Written by, Michael W. Pursley
What then? Ought we to be dumb? Certainly not. For: “There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” If, then, we are to give account for an idle word, let us take care that we do not have to give it also for an idle silence. –-Ambrose
Now is the time to talk…
Not long ago, in our weekly ministers conference, Brent, a young Presbyterian pastor in our group brought out that, “we minister best where we are broken the most.” For me, that summed up why I am only now coming out with my testimony after thirty years of hesitation. Not that, “Ok, I’m broken…lets go for it Lord…” No! Instead, this burden, has been given, and I am only now broken enough to see it and accept it. Alright, I know that this is true for all of us who are Christians. I know that we are commissioned to proclaim the Gospel to everyone –and not just to those in our comfort zones, but wow, sometimes that is so hard. Why?
For modern Christians, especially those of us in America and Europe, we usually aren’t faced with physical persecution; yes, we might occasionally lose a job or a promotion, or even a close friend, but admit it, even that is usually very rare. So why is it that many of us have such a hard time professing our Christianity; our belief in the Gospel, or “Good news of Jesus Christ?” It is usually because we really don’t believe in what God has said, sin has gotten in the way; sin such as our own egos, self-pride, or some personal idol. And we don’t like people not liking us, snubbing us, we don’t like it when they laugh at us, or think that we are “weird.” We don’t like it when they look down their noses at us and make us feel inferior. And we especially don’t like it when it happens in front of others; people who we like, respect, think of as normal or “cool,” and perhaps people who we want to like us.
As much as we may hate to admit it, many of us got a lot of that ridicule in Adventism. It was easy to make us look weird, we got a lot of snickering and subtle snubbing with the Sabbath, and with all the other things that triggered our defense mechanisms. Perhaps, that would have been great if we had been taught to rejoice in our sufferings for Christ. But instead, a lot of us spent our entire childhoods trying to “look normal,” and comparing ourselves to our neighbors, our friends and to all the other people in “our world.” Often our parents would also try to help. Some went overboard, or over compensated to help us look as normal as possible with the other youth we played with; they also didn’t want their child to look different or to “stand out” from the others, and it helped if your parents had the money and could afford to do that.
Spiritually, what was worse, is that those same children who grew up and stayed in the SDA “church” are still compensating. That is, they are still doing everything they can to look like the world: Jewelry, clothing, possessions, concerts, gaming events, everything to look like, sound like and fit in with the rest of the world. Many of these poor, fragmented souls you couldn’t tell if they were either Christian, Adventist,or atheist, they are so “of the world.” As Charles Spurgeon once said, “There should be as much difference between the worldling and the Christian, as between hell and heaven.” However, carnality is the same regardless which cloak she wears; whether it be the scantily clad garments of the liberals, or libertines as they were once called, or else the fuller robes of the self-righteous, pietistic churchmen. In either case, carnality is a garment at enmity and rebellion against God.
What is the end result of this straddling of the fences? Often, they have ended up as unhappy, guilt-ridden, moralistic souls, who have tried for so long and so hard and so unsuccessfully to find acceptance with God, that they have given up trying, or whose lives are now leading to the place where they are despairing of God and themselves. Others, with their own personal blinders, have self-righteously, slipped so deeply into an inner moral hypocrisy that they believe they have spiritually “made it.” Whatever the case may be, each want to convince you that “they have their stuff together” spiritually, personally and as a group; when they have none of that.
A couple of hundred years before Seventh-day Adventism was even conceived, a godly Christian Quaker named William Penn, framed their condition like this:
Sometimes they strive to appease him, by their corporal framed devotion and worship, but in vain; for true worshipping of God, is doing his will, which they transgress. The rest is a false compliment, and is just like him who said that he would go, and did not.” Sometimes they fly to sports and company, to drown the reprover’s voice, and blunt his arrows, to chase away troubled thoughts, and secure themselves out of the reach of the disquiet of their pleasures: but the Almighty, first or last, is sure to overtake them. There is no flying from his final justice, for those that reject the terms of his mercy.
Their vain hope silences their convictions, and overlays all tender motions to repentance: so that their mistake about their duty to God, is as mischievous as their rebellion against him.
Oh, and there was one other thing that we shouldn’t forget; when we grew up in the church, the ridicule and everything else we received for our beliefs, tended not to effectually to bind us to Christ, but rather, it unfortunately brought us together in the bond of a cult. Add to that the sickly pietistic statements of Ellen White, and we incurred an incredible “us against them mentality,” which became a hole from which we never wanted to leave. Why? because we could always put our “SDA blinders” on and pull the top down. You see, we had the Sabbath, we had the church, and when things looked really bad, we even had Ellen White (though it made us nauseous and called for protests every time someone brought her name up, even then).
