I was born a third generation Seventh-day Adventist to Jamaican immigrants to Canada. While growing up the Seventh-day Adventist culture was as much a part of me as my family’s Jamaican heritage. Our family in many ways could have been poster family for “The Adventist Home” (an SDA Ellen White publication). Every morning our family gathered together to pray, sing a hymn, and read the morning devotion, which was always written by Ellen White or Morris Venden. My father or mother would then take my brother, sister and I into our Adventist school, which was several miles away. My parents paid dearly for our tuition but were pleased with the education we received as we always tested well in meeting the government standards. When we returned home, at some point in the early evening we would have family worship again. The evening family worship was longer and usually consisted of 2 hymns, prayer, and the studying of the “quarterly” (lesson plans) provided by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
I grew up with most of my friends being SDA at school and my local neighborhood friends being “secular” ones. My parents always taught us that we were to be an example to them, which in many cases meant not being able to play with them on Sabbath. Most people could not understand why we went to church on Saturday and we could not understand why most people did not. Every Sabbath was a reminder that we were different than the others and had “the truth” while others did not. Because of all the time spent in family worship and the study of Seventh-day Adventist materials we were very well versed in SDA doctrine and even as a youngster I could and would recite large passages which reflected my belief in the Sabbath and Seventh-day Adventism. All this activity of study, attending church and SDA schools gave me a feeling of pleasing and winning favor with God because I was following His laws while others were not.
As I entered my teen-age years I began to become more aware of myself as a sinner and in need of God. I continued to do all the “right” things, eating a vegetarian diet, attending an SDA academy, going to church on Sabbath, being baptized, reading only books published by the SDA church etc. but somehow the more I tried to be good and acceptable to God the more I felt unworthy and dirty and unlovable. I knew that God loved me as was evidenced by Jesus dying on the cross for me; but to me that love came with a huge price tag that I could never seem to fill. I consciously always thought that if my good deeds outweighed my bad deeds and if I asked for forgiveness every night before going to bed that God would let me into heaven. I didn’t understand what Jesus’ death on the cross meant other than it being an example of God’s love and that I should try to live as sinless a life as Jesus did.
I was always taught that “Sunday keepers” especially Catholics were the woman in scarlet or the Beast or Babylon and that one day everyone would have to become Seventh-day Adventist or perish in Hell. It was an insult to me when someone who was not SDA spoke of God because in my mind they couldn’t possibly know God if they didn’t keep His Sabbath. So while I had a certain smug feeling of access to God that others did not I lived in terror that my good deeds might not outweigh the bad. I feared the end times and what the result of “The Investigative Judgment” (a SDA heresy) would mean for me.
While attending university I began to listen to Christian radio. The local radio station carried an SDA program as well as some other programs that I found interesting, including a program where people could call in and have their Bible questions answered. Again I had many moments of feeling smug that although the on-air personality was well versed in the Bible, he did not have the knowledge that I did in fact I pretty well could answer most of the questions that were asked off the top of my head because of all the years of instruction I had received. One day it was announced that there would be a debate between a Catholic apologist and an outspoken Protestant. I went excitedly to the debate and of course rooted for the Protestant position but hoped that all present there at the debate would come to know the Seventh-day Adventist truth.
During the debate I picked up a newsletter and began subscribing to “The Berean Call” which the Protestant debater was a contributing writer to. I was surprised to see a series of tapes entitled “Foundations of Adventism” offered. The brief description spoke of a former Adventist minister who lovingly critiques the SDA church. At this point in my life I was aware of flaws in the SDA church such as scandals in the administration but I believed the only true church was the SDA church and I could not conceive of how any one could leave. I bought the tapes with the intention of hearing what my “wayward brother” had to say but also with the intent of exposing flaws and perhaps even winning him back to The Church which certainly would bring me favor in the eyes of God.
As I listened to the tapes presented by Pastor Mark Martin, his wife Leslie and guests I began to have the foundation of Adventism (Ellen White) exposed but more importantly the truth of the Gospel become unveiled before my eyes. For any of you who may have heard the tapes you will know what I’m talking about when I say there is too much information for me to share here in my testimony. For those of you who may be reading this but have never heard this series of tapes I implore you to listen to them. I feel they are so important I will actually buy them for you. I learned a lot but even more so by studying and hearing the word of God. As I studied I began to feel the love of Christ and feel His cleansing power and the relief and joy of no longer being spiritually blind as the veil lifted and showed me the glory of God
As I stated earlier I learned much the “Foundations of Adventism” tapes but here are the most important things I learned: 1. The SDA church was founded upon a gross misinterpretation of scripture in particular the belief that Jesus would return in 1844. Rather than accept the scriptures that clearly indicate that no man knows the time of Christ’s return (Luke 12: 40), the SDA church followed the visions and explanations of Ellen G White. Ellen G. White proliferated the SDA doctrine of the Investigative Judgment as well as a number of other falsehoods and became the cornerstone of Adventism. There is much that can be said about Ellen G White and her writings but I’ll summarize with this, much of her writing was plagiarized and/or subverted and contradicts the Bible.
2. I learned to accept Jesus as my Sabbath rest (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 3 & 4. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the law, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). I learned that there is nothing that I can do to earn my salvation, it is a gift provided to me through accepting Jesus and what He did for me on the cross (Ephesians 2:7-8; Romans 3:10). I learned that my salvation is secure in Christ and that He paid the price for me once and for all and I am sealed by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1–my favorite verse; John 19:30; Ephesians 1:13 & 4:30)
3 I learned the law was a tutor & has no ruling over us (Galatians 3, 4 & 5 pay close attention to Galatians 3:26-4:7 while reading all 3 chapters prayerfully)
and that the Sabbath is only a type of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17 and Hebrews 3:8-11).
There is so much more I could share with you but let me end by saying this. My salvation is determined by what Christ did and not by anything I can do. Today I KNOW that I am saved and am God’s child. All those hymns I have sang throughout my life now finally mean something. I understand about grace, forgiveness and the hope that lies in my LORD.
My life is complete today in Christ. I go through all the struggles that any other human goes through. I’m still far from perfect and flawed. I still bear the consequences of my actions. I still fall but have Jesus there to lift me up. Today I can rest in Jesus and know that I have eternal life, which cannot be taken away by any church or their doctrines (Romans 8:34-39)
To the Seventh-day Adventist I say study God’s word, investigate the roots of your church (there is a wealth of resources at www.sdaoutreach.org, know that you can have eternal life based on what Jesus did and not by what you do. To the non-believer I say, you can have break free from the trap of this world, which offers nothing lasting, or satisfying and find peace and rest in Jesus. He loves you and died for you, He paid the price for your sin and all you need to do is accept that free and wonderful gift.
May the Peace of God be with you.