By a woman convicted by the truth
I have never been Adventist, but I was Catholic when I was a little girl. Then, when I was 12 years old, my parents sent me to a Baptist boarding school. There I heard the gospel, and I was saved. Studying the Bible was required, so I was able to memorize Bible verses and study the word for the first time in my life. The following year I attended another Christian school and learned more from the Bible before going back to my own country to finish high school. I went to college in the United States and graduated with a theology degree.
After I graduated from college, I returned to my home, and shortly thereafter I got married to the wrong “Christian” man. The marriage lasted nine years before it ended in divorce. We did not have children, and I was not aware of any adultery involved. It just wasn’t possible to continue in a marriage in which I was completely ignored by this person. For the last four or five years of the marriage, he almost never talked to me for reasons I never knew. I left him and took the initiative in the divorce proceedings.
Some time later I remarried and I am still married to this second husband, and we have a son who is now 16 years old and is a fine Christian young man. For a conservative Christian woman, however, who was raised with high moral principles and the fear of the Lord, to have been divorced and to have remarried has been a tremendous burden for me. I was never able to forgive myself and felt I was a second-class citizen of heaven (if I ever got there).
Added to my guilt and to my desperate attempts to understand God’s will is the fact that my second husband is also a professed Christian who is a good man in general, but he is not in love with the Lord as I am, and he does not really care about understanding the Word like I do. Consequently, I was really sad all the time. In the back of my mind I regretted not having ever found the right person to marry, and I was at a lonely place. Praise God, however, that sad regret has all changed!! Really.
The guilt and shame and regret went on for more than 17 years until I found all of you at Life Assurance Ministries (LAM). I have been reading your articles and magazines online, and I have been watching the videos from your Former Adventist Fellowship conferences. I realized that I was still holding on to the feeling of regret of not having found “true love” in this life as well as nursing the guilt of being divorced.
Your ministry has been a life saver for me. I have come to understand the new covenant like never before, and I learned that God still loves me and forgives me. You see, I had the idea in my head (not unlike Adventists) that Jesus only forgives past sins committed before one is a Christian, but that once one is a Christian, there is no more forgiveness. I believed Christians had to live virtually perfectly.
In fact, for the better part of all of my Christian life, every time I read Matthew 5:48 one of two things happened: I either skipped over it, pretending it wasn’t there, or I felt tremendously condemned by the words, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Those words of Jesus were not a peaceful place for me; rather, they were a place of deep anguish. I knew my life was not perfect, but I also knew that if Jesus had said those words, they must be possible to do. Perfection, however, was just not a reality in me, and that fact saddened me and frustrated me. Many years passed in which I secretly questioned myself and even God. Those words are in the gospel, I would reason; the gospel means good news, and good news make anyone happy. Why, then, am I not happy to read these words? How can Jesus ask me to be perfect when He knows I am not perfect?
I even questioned my salvation in light of my many imperfections and shortcomings. I thank God for His Holy Spirit and for exegetes like F. F. Bruce who help us understand God’s Holy Word. One day I found this quote by Bruce: “Any part of the human body can only be explained in reference to the whole body. And any part of the Bible can only be properly explained in reference to the whole Bible.”
I realized when I read that quote that it is not possible to isolate a Bible verse and understand it without also seeing the whole counsel of God. I finally saw that in Matthew 5 Jesus was not taking us to a place of perfectionistic legalism. No. He had not yet gone to the cross, and He knew that the cross is where the secret of our perfection lay. In fact, Hebrews 10:14 explains: “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”
Today I understand that I am perfect before my heavenly Father not because I have led a life of perfect law (nomos) keeping, but because I have put my faith in the perfect and completed sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary. Jesus perfects us not because of our works, but because of our faith in Him. I had finally found the answer that I had looked for for so long—yet the answer was always there waiting for me to discover it.
Today I understand the gospel. Today the news is not merely good but excellent for me. In fact, the gospel is exactly what I had wanted to hear. Today I can rest and read Matthew 5:48 with joy, peace, and gratitude in light of Hebrews 10:14, in light of the cross. In fact, a quote by Billy Sunday expresses what I experienced: “If you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.” The Lord found the leak in my soul, and He fixed it.
As a result of my recent months of intense study of the new covenant, I finally let go of the regret and the guilt from my divorce and remarriage, and without noticing when or how it happened, the sadness went away!
I had read that you, Colleen, and Richard had both had previous marriages and that you had adopted Richard’s sons (see the story “Adopted Forever!”). To see you so actively involved in LAM was an inspiration to me in the sense that there is hope for those in Christ who at some point in their lives made a wrong choice. It is amazing what only the Lord can do to redeem our pasts.
So, strictly speaking, I should have remained single for the rest of my life since there was no adultery involved in my first marriage. A recent sermon from my pastor, however, helped me see the Lord’s gracious redemption. The pastor was teaching John 21:1-17 where the resurrected Lord meets His disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus specifically addressed Peter and asked him: “Peter, do you love me?”
Now, as you know, Peter had denied the Lord three times by this time and felt so unworthy, and yet he was the first one to dive into the water to reach the shore to be with the Lord. When they were face to face, Lord did not ask him: “Peter, why did you deny me?” Jesus did not ask this question, my pastor explained, because the most important question that Jesus can ask us is not: “Have you been absolutely perfect in all your ways?” but “Do you love me?” It is a relationship with Him that He seeks, not perfection from us, as He knows we are not perfect.
Instead of shaming Peter, Jesus restored Peter and entrusted him with the ministry of overseeing the birth of the church, the Lord’s bride!
I cannot thank the Lord enough for my finding LAM, because hearing you all and learning from you all has been literally like a new birth or a new beginning in my Christian walk. My paradigms have been shattered and blown away by the preaching and teaching I have read and heard on your sites. I am a new Christian all over again! I used to think that salvation could be lost, that there was no more grace after salvation, and that good works were somehow meritorious for the believer as if the new covenant was conditional, and WE were responsible to keep it.
Now, however, I clearly understand that when Jesus saves, He saves forever and gives us eternal life assurance (Dale Ratzlaff could not have chosen a better name for this ministry). God’s grace not only saves us but KEEPS us saved until we see Him face to face one day when faith shall become sight (Jude 24). During my years of guilt I used to think: “So, perhaps I have lost my salvation for sinning after becoming a Christian, but if I have lost my salvation, why do I still feel love for Jesus? Why do I love to read and study His Word? Would a lost soul long for heaven?”
Now I understand that Ephesians 2:6 says Christ made us sit together with Him in heavenly places. We enter His rest at salvation, never to lose it again, for eternity! Now I understand why Paul lists heresies as one of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:20): false teachings appeal to our flesh which operates in pride, and pride impedes our ability to receive and to enjoy God’s grace. God can only relate to us and reveal Himself to us when we are humble. The reason Ellen White and other false teachers put so many burdens on people is that they are not born of the Spirit; they can only teach from the flesh. They are daughters and sons of Hagar and not of Sarah.
There was a moment (just a few weeks ago) when I finally felt peace in my heart. I made amends with myself and with the Lord for my past sins and mistakes as a Christian (this repentance was important because I had the idea that there is no more forgiveness or grace once one was a Christian). Now, for the first time in nearly twenty years, I feel at ease and content with myself. There is no greater blessing than to feel forgiven and at peace with the Lord because the blood of Jesus has washed away our sin!
I will continue to thank God and to pray for the team at LAM.