Drop the Mic: Reincarnating the Adventist Faith Part 3

In the first article of this series, we looked at our denomination’s decreasing effectiveness in evangelistic conversion and member retention. We can’t expect to bring people to God and into our churches with a Bible-based evangelistic model when they don’t consider the scriptures to be authoritative. And we can’t expect people to stay in our churches when they discover that the spiritual experiences that we promised them rarely come true when they join our church. It’s time to deal with it: we’ve been exposed. The Adventist denomination is not all we’ve cracked it up to be. It would be wise for us to drop the mic and stop making promises we can’t keep.

Last week, I suggested that a possible solution to these two crucial problems would be to change our first love. Because Adventists became convinced that our calling was to proclaim the ALL CAPS truth to the world, we have been willing to stop loving everything and everyone else, in order to stay faithful to our first love: our interpretation of scripture and our reputation as TRUTH-tellers. Maybe we need to decide that when we are forced to choose between loving others and loving our scriptural interpretation and our identity as TRUTH-tellers, we will choose to, in the spirit of the incarnated-and-crucified Christ, give up what we cherish most for the sake of the people who need our love. What if unplugged loving action towards others became more important than broadcasted scriptural orthodoxy? I don’t think I’m the first person to say that actions speak louder than words.

In the replies to this second article and sermon, people raised two concerns. The first was the struggle with the concept that loving others was more important than pursuing a relationship with Jesus. The second was the fear that loving people over scriptural truth will lead us away from God. For the first concern, maybe this is helpful: The most important thing for you and I to do is to follow Jesus. Jesus loved others more than he loved himself, to the point of death. And he says to us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

For the second concern, I am happy to say that if we could understand the calls to loving action embedded within Adventist core beliefs, scripture becomes an indispensable guide to growing us, not in our understanding of truth, but in loving others first (which might be the ultimate ALL CAPS truth). Today we will consider how loving action has, ironically, always been core to Sabbath rest.

Have you ever wondered why Sabbath is on the seventh day of the week? Me either. God said it, I believe it, and that’s it. If God told the Bible writers that we needed to keep the third day holy, I’d keep the third day holy. But recently, I’ve been wondering if there’s a divine logic to its placement at the end of the week. Tell me if I’m on to something or if my imagination has gotten the best of me. It seems that Sabbath has a direct relationship to important previous work done by God:

  • The final verse of the magnificent ode to the Opus Dei in Genesis 1:1-2:3 describes Elohim basking in the joy of their finished masterpiece. Sabbath comes into existence by marking the completed Divine work.
  • Yahweh rescues the Hebrew slaves from their tyranny and leads them to the land of promise. In the Sabbath commandment, God says that Sabbath will be the everlasting reminder of the Exodus.
  • The executors of Jesus diligently worked to make sure their ministry of killing was completed before the Sabbath began. Ironically, the Passover Sabbath began after they unwittingly revealed the most magnificent evidence of a loving God that ushered in an Eternal Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:1-11) and broke open the prison gates to a Greater Exodus (Romans 8:1,2).

Here’s what I’m thinking: maybe a weekly sabbath can only be kept if Sabbath is brought first. God didn’t keep a weekly sabbath until he tamed the chaos of an unfinished earth and made it habitable for life. The Hebrew children couldn’t keep a Saturday sabbath until God gave them Sabbath from their captors. Humanity couldn’t rest from their guilt, shame and fear of God until Jesus brought Sabbath between us and God through his living/dying/resurrecting love (however your atonement theories are blended).

I’m sure you’ve noticed when you read the gospels that Jesus seemed to enjoy performing acts of healing on Sabbath more than any other day of the week. It’s almost like he was pointing out that there hadn’t been a Sabbath in the land for a very long time. They were still observing a weekly sabbath day on the seventh-day of the week. But they had turned it into a doctrine, a pietistic practice, a symbol of pride and identity, a burden of responsibility to prove loyalty. Jesus brought back Sabbath. Not by modeling a more reverent way of observing the seventh day of the week. But by bringing rest. Healing the sick. Raising the dead. Feeding the hungry. Releasing children from suffering by letting them get a seat on his lap. Kicking sabbatarians out of their sanctified seats so the sabbath-breakers could take a load off and put up their feet. There was a point to celebrating a weekly Sabbath once Jesus, and then his followers, got back to bringing Sabbath to people.

