Monday, September 07, 2009

Saving Jesus from Adventism

By Bill Colburn

Every movement wrestles with the human inclination to make saints out of it's originating leader-sinners. We all too soon forget that those we celebrate were considered, in the eyes of their contemporaries, miserably unruly heretics.

There is a predictable entropic shift from dynamic to static when a 'faith that works' becomes a success-bandwagon filled to overcapacity with those who don't 'get it'. What soon remains is that which doesn't work because it is not of faith. The proverbial 'tail inevitably wags the dog' in silly, yet spiritually fatal efforts to make Kodak moments of the previous, rather than persistently and continually grasping heavenward for the Precious. Wonder in heavenly wideness, lapses hopelessly into narrow and meaningless wander in humdrum wilderness.

Confident, white-knuckled gate-keeping of the 'oracles' of Adventism renders Jesus and all the heavenly host as insidiously abandoned as was God by the Pharisees and Sadducees of times long ago. The apostle Peter reminds us that when Moses and Elijah met with Jesus on that holy mountain it was not intended to exalt or celebrate the law and/or the prophets. Rather, it was to welcome and confirm the One to whom all scripture pointed. The Father again reiterated 'the point' - it is all about Jesus. Listen to him. Don't merely listen to things about him. Listen to the living Jesus - every day, all day, in real-time. "He who has an ear..."

The church can only be the wisdom of God in the present world as we retain the perspicacity to listen to the living voice of God today. Possession may be nine tenths of the law to some, but merely being the depository of the oracles of God is, really, useless - as the leaders of Israel were wont to neglect. Having good doctrine didn't keep them from crucifying God in the flesh. For many, the Adventist Church - like so many 'christian' denominations today - have unwittingly and practically 'crucified' Jesus. His living voice is not heard. Maybe to our surprise, doctrines do not exist to serve themselves, but to lead us into a relationship with the Son of the Living God. The notion that we are called to protect the oracles or to protect God's name is erroneous. Paradoxically, such efforts obscure Christ. Elijah and Moses, like John the Baptist, willingly and knowingly got out of the way. Their work was complete. It was and is all about Jesus.

The excitement of early Adventist Christianity was, delightfully, all about the return of Jesus. A band of 19th century 'young and restless' souls only wanted to see Jesus. He was, for them, the One 'altogether beautiful'. All their eyes were looking up searching, the heavens. The scriptures, though not accurately understood, led all to anticipate His soon appearing in 1844 while inviting others to look for him too!. The written word was the 'tool', designed for and cherished as, their guide to Jesus, the living Word. They were not working to exalt the scriptures or themselves, but used the scriptures and all their efforts to bring attention to Jesus. Yet, since then...oops. Guess we went 'right' when we should have gone 'left'.

Suffering through a well-documented disappointment of their hope, they, appropriately, went back to the letter to better understand what the Living One was up to. Unfortunately, over time, they - and those that followed them - got stuck in the letter, missing the point. They unwittingly got ensnared in defending the word over pursuing the Truth. Fact got positioned against the Word. Organization rejected Jesus for doctrine. Corporate viability and identity required abandoning the righteousness that comes through faith in the living Lord. The indwelling of the Spirit was ignored for the possession of a Spirit gift. We chose an Adventism without Jesus, making Adventism an obstacle to seeing Jesus, functionally creating Adventist atheists. Ouch! We continue to wrestle with that legacy.

We need to remember how we got to where we are, and, as the prophets were inclined to say - repent. We need to reJesus our denomination - now - before we slip away into a mere footnote in the chronicles of history..

Don't get me wrong. What I have just written isn't a diatribe against Adventist Christianity. I'm not critical of efforts to parse out biblically clear and consistent doctrine. I merely yearn to see Jesus at the helm of our hearts, to behold an undeniably Spirit-led people who rightly 'use' doctrine to see Jesus rather than pretending to love Jesus and merely 'using' Him to 'protect' doctrine. I long to see our heavenly 'Head' lead us as Adventist Christians, creating a truly 'loving and lovable' people. Again, unfortunately, one does not need to visit many Adventist churches before realizing that, on the whole, we don't 'get it'. Sit in any board meeting, Sabbath School class, remodeling committee, or otherwise for the sad and persistent evidence.

When we 'get it', we will no longer be (primarily?) known as people who don't eat certain meats, or even as a people who live 6-9 years longer than other Americans. When we 'get it', we will no longer be a people known for worshiping on the seventh-day. When we 'get it', we will no longer be a people known to believe that a young woman named Ellen White was a prophet. When we 'get it', the world will only see Jesus among us. When we 'get it' they will see us as one with all people who 'get it', because all who've 'got' Jesus, reveal the very spirit of Jesus. The law and the prophets of Adventist doctrine take a back seat to Jesus.

So, let's return to being God's heretics, Spirit-led in the midst of an evil and adulterous generation. Instead of merely singing the song, 'Stand up, stand up for Jesus', let's actually do it. Let's be a people who intentionally invite the Spirit to 'use' our doctrinal heritage to transform us into the likeness of Jesus. Let's be a people who don't exist to exalt Adventism, but a people who invite Jesus to reveal himself to us through Adventism in such a manner that Adventism is not seen, but only Jesus. Let's remember the 19th century mission, "Not I, but Christ". Then, and only then, as with the pioneers of our church - we will truly be ready to meet Jesus when he returns.


  1. Thanks for a well though out concept. I remember sitting in church a few weeks ago listening to a sermon that mentioned Sunday keepers in the context of the words of Jesus who said I never knew you. As I was listening I thought to myself, all of the people he was talking to were Sabbath keepers. How many of us Sabbath keepers are going to say Lord, Lord and will hear the words "I never knew you"?

    An Arkies Musings

  2. God point Richard. I've been reading in Jeremiah lately, I wonder if some of his harsh words aren't apropos for our day too?

  3. A propetic voice in these words. But are you preaching to the choir? This sort of warning needs to be in Adventist periodicals and read by the "saints." It would be troublesome to them, but some would listen.
    My first reaction was that I don't know these kinds of people. I self-righteously thought of them as the "commoners" in the pews who don't ask questions. But I remember an Amazing Facts evangelist that came to my church and his emphasis was doctrine of the last days. Maybe this helps some people and appeals to a small percentage and it doesn't preclude them from being close to Jesus either. However, I saw a few get up and leave in the audience when the Vatican was brought up. And I was uncomfortable with the idea that some who accepted this as truth would only be attracted by the doctrine.
    Yes, our appeal should be Christ first, last, and forever and only later bringing in any other material that embellishes our walk with him. There needs to be an overhaul of the evangelistic outreach that shows a God who wants all to be saved and has done the ultimate thing to make this happen.

  4. Well said @Ellamae. It would be nice if these words could be published elsewhere, I think most of us would welcome that. Richard said this very clearly, and in a non-threatening way, IMO. Very eloquent!

    (but what in the world does "perspicacity" mean?) ;)

      /ˌpɜrspɪˈkæsɪti/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [pur-spi-kas-i-tee]

    1. keenness of mental perception and understanding; discernment; penetration.
    2. Archaic. keen vision.

    1540–50; earlier perspicacite < LL perspicācitās sharpness of sight, equiv. to perspicāci- (s. of perspicāx sharp-sighted; see perspicuous ) + -tās -ty 2

    1. shrewdness, acuity, astuteness, insight, acumen. See perspicuity.

    1. obtuseness.

  5. Thanks for the dictionary. Proleptic.