Jennifer Rector's Testimony

 

Click here to read Jennifer's testimony in the "Young SDA" section of Cherry Brandstater's beautiful Web site, Gently Broken

Alternatively, scroll down to read a second version of my testimony, written May 2009 as my admissions essay for the Christian university from which I graduated in May 2012, earning my degree in Biblical and Theological Studies.  I was to answer the question, "What does having a relationship with God mean to you?"

 

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From my perspective, having a relationship with God means blessing, change, sacrifice, and peace.  This is something I state from personal experience because the past fifteen months of my life, in particular, have the fingerprint of my heavenly Father all over them.  I will be eternally grateful to my Savior and the powerful working of the Holy Spirit, who peeled the scales from my eyes and freed my husband and me from a lifetime of cultic indoctrination. 

Raised in the Seventh-day Adventist church, I attended the denomination's schools for eleven and a half years, attended church every week, paid a ten-percent tithe, wore no jewelry, and was a vegetarian.  I was what we call a “good Adventist.”  I truly believed the church’s teaching that we were “the true remnant church of Bible prophecy” and often pondered my good luck in being part of God’s special church with a unique message for the “last days.” 

For the past eleven years my husband has taught in the SDA high school system, so we were very much a part of the distinctive Adventist culture from childhood through our adult lives.  About six years ago, we were shocked when Joe’s brother told us he’d come to believe the church’s prophet, Ellen G. White, had not really received her visions and messages from the Lord.  This was a serious charge, indeed, so we began to investigate for ourselves.  It wasn’t long before we were seeing it the same way.  The more Joe read of her voluminous writings, the more he could see that she didn’t match up with the Bible, particularly when it came to the way of salvation and the definition of perfection.  Because of his job within the church, however, we didn’t share this with more than a few trusted friends and family members.  While we were aware that there are even many in church leadership positions who privately do not hold to Ellen White as an authority, it is not something that can be said publicly, for fear of losing one’s job.

When Joe’s brother and sister-in-law left the Adventist church and rejected the 7th-day Sabbath a couple of years later, we became really concerned.  Sure, Ellen White wasn’t a prophet, but the Sabbath was sacred and its observance crucial to our right-standing with God, right?  We just couldn’t understand how they could justify shelving the fourth commandment when they weren’t promoting Christians going out and living immoral lives.  Why would they only willfully chose to disobey the 4th commandment?  Truthfully, we really didn’t want the answer to that question; at that time, we weren’t even prepared to understand the New Covenant paradigm in all its glory.  It was just beyond us.  We had the God of the universe inside the little box into which Adventist doctrine had stuffed Him. 

Two years ago, we moved to this area when my husband was offered a job at another Adventist academy by a principal he had worked with in years past.  We hadn’t been here more than a couple of weeks before we were deeply regretting our decision to leave our old school.  It was a terrible situation, but we were stuckat least for the foreseeable future.  Then in December of 2007, Joe was feeling so low spiritually that he obeyed when he sensed the Lord prompting him to drive into a nearby town one Sunday morning to attend church.  He came home telling me how wonderful it was, and asking me to come along, too.  By February of 2008, I did finally join him at the church.  While we still believed in the Sabbath and “kept” it at home, this wonderful body of believers became our spiritual home and lifeline.  We truly felt the presence of the Lord there like we never had in our whole lives in the Adventist church.  We were often moved to tears and experienced a much deeper love for, and walk with, the Lord Jesus Christ.

By April of 2008, I felt like I really had to honestly investigate the arguments against required Sabbath-keeping.  How could it be that all these wonderful Christian people didn’t see the need to keep the Sabbath like we did?  What was I missing?  We had always been so sure that we kept the Sabbath because that is what the Bible taught, not just because that’s what Ellen White said.  We knew all the SDA “proof texts” and explanations to get around verses like Colossians 2:16-17.  So, I finally asked my sister-in-law if I could borrow her copy of Sabbath in Christ, a book by former-SDA pastor Dale Ratzlaff.  It is a 430-page study of the New Covenant and the related issue of the Sabbath in the New Testament. 

My most clear memory from that time is of the many tears the rolled down my cheeks and dripped off my chin as I read.  I still contend that it was the first time I had ever heard the true gospel message (or at least the first time I’d heard it in a way that got through to me).  Its message just blew me awayGod had escaped from the little 7th-day Sabbath box I’d had Him in my whole life!!!  I came to understand that grace is our New Covenant Sabbath rest every day.  The Sabbath was just a symbol foreshadowing Christ, in whom we find our sabbatismos (Heb. 4:9).  Can you believe it????  How awesome is our God!!??  The grace given when we accept Christ by faith is our true Sabbath rest.  I just can’t get over it!  How awesome, how glorious . . . . Thank you, Lord! 

In the year since that time, I have read so much and studied my way out of the other false doctrines of Adventism.  I have such a hunger to know the truth of God’s Word and to become well-grounded in it.  I have also been mentored by many former-Adventists online.  It is a blessing to have other women in my life who’ve walked a similar path to mine, but are further along down the road.  I am rejoicing that I am now a “regular” Christianat long last a part of the body of Christ.  My desire is to continue to grow in my walk with Jesus.  As part of that journey, I want to study theology to increase my understanding of scripture and thereby have the means to share the true truth with others who are still caught in the false teachings of Christian cults.  That is the ministry to which the Lord is leading both my husband and me.  Our heart is to reach out to Seventh-day Adventists, as well as to better educate evangelicals about the gospel-crushing doctrines Adventism teaches behind closed doors and through their false prophet. 

As my husband is resigning from his job with the SDA church this week, we are stepping out, trusting that God will provide for us.  (Joe is beginning his masters studies in August, so we will both be students, trying to survive on student loans for the next few years).  We want to be obedient, separate from false teachers, and free to share the gospel with our SDA friends and loved ones (something we weren’t free to do on a large scale while Joe was still employed by the church).  We are now walking by faith rather than by sight. 

Another difficult aspect of this transition is the negative reactions we will face from our Adventist family and friends.  They will express everything from profound disappointment in us to telling us we’re lost for leaving the church and the Sabbath.  We know that we are walking in truththat they are still looking to the tables of stone and have a veil over their eyesbut they will think it is us who have rejected the truth.  So, in addition to the stress of packing and moving this month, we are trying to brace ourselves for the emotional fallout our leaving the SDA church will bring from our loved ones.

 

In conclusion, my current definition of what “having a relationship with God” means is so different from what it would have been a few years ago.  In the past fifteen months, I have found the blessing of HIM in a way I hardly knew was possible before.  I have found that change and sacrifice are what He often calls us to when we finally begin to listen and are willing to set aside our preconceived ideas about who He is and what the Bible really says.  And finally, I have found that the security I have in fully accepting Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf brings peace.  In Christ I have all I need.  No, I haven’t “arrived” yet, but I look forward to growing in Him, nurturing my baby-sized faith, and becoming further grounded in the truth of Jesus Christ as revealed in His Word.