went by, and I struggled from time to time with extremism, as it is in my nature to give 110%. I soaked up whatever writings of Ellen White I could get my hands on but admittedly read not as much of the Bible. I wanted to be right and do right, and it seemed she had the explanation of how to do so in every area of my life. She "explained" the Bible and made it easier for me to know how to live in every detail. It was "perfectionism," and I was pretty good at it most of the time. But it wasn't easy. Yet I felt I was "fighting the good fight".
Years went by, a family was begun, and my husband's work moved us to a neighboring state. The church was more liberal than what we were used to and I was bothered by the disunity. It seemed that everywhere I turned, there were differing beliefs about different things. If Ellen White laid it all out so clearly, why weren't we all agreeing about everything? But we managed to find a small group who clung more closely to traditional Adventism. The group evolved over time and I felt (and still feel) that these were people sincerely seeking the will of God. We felt the Holy Spirit urging us, to exactly what we were not sure, but we felt the time was drawing near for the Lord's return and there was a sense of urgency. We began meeting more regularly, all throughout the week, praying and studying. At a Friday night vespers, we began a guided study of Revelation.
And then it happened. In lesson #2, I ran across the verse that had puzzled me so many years before, Hebrews 9:12. This time, the Adventist explanation was not enough and I began to dig deeper. What I found was unsettling for me. Although the King James Version does say "holy place," closer study revealed that what was meant was "Most Holy Place," a term not used anywhere in the King James New Testament, but other versions (NKJ, NIV, etc.) interpret correctly. So much scripture supported the fact that the atonement was complete at the cross and that He entered the Most Holy Place at that time (Heb. 6:19,20; 9:24-26; 10:10,19,20; 12:2; Lev.16; Matt.27:51; Rom.5:11), it simply could not be denied.* I struggled for a while to try to make this somehow "fit" into the doctrines of the church and the explanations given by Ellen White about the "heavenly sanctuary" and the ministry of Christ, but in the end I could not. I felt my foundation crumbling.
When I went to a few fellow church members within our "groups", my thoughts were received with patience, and I was given various materials to read. The first was an Adventist book in which is discussed the issue of when Christ entered the Most Holy Place. In it, I came across a man by the name of Albion Ballenger whose ideas on the subject were refuted. I studied what was said and found that Ballenger had indeed been right in his interpretations on this particular issue. He had studied the same scriptures as I. I later read his book, Cast Out for the Cross of Christ. I now know he was only beginning to understand the meaning of Scripture on this topic, but it was a significant beginning. When I returned the book and pointed out that Ballenger was correct on the matter of when Christ entered the Most Holy Place, I was soon given a compilation of things Ellen White had to say about this Ballenger. It was harsh. Look it up. I went back over the scriptures, over and over, praying and fasting, but in the end I knew she was wrong, wrong... How could this be? More crumbling.
I went back to the very beginning of the Bible, King James Reference, a Bible that had belonged to John's mother and was now becoming my own treasure. I dug and dug. From the very beginning, I was cross-referencing all over the Bible on various topics, including the Holy Spirit which I found to be the seal of God (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). (Nowhere have I found this to be connected with the Sabbath as is claimed by Ellen White and the Adventist Church.)
I was happy in my studies but I couldn't break from the influences of eight years easily. I kept going back to Ellen White. How could I study and find things in Scripture contrary to a "prophet of God". I had to know. Was she a prophet or wasn't she. The more I researched her writings, the more contradictions I found and the more "comparisons" I was easily able to make with other writings of her day to which she had ready access. I reviewed testimonies from those in the early days of Adventism and who knew her personally. The evidence was overwhelming that she was not a prophet. She failed the tests (1 John 4:1; Deut. 18:22; Jer. 23:30-32). It was gut-wrenching for me, but necessary. I encourage anyone who has had questions to do their own research, prayerfully.