Have you been in an Adventist evangelistic series where you get to the end of the second or third sermon on Sabbath (there’s always two to three sermons about Sabbath; usually just one on Jesus), and the organist comes up and plays “Just As I Am” or “I Surrender All” as the evangelist begins his (always a his) sober appeal for people to do soul-searching over whether they will be obedient to God and begin to keep the seventh-day Sabbath? “Will you stand up for Jesus/come forward to the altar/check the box on the decision card as your testimony that you will keep the Sabbath?”

In my early years as a pastor, after these Sabbath presentations, there were always two to three sermon-free days built into the evangelistic calendar so that the evangelist and I could go and work on these souls to help them make the right decision. Eternity hung in the balance for these dear people who responded to the brochure in their mailboxes with the beasts on them.

I’m beginning to have a hunch that we Adventists manufactured a sabbath day divorced from Sabbath. It seems like we wouldn’t need to twist peoples’ arms to rest on Saturday if we had followed Jesus in bringing Sabbath to them first.

So my friend Christina serves me fast food at a drive-in once or twice a week (don’t worry, I replace the meat in the tacos with beans cooked in vegetable oil). We start our conversation at the menu loudspeaker and then continue it between her taking my money, giving me change, and tossing me the beans. If there’s no one behind me, we’ll talk a little longer. Over the course of our relationship, I’ve learned that she’s a single mom with two teenagers that she works hard to keep a roof over their head, feed them, pay their bus fare and keep them clothed in last year’s fashions. Because no corporate entity offers full-time jobs with benefits to unskilled labor, she works two part-time jobs. And those two jobs require her to work seven days a week.

Christina doesn’t keep the seventh-day sabbath. She tramples on God’s holy law every week. How do I convince her to give up the job that desecrates the Friday sundown – Saturday sundown seal of human loyalty to God? Which ABC Sharing Book do I give her? Where can I get one of those license plate holders that has “The Seventh-day Is the Sabbath” on top and “Exodus 20:8-11” on the bottom (perfect for drive-thru witnessing)? What is the most effective supporting-ministry tract that I can slide in with my fiver at the window?

I have to confess: I haven’t told her anything about Saturday being the Sabbath. I haven’t begged her to give up her job so that she and her children can be more sure of their salvation. You know why? I don’t think the seventh-day sabbath would bring her any rest. If she is barely surviving on seven days’ pay, what will happen if she cuts back at all? And, more importantly, how dare I! How dare I consider talking to her about keeping the seventh-day sabbath when all I do is smile and give her my “Jesus loves you” wave as I drive off, leaving her in her unrest. I can’t ask her to keep sabbath, until she receives God’s Sabbath.

What I have tried to do is convince Christina to talk to another friend of mine, Priscila, who’s a case manager for a non-profit organization that our Adventist congregation helped start. Priscila, who’s not an Adventist, is a Sabbath-bringer. She has helped dozens of people find jobs that pay enough for them to have a day of rest each week. She’s helped a couple people enroll in our local community college so they can qualify for better paying jobs with benefits. She also introduces them to another friend of mine, Bryan, who is an Adventist and a financial planner, who helps people learn how to better manage the extra money that they’re earning in their new jobs so they don’t fall into the unrest of new debt (this could also qualify as the loving way to live out Fundamental Belief #21).

I’ve begged Christina to let me introduce her to Priscila. With my taco money, I’ve slipped in little tracts from the non-profit with the good news about Priscila and the number where she can reach her. Christina smiles, rolls her eyes and tells me she’s fine. Don’t worry about her. She knows I care about her, but she hasn’t taken me up on the offer yet. But I’m not giving up. I’m a Seventh-day Adventist. And Christina needs Sabbath.

Todd J. Leonard is senior pastor at Glendale City Seventh-day Adventist Church and president of Glendale Communitas Initiative, a local non-profit organization devoted to families working their way out of poverty. (To learn more, visit GlendaleCommunitasInitiative.org.) He shares life with his wife, Robin, and three daughters, Halle, Abigail and Emma.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8034

I appreciate the social focus you’ve given the Sabbath which is usually been the symbol for exclusiveness. If we could get that far, we’d be doing well.

I would entitle this Steps Toward Sabbath. I’m getting the feeling that the focus for this type of evangelism is still, proper Sabbath keeping; and that the ultimate goal is to get Christina sitting in the pew some Sabbath.

I don’t doubt your legitimate concern for the Christina’s in our society. She needs a rest from the frantic pace that keeps food on the table and a roof over her head - and the worries that must be part of her life. Undoubtedly, a day away from those concerns would add much to her life. My concern is that once she is through the church doors, will she find that “Eternal Sabbath rest” you describe; or will it meld into the quasi-ritualistic Sabbath-keeping we know so well.

