Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Love and Truth in Adventism

Lovingkindness and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Psalm 85:10 NASB

I would have never admitted it, but as an Adventist I felt like "love" and "truth" had trouble existing together. I and the Adventists I knew all seemed to be forced to embrace one or the other.

Teachers of "the truth"

Growing up we saw people like those in the "Amazing Facts" ministry (etc.) who preached "truth". Because they knew more of the Adventist literature and seemed to read their Bibles more, they seemed to be more spiritual. They were the teachers, and they loved to talk about "the truth". When I occasionally did read through some Ellen White or other founding Adventist literature, I saw that they sounded the same as these modern teachers. They too talked about "the truth". I and others around me often didn't read that much of the original Adventist literature -- my former mission director once lamented on his site online that my fellow missionary and I had not read a complete Ellen White book between the two of us (we later did, though). So the people who did read more of her writings (which talked about "the truth") naturally seemed to be experts in the truth.

However, it seemed like there was so little love most of the time. Of course they could love one another. If you agreed with them, they showed you a lot of love. If you had the same interests as they did, the love poured out. And if you simply didn't know of the things they did, that was okay, too. They'd love you and pour encouragement on you to love "the truth" and get to know it. But if you disagreed with them or felt that it wasn't necessary to read so much of that stuff, then the love seemed to turn cold. And if others continued on in their "sins" by ignoring "the truth", then these teachers taught how we were to have nothing to do with those people.

Essentially, love was conditional on embracing the truth. If someone embraced it, they were to be loved. If they were ignorant of it, they could be loved into the truth. But if they disagreed or ignored it, then it was wrong to give them love.

But that was half of the story, half the picture. I first knew it as I grew up in semi-conservativism and had some elementary and academy teachers who espoused the strong teachings (and fears) of traditional Adventism. And at home I heard much from my mother who, God bless her, was trying not to be too controlling on us as her mother had been to her. But she couldn't help passing on much of what she had learned and believed. I learned "truth" growing up. It wasn't until university that I began to learn more of the other side, "love".

Teachers of "love"

My university was LaSierra, the notorious bastion of liberal Adventist education. Among them I learned to appreciate the Cross a little more, and learned that I could be spiritual without reading Ellen White. I felt more love around them, and experienced "nurture" for the first time I could really remember. When someone came talking "the truth", many LaSierra-ites would speak "love" in response. They didn't disagree with "the truth", but they tried to focus on "love" instead.

From them I learned that "love" was more important. But I realize now that I also learned that "love" meant ignoring "the truth". In regards to Adventist truth, "love" did not disagree with it, but kind of just ignored it a little.

Returning to "the truth"

LaSierra sponsored me as a missionary to Japan. When I arrived in Osaka to be a missionary for a year, my mission director was very conservative and solely enthusiastic about the early days of Adventism. From him and others I learned again of "the truth". I learned the conditionality of bestowing our love on people -- we gave love to those who were receptive to or already agreed to "the truth". Not to those who rejected or ignored it. Come to think of it, this is in harmony with Ellen White's writings of how God felt about those who rejected 1844 and the Sanctuary message -- she taught that God rejected them. So we firmly believed that it was correct for us to do the same.

Thus I learned that "true love" meant "loving the truth" and loving those who agreed with "the truth", not those who disagreed with it. Love was the truth, or the truth was love. From them I essentially learned that the Adventist "truth" was the definition of "love". I learned to judge people who did not love "the truth", and how to give them love only conditionally.

Seeing the contrast

When I returned to LaSierra, the contrast between those who held onto "love" and those who held onto "truth" became clearer and clearer. I had begun reading and researching more of Ellen White and the early days of Adventism. Yet I still walked among both groups, the love-focused and the truth-focused. Among the "love" group, I knew some of God's love. Yet I wanted to search deeper into "the truth" as well. Things would soon come to a head, and love and truth would soon meet to kiss each other in my life.

"Love" meant ignoring "the truth", and loving "the truth" meant being judgmental and accepting Ellen White who wrote about "the truth". It wasn't right to accept only part of what she wrote -- doing so meant not loving "the truth" at all.

A Spiritual Earthquake

As I searched through the old pages of "the truth", God was preparing me for a spiritual earthquake, increasing my hunger for the truth -- my hunger for Him Himself. God used my search through the old dusty writings to lead me to someone who would speak words which let loose the spiritual earthquake in my life. It was time for "the truth" to meet the Truth. Christ the Truth was about to smack into the Adventist truth and overrun it.

