Testimony of Debbie Jenson Steely
I followed Jesus Himself away from SDA doctrine, and He used the arms of the Beems to surround me in Christian love and comfort through their book, It’s Okay NOT to be a Seventh-Day Adventist. It helped me hold my head up high in order to keep my eyes on Jesus on that part of my journey. I praise God for Teresa and Arthur Beem's courage in publishing this book. Someday in heaven, they will be introduced by Jesus to all the people their book has comforted during and after their difficult transitions out of this cult.
I didn't leave the SDA church because of the Beem's book. I had already left before I read their book, but what it did for me was to help me understand that I was not alone in my journey. I learned that others have struggled with the same thing, and it helped me understand and embrace the fact that, like the title says, "It's OK…." It just gave me such comfort, such tears of relief. I'm convinced that Jesus used it (among other things) to help me heal.
It's a difficult transition from the SDA church to a "mainstream" Christian church. What makes it the most difficult is that you really don't run into people who actually understand where you have come from. The SDA population is so very small compared to the rest of the Christian population that you often feel isolated outside of the SDA Church. Even if you encounter someone who has at least heard of the SDA church, most of the time they really don't understand the doctrine. Maybe they've heard a thing or two about it (usually not accurate), but they don't have a real understanding. They kind of just dismiss you, although that's not even the difficulty. The problem is when you need to talk to someone—when you're searching, trying to understand, really have a desire in your heart to know the whole truth—the people you try to talk to can't even understand what you're talking about or why you believe these things because it's so different from what everyone else (mainstream Christianity) believes and teaches. It's almost like you speak a language nobody has ever heard of, and you're trying to learn English from people who speak a few different languages, but don't understand anything at all about your native language.
All I know is being in the SDA church gave me no comfort, no hope, made me feel like I would never be good enough, made me feel like I could never believe I was "saved" (I was actually taught that I should be ashamed of myself if I wanted to say or believe that I was "saved"), made me feel like I was always being "watched" just in case I might make a mistake and break a commandment, and so naturally that makes you wear a mask. I never felt like I could be real, at least never at church or around SDA people—and worst of all, around God. That's bondage.
It took me a while to figure out how so many people I met in other churches could love Christ so much but totally miss the Sabbath commandment. It was so puzzling to me for a while. Because, believe me, there are many, many people in "mainstream Christianity" who love Christ with their WHOLE heart and they haven't given the 7th day Sabbath a second thought ever in their lives, other than to read it as part of the history of the children of Israel. What I found is that the truth is they are not missing anything! They actually just don't have the baggage that the SDAs have—the bondage of trying to add the Old Covenant to the New. Grace + ANYTHING = bondage. The Old Covenant proclaimed, "The Messiah is coming!" The New Covenant proclaims, "The Messiah has COME!"
Circumcision and the 7th day Sabbath were signs or seals meant to set apart people who were under the Old Covenant (people proclaiming that the Messiah would come). Baptism and The Lord's Supper are the signs or seals that set apart the people who are under the New Covenant (people who proclaim that the Messiah has come!). The 7th day Sabbath was a shadow of the REAL Rest, the substance, which is Jesus Himself. Our soul's rest is found only in Him, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. It’s not trying to force some kind of physical requirement one day a week. The real rest is that we can now lay down our works, our own trying to gain salvation by our own good works and obedience to the Law, and rest in His work on the cross for the rest of our lives. When I finally understood that, my heart leaped for joy and is still leaping every day! It's difficult for me to fully express how joyful I feel when I think about the fact that His Grace alone is sufficient.
Now my desire is to reflect his glory in everything I do because my motive has changed. It's no longer me trying to make myself be good enough for Him. I can never be good enough, no matter how much I polish up the outside (including polishing my outward behavior and outward obedience). Now my motive has nothing to do with me—and everything to do with Him. He did it all for me. There is nothing I can do. He wants nothing from me except my trust that He alone is sufficient for me.
I left the SDA church because I focused my eyes only on Jesus and asked Him to show me the truth. (The books of Hebrews and Galatians were so helpful to me). I let go of everything in between Him and me, including doctrine and a church, and chose to follow only Him and His Word. I desired to follow Him, even if it meant I would hear and accept truth that I was taught to argue against and didn't want to hear, as long as it was His truth. He led me where I am today and continues to lead me. I think there are many precious people in the SDA church, and I am thankful for those who were kind to me, but as for me, I cannot follow a false prophetess, nor false doctrine. Nothing stands between me and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I will add nothing to the Grace of God.
I hope you find comfort and peace in your journey. God bless you.
Debbie Jenson Steely, 2010