My concern is that, as Adventists, we place the cart before the horse. Our unbalanced concern for proper Sabbath-keeping is negating the actual Sabbath rest described in Hebrews 4, which you quote. The Jews had made the Sabbath their crowning glory, but had never really entered into its rest. We seem to be following their lead. To this point, what do we have to offer Christina? Do we even know that the Sabbath has value only as it represents that Sabbath rest offered by Christ?


Todd , I am glad that we can talk about these matters . I would try my best to answer some of your questions .Why is the 7th day the Sabbath ? In order to fulfill this commandment, the first full day of life for Adam and Eve , had to be on the Sabbath ( six days shall you labor) .God is very smart , and every act teaches salvation. God puts a man to rest, before He puts him to work ( Sabbath Rest = Salvation ) . We do the exact opposite. We put a person to work , before they can enjoy rest at the end of the week (weekly rest ) , with out ever entering into the Rest of Christ , A REST FROM SIN (Heb 4 ) . Additionally , What is the deeper meaning of the Sabbath ?Let’s pick up from your word Elohim , ( The God Head ), At best , it symbolizes Oneness , between the (Father , Son and Holy Spirit ).God creates Adam, but he is said not to be in /at Oneness , until he is joined in marriage to his wife, Eve. Their first full day of life together is the Sabbath . They joined in worship to God on the Sabbath (they and them ) , but all in/at Oneness .So the true meaning of Sabbath Rest is the sign that a man has made peace with God ( Romans 8:1-2 ) , and is at rest from sin , not working for his salvation , but accepting that it is a free gift from God , found only in Jesus Christ. Todd , Have you ever noticed that in the 4th commandment , the wife is never mentioned to keep the Sabbath .- son , daughter , manservant ,maidservant ,cattle, and stranger ? Because the " thou " is plural ( husband and wife ) = ONENESS . Again , In the study of the bible , you would also notice that WHENEVER God displayed a great degree of POWER , the Sabbath is always made mention of Creation , Deliverance , and Sanctification. All found in the OT , but all repeated in the NT. And all future events , that call for a great display of power ,i.e. the Second Coming of Christ , point to the Sabbath. In closing , have you ever noticed this : Ps.22 speaks of the events that took place on Friday, . Ps. 24:7-10 ,speaks of the events that took place on Sunday ( EGW/ The Story of Redemption , pg. 236 ) . So only an all wise God could think to place Ps . 23 right between 22-24 , Friday , Sabbath , Sunday . Every verse of Ps.23 speaks about Rest . Ever wonder why Ps 23 is the GREATEST of all Psalms ?The world has been tasting the Sabbath , and doesn’t even know it. Todd , Go tell them. It’s alright to Shout , just about now. Let’s talk some more about these wonderful truths . Happy Sabbath.


Years ago, my father urged his sister and husband to attend an evangelistic series in Holland, Mich. They were Presbyterians. In order to please dad, they attended every session. A few days before the last in the series, the pastor made a house call. in his presentation, he said–"You have heard the whole Truth, you now can accept and be heaven bound or reject and be hell bound. my uncle, bless his heart replied–"I expect you plan to be in heaven. the pastor replied yes of coarse, . My uncle then said–"In that case, I prefer to go t o. Hell --now get out of my house!


Todd, thank you for this article. I agree, the promise of spiritually was substituted by dogmatism. I wonder what would happen to our church if we were to believe that all the law and prophets derive from the greatest commandment of loving God and loving one another? Sad to say but my spiritual life has been enhanced by knowledge from non-SDA sources. I think our church is stagnant due to dogmatism. Which leads me to the other point in your article I agree with, stop making promises…it is so silly to hear local and word church leaders promising that this or that meeting was going to be the last one for the church because of the second coming. It is time to stop that type of puerile messages and silly promises and go back to substance and the promotion of increased levels of understanding and insight into our core beliefs such as March 12: 29-30.


The new covenant is sealed in Christ’s blood, not the Sabbath. The entry into God’s rest is through the gospel. It’s through the finished work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection and the resurrection life that He imparts to us. The works that we are to rest from are the works of trying to contribute to our salvation and keep a law that simply condemns us. We areinvited to rest our weary souls in Him.

