I grew up in a Seventh-day Adventist home. My parents divorced when I was six, and my dad remarried soon after.
My dad was a more liberal Adventist than my mom, but I took as truth whatever my dad believed. My mom was a lot more strict about Sabbath keeping and following Ellen White's health laws, but my dad placed much more emphasis on living with integrity and seeking truth. As a child, I learned much of the Old Testament: the great stories, the history, and several of the Psalms. I believed the Sabbath was binding because it was part of the Ten Commandments; it was a gift of rest, and it wasn't to be taken lightly. I knew about the Investigative Judgment and Ellen White, but I associated those with my mom and her relatives and therefore dismissed them. My family--my dad, step-mom, and younger brother--attended church regularly in Loma Linda, and I was baptized into the church at age 11.
"Seventh-day Adventist..." I sometimes repeated and pondered these words to myself they described who I was. I felt very lucky to have been born into the one true church. I wondered why our church was the only true church, and how so many sincere people in other churches could be lost.
When I was twelve, my parents (my dad and step-mom) began to design and edit Adventist Today. I wrote an article for the May-June, 1996 issue.
What My Parents Have Taught Me About God and the Church
Roy Tinker, age 12
I have learned from my parents that God is infinite and is love. He wanted to create a planet with people made in his image and likeness to fellowship with him. However, they sinned so he couldn't do that yet, it was delayed. He loved them so much that he-a God, actually died for something he had created, so they could live.
He created everything, including the earth, which he created in six days, and on the seventh he rested and called it a day of rest for humans. It was a day to rest from the work done during the week, and a day to learn more about and celebrate the wonderful relationship with God. It was set aside as a day to fellowship with God also.
The church today is divided into several groups, some who claim to serve God, and some who really serve God. It really doesn't matter what they believe in, as far as small details, as long as they love and serve God.
The Bible is God's holy word, and our manuscript or owner's manual for life. My parents have taught me things from the Bible, such as the golden rule and the ten commandments. I learned that if I apply them to my life, my life will be better and I will be happier.
I have learned the importance of taking care of others and that what I do affects millions of people, whether it be for the good or for the bad. If I criticize someone, that criticism is applicable to myself.
I have learned the dangers of evil, and what Satan's tools are for getting people trapped. I have learned to stay away from them.
I learned that I can ask God anytime I want to help me, or I can just talk to him. He will come soon and take us all to heaven to fellowship with him. There we will live forever. God will change the world to what it was before, and God's people will live happily ever after in that wonderful paradise.
It all sounds pretty nice, but notice how little I wrote about Jesus. I barely mentioned salvation, and I didn't include any details about how a person is saved and what it means to be saved. The truth is, I didn't know Jesus, and I didn't become born again and experience complete freedom until I left Adventism while I was in high school. The main flaws in my "belief statement" were: lack of the centrality of Christ and the glory of God, lack of belief in the complete inerrancy of God's word, and lack of understanding of salvation.
I know the Lord was with me from a young age; I am probably aware of that now because I am a Christian. However, as a Seventh-day Adventist, I never invited Jesus to come into my heart and be Lord of my life. No one ever said much about that. Becoming a member of the church was the most important thing! All anyone has to do to become a member is to affirm belief in the 27 Fundamental Doctrines and be formally baptized. I believed that to be saved, I had to be a member of the SDA church, believe in Jesus (I wasn't completely sure what that meant), keep the Ten Commandments (especially the Sabbath), and not eat meat, especially the unclean meats outlined in the Mosaic law. I knew about grace, but it was just another ill-defined doctrine with the others.
Finding the Truth
When I was in seventh grade, my dad's cousin, a former Adventist, sent us a couple of books regarding the false and cultic beliefs and teachings of Seventh-day Adventism. They especially targeted the Sabbath, Ellen White, and the Investigative Judgment. My parents read these books, studied the Bible, and discussed what they were learning almost every time our family was together. My brother and I learned along with them, listening and often adding to the discussion.
