I was born in 1967, and raised an hour away from Battle Creek Michigan. I was raised an Adventist my entire life, and attended an SDA boarding academy. My mother remained in the church our whole life growing up, and my father came and went from the church, but maintained his desire for us to remain and practice Adventism throughout. I would classify my Adventist upbringing as conservative.
I have a driven type-A personality, and the Adventist religion was the perfect trap for me. My whole life I repeatedly and endlessly committed myself to working my way to perfection, and being "good enough" to have a relationship with Jesus. The Adventist church and Ellen White teachings fueled this self-destructive lifestyle to perfection. The guilt I lived with was at times unbearable particularly as it related to Sabbath keeping. It all seemed like such an unattainable, yet necessary goal; to perfectly keep all the commandments with salvation hinging on these efforts.
Never once as an Adventist did I try to win someone over to Jesus, but like so many Adventist I was proficient at proof-texting my Sunday friends about Adventism. I was convinced I was right, and despite many fruitless debates could not be persuaded otherwise. Of course, none of my Adventist witnessing involved the benefits of a loving relationship with Jesus because as much as I wanted one I had no idea how to have one. Bible class in academy was nothing, but a hardcore and deeper indoctrination into the Adventist church relying almost exclusively on the writings of Ellen White who at times seemed more highly regarded by our Bible teacher then any Biblical prophet.
Throughout my adult years my SDA practice came and went, but I never completely abandoned it or really rebelled in any significant way. The one thing that I always held onto was the guilt. And through it all I longed for a relationship and guarantee of salvation I saw other people have, but could never understand. So I just continued trying every day to make Adventism work.
Several months ago I started to question some fundamental beliefs and teachings of the church that didn't seem to make sense from a logical and biblical standpoint. I was not particularly bothered by these questions, but voiced them to my friend as just a form of wonderment. Not long after that I literally stumbled onto some Dale Ratzlaff videos on YouTube. When I say literally stumbled I'm not kidding. I wasn't looking for answers to anything or even looking for anything on the topic yet for some reason my surfing of the internet led me to the videos.
Initially I figured it was probably just some video made by some crazy Adventist off-shoot group. Regardless, out of curiosity I watched the video, which talked about the New vs. Old Covenant. I had never heard about any of this, and was interested enough to start doing more research. I quickly realized that for any of this to make sense I had to break away from the Ellen White mindset to gain an unbiased understanding. I continued to watch videos and research other websites as well as buying and reading the book White Washed and Sabbath in Christ. Both aspects of my study were eye opening and life changing. I probably read Galatians no less than half a dozen times in total disbelief that I had never seen most of what I was reading. Many of the Adventist proof-texts were virtually swallowed up by the entirety of the things I was reading. It also didn't take long to realize how unbiblical the teachings of Ellen White are. I prayed and studied as I realized the journey I was taking had the potential to be life changing.
The more I read and the more I shed my Ellen White glasses the more things became clear to me. I began to understand that there was nothing I could do to be saved except believe in Jesus and accept his grace. I no longer felt I had to attain a certain level of goodness or perfection before I could have a relationship with Jesus. My entire spiritual life had been focused on my inner self and what I could do to gain salvation. For the first time in my life I have accepted the gift of grace and salvation from Jesus, and for the first time in my life I know I am saved without any doubts.
The sense of freedom from my yolk of slavery, specifically Adventism, has been overwhelming. The emotions and relief of knowing I am saved, and can have that relationship with Jesus I always longed for have been beyond amazing. I have so many Adventist friends, and I wish there was some way each one of them could experience what I have discovered. The Adventist religion and culture conditions you to think salvation is hard. In reality it's as easy for us as it was for the thief on the cross who simply declared Jesus to be the Messiah, and said, "Jesus, remember me". Jesus assured the man he would be saved.
In my opinion, Adventism is a great deception perpetuated by Satan to ensnare, and ultimately bring down and discourage otherwise sincere Christian people searching for assurance in Jesus. Once they fall prey to the deception they are conditioned to believe it is either Adventism or nothing, and many choose nothing because they feel they will never be able to live up to the standards they've been brainwashed to believe. So many Adventists, when faced with these realizations, don't see there is another option. I am not sure how or why I escaped this deception, but I did and I can assure you there is another option. The option is to simply accept the grace of Jesus as your savior, and follow the greatest commandment of all "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all our soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself".
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