Why did Christ give us a new commandment and yet we always quote the old? Why do we not see one word of the approach to Sabbath keeping promoted in this article from any of the Apostles after Christ rose from the dead? Why is it that in all of His ministry Christ told nobody to keep the Sabbath. He did use His Sabbath miracles to convince law centred Pharisees that human love and compassion are what it’s all about. His immediate response to the death threats following one of the key Sabbath healings was, “My Father is working until now, and I myself am working.”

The one direct reference to Sabbath keeping in the writings of the Apostles is that the Sabbath is but a shadow of the reality we find in Christ. Resting from physical work 24 hours once a week is one thing. Resting in Christ, entering God’s rest through the gospel, through God’s grace and through the shed blood of Christ is the new covenant message. Why do we keep trying to build into the weekly Sabbath what rightly belongs to God and His great love for us. God so loved the world that He gave us His Son. There weary souls find rest and peace and joy for now and eternity.


I find that the preoccupation with the Sabbath as essential to Christian life and experience is a distortion that we can’t get away from in the context of Adventism. I do not find the same emphasis in the NT…if read apart from Adventist lenses and filters.

I do agree with Ray, that Jesus worked many miracles of healing on the Sabbath to reorient his contemporaries’ focus on what God prioritizes…mercy and compassion over ritualized religious observance. This also seems to play into the synoptic emphasis on the argument that seemed to have been going back and forth between Jews and Jewish Christians over what constituted true Sabbath, and by extension, Torah observance. For Jewish Christians, it was redefined by Jesus. Jesus provided a freedom from the rabbinic rules and regulations that had been multiplied through the centuries, revealing that genuine Sabbath keeping was about God, and man, meeting human need above all.

With that said, I believe that the game changed when Gentiles entered the picture. This is what letters such as Romans and Galatians are all about, and stories such as the Jerusalem counsel in response to the church at Antioch are dealing with. The issue was what do we do with Gentiles who have come to Messiah? The conclusion was that Gentiles did not have to become Jews to be admitted to and accepted equally as part of the covenant people of God. They believed in Jesus, and received the Holy Spirit, and were put right with God, totally apart from the Law/Torah, and that entire covenant arrangement.

This undergirds the entire argument over circumcision in Galatians…circumcision being the entry sign of covenant membership. Paul’s argument goes far deeper than simply casting aside the necessity of the physical ritual. In fact, he argues against the continued validity of Torah and the entire Sinai covenant as the way that God relates to, and identifies who is included in his people. Torah’s time was over, it could never bring righteousness and life, the promise that it held out, it exacerbated the human predicament rather than solve it, and it created a wall between Jews and Gentiles, that divided who was in from who was out of the realm of God’s grace and kingdom, with the only way of inclusion being the taking on of the entire yoke of the Torah. This was merely symbolized by circumcision.

The new covenant arrangement that Paul speaks of was defined simply by faith in Christ, being baptized into his death, and raised to new life. And, this new life was made visible in the world by an other centered love, a love that brought former enemies to the same table as equals, gathered around the Messiah Jesus. Christian life and community is thus no longer defined by Torah/Law as covenant. It is by adherence to Christ, and a practicing of the love he revealed, a love that bears each others burdens, that breaks down the former prejudices and bigotry of race, religion, class and gender, and that is seen in the fruit that only the Spirit could produce in individuals and in his community.

Nowhere is the Sabbath ever even in view in this experience, nor in Paul’s gospel. The reasonable conclusion is that it was not essential to it! Its observance, along with other visible Jewish badges of identity such as circumcision and food laws, were certainly not something that Paul considered against the gospel in and of themselves. But their imposition on others, as if these practices were necessary to be included amongst the people of God, was something that Paul considered totally alien to it. It undermined the unity and equality of the community, it created walls and division over law, and it struck at the sufficiency of Christ and the Spirit to create and sustain a community birthed, led, and shaped by the grace of God.

Adventism, through its own cherry picked version of Law/Sabbath/food laws, has done the same thing. We have walled ourselves off from all other expressions of Christianity, regarding them as lesser/second class, and apostate forms of it. We have regarded ourselves with a triumphalism based on points of law, and identified the organization as God’s one true church based on the same criteria. I find this totally out of step with the picture of how God in Christ creates and sustains the Spirit filled and led community to which the NT writers were continually pointing.

Colossians groups the weekly Sabbath with other Jewish holy times as shadows of things to come, but the reality is Christ. If we want to share the weekly Sabbath as a life enhancing type of spiritual practice, and share what we feel are its benefits with others, that is fine. But, if we continue to seek to impose it as essential to Christian experience, eschatology, and inclusion among the community of the saved in the end, then I fear that we, as a denomination, are pointing people back to the shadows and not the fullness and freedom of the reality of Jesus. Simply put, we are "not acting in line with the truth of the gospel."