About the same time, we also began a weekly home Bible study with our Christian neighbors; my brother and I participated there as well. We studied the entire New Testament-one chapter per week-and gained a new, fresh understanding of the Bible and New Testament theology. This Bible study was important because it helped us break away from Adventist biblical interpretation. As exiting Adventists, we often interpreted Biblical passages according to Ellen White's writings without knowing it. When we would read something and say what we thought it meant, the neighbors would often ask, "Where does the Bible say that?" The home Bible study helped us learn to study the Bible without pre-conceived notions and interpret difficult passages of Scripture with other passages.
Through all this study, we came to some important conclusions that ultimately led us away from Seventh-day Adventism into Christianity. First of all, we learned that the Old Covenant, which includes all Mosaic law (including the ten commandments), is obsolete, because a newer and better covenant has been established. Here Jesus replaces every element of the Old Covenant. As born-again Christians, we don't have to keep the old-covenant Sabbath any longer! Instead, Jesus is our Sabbath-rest, for in him we are saved and secure in that salvation. The Old Testament priesthood is no longer valid, because Jesus is our great high priest, who speaks to the Father in our defense, and "when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law" (Heb. 7:12).
The Old Testament sacrifices are no longer valid, because Jesus has made the ultimate sacrifice for sins through his blood shed on the cross. In him we are saved, sanctified, and brought into the glorious freedom of God's children. As Paul writes, "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ" (Col. 2:16-17). The entire Old Testament, from the Ten Commandments to the Prophets, points forward to and is fulfilled in Jesus.
Second, Ellen White is not only invalid, she's a false prophet. My dad did Internet research and found a lot of information detailing a side of Ellen White that we had never heard about in the SDA church. For example, she herself often ate meat while she condemned meat-eating she wrote that those who ate meat would not be translated to heaven. Furthermore, out of all her writings (which are seventeen times as long as the Bible), more than eighty percent is confirmed plagiarism. We also learned that she made many failed prophecies, which, according to the Bible, identify her as a false prophet. I had no trouble breaking away from belief in her; the overwhelming evidence against her combined with her blatant contradictions of the Word of God convinced me she was not only a false prophet; she was a tool of the Devil.
As we continued to study and grow, the Bible and the amazing Christian gospel of freedom in Christ became more and more clear to me and my family. We started a home church with the neighbors on Sunday mornings and quit going to the SDA church on Sabbath mornings. I will never forget that one Saturday night when we gathered and knelt together on the carpet. Going around the circle, we each renounced Seventh-day Adventism and asked Jesus to come in where Adventism had been in our hearts. I went to bed that night feeling like a new person: I was no longer Adventist, and I would never go back.
A New School
The summer before my sophomore year in high school, my parents moved me and my brother from the local Adventist academy to a Christian private school. I needed Christian friends I had never seen what true Christian young people act like. The Adventist academy was not a Christian atmosphere; in fact, drug dealing and premarital sex was quite prevalent-I heard about it all the time. Going to school there was weird for me: the teachers taught non-Christian doctrine, the students weren't Christian, and I felt like I had to act like them to be cool.
I was compromised and caught in a cognitive dissonance - stuck between my desire to fit in with my schoolmates and my desire to live for what I knew was true. Even though my classmates saw something different in the way I acted and spoke, and many respected me for it, the pressure was always on to compromise my integrity, much more than it would have been at a public school. Adventist adolescents not only rebel against their parents, but they also often rebel against the Adventist mandate to "live according to the Ten Commandments." My friends did not have the Holy Spirit living in them.
My behavior distressed my parents: my home life was terrible, my grades were suffering, and I was caught between what I knew was true and what I felt comfortable with, meanwhile trying to escape from the real world through computer programming. Even though I knew I was acting and living contrary to what I knew was right, and that Adventism was evil, I wanted to stay at the Adventist academy because it was comfortable and familiar.