We also had each other, but we often didn’t like each other, and we often didn’t trust each other. How many times, when someone in the church hurt us in some way, did we not say, “now that was a real Adventist thing to do.” But there we were, we had each other, and we encouraged each other that we were the church, and that we were the “Remnant,” we were going to come out of this and God was going to “cook” everyone else.
But there was another side to this thinking. The other side to this thought pattern was when we were told to whip the church up for an evangelistic campaign, which I believe, is something that should have a specific spiritual reason, a lot of prayer, and much soul-searching on the part of pastor and congregation before commencing. But almost all aspects of this were handled as a “business campaign,” and it was embarked upon before the membership felt any real need to search for souls. Why did we do this? Because the “Conference brethren” knew that it would increase our “offering plate” and make our numbers look good. “It was all,” confided one Conference leader, “a numbers game.”
Worse, these evangelistic endeavors usually involved working to “steal” members from other churches rather than finding lost souls for Christ. But for us this could be easily justified, because we were the only “Remnant Church” out there. Since the other churches didn’t have the “Sabbath,” they were going to hell anyways. Often, we looked for churches in our areas that were splitting up, because we knew that the members would be hurting, vulnerable and susceptible to change. In short, this wasn’t about searching for lost sheep this was simply about “heads,” and about the numbers. Remembering this is painful, isn’t it? However, it is as Jesus said, “He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.” Unfortunately, we were both the “hired hands” and the wolves. And I confess, that for a time I ran with those wolves. I also confess that I have asked God for forgiveness for my part in it. Fortunately, I don’t think that for Jesus, the sheep were ever a numbers game; he searches for every last, lost and hurting sheep. My testimony here is that he searched for me, and I know that he has searched for you also. You and I can be thankful for this for you and I are the sheep of his pasture.
Yes, sometimes people can make us feel so “cheap” and so “inferior” that we do just want to tuck our tails between our legs and slink away. In those tumultuous moments in the storms of our lives, if our hearts, our trust, our “person-hood,” our ego, and/or self-esteem are not directly anchored in Christ, we may then lose our grip and turn away to hide in our groups or our cults, or we will turn to our idols and addictions, and often will. It is in these despairing moments that we will slink away, lie to ourselves, and/or compromise our integrity in some manner.
However, my dear struggling, tempest-tossed Christian, if you have asked Jesus to be your Savior, and have accepted his finished work in your behalf, then believe that he still loves you. Even if we do fall and turn away from Jesus, that doesn’t mean that we need to stay discouraged or believe that we are outside of his grace, we are still accepted in the Beloved. Rest assured that Christ is still right there with us, his blood has already been applied to the mercy-seat, once for all, and for each and every one of our sins. But we need and want to go back to Him, confessing our sins, and thanking Him for his grace and mercy. And yes, we will be compelled to let the Holy Spirit convict our hearts of sin and turn our focus back to him.
The problem when I left Adventism, was that I could not comprehend a God that would or could love me when I messed up. He had to be mad at me, –I was mad at me. I was often so mad at myself, that I would go out and do the same sin again, or maybe even do something worse. How is that for making sense? Dear friend, may I make a pastoral word? If your experience has been like mine, where you may have become so ashamed of your betrayal of Christ, your betrayal of yourself, or betrayal of your spouse or family, that you cannot make yourself face God; that is, to face God and ask once again for Him to forgive you of your sins… I encourage you to go and face God anyways and ask him for his forgiveness. There is always a way open to the mercy-seat; there is always forgiveness for you there, you are his child, and he will never let you go.
Maybe, that is the point…
It was the German Poet Goethe, who once declared that, “talent is formed in solitude, but character in the storms of life,” so it is in the storms of our life, when God has broken us, and convicted our hearts with the light of the Gospel and turned us around and pointed us back to him, that is when he gives us our commission to proclaim the Gospel, and He keeps giving us different assignments with the Gospel throughout our lives. To be sure, the Gospel is first given to us for us to be continually preached to ourselves and to be used in convicting us of our own sins; pointing us back to God, but it has also given to us to proclaim to anyone who will listen. The Gospel is not just given to ministers to proclaim–though it seems that we are given an extra burden to do so, but the Gospel declaration is for each of us to “proclaim broadly.” Paul said that we are to, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction” 2 Timothy 4:2. That means that we are to preach or proclaim the word, (and for Paul, that Divinely given “word” which was to be proclaimed was always centered on the Gospel, not the Sabbath.) both when that proclamation is comfortable and also when it is decidedly uncomfortable. Further, we are to be “prepared” to proclaim the word. Why? Because Paul says that there is going to be trouble. Look at the reasons he lists in 2 Timothy 4:3 as to why we should expect trouble, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,…” Sound familiar?