On the 26th of May 2017 Todd Leonard wrote:
“There was a point to celebrating a weekly Sabbath once Jesus, and then his followers, got back to bringing Sabbath to people.”
For too long our Adventist emphasis has been to emphasize what we do not do on Sabbath. We have come to an institutional cultural expression of Sabbath that leaves out the creative joy that comes from personal expression of our spiritual journey. My most meaningful experiences on Sabbath have come when I “got back to brining Sabbath to people.”
The question I have is why Todd Leonard hasn’t written a book. One of my old friends used the rhetorical question “what’s it to you…are you writing a book?” Todd has asked some fundamental questions that are worth reading and considering. Keep writing Todd!



My earliest memories are attending SDA church & camp meeting. I NEVER invite anyone to SDA churches, even though I attend about every week and am usually the most active participant in Sabbath school. This weekend , besides SDA, I attended 2 non-denom mega churches (10,000-15,000).

Religious survey leader George Barna reports, with poll results, that the main reason people attend church is #1 to worship God and #2 To become a better person. I challenge the #1 result and would say #2 is probably #1. This is really quite obvious because of the theme of most sermons. (You suck, try harder)

I would not shed any tears if the SDA back door % increased from 40%-90%.
I don’t fret at all because the gates of HELL will not prevail against God’s true church of followers of JESUS.

THINK on the following …SDA conference leaders, pastors, elders, SS teachers, and institutional/denominational flag waivers…

How often have you heard, over the years, the cliché phrase…“Jesus is coming soon” from pulpits, teachers and AS OFTEN or more that SDA people are LAODICEAN?
What type of emotion/reaction do you think a listener has, who is constantly bashed/labelled a lazy, lousy, worldly, lukewarm, poor , blind, naked LAODICEAN loser,(always in need of revival & reformation, has to die to self daily, has to be filled with the Spirit, has to stop trampling the law & Sabbath, has to share Jesus/3 angels message/gospel more) has … when they hear…
.“Jesus is coming soon”???

Do they react in hope… or fear, because they hear a THREAT since they are constantly programmed to feel they are never ready??

After reading replies below—
Like I teach in pulpits & Sabbath school…the most corrupted words in Christianity are gospel, grace & salvation. This seems to be the result of fulfillment of 2 Pet 3:16 where teachers are warping the Apostle Paul’s words. AND Hosea 4:6 or Rom 10:2 --ignorance, deception, fanaticism. There is so many “Christians’/Adventists” still in the Rom 8:7 mindset.
Since God’s will is not usually taught, churchgoers lose out on JN 7:17 and don’t know correct doctrine.


Gideon –
To go along with your comment we have this Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine, which I heard repeated by several in my S.S. class 2 days ago.
"We are keeping Jesus from returning BECAUSE WE are not ready."
I am sure that Ellen’s often quoted published saying is behind it. Not until the character of Christ is PERFECTLY reproduced in His people [most take this as being SDAs ONLY] can He come.
That puts another Guilt Trip on those in the pews.
Because WHAT IS the Character of Christ?
Is there a check off to know WHEN I have arrived? This can create a huge Mental Disorder. One that is impossible to cure.


Last week I discovered that I’m only allowed to make three replies, so I’m unable to respond specifically to each of you. So I’ll try to respond as best I can in one reply and leave my other two for follow-up discussion.

@Sirje: My word play may have been more confusing than helpful. Where I was trying to head was that Adventism’s traditional focus on getting people to keep the correct day has distracted us from our true Sabbath calling of joining God in bringing rest to people, however and whenever they need it. Our keeping of Saturday is, at worst, a mockery of God if we don’t join God in his work of Sabbath-bringing; and at best a ritual that reminds us of God’s Sabbath work for us and our call to join in it for others. Our over-emphasis of seventh-day sabbath-keeping has distracted us from loving others. It is by loving others where they are that Christ is revealed. “By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Our loving acts of bringing rest to others opens them up to experiencing the eternal rest ushered in through Jesus.

