S P R I N G • 2 0 1 6
VOLUME 17, ISSUE 1
I want to share my own testimony of the faithfulness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. I am the older son of Richard and Colleen Tinker. I grew up as a Seventh-day Adventist, and I was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church at the age of 10.
When I was in junior high, my parents attended a seminar about the new covenant given by Dale Ratzlaff. They were impacted by what they heard, and in the following weeks, they read two of his books, The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventists and Sabbath in Crisis (which has since been renamed Sabbath in Christ). As they read, they talked constantly about what they were reading and learning. My brother Nathanael and I listened as these discussions took place—frequently at the dinner table—and the two of us also became convinced that the doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist church are in error when measured by the Scriptures. We understood that contrary to the Adventists’ teachings, the old covenant Sabbath command as stated in the Ten Commandments is not binding on believers in Jesus Christ and is not the final test of our salvation. We were convinced that the investigative judgment as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist church is a false doctrine, that Ellen White herself was a false teacher and false prophet, and that we didn’t need to be afraid of her.
Together we as a family left the Seventh-day Adventist church when I was in the 9th grade. It was a scary but morally inescapable choice. God’s design is that believers meet and share life together (as they did in the early church), and His command to us regarding unbelievers is, “Therefore come out from their midst and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17a). We had to leave the false doctrine and false gospel of Adventism in order to be obedient to God’s Word.
There is a covenant promise attached to that command to separate from unbelievers. Let me share the passage from 2 Corinthians 6:16-18:
I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord. And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.
Then Paul, having quoted God’s promises which He had long before given to His people, writes to the believers in Corinth, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).
My parents left the Adventist church fearing God and choosing to believe His promises, trusting Him with their livelihood, their friendships, their future, and their two sons.
One of God’s promises in that passage is to be a father to us, and He proved himself faithful to that promise in the coming months and years.
The Lord became a Father to me and has continued to be a Father to me from the time when I received the gospel and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ until now. He has faithfully provided for all my needs, both material and spiritual, and I’d like to share a couple of ways He showed Himself faithful.
In leaving Adventism, I knew I was leaving a church built on false doctrine, but I didn’t yet know the Lord personally. I didn’t know what my life would look like as I left my Adventist community, but the Lord faithfully gave me a new one. He brought me to a youth group through a friend at school, and through the youth pastor’s leadership, I learned and feasted on the glorious gospel truth of justification by faith in Christ, and I learned who I am in Christ—an adopted son of God. I learned I am now without condemnation or guilt before God, and I have peace with Him through the atonement the Lord Jesus provided on my behalf.
The Lord also brought some great Christian brothers and friends into my life. During my college years, through mutual accountability and encouragement in the Lord, we saw spiritual growth, increasing holiness in our lives, and victories over sins.
After college I became a Bible study leader with the young adult ministry at my church, and through that Bible study I met the wonderful Christian woman who would become my wife. We were married in 2010, and we are raising three beautiful small children now.
In all these things, God showed his covenant faithfulness and grace to me by providing for all my needs—even needs I had not anticipated.
Antidote to legalism
In the years following our family’s exit from Adventism, I often struggled with nagging legalistic doubts and fears about sins and shortcomings in my life. I had been raised, in part, not only with the Law of Moses but also—perhaps especially—the law of Ellen White, which is 10 times more impossible to keep. I would lapse into worry about even extremely small issues, as if God were carefully watching and measuring with terrible exactitude my every thought, deed, and word. (Even those words may remind you of the anxiety of being under legalism.) My overactive conscience often drove me crazy, and it still tries to sometimes.
My experience, though, is that God’s Word and the truth of the Gospel given in it sets me free from bondage to fear. Notice Galatians 2:19-21:
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.
This law, I would add, is not just the law of Moses; it’s any system by which we measure our right standing with God or our behavior. Christ died to free us from these systems.
In John 17 where Jesus prays to the Father, He says in verse 17, “Sanctify them by the truth; your Word is truth.” It is His will to sanctify me through the truth, not from listening to a condemning conscience or obeying its demands. I know that God has justified me already through faith in Jesus, and I have peace with Him, no condemnation, and adoption as his child (from Rom. chapters 3, 5, and 8). Trusting in these powerful truths from God’s Word not only sets me free from fear, but is transformative. As John Piper writes, “The faith that justifies also sanctifies” (from Future Grace).
Growth in holiness is the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives as our faith in God’s promises increases, it is not the result of submitting to an external standard of behavior. We who have lived under legalism need God’s Word to renew our minds and the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from an evil conscience (Heb. 10:22)—that is, a conscience that is not informed by the truth. God calls us to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” and such assurance comes through faith in the truth of the gospel.
God rewards those who act in faith, as my family did when we trusted him to take care of us, even as we left all that was familiar. The life of faith looks like Abraham’s life did—leaving our old life behind as we follow God by faith into the land he will show us. †
Copyright 2016 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Camp Verde, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised June 7, 2016. Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org