I had read the New Testament twice as a missionary, and particularly the book of Romans, which struck me with its clear condemnation of hypocrisy and fakeness, its condemnation of judging others, and its words about trusting in God through faith. God planted the seeds of His word in me through those readings, and I became acquainted with the Truth (with Christ) even though I still didn't see the difference between His truth and the Adventist truth.

I had learned that we are saved by faith in Christ, not by our works. Of course I hadn't applied this to the Ten Commandments, but when God felt it was time to let loose the spiritual earthquake in my life, He led me to a friend who simply said that if we are saved by keeping Sabbath in the last days, then we're saved by our works and not by faith in Christ. The earthquake had begun! I would not have been shaken if I had not read Romans and the New Testament. But because I did, I knew my friend was speaking the Truth, and that the Adventist "truth" fell short. It wasn't the Truth.

After that meeting I was shaken, but I could not go back to what I had once believed. I had tasted and seen that the Lord is truly good, and that His Truth is good and Adventist truth was wrong. I had to follow Him even though it looked like there was no ground before me.

Love and Truth meet and kiss

As I learned of the Holy Spirit, the true Sabbath-rest (it's Jesus!), and the New Covenant, I began to experience "love" and "truth" agreeing with one another.

The warmth I knew at LaSierra and liberal Adventist churches magnified, and the passion for truth I had experienced among conservative Adventism increased. Before it had been mistakenly set on what was not truth at all. Now it found the true source of Truth -- Jesus Christ and the gospel of His grace.

I wrote what I had learned as an Adventist that "love" meant ignoring "the truth", and that "the truth" meant ignoring "love". But I did not realize this consciously. In my heart I knew it, but because I blindly believed Adventist truth was true, I also couldn't clearly see these destructive effects the Adventist doublethink was wreaking on my mind.

But as I studied and grew in relationship with the real Holy Spirit, I began to love the Scriptures like I had never loved them before. I began to love the way everything fit together in the Bible, the way the Covenants framed everything and the way the New Covenant provided everything we need in Jesus Christ. I no longer had to say that "law" only meant this or that. I no longer had to qualify or add disclaimers to what was written about being saved by God's grace, by faith in Christ instead of works.

No longer did I have to look down on those who did not know the truth -- instead God gave me love for them, because I saw that He loved them just as He loved me before I had even been born! His love was given to me unconditionally! His Son died for me long before I ever chose to repent or have faith in Him. Ultimately, I no longer had to add "but's" to the statement, "God is love".

Loving the Truth

One day it occurred to me that I love the truth! I had never been able to clearly say that all my life. For one, the Adventist "truth" was heavy and burdensom, so I could never completely kid myself into saying that I loved it. I truly tried, and if you had asked me then, I might've been able to say it---but not without feeling mixed inside. But now Christ had set me free! I loved His truth. The weight attached to the word "truth" fell and I began to see that "truth" was not what I had learned in Adventism. Instead it was His gospel, His grace, His New Covenant, and everything that He Himself is because He is the truth! (John 14:6)

I learned that the Truth loves me!!

When I was around conservative/historical Adventists, I often heard the phrase "the truth will set you free". To tell you the truth, I heard it so much that I began to grow sick of it. It did not set people free, but put them under a lot of rules and taught them to judge one another according to those rules. It taught people to withhold love. Somehow even before I could clearly think or articulate these things, I had an aversion to repeating that phrase for myself. Deep inside the Spirit was already witnessing that the Adventist truth did not set people free. Deep inside I was longing to be set free, and still waiting for "the truth" to set me free. Because the Adventist "truth" never lived up to its promise, the word "truth" was stained for me, so that even after leaving Adventism it took me a long time to be able to say that I loved the truth.

"No, love is the truth," some responded

As I was leaving Adventism, I began to hear some progressive Adventists talk about how love is the truth. But they didn't generally talk about this on their own teaching time. They would say this when I told them about what the Lord was showing me -- the New Covenant, the completness of Christ Himself, and the contradictions of Adventism to the gospel of God's grace. In response to these things they would espouse "love", saying or hinting that my exposure of true & false "truth" was off the point.

Basically they seemed to be saying that "love" wouldn't care about those things, and that true "truth" also wouldn't care about those things. "Love and truth" would ignore them and focus on love. Essentially, love/truth would ignore the clear darkness of Adventism.

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

1 John 1:5-10 NASB

I didn't know how to explain to them that you don't have to be afraid of finding negative things -- in fact, the quickest way to healing is to search them out and let the Lord resolve them in His love. Yes, His light will expose our darkness, but this is the process of being cleaned! If we want to experience the refreshing joy of His cleansing, then we have to let Him expose us. We have to "get naked". And as we get "naked", yes we are going to see a lot of dirt. But He is faithful to wash it off. My progressive friends seemed to prefer staying clothed and trying to take a shower, so to speak. Yes, it gets you wet, but it doesn't remove the dirt underneath which you can never completely forget is there.

