By Norman S. Edwards
From SVM – Fall 2013
I was born and raised SDA. I had to go the rebel way for many years. Our gracious Creator found me “bleeding” on the floor of a solitary jail cell, and took my pain. A couple weeks later, after continuing in prayer and Scripture, I was reading Tozer’s “Pursuit of God” and a Messenger from heaven gave me the message: “Daughter, keep on the way you are going and you will be accepted.” (more or less–not in words). Though I’ve sinned since then, I’ve never looked back and strive to know and obey. I’m not sure if I will be SDA or Church of God, but I know I want to obey the Bible way. That is why choosing a Sabbath keeping church was the easy part.
My husband (of 36 years this month), was born a heathen, but is now a Christian. His health has prevented much progress in the learning area and prevented church attendance, but his whole demeanor has softened, and he also wants to be re-baptized. I believe the Holy Spirit has been at work in him. He wants to be an SDA as he is leery of cults and is unable to read as I can. I know you are not a cult.!! This is probably more and less than you wanted, but I just let it come out! Must stop or it won’t go at all!
Thank you for all the reading materials in the mail from [various church groups]. VERY interesting and exciting. I so want to attend Feast of Tabernacles. We are disabled and poor, and our vehicle was stolen February but maybe next year! I’m planning a fast as well as I’m physically able on the Day of Atonement this year. Please pray for us and our daughter who was baptized SDA but wound up a fundamental Baptist of all things! and their beautiful 3 year old son. Well she loves Jesus! Praise the Eternal!
Your sister in Christ Jesus, F.W., New MexicoF.W., New Mexico
Dear F. W.,
Thank you very much for your open and honest letter. You are facing situations that are common to a great many believers, although many are not as willing to talk about them.
I believe the “messenger from heaven” whom you spoke of was an angel. The Bible certainly records many instances of angels giving our Father’s messages to people in dire situations. I have spoken with other believers who have received a similar message in jail, in some great illness or other difficult time. Frequently, God sends other brethren to encourage people when they become believers. But in some cases, especially yours, there is nobody who can go to you, so he sends an angel.
However, nobody should get the idea that conversions involving angels are somehow more holy than others. I say this because some make the mistake of thinking they do not need to heed the admonition of brethren because they think God will always send an angel if He has anything to say to them. On the other hand, some brethren may question their own conversion because they did not have some kind of powerful spiritual experience and others did. God works with each of us according to His wisdom, which exceeds ours. Some people simply make a logical decision to repent and be baptized, and then God places His spirit in them. Others need a supernatural sign, but should not consider a sign as an elite form of calling.
Sincere believers are frequently faced with a complex decision in regard to which congregation to attend. The Bible certainly encourages us to regularly assemble with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-27). The biblical purposes for such assembly are:edifying each other with sound doctrine group worship and prayer evangelistic and charitable work
Most congregations do those things, though they vary greatly. For example, one group may serve families or young people very well, but do almost no charitable or evangelistic work. Another group may greatly help the poor, but have less inspired teaching. Each family unit will have to pray about what is best for them. Unfortunately, many church groups add some or all of the following not-so-biblical purposes:
- centralization of collection of tithes and offerings
- standardization of doctrine
- exclusion of teachers and teachings from believers in other groups
- proclamation that some other or all other groups are false churches
These purposes sometimes cause only minor difficulties, but can also make attendance very difficult for the sincere believer. Even so, this writer is aware of members who attended congregations for decades with which they had significant disagreements. Their leaders never found out because they were quiet about their disagreements so they would be able to fellowship with the brethren. Just as you mention that you have had some sins, so those who form and manage churches have some sins (1 Corinthians 1:11-15; 3:1- 9). But God’s work can still be done in spite of them.
We encourage you to visit several congregations in your area and attend the one where you can best learn and be a blessing to others. Until you are able to find a new vehicle, you may have to attend a church that is willing to pick you up. You might be interested in the Church of God, New Mexico, PO Box 5363, Albuquerque, NM 87176, 505-889-293, firstname.lastname@example.org, meeting at 4923 Prospect NE (San Mateo @ I-40). They are conducting a Feast of Tabernacles in Albuquerque this year as well.
I have prayed for your daughter, but I am certainly not worried about her. I know of many young people who see some of the difficulties in the seventh day churches and opt for evangelical Bible-believing churches for a time. There are good things to be learned there. Later, they may be stirred to study the Sabbath from the Bible on their own and learn more truth. Spending one’s younger years in a Bible-believing church is much better than spending it in rebellion, promiscuity, substance abuse or jail. Always remember that God wants each person to be wholeheartedly committed to Him—not simply to keep the practices that their parents had before them. A young person, who is truly committed to God, even with some error, is much better off than one who is simply living by laws he has always followed, but has no commitment and may stop them all at any time when some temptation or trial comes along. It took most of us older believers years to arrive at our current beliefs, and it will probably be the same for your daughter.