@rodneybda: I love your emphasis on God bringing rest before he asks us to work. You brought solid scriptural evidence to support it. I would add that psychological research supports the idea that the more we move towards that psycho-spiritual place of loving centeredness–knowing who we are, and, for our purposes here, knowing who we are in God–the more we are free and empowered to give love away to others. So to update my thoughts to incorporate yours: 1. IN LOVE, GOD ACTS. God does works of creation/deliverance/reconciliation/restoration for us. 2. IN GRATITUDE, WE TRUST, RECEIVE AND CELEBRATE. We give thanks for the tangible evidence of God’s work in our lives through people and nature; and we exercise faith and trust in the promises of scripture regarding what Jesus has done for us and how God sees us now; and we worship and celebrate out of those realities. 3. BECAUSE WE ARE LOVED, WE ACT IN LOVE. We now join God in the divine work of creation/deliverance/reconciliation/restoration, often in very tangible ways (less mic, more action) that reveals the deeper, more powerful action of God in the world. What do you think?

Tjzwemer: Bravo to your uncle! He clearly had a better understanding of the gospel!

@Alix: Totally agree. Dogmatism is the death-knell of our faith. The first article in this series was my effort to expose the fraudulent version of our Adventist Self, the one that shouts our superior understanding of God, but over-sells and under-delivers the life transformation that happens in a person that accepts our marketing. I have been on a quest to be much more honest and real about what life looks like for a person who chooses to follow Jesus and become part of a spiritual community. I think God will be revealed more in and through us as we become more authentic with each other and our cities.

@ray and frank_merendino: I won’t quibble one bit with your assertion that all the law, including Sabbath, is fulfilled and superseded in Christ. My concern is that, just as our Adventist forefathers became dogmatic about the Law, we are, in our essential evangelical correction of the past 35 years, turning the person and actions of Jesus into another dogmatism that is spoken of but not acted upon. To put myself at risk of expressing the next iteration of dogmatic Adventism, I feel like we need to move away from a Pauline/Reformation/Enlightenment proclamation of the Christ-Truth and move towards the Incarnate, Crucified and Spirit-led model of living as seen in Jesus that was defined by personal presence, hospitality, compassion, mercy, healing, restoration of dignity and reconciliation of relationships. I feel like we have been talking from a safe distance and it’s past time to get our hands dirty.

sam: Thank you. Bringing Sabbath to others is indeed the best way to keep Sabbath!

@gideonjrn and niteguy2 : There are a lot of Adventists like you who know better than to invite anyone else to attend their local Adventist churches. At worst, they’re dangerous; at best, they’re depressing. Yes, too often, the message that keeps coming through is “You suck. Try harder.” Even, as you say, our message of Jesus coming soon, which could be a message of hope, often turns into a threat, (“we’re the reason Jesus hasn’t returned yet”) that reinforces that same message. And the result is that our congregations are full of people who are insecure, depressed and exhausted. I think we should stop using the term “Laodicea” and start using the term “Clinically Depressed” to describe our collective psycho-spirituality. And because of that, we have little energy to give away in lovingkindness towards others. We’re all white-knuckling it, trying to hold on until Jesus comes. The lack of love isn’t because we suck as human beings. It’s because we keep communicating this condemnatory message in implicit and explicit ways.


Pastor Todd,
Thank you so much for engaging with your readers. Your latest replies have clarified a lot of questions I had in my mind. I’m curious why, as the main author you’re limited to 3 posts in the response section?

1 Like

[quote=“ToddJLeonard, post:11, topic:13565”]
Where I was trying to head was that Adventism’s traditional focus on getting people to keep the correct day has distracted us from our true Sabbath calling of joining God in bringing rest to people, however and whenever they need it.
[/quote] …Our loving acts of bringing rest to others opens them up to experiencing the eternal rest ushered in through Jesus.

I like where you’re going with this; but, it becomes a little confusing, maybe because the Adventist “gospel” is confusing. We quote “saved by grace” but we add “the seventh-day Sabbath” as having salvific importance. I guess what you’re saying is that unless we give the needy a path to “salvation by faith in Christ”, giving them the "seventh-day Sabbath " is useless. With that I can agree; but,where, in this grand scheme, does the seventh-day Sabbath come in at all? If it’s only symbolic for “salvation (rest) in Christ” - nice; but we do make a big deal about the day more than the “actual rest in Christ”.

Perhaps it’s a little picky, but this specific “Sabbath day” grows to become quite a large issue when we make it the identifying mark of the church; and also add it to "By grade are you saved, and not by works - (and, remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy ").