In God's kind of "love" there is no darkness. There is no need to ignore "truth". There is no need to cover-up or gloss over history. There is no need to read a writing and say it means something completely different from what it says. There is no fear in His love.

One Love, One Truth, One God!

All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.

Psalm 25:10

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You.

Psalm 89:14

Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.

Proverbs 3:3

His truth and love go hand in hand; His truth teaches us how to love, and as we love, we discover that His word is true. There is no greater way to love than through His truth. And there is no more profound truth than the unqualified word of truth: "God is love".

His love cleans us and exposes our darkness. Out of His love for us He strips us down naked and removes our dirt if we will let Him. Out of His love He teaches us His truth, because His truth sets us free and makes us joyful in Him. His truth takes away our burdens and gives us rest. His truth rises up in us and we shout Hallelu Yah with tears in our eyes because we see that He is love, that He is the Truth, and He loves us!

Praise God for revealing His truth, for revealing His love, for revealing Himself! Praise God for healing the divide, for setting us free from doublethink, from cognitive dissonance, from things that were not His truth, and free from all our burdens. Praise God for enabling us to rejoice in His truth and love without feeling like we must ignore one for the other!

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Sabbath of Your Love

Resting in Eden - June 9, 2007

Recently I re-visited the old hymn "Lord I Believe a Rest Remains" written by Charles Wesley around 1740. The tune on the CyberHymnal was difficult for me to sing with it, so I began praying for help to write a new tune. As I did that, a new chorus came out of it, and the "Thees" and "Thous" changed to the more personal "You" and "Your"...
Lord, I believe a rest remains
You won for all Your own*
A rest where pure enjoyment reigns
And You are loved alone

A rest where all our soul's desire
Is fixed on things above (is fixed on You above!)
Where fear, and sin, and grief expire
Cast out by perfect love

Oh! I need Your rest
Jesus, You are my rest
Because of Your blood
I'm in the Sabbath of Your love

Oh, that I now the rest might know
Believe, and enter in
Now, Savior, now the the power bestow
And let me cease from sin

Remove this hardness from my heart
This unbelief remove
To me the rest of faith impart
The Sabbath of Your love

As I finished writing and went to bed, I became overwhelmed with the truth of His Sabbath-rest -- Jesus, You are my Sabbath-rest!! I scribbled in tears:
Jesus, this rocks me. You rock me. I only half know what I'm writing about or composing here! Your rest means so much to me, Lord! As I worshiped here at the end, it started to hit me ---- You started to hit me! You really ARE my rest! My complete rest! You're my rest from sinning! I can't believe it Jesus! But yes and Hallelu Jesus, Hallelu Yahweh! I am completely safe in You, safe in Your love, Jesus! Thank You. Please never stop rocking me with this night & day, Jesus. And rock others! Many! In Your name of love and rest, Jesus, AMEN! So be it!

P.S. (A couple days later) Jesus! You are my complete rest! You really are! It makes me want to cry. Thank You so much, Jesus, for giving me rest, for giving me Yourself, for being my rest. Thank You.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Substance of the Sabbath (pt.2)

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2

"No Weeds in Eden"

For so many years Israel had tried as hard as she could to be righteous, but she failed because she could not overcome the battle with her sinful nature. We're not so different. Our sinful nature is like weeds in a garden that keep growing back -- no matter how hard we try to cut them and pull them out, they keep growing back. But it was not always like this. There were no weeds in Eden! Things like thorns and thistles came as the result of sin.
To Adam he said, "..."Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food..." (Genesis 3:17-18 NIV)

What does this have to do with "Sabbath"? Well, take a minute to think about it. What if there were no weeds, no thorns, no thistles? What if you never had to "toil"? What if you never had to work "by the sweat of your brow"? It's hard to imagine, isn't it? We are so accustomed to hard work, toil and sweat that we can scarcely imagine such a life without them. That would be paradise, you say, and you would be right!

It would be Eden.

Before sin came, Adam and Eve did not know toil, sweat, thorns and thistles. The ground did not resist them! They did not even have to do any "watering" in that garden because "mist came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground" (Gen.3:7). This begs the question, "So what did Adam and Eve do for work?"

We ought to honestly admit we don't know. It is beyond the scope of our imagination to guess what such a blissful existence would be like. All of our lives have been spent living under the curses of sin. Our entire concept of "work" is born under the curse.