Furthermore, the prophecy of Joel 2:28,29 was quoted by Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-18) and applied to that time. The scripture used in the SDA church to prove that the "spirit of prophecy" is the "testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 19:10) and is, therefore, an attribute of the end-time church (Rev. 12:17), is misused. If you read the context and start back at the beginning of Rev. 19, you get a clearer picture of what was going on. The angel was prophesying, John fell to worship, then Rev. 19:10. I have an NIV Study Bible that notes in this verse that "spirit" in this context means "essence." See for yourself. The emphasis is on "the testimony of Jesus." The context makes it plain. Prophecy is one of the spiritual gifts and is discussed in 1 Cor. 14. Read also Hebrews 1:1,2.
Now, rather than feeling my foundation crumbling, I felt like "the rug had been pulled out from under me." For a while I was dazed. But then I was free. Free to go to the Word of God alone without hindrance. Free to study for myself and see what the Word has to say and nothing more or less. And slowly, a new foundation replaced the old one, and it was Jesus Christ, of whom a deeper knowledge was being gained by an unfettered study of His Word.
I found grace. Pure, simple. Christ "fulfilled" all the law as He said He would (Matt. 5:17,18). And at the cross, "It is finished" (John 19:30; 4:34; Rom. 10:4; Heb. 10:5-10). What more can I add to this finished work? Just as much as I could add to His finished work of creation, nothing. What is left for me to do but believe (John 3:16) and rest in Him as He had called the Israelites to do when He gave them the Sabbath (Exodus 16:22-30) as a sign of their sanctification (Eze. 20:12) received by faith in what would one day be His finished work of redemption. Hebrews 4 helps me understand how Jesus IS my Sabbath and I rest in Him daily, fully trusting in His works. (See also Matt. 11:28-30.)
Once I discovered this gospel of grace, I was liberated by it (John 8:32) and freed to LOVE in obedience to His "unburdensome" commands (1 John 2:3-5; 3:22-24, developed in chs. 4 and 5; John 6:28,29; 13:34,35; 14:15,21,23; 15:9-14,17; 2 John 5,6; Gal. 6:2; Rom. 13:8; 1Cor. 14:37; 1 Thess. 4:2; 2 Pet. 3:2).
There is so much more I could write, about these and many other treasures of God's Word into which I am looking (Old Covenant/New Covenant, Law of Moses/Law of Christ, the Millennium, etc.), but I will end here and let each one search for him/herself. Let our focus always be on Jesus as our Ultimate Treasure, the "Author and Finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:2), something we can all agree on and be united in. "It's all about You, Jesus!"
Let us continue in study and in prayer, loving and encouraging one another. "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:13).
Your Sister in Christ,
A child of God should be an exclamation point, not a question mark. Every Christian needs to be able to say, "I know I am saved and going to heaven." 1 John 5:13
*It is not my purpose in this writing to go through a detailed explanation of all my findings in the study of Scripture and risk placing human interpretation above a "thus sayeth the Lord". I would rather let the Word of God speak for itself as I believe that any honest, seeking soul will find the Truth. Therefore, I will give texts whenever it seems appropriate and urge all things to be read in context. I have found the greatest enlightenment in reading whole chapters and books rather than a verse or two here and there. A good reference Bible is very helpful.
I hope you will understand from this letter that I am not against the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. I don't believe there is anything wrong with worshipping on the Sabbath, refraining from eating and drinking certain things, refraining from wearing jewelry, etc. However, I have searched the Scriptures and found that these things are not to be "tests" of faith for the Christian and have nothing to do with our salvation. Unfortunately, because the Seventh-Day Adventist Church does link some of these things with the "gospel" message, I don't believe (and please tell me if I am wrong) that I can honestly consider myself a Seventh-Day Adventist any longer. This does not mean that I do not consider myself or others within the church to be members of the body of Christ and I will continue in fellowship as long as I am welcome.
In Sincerest Christian Love,
P.S. I believe being a non-member will necessitate me stepping down from my position as leader of Cradle Roll according to church rules. This is heart-breaking for me, but I do understand. Once you acknowledge these things I've written to you, I will help find a replacement and give my church keys to the new leader.
It is not my desire to make a big fuss about any of this; I harbor no animosity whatsoever towards anyone in the church and want to keep the peace as much as possible. My study continues, but please know that I have studied long and hard and have looked at the adventist perspective on the issues I've mentioned and firmly believe that it is not scripturally sound.
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