I was born into Adventism, attended Adventist schools, and married an Adventist. My parents were strict letter-of-the-law Adventists. They began reading Ellen White’s visions to me when I was 4 or 5 years old. From a very young age I remember living in abject fear over the coming “time of trouble” and resenting my parents for bringing me into a world where there was no escape from the horrors to come. I felt God was mean and unfair to require His people to suffer so much. I was terrified of dying and going into eternal oblivion as I was afraid I was lost and I didn’t know how to be saved. I had no comprehension of the LOVE of God and thought He was watching me to catch me being bad. I was taught that the recording angel was writing down everything we did wrong. I was taught there were many things we must do to please God and be saved, that it was very difficult to be saved and only one in a thousand would make it. It seemed impossible to me to live up to all of God’s requirements to be saved and I wished that I had been born with a stronger will. I thought that a strong-willed person might be able to do everything right. But I knew it was hopeless for me. When I was 16, my father became very ill with a high fever that affected his mind and left him hospitalized for the last few weeks of his life. I was shocked to learn that he was eating the meat they were giving him in the hospital, and I was in great distress over it because I had been taught that you couldn’t go to heaven if you ate meat. After he died I had terrible grief & guilt, fearing that he was eternally lost because he was eating meat those last few weeks of his life.
Most of the legalism in my life came from my mother’s teachings. She mainly read Ellen White’s writings and did not seem to have much love or peace in her heart. She believed that Jesus had taken the nature of Adam after the fall (or sinful human nature) and that since Jesus had thereafter led a sinless life, we should also with our fallen nature be able to reach absolute perfection. It didn’t make sense to me that we could become sinless, so I would argue “But then why did Jesus have to die if we can become perfect?” She explained that as He is our example in everything, we also could become perfect & lead perfect lives so that someday we could live without Him as our mediator (once He leaves the Most Holy Place.) At the time there was a lot of hair-splitting going on between the Adventist theologians. One camp held to the same beliefs my mother held and another argued that Jesus took SINLESS human nature and therefore we could not reach His perfection. My mother said that it was a matter of one’s salvation to have your theology & understanding right. So I argued, “Then how can any of us ordinary folks be saved, when even the great Bible scholars can’t seem to understand it!? Isn’t it supposed to be simple enough for a child to understand?”
I was attending an Adventist academy when my father died, and in our Bible class we were assigned to read about the crucifixion of Jesus. For the first time I began to comprehend a little about the love of God. We had a wonderful Week-of-Prayer speaker, Ivan Blazen, who preached a message of Grace like I had never heard. I began experiencing some of the joy of the Lord, but I really did not understand salvation by faith.
After my father’s death I was “adopted” into my oldest brother’s family… and enjoyed having a whole new instant family with 3 younger “sisters.” We were all good Adventist girls, married Adventist guys and raised our children in the Adventist church. Legalism was a way of life. Desmond Ford came upon the scenes and his beautiful sermons began to bring me new hope but with the Glacier View conflict, he seemed to disappear from the Adventist scene and my thinking reverted back to the old legalism. But there is no Life in legalism. There didn’t seem to be help for my failing marriage in the church either. I eventually divorced and for years struggled with raising 4 children as a single mom. For a time I was active in my local church. Then in my loneliness I became involved in an affair with a married man. I thought he was my soul-mate but it quickly became very painful with many ugly confrontations with his wife. Even so, this affair would continue for four and a half years. During that time disaster suddenly struck our family with the untimely death of my “adoptive mom.” I was confronted with my own mortality and unpreparedness for death. Suddenly I saw peace with God as the most desirable thing one could have. And I had none! I thought if I could just get out of my sinful relationship that I would have peace. I left my church and asked that my membership be dropped because I felt so unworthy and guilty. There was no one I trusted there to go to for spiritual help. So I entered secular counseling for two and a half years, thinking that would give me the strength to escape this love affair. It did not! My lover and I were both securely in the clutches of the evil one. Interestingly my secular non-Christian counselor, finding that nothing seemed to help me, told me that the only solution he could see was for me to get on my knees and pray as I had never prayed before. Meanwhile my lover’s wife had constantly harassed me over the affair, believing she could fix the situation. She finally came to a point where she made a pact with God that she would be silent, take her hands off, and allow Him to work…which He was then able to do in His own good timing.
