Last Saturday, we went back to my hometown to celebrate my mom’s birthday. It’s a small town called Jaen, near Gapan City and about 20 mins away from Cabanatuan, province of Nueva Ecija. It was a fun weekend. Johann, for the first time, saw real live chicken, goats and a whole bunch of new faces.
I was excited because for the first time after so many years, I can see old friends whom my mom invited. Most of the invitees are members of the local Seventh-day Adventist church where I first learned about Jesus.
After the lunch celebration, I went to join an encircled Adventist friends to say hi and have updates on what’s going on in life. I love these guys. I mean, these are the same guys I grew up with in the church. We were together in youth camps during summer we call Pathfinder festivals. Most of us back then were officers of the local area organization of Adventist Youths. May pinagsamahan talaga kami nitong mga ‘to. Kuya Monching, Kuya Nor, Kuya Unyo, Bro. Cery, Bro. Genio — man, what can I say, I love you guys. :D You may not read this, but I know some of my relatives will do and and know what I’m saying.
I’m setting up the mood, actually. Because I myself did not exactly agree on what happened after I sat down with them. Apparently, their way of asking how am I was to ask why I left Seventh-day Adventism. I had to answer those questions in the most polite way were they wont be hurt. Unfortunately, I discovered that they were not really asking why I left rather they simply wanted to refute everything I would say, in front of the entire Adventist bretheren present that afternoon.
I got engaged. The sad thing about me being engaged in a theological debate is that the old Arnold normally awakens. My plan was to simply share with them my testimony on what the Lord is doing with me outside of the Adventist church. It turned out to be a real debate. The kind of debate I knew while I was an Adventist. These guys were my debating team! I mean, during those days, no one, and I mean no one — not an Iglesia ni Cristo, not a Baptist, not a Born-again, not anyone — can touch the church and the Sabbath, we would debate with anyone from any denomination.
I can almost hear myself 10 years ago talking through them. The very same things I used to utter were the very same arguments I received from them. And now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I don’t know if I would feel pity or angry — pity on them because they never outgrew that kind of legalism that prevents them from enjoying the love of God, and angry at the Adventist church for not taking care of them.
These fellows still believe that:
* Salvation means God’s grace PLUS good works. I even asked one of them if he should get credit for being saved aside from the death of Jesus. With conviction, he said yes. Apparently, they cannot be sure of their salvation. They can only hope for the best. And hope that they won’t slip once and then die, or else.
* Sabbath is the seal of God, Sunday is mark of the beast. With reference to Eze. 20:12,20, they proudly proclaim that Sabbath is the identifier of a real Christian without realizing that he is quoting from the Old Covenant writings. But for New Covenant Christians, the Bible is very clear that the new seal is the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13).
* I asked what they think about a professing Christian who has a wonderful relationship with Jesus and yet, in their understanding, the Sabbath is an Old Covenant law and is not applicable for New Covenant Christians. They said, kulang (not enough), which means….
* Only Sabbath keepers will be saved. Spiritual arrogance in its fullest.
I’m completely aware that The Seventh-day Adventist church doesn’t necessarily teach the same things. But what are you guys doing at the General Conference? And most especially, what have you done to my friends? These town folks represents the majority of believers in the Philippines. And the Philippines has almost the same numbers of membership as with that of the entire North American Division. They better do something about legalism in their church or they will each answer to God personally when time comes — big time!
Anyway, I had to end the discussion the proper way. I just assured them that even if I don’t believe the way they do, I am enjoying my relationship with God. I am not in anyway trying to convert them to any religion (in the first place, there were the ones eagerly trying to win me back), rather, I’m praying that they will have a powerful relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.