The Stonecutter's Bride
by Samuel N. Pestes
People who take their faith seriously often have difficulty moving out of the rut into which they were conditioned. I was born into a family who believed that Saturday was the day God specified for cessation from all work. It was God's holy Sabbath. To go to church on Saturday meant that God's angels would meet with us there. We pitied people who did not know better and went to church on Sunday. To worship on Sunday meant that those "outsiders" were flirting with the mark of the beast, and if they did not repent of their sin, they were setting themselves up to suffer God's wrath on judgment day.
Traditional habits and beliefs can become so ingrained in our subconscious that they become part of who we are. Our [Seventh-day Adventist] prophetess, Ellen White, warned us that if we ventured inside a church to worship on Sunday, our angels would depart from us at the door and we would be at the mercy of evil spirits who kept those people in darkness.
After studying the Scriptures thoroughly and discovering that going to church on Saturday did not have anything to do with the seal of God, and that worshipping on on Sunday was not in any way connected to the mark of the beast, Dorothy and I ventured to attend service one Sunday in a neighboring church.
I remember how terribly uneasy I felt. In my mind I knew that I was not sinning against God but down inside I felt completely out of place. I was almost sick to my stomach even though in my head I knew that I had nothing to fear. For months, no matter how hard I tried, I could not get rid of the uneasiness I felt when worshipping with "those Sunday keepers." I was a prisoner of my own past. I needed help if I was ever to be freed from those feelings of guilt.
Probably because I was such a hopeless case, help came one day unexpectedly in the summer of 1978 as I sat in our living room nursing a couple of broken ribs that I had received while at work. Since my wife, Dorothy, was away enjoying a ladies retreat, I also decided to take some time off to recuperate.
I was sitting alone on the sofa, quietly meditating on the goodness of God, when suddenly, and without warning, it seemed that my ears were locked into a transmitter of some kind, and I was listening to a verbatim recitation of the creation story as recorded in Genesis chapters one and two. It seemed someone was talking out loud but there was nobody in the house! Was I hearing noises? I was startled and amazed. I had never had that experience before nor since.
After gaining my composure, I quieted myself with the thought that such experiences were quite common during Bible times when angels communicated with the people of God. Since God is not dead, this may just be the real thing, I thought! Could this be a visitation sent from God? So I quieted myself and decided to listen. The speaker continued quoting verbatim the story of creation as found in Genesis chapters one and two. He placed particular emphasis on the closing words that summarized the events of each day of creation. After quoting Genesis chapter one, verses 1-3, He strongly emphasized,
"And the evening and the morning were the first day."
Then, after recounting the events of the second day of creation, the voice again emphasized, "And the evening and the morning were the second day" and so on to the next day. I was puzzled why the speaker was repeating a story that nearly every child knows. Why not something profound or new?
As I continued listening, the events of the creation were all mentioned in detail until the sixth day ended with the creation of man,
"God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very
good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day."
I remember thinking, there seems to be nothing new so far. Why repeat a story every child knows? Then came the bombshell as the voice spoke with double emphasis:
"But it does not say that about the seventh day. It does not say, the evening and the morning were the seventh day!"
Shocked, I quickly picked up my Bible and checked Genesis chapter two, to see if that was correct. I had a degree in theology, and had read that passage numberless times, but I had never noticed that difference. Amazed, I realized that I had just experienced a revelation. This certainly did not originate in my mind! My mind was opened to something I had never seen before. The Bible does not say that the evening and the morning were the seventh day!
"What is the significance of that?" I asked in a loud voice. Immediately the answer unraveled in my mind as though a new carpet was rolled out before me.
The reason it does not say that the evening and the morning marked the seventh day is because the Sabbath was created to have a beginning but no ending. The word "Sabbath" is synonymous with "rest." After the six days of creation, God rested from His work of creating the world, but because the work was then finished, it does not say that He planned to commence working again on the eighth day. Nor did He ask for Adam to do so!
The work of creation was finished, and because there was no more work to be done, man was to enjoy God's completed work of creation forever! God did not tell Adam to cease resting on the eighth day. God's Sabbath rest was not intended to end with the closing of the seventh solar day. Adam and Even were intended to continue resting in God's completed work and enjoying God's rest as long as they lived!
It was by eating from the Tree of knowledge of good and evil that Adam broke the Edenic Sabbath rest. By disobedience he broke the original Sabbath rest God had given to the human race. It was Adam's sin that brought the original Sabbath to an end, not the setting of the sun on the seventh day.
The message was clear. The original Sabbath of creation was not a literal twenty-four hour day. It was to be a never-ending, living experience in a perfect environment where man was not required to do any work on his own behalf. He was simply to rule his Edenic domain seven days of every week as God's representative on earth. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that Adam's responsibilities in Eden were limited to only six days of the week. He ruled Eden seven day of every week until he sinned.