OK, the church is, what it is - and we’re not going to send folks to some other church that has a better grasp of the GOSPEL. So, what do we do? The Sabbath day is always going to be front and foremost in the SDA gospel presentation; and before that, in our own (corporate) understanding. For those who are trying to sort this out on a daily basis, the job becomes tedious. Why are we going to invite others to share in our frustrations?


You wrote, 'I haven’t begged her to give up her job so that she and her children can be more sure of their salvation.'
Once again, though you stated it in a slightly different way, you have pointed out the dilemma of Adventism. Are we saved solely and completely by the grace and mercy of God as manifested in the gift of Jesus Christ or must we contribute to our salvation in some way by our response and resulting performance?
This question changes form, but nonetheless persists, even to the point in one recent article of the author wondering if an obese pastor had lost his salvation.

I believe that Adventism is stuck somewhere between the old & new covenants, wanting to believe we are justified solely by the grace of God which we receive solely by faith (Martin Luther’s great discovery) but also asking, like the rich, young ruler ‘What must I do to be saved?’ (Remember, his question came before the cross so the old covenant was still in effect). Considering Jesus knew that the RYR would not understand the future plan of salvation (how could he?), Jesus gave him a very wise answer: sell all you have (your way of understanding) and follow me (so you will begin to see the purpose of My life and understand your salvation as it unfolds).

It’s so ironic that a denomination that insists on keeping a weekly sabbath rest believes one’s salvation depends on achieving and maintaining an undefined level of obedience. As a result, even though Adventism promotes the sabbath, Adventists can’t really enter into the rest promised by Jesus.

Sabbath rest then is not a duty but a response to what Christ has done. It’s not my vow to help ‘ensure my salvation’; it’s a response born of my gratitude for God’s finished work on my behalf. I can truly rest from my labours trying to be good enough for Him to accept me and so I can take time to thank and worship Him in a special way. By faith, I accept that God has credited (imputed) Christ’s perfection to my account.

One commenter recently said that I am to do my best and God will make up the difference. How can I possibly have any rest or assurance if that is so? How can I even hope to define my best? If I’m not at my best at the time of my death am I lost?
The commenter had a point but it was the wrong way about. It’s not about cause, it’s about effect. I am called to surrender more of my life to the leading of the Spirit and become more like Christ; not to earn my salvation, but because I want to follow more closely the One who, out of His love, paid the ultimate price to save me.

In my view, the root of the problem lies in the misunderstanding of the reasons for the investigative judgment. Adventism is right in its respect for the law and right in stating that there will be a judgment of believers at the end of this age based on our works. The New Testament states this in many places. But I believe that Adventism is wrong in assuming that the believer’s salvation is at stake in this judgment. What if God is deciding something else with this examination of believers as we enter the next age? What if it has to do with finding a small subset of believers (the Bible calls them ‘overcomers’) who are being prepared now to assume roles in Christ’s coming kingdom? Can you see that this view would still uphold Paul’s repeated claim in Romans and Galatians that Christians are saved by grace alone through faith alone? But it also allows for differing degrees of sanctification and that some, like Paul, who are further along and more spiritually mature, are responding to an ‘upward call of God’ which Paul says he is straining to reach but has not yet attained (Phil 3:12-14). I believe he’s talking about his hope to achieve something beyond salvation; some future position of service to others (following the example of Christ). This would mean that Paul is not contradicting himself because it doesn’t nullify his many statements that justification is purely by faith (Rom 3:21-28; 5:15; 10:9, Gal 3:22; 2Tim 1:9 to name a few).

I have written an article explaining my view of this in more detail and would be glad to email it to anyone willing to look at these things differently.
My address is: 2520dave@gmail.com

Several years ago, an Adventist pastor/evangelist came to my church to conduct a weekend series of lectures. He started off by stating, ‘The gospel is good news, not good advice’ i.e., it’s the wonderful gift of God in what Christ has done for us, not a plan to become more holy to achieve salvation. He was subsequently banned from speaking in my conference. When I later asked the conference executive secretary why the speaker was banned, he replied, ‘He was not preaching Adventism’.

Todd, you want to reincarnate Adventism - I believe the start must be getting the gospel right.


[quote=“ToddJLeonard, post:11, topic:13565”]
I feel like we need to move away from a Pauline/Reformation/Enlightenment proclamation of the Christ-Truth
[/quote] I guess what’s confusing me is your definition of the “Pauline/Reformation/Enlightenment proclamation of the Christ-Truth” and why Paul belongs in this list.

I agree fully with this goal to move towards for daily living. It’s Paul through and through, built on the new commandment given to us by Christ Himself.