There was a slow but important spiritual shift happening in my thinking during that time. As I was away from the constant influence of my church I began to really question a number of the doctrines I had been raised with. In listening to sermons on Christian radio I became convicted that I should take the Bible ONLY as my source of spiritual authority. The SDA doctrine that had given me the most mental anguish was the Investigative Judgement. As I cried out to God that this doctrine wasn’t fair and just, I had a strong impression to search for it in the scriptures. It wasn’t there! Again I was impressed by God that if it was not in the Bible then I did not have to believe it. A great peace swept over me and I was never tormented over that doctrine again. I began having doubts as to the validity of some of the other unique Adventist doctrines. But I was still under heavy bondage to that belief system. I was churchless but afraid of attending a Sunday church. My only source of any spiritual guidance was from Christian radio ministries. One Sunday I decided to attend the local Calvary Chapel and I heard the most clear and beautiful presentation of the gospel that I’d ever heard. When the pastor gave an altar call I went forward and re-committed my life to God. I thought surely this would change my life immediately, that my affair would end, and all would be well. I was wrong. I had a big lesson to learn because I was still trying to end the affair in my own strength and will. Over and over during the next year, as I struggled under my own power, the Lord gave me the message, “The battle is not yours, it is God’s. You shall not have to fight in this battle.” As time wore on, I was consumed with guilt and felt God must have surely rejected me over my sin. And I remember crying out to God in desperation one night, afraid He could not love me anymore. I heard God’s response as clearly as though spoken aloud, “ You are still my child. You may be a rebellious errant child but you are still my beloved child.” And I wept brokenly. Easter time came and one evening as I was driving past a church I noticed they were presenting a play that evening. I decided to attend. It was a beautiful heart-touching play about the crucifixion & resurrection, followed by a powerful sermon and altar call. I sat there and wept. Two church ladies came and asked if they could pray for me and I just began sobbing & pouring out my story of how I was in an affair that I couldn’t seem to escape from. One of them said she would get the pastor. She came back with the pastor, an elder and their wives. Without any condemnation, the 6 of them surrounded me, laid hands on me and prayed earnestly that I would be set free immediately, & that my lover would return to his wife & their marriage be restored (they were separated by then.) Satan’s power WAS broken that night. I never saw the man again, although he tried to seek me out and change my mind. As I knew he was coming to confront me, I sent out a request to many people to pray over the situation. By the third day he was reunited with and home with his wife!
Within a few months I met the Christian man who was to be my husband. I was praying that God would bring the right person into my life and I asked that he be a non-Adventist Christian who believed in the Sabbath. When I met CJ he was an active member in a non-denominational church, and as I shared about my Adventist beliefs he embraced the Sabbath idea. However he said he could not accept the Investigative Judgement, the state of the dead, or EG White as a prophetess. I had already rejected the Investigative Judgement myself, and felt that the other two points were not that vital to our having a peaceful marriage. We had a traditional wedding ceremony, including rings… since I had also rejected the idea that jewelry is a sin.