Towards the end of my Freshman year, my parents began searching for a suitable school for my brother and me, and found a Christian inter-denominational school in a nearby town. When we went to visit the school, my brother and I were adamant that "We shall not be moved," but when we first walked into the school building, all our resolutions dissolved. For me, it was very surprising to find other sincere Christian teens, something I had never experienced at the Adventist academy. I consented to attend the Christian school the following year. A year later, I wrote:
I will never forget coming to [school name] for the first day of school. Like an explorer coming to a new continent, I felt quite bewildered and rather excited by the whole situation. Just migrating from class to class was a new experience; people I had never seen before stopped me in the hallways and greeted me, sometimes asking me how my day was going.
I remember the sort of heavenly, dreamlike feeling I had while walking down the main mall. Bright sunlight streaming softly through the lofty windows seemed to tenderly brighten the soul of every other traveler lucky enough to pass there. God's presence was undeniable, unshakable, and I saw Jesus' love in the smiling eyes of my fellow light-bearers. Never before had I belonged to people I didn't even know.
My first day at [school name] was like a loving kiss from my Father, who once again had pointed me along the joyous path of his perfect will. Since then I have grown to love him more, and I excitedly look forward to wherever God guides me as I grow into the person he wants me to be.
I am convinced God led me to that school for the experience of everyday life with Christians. It was vastly different from my experience at the Adventist academy; the Holy Spirit was present and active, and it showed in the way people treated each other. The whole place felt like it was full of light compared to the dark place I had come from. The teaching in every class was Christ-centered; the lectures were presented under the Christian worldview. School was a joy, and I began to develop real friendships with my peers.
A New Church
During my first year at my new school (my sophomore year in high school), a friend invited me to come to a Sunday night praise service with the high school ministry at his church (Trinity Church). It was amazing! I remembered my old youth Sabbath-school, where nobody really cared about worship or prayer; it was all a performance. The people up front tried to keep us entertained and tried not to "bore us with spiritual stuff." Girls and guys often came to "see and be seen," and many of the girls wore immodest clothing. But here at the Christian church, all the high school students were serious about worshiping God! My parents sat in the back row to watch the service, and they were also amazed.
Our first Sunday morning church service at Trinity was beyond expression. The worship was genuine and full of life and meaning. People in the congregation were singing and raising their hands, something that we had never seen or experienced before in Adventism. And the sermon contained solid Biblical teaching about God's grace and the cross, which had been paramount in our new understanding of Christianity and leaving Adventism. To top it off, at the end of the service we sang the song "I will never be the same again," during which my entire family was crying with joy.
Jesus saved me!
Soon after my family began attending Trinity, I became a Christian. I don't remember where or when, but at some point during that year, I asked Jesus to come into my heart and be Lord of my life. I trusted him alone to save me from my sin, and I knew in my heart that I was secure in my salvation. There was nothing more I could do: Jesus had paid it all! I was saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, and my life began changing dramatically.
As I write, I am amazed at how God has worked in my life. Since I became a Christian four years ago, he has been faithful to change me, one step at a time, to be like Christ-and he will be faithful in the future. He has given me a new life, a new ministry, and a passion to love and serve him. I have grown in my knowledge of the Bible, in my love for God, and my love for others. I can't claim to have made any difference by my own effort-God has done all the work that has happened in me and through me!
I praise God for leading me and my family out of Adventism into the truth, and I praise him for revealing his inerrant, unchanging truth in the Bible. I praise him for my parents, who taught me to love and seek the truth, and seek Jesus above all. Most of all, I praise God for choosing me, saving me, making me his child and loving me, giving my life a purpose, and giving me a real and living hope of abundant life forever with him.
Jesus saved me, not because of any works I did or any laws I kept, but because of his great mercy and love. I will never be the same again!
I was baptised in the lake at Forest Home during the annual church picnic during the summer of 2007.
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