I’m still concerned that we are trying to present Christian living in terms of Sabbath. It’s the living Christ we need. Paul always centred the gospel message on Christ. He never once put it in terms of Sabbath, not even in Hebrews 4. Why are we trying to put a Sabbath layer between us and Christ? He is our all and in all. Christ is the reality. The Sabbath in any context is but a shadow so why dwell in the shadows?


Todd, thank you for letting us know that the Discourse system was limiting you to only 3 replies because of your “new user” status. This should be fixed now, but if you continue to run into trouble, please feel free to contact us through Discourse’s messaging system. -Web Editor

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“John the Baptist closed his similar scathing rebuke of the same party with solemn warning — “He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”” from Lyman Abbott, JESUS OF NAZARETH: HIS LIFE AND TEACHINGS; FOUNDED ON THE FOUR GOSPELS, AND ILLUSTRATED BY REFERENCE TO THE MANNERS, CUSTOMS, RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. AND POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS OF HIS TIMES. (1869): 87.

It applied then and now to all who claim to follow God, but don’t.

@DaveMoffatt: In our post-sermon discussion at the church I serve, we talked about this a little bit. For existing Adventists, working with them through Bible study to better understand that Christ’s ministry fulfills all of God’s righteous requirements, including keeping of Sabbath, would be very helpful, and requires much repetition. I agree that we are stuck between trying to hold onto our identity for our uniqueness and letting go of it and becoming willing to be lost in the glory of God in Christ. But we have to start communicating the power of Christ with actions, not words. When I talk about engaging in loving actions towards others, I am not suggesting that we do it for our own salvation. I’m suggesting that we do it so others can wake up to their own salvation. So to shift from being Sabbath-keepers trying to appease God, if we can move towards being Sabbath-bringers that bring tangible rest into people’s lives, perhaps they can then open up to the much greater, deeper and longer spiritual rest that God brings through Jesus.

@ray: I’m unfairly grouping Paul in with Reformation/Enlightenment thinking, which, of course he had no concept of, living 1400 years earlier! :slight_smile: But somehow, Protestantism really elevated Paul’s writings to THE authoritative expression of the fullness of Jesus. And combined with the enlightenment’s too-far notion that people can arrive at objective, propositional truth, Protestantism’s proclamation of the Pauline gospel moved us towards a very intellectual and Gnostic understanding of Jesus Christ.

I truly feel that much of evangelicalism, including the evangelical strain of Adventism, is still operating under this very Gnostic view of Jesus as THE PROPOSITIONAL TRUTH under which all other propositional scriptural truths fall. I’m anxious to see us see the TRUTH of Jesus expressed through the Spirit of Jesus working in and through us to continue his saving work; that we shift away from logic to praxis.

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To know that we have Christ living in us every moment of every day changes everything. To be loved and to be learning to love the way Christ loved is where the rubber meets the road. Christ in us and working out His love in us every step of the way is practical Christian living as I see it.

Let me suggest a problem if we shift away from logic to praxis. Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to enter the kingdom of God. Simple logic told Nicodemus that he could not enter his mother’s womb to be born again. The logic is so simple that I’ve never known anybody to dispute it. However, when it comes to the spiritual realm and our spiritual rebirth it seems that logic goes out the window. There are SDA evangelists out there telling us that we must be born again every day. One even suggested eighteen times a day. I have no idea why eighteen. I think he meant every time we fall into sin we need to be born again.

Simple logic tells us that physical birth is a one-off experience. Simple logic also should tell us that spiritual birth is a one-off experience at conversion. Logic and praxis must go together and work together. A correct, logical understanding of what Christ taught will save us from a lot of practical pitfalls in our daily Christian living. Truth will set us free. Jesus is the living truth but that does not mean there is no place for logic.

To be honest, I wonder whether we can blame Protestantism for the very intellectual understanding you speak of. I think of men like Horatius Bonar, Hudson Taylor, Charles Spurgeon just to name a few. The love of Jesus in praxis terms is outstanding in the life and preaching of such Protestant leaders.

Adventism’s emphasis on the law, meaning the ten commandments, and especially strict Sabbath observance has forced many believers into an intellectual shell where to be Adventist is to be able to prove these and other doctrines. Intellectualism becomes a defense mechanism because maybe people don’t know where else to turn. Sadly, the reality of all that Christ has to offer through simple belief and faith in Him has been obscured. Many of us struggled for years to grasp the reality of Christ and of grace and what it really means to live by the Spirit and not by law.