Even as ordinary Christians, you and I are part of that surrogation into whose hands God has entrusted his sword of Truth.
Thus, I am encouraging both myself and you, to draw His sword of Truth in His defense against all the enemies of His Grace and the Gospel. That is why we are also told to put on the whole armour of God, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12. In short, “the people who will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled,” are on “the dark side,” the Bible says that Satan is their father John 8:44, therefore, they have “cosmic powers” and spiritual forces of evil” fighting for them. Yes, you had better be prepared! We are to be prepared mentally, physically as well as spiritually. Look what God says “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. God wants us in our “A” game. God wants us to be fully prepared for the cosmic battle going on right now, and what we are reflecting about here is part of it; you are either in, or you are out. By the way, sitting on the fence post means that you are out.
This is where I want to go…
It is not about me, even though I was a part of that cult and for a while later, part of the walking wounded. It is about the commission to proclaim the Gospel. Seriously, isn’t that what our testimony and our lives should be really about? Isn’t, the highest form of the proclamation of the Gospel, our own testimony about what God has done for us through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross? The Gospel proclamation of necessity involves our testimony of our move out of spiritual darkness into His glorious light. There is no room for ego here. As my dear friend and favorite Old Testament professor once sternly admonished me, “Michael, we are only beggars, telling other beggars where to find bread.”
It is not about the Seventh-day Adventist leadership, even though the leadership, including Ellen White, will be responsible to God for their works as, “seducers deceiving, and being deceived” 2 Timothy 3:13. God is not a respecter of persons. Rest assured, they will be judged in the light of the Gospel. Yes, Jesus will say to them, “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge [the Gospel]. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering” Luke 11:52.
It is not even about the Seventh-day Adventist cult itself, though it has been a platform of darkness: The Lord Jesus Christ has already described them and their fate, “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews [God’s remnant people], and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee” Revelation 3:9.
The cause in question requires a worthy defender, not for its own weakness, but for the multitude and strength of its oppositions.
Yes, you and I are called to be those worthy defenders. And though it is not about us, it does involve us. If I may re-paraphrase Thomas Adams, “God has entrusted us to draw the sword of Truth in his defense against all the enemies of his grace and the gospel. Therefore, if any good may hereby be encouraged, any evil weakened, be assured, our reward is in full.” “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness” Isaiah 1:27. In consideration of the blinders which Seventh-day Adventists have on, it is no wonder that the Gospel is veiled to them. But understand that Almighty God will not be trifled with, that “even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. Remember, according to the Apostle Paul, there is no other Gospel alternative or option, there is no other consideration or human opinion, the fudging of the facts will not be accepted by God, there is only an “another Gospel.” As William Penn said above, “There is no flying from his final justice, for those that reject the terms of his mercy.”
No, it is about none of us; it is about truth; it is about the truth about God. It is about who He is and what He has said. It is about His Glory.
This testimony is not about me, even though this is my testimony. It is not about the leadership of Seventh-day Adventism. It is not about the “church,” or the cult. It is not about you; even though it involves each of us.
It is all about Him; it is about the Gospel, and it is about His Glory.
. …I just wanted to clear the air. And I want us to be really sure that our focus is on the Gospel. It is all about Him. Let us use this information and next talk about the platform by which the theology of Seventh-day Adventism is based, and then contrast it to true Biblical theology, so that the light of the Gospel may shine forth alone in all its splendor …and so also, that the darkness in spiritual places which we identify, correct, rebuke and encourage to change –with great patience and careful instruction, may turn to the light of the Gospel, or if not, to flee…
Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
[In the modern era of easy religion and seeker friendly churches, the question still needs to be asked, and earnestly answered; what is, or what do we mean when we use the term, “the Gospel,” or “the Good News?” The Gospel in holy scriptures is the “Good News” of what Jesus has done for us; it is the declaration of the Great Atonement made by Jesus Christ for sin. That is, the blood work demanded was completely paid at the cross for all the sins of all of the Elect, of all the ages, who are in Christ Jesus. God’s Holy Word faithfully helps us to understand that the “Good News” encompasses the fact that Jesus is not just to be our Savior, but that he is also to be the Lord and Master of our lives. Why? Because Jesus is our salvation from sin, he does not save us in sin. Why is this important? Because salvation from sin not only necessitates and validates the work of the Cross, it also mandates a clear call to repentance of sin from the Christian. You cannot have the one without the other. If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you Christian, are also called to faithfully walk differently from the world and its values. You not only have a new Savior and Master, you have a new life! –M.W.P.]