by Sarah Luke
I became an Adventist in 1972. I had had a very sad, abusive life and was actually at the end of my rope, so to speak. I had been invited to a friend’s baptism at the Adventist church two or three years earlier, and one bleak Friday I passed that church on the way home from work. Feeling desperate and hopeless, I decided to go into the church and see if I felt anything. Instead of finding a spiritual experience, however, to my horror I set off the burglar alarm.
I called my friend and told her what I had done, and after contacting the pastor, she called me back and said the pastor would forgive me if I would visit the church the next morning. The next day when I met him, I asked the pastor what he had to help an alcoholic. He replied, “Nothing; we don’t have that problem in Adventist churches.”
Nevertheless, that very night a series of evangelistic meetings was beginning at the church, and I did not miss a single evening of the whole series. I was excited to do something that might finally help me to stop drinking and find peace. I felt isolated, and I so desperately wanted to fit in somewhere, and those people at the Adventist church were giving me attention and accepting me.
I discovered, as the meetings progressed, that the Adventists had some rules and regulations. They would not let me be a baptized member, however, until I took off all my jewelry, stopped smoking and drinking coffee and quit drinking alcoholic beverages. I dutifully met all their requirements and was baptized.
Soon after I had become a member, their attention toward me stopped, and I became bored with my Adventist experience. Nevertheless, I kept attending, and to my surprise I learned that I was not the only one struggling to keep the rules. In fact, many of the long-time members were not keeping the rules.
About a year after joining the church, I got drunk one weekend. The next morning, weighed down with guilt and shame and with the fear that I might be disfellowshipped, I called a deacon who had said he had been an alcoholic but was sober now. I hoped for some word of encouragement, but he became very stern and told me that if I had been killed in a wreck while alcohol was in my body, I would have gone to hell!
Discouraged, I also started smoking again, and for many years I tried to hide what I was doing. I didn’t understand then that in all my trial-and-error failures to keep the rules, my focus was on me, not Jesus!!
During those years I met a man at the Adventist church and remarried. Then there were two of us trying to be good! He was not yet a member, but another evangelistic series came to town, and my husband was persuaded to be baptized.
Marriage and church membership, however, did not resolve my addictions, and in 1988 I checked into a Christ-centered treatment center. To my surprise, I discovered I had never really known Jesus! One of the counselors explained salvation to me, and I accepted Christ as my Savior on 8-8-88, and I have never had a drink of alcoholic beverage since.
I went back to the Adventist church with a whole new attitude and really kept most of the rules. I never had any peace and joy, but I worked hard giving Bible studies to add to the numbers of the membership and gained brownie points by the dozens. My world fell apart, however, after my husband died in 1996. I was feeling desperate again, and for five years I stopped attending the Adventist church and visited a Spirit filled-church. I learned many wonderful things, but I knew I would ultimately have to return to Adventism. I believed they had the truth, but I was full of fear that when I returned to the Adventist bondage of law and rules, I would be lost.
Eventually I did return to the Adventist church, but the confusion and internal struggles ultimately prepared me to see that Adventism did not actually teach the truth. After I settled into my local congregation, I eventually became and elder and then a co-head elder. It was then that I began to see the internal corruption clearly.
Individual church members began to approach me with their concerns about the senior pastor. Over a period of about a year, 40 different people, mostly congregational leaders, left our local church. Each time someone would come to me or to my co-head elder with their complaints, we asked them to go to the pastor and speak to him directly. Each person said he or she already had gone to the pastor, but he had become defensive and angry. Finally my co-head elder and I went to the pastor together, but the results of our visit were exactly as others had reported. No understanding was reached, and the pastor became angry and defensive.
Ultimately, the local conference office contacted us, and they moved the pastor and put him on a three-month sabbatical. This situation left division, bitterness, and anger in the church, and the members aligned themselves either in support of the pastor or against him. My breaking point came when a 44-year friendship ended over my support of the pastor’s removal. I had already moved 13 miles away from the church I was attending, and I needed to find something closer to home.
It was during my search for another Adventist church that I “happened” to stumble onto Life Assurance Ministries. Suddenly I began to understand what had been wrong in my church; I began to realize why conflict couldn’t be resolved and why people couldn’t keep the rules. They didn’t know the gospel!
Thanks to my time in rehab, I had met Jesus, but I had still been bound by a belief in an investigative judgment. I was still living under the old covenant law and believed I was living my life under probation waiting for Jesus to finish going through the books of remembrance. Now, however, I was learning that Jesus had completed everything necessary for my salvation—and for yours. There is no unfinished judgment, but my judgment was completed on the cross. When I trusted Jesus’ death for my sins and believed God raised Him from the dead, I passed from death to life at that moment (Jn. 5:24)!
I have been set free to walk in joy and peace. I have embraced the REAL truth, and I know Jesus as my Savior and Lord.
Now I have an urgency to share my story of being set free from Adventism by the truth of Jesus. You see, I have received a terminal diagnosis, and as of this writing, I have only weeks to live. I SO want to get the truth to those still living under the old covenant and the bondage of the investigative judgment! There are so many sincere Adventists who need to know the truth.
I have found that my diagnosis and prognosis cause people to listen to me who would otherwise ignore me. I want to use the days remaining to me to tell the truth about Jesus and to help Adventists who are like I was to discover the freedom and peace that I have come to know in Jesus.