Let me be upfront and honest right away. I care for people who choose to be Seventh-day Adventist. And that is why I share my story, not out of anger or bitterness, but out of love and concern for those still caught in unbiblical teaching and bondage, for those who wonder if they are saved.
I was a Seventh-day Adventist for 46 years. My pedigree reads like that of Paul in Philippians 3:4-6. I was a Seventh-day Adventist of Seventh-day Adventism. From the 2nd grade through graduate school I attended Seventh-day Adventist educational institutions. I taught 8 years in their elementary schools, was an interim youth director, and directed one of the largest Adventist summer camps in North America. I was an associate pastor in the Adventist Church and was one of two people being considered for the position of professor of Religious Education at Andrews University in 2007. I loved my church and its people.
And then God broke me for His glory in the summer of 2008. In May/June of 2008 I hit total burn out. I was completely exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. At that time I was attending an interdenominational Bible study called Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). The teaching leader gave out her phone number at the end of the study season, and I called her. We spoke and I shared my exhausted condition with her. Graciously and gently she began to invite me to her home for a meal, for rest, and for conversation.
One beautiful summer evening, as we sat on her porch, the conversation turned spiritual. Deb spoke of her love of God’s Word, and I responded innocently, “I believe in the Bible and the Bible only, too.” Deb, replied, “No, you don’t!” (She doesn’t fully remember saying that, now.) I asked her what she knew of Seventh-day Adventism, and she replied, “Not much.” I left that evening wondering how a woman who definitely loved the Lord and read the Scriptures could miss God’s direct command to keep the seventh-day Sabbath. Either something was wrong with God, or something was wrong with her. I found out as I began to study that something was wrong with my understanding of God. The Father and the Son in the writings and theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church were unbiblical. If He had been my example, then sin would have been in Him, and He could not have been the blameless sacrifice for my sin. I began to find that many Seventh-day Adventist teachings were oxymorons.
From that point on I decided I would study the Bible without going to any Ellen G. White writings. If Seventh-day Adventist teachings were truly Biblical, then I should be able to figure out doctrine without the writings of Ellen White. Then came my first “aha”. According to Adventist teaching the “seal of God” was the Sabbath; yet I couldn’t find “seal of God” identified as the Sabbath anywhere in the Bible. I did find that the “seal of God” was the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).
I felt my foundation for life crumbling, and I experienced a deep crisis of faith. What was true, and how would I know it? Different denominations took the same Biblical texts and extrapolated different teachings from them. How would I know what was real and true?
At this point I began an email dialogue with my new friend. I asked her, “How do you know what is truth?” Her response was interesting. She wrote, “Remember Jesus’ words in John 14:6, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’ Carolyn, He is the very essence and basis for truth.” Then I came across a devotional on John 3:16 in a book. “He will take you by the hand and guide you into ALL the truth there is” (The Message). I chose to believe I could know what was true about God, Jesus, and salvation, based on the fact that the Holy Spirit had been promised to guide and teach us truth (Jn. 16:5-15).
Rest and the joy of salvation
I was still feeling very burned out when Debbie wrote in another email, “This week I did a small word study on rest and was wowed by what God has to say; ‘He is our resting place.’ Sound like what you are seeking?” I had never thought of Jesus being my rest (Matt. 11:28-29). I had always thought that rest involved not working on the Sabbath. Then I did a personal study on the Old Covenant and New Covenant—using just my Bible and putting in one column all the texts and phrases that fit the Old Covenant and all the texts and phrases that fit the New Covenant. I was beginning to see that the Old Covenant pointed to Jesus, and the New Covenant verified that He literally was our rest.
Debbie then told me that she was praying I would return to the joy of my salvation. I thought, that is a crazy prayer! I’m dying inside, have an elephant on my chest, dissonance in my head—and you are praying for me to return to the joy of my salvation! Yet, the phrase wouldn’t leave my mind. I emailed Debbie, asking if we could talk about salvation. I didn’t believe in that “once saved, always saved” business! Yes, I had been taught we could have assurance of salvation, but I’d also learned that we could fall out of salvation. Here was another Adventist oxymoron. Yes, you can know you are saved, but you can never “really” know you are saved.
Debbie responded by writing, “If Christians believe that it is by grace that we are saved, thru faith, not by works (Eph. 2:8-9) … in other words if we don’t DO anything to earn it, how can we DO anything to lose it? It is a gift—even the faith to believe is a gift; it is all of Him. The response to His great salvation is such that I DO what pleases Him as testimony to the fact that I am His and He is mine. Being born again is like physical birth; we don’t do anything to be born, but we are actively involved in receiving birth. Why do you think Jesus said that we have to be born again, first by water (physically), then by the spirit? One of my favorite Scriptures regarding this mystery is 1 John 5:11-13. It is clear that either we have spiritual life in Christ or we don’t—and we can know! It is His work. If it were based on anything but Him, we might be liable to lose it, but it is based on Him—the unchanging, faithful, perfect, unfailing God that He is.”
The Holy Spirit continued to work on my heart, and I asked Debbie if we could have prayer together. I wanted a witness to confirm if I ever doubted that I had believed and received Jesus as my sole source of salvation. On July 15, 2008, we prayed together in her living room. and I was sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of my inheritance in Christ (Eph. 1:13-14).
This decision led to more searching of the Scriptures and more wrestling, but my foundation, the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ, was in place (Is. 28:16; Rom. 10:9-13; Rom. 9:31-33; 1 Peter 2:6).
Jesus is worth the loss
I began to find more and more inconsistencies between Scripture and Adventist doctrines and teachings. As a result I chose to remove my membership from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
I was told that if I didn’t stop the removal of my membership from the Seventh-day Adventist Church I would be terminated from my employment with Andrews University. I chose to live with integrity and informed them I would continue to remove my membership. In August I was fired. It is interesting that a university that advertises itself as Christian would fire someone over placing their faith in Jesus Christ and choosing to attend an evangelical church.
Because some Seventh-day Adventists kept showing up at my house unannounced I moved out of my home to a summer cottage owned by a Christian.
As of this writing I am still unemployed, have lost most of my friends who either shun me or try to persuade me to return; my things are in storage, and I’m living in someone else’s home.
Paul writes, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:7-9; ESV).
I have never been in a better spot! To know Christ, and to know that my salvation is secure in Him is a treasure worth the loss of any earthly power, prestige, money, or relationships. He is my LORD and Savior.
I shared my testimony at the 2010 Former Adventist Fellowship (video).