Testimony of Ron Chapman
I was born in 1944 in the Sydney, Australia, suburb of Leichhardt. When I was around 4 or 5 years of age, my mother decided that we should attend a local Congregational Church. This was my first introduction to Sunday School, church and Jesus, and we attended this church for about three years. A newspaper article advertising a meeting on archaeology, the Bible and prophecy caught my mother's attention, and our family soon found ourselves attending these meetings. I was too young to understand what it was all about, but I loved the singing, and the funny imagery of goats and animals with crowns on their heads, etc. I soon found that we were going to go to another church called a "Seventh Day Adventist" church approximately 7 miles from home. This was weird, as we were going to church on a Saturday which spoilt all my usual activities playing with friends. I was placed in another "Sunday School" except it was on Saturday and called "Sabbath School"! We were given a magazine called "Our Little Friend" and a smaller study book, which we had to read every day and answer questions. At each Sabbath School, we would be questioned if we had done daily study, and frowned upon if we failed. I let the class down on more than one occassion. We all came together as a group after Sabbath School to see which class had a perfect score of everyone doing daily study. I lied (sometimes) but my mother would put pressure on me to do this daily study and make me feel guilty if I hadn't. As time went on and the studies got deeper, I continued attending the SDA Church—calling myself an SDA—and I thoroughly believed we had the truth. We were right, and Ellen G. White was a true prophetess!
When I turned 15 years of age, I started an apprenticeship in Engineering and Toolmaking, and I was known as the "Seventh Day Apprentice" as I would not work on Saturday. However, the lure of going away for camping weekends with the other apprentices became so enticing that I allowed myself an enjoyable weekend away, despite feeling guilty that I was breaking Sabbath. The worldly environment in the workplace and my workmates soon started to wear me down, and it wasn't too long before I stopped going to church altogether. My mother wisely spoke to me and said that I was old enough to make up my own mind whether I attended church or not and wasn't going to force me into going. Wow! I felt a sense of freedom and so went my own worldly way and didn't go to church for the duration of my apprenticeship. Now, where I had served my apprenticeship, it wasn't bad training, but it wasn't the best training, and I determined that I would be the best at my trade and so looked and found a company that had had a reputation of high-precision work. I started there as a young tradesman, almost 21 years of age, and found the work beyond my capabilities, but I persevered. My nerves were rattled and after one month of probationary trial, the supervisor was in two minds as to whether to keep me on, but he decided to give me another two weeks. By this time, I was near a nevous breakdown, but I remembered something that someone said to me or I was taught: "In the day of trouble, humble yourself, call upon the name of God, He will hear and answer your prayer."
I did this and felt convicted that I should return to God and the SDA Church, and to my delight, after another two weeks my supervisor said to me that he liked my attitude towards work: head down, tail up, and that I concentrated on my work and didn't stand around talking during working hours, and so—I was in! I became a permanent employee with this company and for the next 9 years, honed my skills. In the meantime, my mother sensed that she should ask me if I would like to go to church with her the next Sabbath, to which I replied, "Yes!" I overheard her saying to my grandmother that she somehow felt that she should ask me to go to church. So I returned to the SDA church and threw myself into reading EGW's The Great Controversy, Desire of Ages, Steps to Christ, and all things SDA.
Around the same time, a Christian friend invited me to his church—a Presbyterian church—and I cunningly thought that if I went to his church, then he would be obliged to return the favour and attend my church, the "true church," the Seventh Day Adventist Church! But something happened! This pastor was preaching on "Works Salvation" and how there is nothing in the way of works that we could offer God that would merit favour with Him for our salvation! This was devastating to me, for I lived in hope that my good works would outweigh the bad works and that God would let me into heaven. What he said cut the legs out from under me, and I was hopelessly lost. I trusted in my obedience to the law and the keeping of Sabbath for my salvation, and this man was teaching that no amount of law-keeping would save me, and he had scriptural evidence to back it up. I was drawn to his preaching and continued to attend on the Sundays following whilst still attending worship service on Saturday with the SDAs. I was having very spiritual weekends!
If this minister's preaching wasn't already difficult enough for me to hear, he then began preaching on how we were born in sin and had no hope of salvation without repentance. He seemed to be preaching directly at me, and I found myself pinned to the pew, not daring to move. His message describing a sinner and his estate before God overwhelmed me, and all that I pinned my hopes on for salvation was gone! He must have realised the state I was in, and he then began preaching on the way to Salvation. I had to attend his sermons, and during one of them he asked, "Do you believe that you are a sinner deserving nothing but God's wrath and judgement upon you?" (Yes I do! ~ I'm dripping with sin!) "Will you confess to God that you are a sinner and need His Forgiveness?" (Yes! ~ Of course I do.) "Do you want to be saved?" (Yes! ~ with all my heart!) Then he said something that really caught hold of me. (Up until this time, I had read about salvation but it didn't seem to apply to me personally.) He said, "Who put that desire in your heart to want to be saved?" (Huh!!!???) "Who put that desire in your heart to want to be saved? Do you think it was Satan?" (Well, no! ~ Of course, it wasn't.) "Satan wants you to go on in misery never knowing that you can have salvation, so it wasn't Satan putting that desire in your heart." It suddenly dawned on me that it could be none other than the Holy Spirit actually at work in my heart, and this now became personal. When the Holy Spirit begins a work in your heart, He will see it through to its completion. I AM SAVED! A load of burden was lifted. It was what Christ had done for me at the cross—not what I could do to earn salvation, and it was all of GRACE and GRACE ALONE, without the deeds of the LAW!
I rejoiced in my salvation and went home to tell my mother. She immediately responded by telling me that we should never say that we are saved because Ellen G. White taught this. I was floored! She had no assurance of salvation. I began to see how this ties in with the Adventist doctrine of the Investigative Judgement—how because no-one knows when their name will come up in that judgement, they don't know if they have passed or not! This was all contrary to Scripture, and as I brought up this and other erroneous beliefs, my mother would shut her eyes, mutter silent prayers as I was talking, and completely shut off to anything I had to say. Eventually, after a parting of the ways for a few months, we agreed to come back together on the basis of respecting our differences. I didn't altogether like those terms, but being close to Mum, I could still witness by example rather than be apart.
Although I knew that Christ had kept the Law perfectly and had died for all my sins, the nagging thought that I may be keeping the wrong day still troubled me for years. It wasn't until several years later that I understood scriptural passages John had written about keeping Jesus' "commandments." I could see this was referring to Christ's teachings and commands and not the Law of Moses or the Ten Commandments. I would recommend buying a Hebrew, Greek, and English Interlinear Bible, which was a great help for me. Also, there are many Web sites dealing with the Sabbath issue that are worth investigating. I am now free from the bondage of the Law and believe and trust in my Lord for salvation. I could go on ad-infinitum about my experiences, but I think this should be sufficient.
Ron Chapman, August 10, 2012