Adam was not commanded to work by the sweat of his brow until the curse was pronounced as a result of his disobedience. As we have seen in a previous chapter, the seventh-day Sabbath that God later gave to Israel through Moses was only a symbol, or a dim shadow, of this original Sabbath rest.
This revelation (I've since learned that others have seen it long before I did) on the meaning of the Sabbath rest first appeared in my book Christian Be Free, which was published by Tyndale House Publishers in 1981.
The trauma of change
Having been raised in a Sabbath keeping environment, I found it impossible to break with feelings of guilt when I did not go to church on Saturday. Going to a house of worship on a Tuesday or Wednesday was fine, but why avoid worship on Sunday? I was taught that worship on Sunday was tied in with the "mark of the beast." To me it was a mystery why New Testament saints gathered for worship on Sunday as well as on other days (Acts 20:7).
I suppose that I needed more help to break from the shackles of the tradition than other people do, and that is why the Lord gave me that "window" of revelation that I might see. God is so good! He meets us at our point of need.
Information can enlighten the mind, but only revelation can illuminate the soul. I thank God for other men and women who have seen the light and are already presenting the message of Righteousness by Faith untainted by legalism. Unfortunately, there are also many who are preaching a hybrid form of religion that is a mixture of legalism and fiath. Making Saturday worship a condition of godliness is not the only rabbit trail that legalism provides. Legalism provides many detours, one for every taste.
Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away
(2 Corinthians 3:15, 16).
This explains why people who focus on legalism in any of its many forms actually become "blind" and cannot see the light of the New Covenant until they are delivered from that anti-Christ spirit of legalism. They simply cannot walk in two directions at the same time.
The mental, spiritual and social barriers that Dorothy and I had to contend with gave us a new appreciateion for the difficulties faced by the Jews in Apostolic days. Instead of feeling condemnation for "those Jews" who gave the Early Church so much trouble, we began to empathize with teh challenges they faced. Their whole culture was turned upside down! The Jewish leaders in Acts 16:7 were alerted that,
These men who have turned the world upside down have come
When one has been trained and disciplined from youth to believe that God requires worship in a certain format, it is not a simple matter to change. Habit patterns, whether of a religious or of a secular nature cut a groove, as it were, into our emotional and nervous systems, so that any attempt to break out is met with violent resistance from the subconscious mind.
This is especially so when habit patterns are equated with what we are told is a "thus says the Lord." The intellect may be convinced of the error, but the subconscious replies, "So what?" That is why Jesus told Nicodemus that a person must be born all over again and become a new creature before he can receive the things of the Spirit.
This experience taught me not to condemn people who appear to reject Christ and the New Covenant of freedom. When faced with the challenge of progressive change we all face the same inner resistance. We must be careful lest by condemning the Jews, or people of any faith, we may be condemning ourselves. The spirit of legalism is a terrible and unforgiving tyrant! To evaluate it is one thing. To judge and condemn is another. Only when we learn to love and accept others (not necessarily their baggage) are we living by the Spirit of life that frees us from the law of sin and death. After all, Jesus accepted me.
The New Birth is more than a redecorating job
To be freed from legalism it is not enough to change the pictures on the walls. Some think that if they redecorate their mental and emotional walls by replacing the pictures of demons with pictures of Jesus, the house is cleansed. Nothing can be further from the truth. Unless the foundation and the wall are replaced through the New Birth, the new pictures only camouflage what lies beneath. Unless the inside is renewed, nothing has really changed.
Placing a religious sign in your window does not change what goes on inside the house. So long as your basic structure remains the same you have merely done a white wash job. Replacing wrong doctrines with correct ones does not change the heart. In fact, such and exercise may only produce a more self-righteous and judgmental legalist boastful of his accomplishments.
Wrong doctrines can stifle and retard one's spiritual growth and may even affect a person's role in eternity. But right doctrines themselves do not produce life. A person may have all the doctrines correctly arranged, and yet be possessed by a spirit of legalism and pride. The new life can only come through being born again of the Holy Spirit. To experience this you must surrender unconditionally to God, and trust Him to create a new heart in you. God will do exactly what He said:
And whoever comes to me I will never drive away . . . And this is
the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he
has given me, but raise them up at the last day (John 6:37, 39).
That is why it is important for every Christian to check the foundation of his faith. Trying to change the worldy systems that have overwhelmed our churches will be an exercise in futility until we go back to the original foundation that God gave us, and allow the Holy Spirit, not merely to revive or restore us to some past condition, but to recreate us into new creatures. Old wineskins cannot contain the new wine of the Gospel. We must be reborn, not just redecorated!
This excerpt from Chapter 13 of The Stonecutter's Bride by Samuel Pestes is shared here by permission of the author and publisher. (All emphases are the authors).