Now how does this affect our understanding of Sabbath? Look again at the command:
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates." (Exodus 20:8-10)

Question, then: How in the world would this apply to Adam and Eve before sin?

* They didn't have "work" to "rest" from! Their whole lives were "rest"!
* They didn't have servants!
* They didn't have animals working for them!
* They didn't have "strangers" who might work within their gates!

In fact, if we look at all of the Biblical commands for how to "keep the Sabbath", a startling contrast becomes visbile. Imagine with me, for a moment, that we're hanging out with Moses, and we're going to take a trip back in time, back to sinless Eden. Moses is going to interview Adam, reading from the Law about "how to keep the Sabbath".

Moses: Hello Adam, thank you for letting me interview you today.

Adam: Thank you, Moses. I'm glad you could come to Eden.

Moses: Well, let's get started. How do you keep the Sabbath day?

Adam: The what? Sab-ith? What is it?

Moses: (checking notes) ...aah, I see. My apologies, the name "Sabbath" doesn't appear in Scripture until Exodus 16:23. Okay, it's the seventh day. How do you keep the seventh day?

Adam: Keep it? Is it going somewhere?

Moses: Let me read a few requirements... Don't bake, don't boil; stay where you are on the seventh day, don't go out. (Exodus 16:23-30)

Adam: Go out? Of the Garden? Where would I go? Bake? Boil? What do those mean?

Moses: You don't cook your food? Ah, I see. Okay, well... "Don't do any work -- neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien living within your gates." (Exodus 20:8-11 & Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

Adam: We don't have any children yet. Manservant? Maidservant? Alien? What are those? Are they animals? Did I miss naming a few?

Moses: "On the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed." (Exodus 23:12)

Adam: You make these animals work? What kind of people are you?! We don't make animals work in Eden, in fact, we don't...

Moses: "Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest." (Exodus 34:21)

Adam: Plowing? What's that?

Moses: Nevermind. "Do not gather wood on the Sabbath. Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day." (Numbers 15:32-36 & Exodus 35:1-3)

Adam: Wood? You mean from trees? What is fire?

Moses: Ahhh. Not yet, I see. Okay, moving on... "There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly." (Leviticus 23:3)

Adam: Sacred assembly?

Moses: Yes, in God's presence. Don't you meet with God on Saturdays?

Adam: Uh, yeah, we meet with God every day! See the Guy over by the tree?

Moses: Right, right. "Do not let your feet break the Sabbath, do not do as you please. Do not go your own way or speak idle words." (Isaiah 58:13-14)

Adam: Go my own way? Are you talking about leaving Eden again? Why do you keep thinking of doing that?

Moses: "Do not buy, sell, or market wheat or grain on the Sabbath. Don't sell sandals, either. Don't tread winepresses, load grain or other things on donkeys and sell it later." (Nehemiah 10:31, 13:15-18, Jeremiah 17:27 & Amos 8:5-6)

Adam: Sandals? What are sandals? And I already told you, we don't mistreat our animals here. Buying food? Selling food? Buying with what? And why when we can eat everything here for free, except...

Moses: Hey Adam, this is serious stuff. We were told that "Anyone who desecrates the seventh day must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death." (Exodus 31:14-16)

Adam: Wow, that sounds serious. You know, God told us the same thing about the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil! If we eat its fruit, we will die!

It seems that every "Sabbath" prohibition would have been unnecessary in Eden. They lived in perpetual "Sabbath"! And every command to observe or assemble or be in the Lord's presence, all of these they naturally did with Him every day. Even further, the penalties for breaking the Sabbath are the same penalties that God promised Adam and Eve if they took the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.

Now that we look at it, doesn't it seem like on "Sabbath days" that God was having the Israelites act like they were living in sinless Eden? Every Saturday, the Israelites would not use fire, would not make their animals work, and would abstain from labor -- labor that to us all is defined by sweat and toil, which are the result of the curse from Adam's sin.

The Hebrew sense of the word "remember" conveys the feeling of more than just a mere recollection of a memory. "Remember" to the Hebrews meant re-enacting, participating in, and in a sense, re-living. This is why we do the Lord's Supper "in rememberance" of Jesus. And this is why the Israelites "remembered" the deliverance from Egypt by re-enacting the night before the plague of the firstborn -- eating lamb and unleavened bread with their cloaks tucked into their belt and sandals on their feet.

Likewise, every Saturday the Israelites "remembered" the rest that mankind had in Eden, and acted like there was no curse. But this whole practice of "Sabbath" was not only to remember distant, long-gone memories. No!

God was pointing Israel back... to the future!

(to be continued in Part 3)