We attended a liberal non-traditional Adventist church for awhile and could not understand why it wasn’t experiencing any real growth. Attending that
church entailed a 90-mile drives one way, so our attendance was sketchy. We visited a few Sunday churches in our own town…but I could never get comfortable because of my Sabbath convictions. I decided to search for a sabbatarian non-Adventist church via the Internet. What I found instead astounded me. It was a website by former Adventists who were rejoicing to be out of that religion, claiming they had gone on to a deeper walk with the Lord. Then I found a link to the SDA-EGW Historical Society and learned that Ellen White was really a false prophet. I had long been aware that in the Adventist church she held a place of authority akin to that of the Pope over Catholicism. But I still supposed from her writings that she was at least a great Christian. I had mentioned that idea to a very sincere Christian lady who had been on the outskirts of Adventism for some time. Her response was a doubtful, “Well maybe…” and I wondered what she knew that I didn’t. So when I came across the website about Ellen White I was already curious. As I studied and began to be set free of my mental bondage to Ellen White, I felt as though I had “come out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.” Over the next year, I began to see other falsehoods within Adventist doctrine, such as the state of the dead. I began to highly doubt that the Sabbath could be linked to the mark of the beast. I began to wonder about the sequence of end time events. I finally decided that I should at least understand what my husband believed about that and study the book of Revelation from a more traditional point of view. My husband was thrilled that I was having a more open mind. Then he began to say little things about not believing the Sabbath was still binding and as important as I was making it. That bothered me because I had agreed to marry him partly on the premise that we were in agreement on the Sabbath issue. So I asked that God would help me find proof that the early Christians really kept the Saturday Sabbath until 325AD when Constantine and the Catholics changed it to Sunday. I was also praying that God would help me love Him more and fill my life with the Spirit, because I sensed there was something really missing in my heart. And I was crying out to God that we needed a church. Due to my Sabbath beliefs I was still finding it very difficult to attend Sunday church.
Soon after I discovered that Ellen White was a false prophet, I miraculously began receiving “Proclamation Magazine.” In it I found some helpful articles. However I refused to read anything about covenants because I had been taught in Adventism that the idea of old and new covenants was an error and was the “Sunday keepers” way of getting rid of the Sabbath. And I loved the Sabbath.
As I sat down one evening at my computer, I came upon the SDA Outreach site. I read through-out half of the night, finding to my utter amazement, documentation that the early Christians really HAD always worshipped on Sunday. I found that the Catholic church did not change the day of worship to Sunday, the Pagan worship day. The pagans had an 8-day work cycle with the 9th being market day & no designated weekly worship day. I found a very informative letter written by a former Adventist pastor explaining why he left the SDA church. I was so amazed and stunned and excited by what I was learning that I couldn’t wait to tell my husband who was on a long air flight that night. When he called from the airport in the morning, I was nearly jumping with joy. I was stunned when he said “Honey I read all the exact same things probably 3 months ago and even wrote you a long letter about it. But the Lord impressed me to remain silent and let you find out these things for yourself.” I was very touched & humbled because I knew that 3 months before I would have absolutely rejected this truth & been unable to take it in. God’s timing is always perfect!
I felt deeply impressed that I needed to go speak with Pastor Mark Martin that following Sunday. I was amazed to walk right up to the front door of his large church and be able to speak with him immediately. When I told him I was a recovering SDA, he asked if we had found a church. I told him of our struggle to do so because of my sabbath beliefs, and he gave me a wealth of materials to study. Listening to his tapes on the Covenants was like blinders falling off my spiritual eyes. His tapes on grace versus the law gave me a new assurance of my acceptance by God and my eternal security in Him like I have never known. I experienced a new freedom, peace, and joy that I hadn’t known was possible. I listened and read and cried day after day, like a starving person finally given food. I began experiencing a new love for God like I had not known before. I learned that the real sabbath is in Jesus, and the spiritual rest we have in Him. We now attend Pastor Mark’s church and feel like we have come home. I know I am seeing my prayers answered; to love God more, to find a church home, and for the Holy Spirit
to be in my life (because when He comes He guides us into all truth!)
One of the resources Pastor Mark gave us was a video expose on the SDA church. My adult son saw me watching it and asked if he could watch it. He was so amazed by what he learned that he asked to study the materials on the covenants. After studying the covenants he said he knew he could never go back to Adventism. Another son is so excited about the information he learned from the video that he has begun witnessing to his Adventists relatives and friends. My sons and I know that it will be difficult to be out of step with our large Adventist family but the true gospel is too precious to relinquish for family approval. Interestingly enough, I was bombarded during the first few hours of my enlightenment by phone calls from devout SDA relatives who rarely ever call me. The pressure was on emotionally & spiritually almost before I could gain my bearings.
Today, I am so grateful to the various people who have cared enough for those of us lost in a false religion to create websites, publish books, tapes and videos, and write their testimonies in an attempt to reach souls for Jesus. As one who was personally reached, I can never stop praising the Lord for all He has done for me!