Rather than being drawn to the Seventh-day Adventist community of faith by “the matchless charms of Jesus Christ” as seen in the harmonious collection of our Bible-based doctrines, I was born within a third-generation Adventist home and educated in Adventist schools from Cradle Roll to Graduate School. However, I struggled (for a time) in my early college years with the validity of our faith. I had reached that critical stage all young people face in their development that begins to question everything. It was time to investigate the truth for myself.
I didn’t abandon the church and “go out into the world”, when my sheltered experience was threatened. At La Sierra College I was exposed to the realization that there is a much bigger world “out there” and saw for myself the wide diversity of belief systems. I began to question whether the confidence I had enjoyed during my childhood was nothing more than partisan arrogance. As I approached my 20’s I saw how small our church really was. And I began to wonder how such a tiny “remnant” could be right when there were so many more with differing ideas and beliefs.
More troubling to me was the WAY in which Adventism had taught me its picture of God. I can vividly remember Bible classes in grade school and sermons at church that pictured God the Father as the strict judge, disciplining us, leaving me uncertain as to whether the human race could be saved. But, fortunately, Jesus would plead our cases before Him saying, “Father, my blood, my blood!” This would soften His heart and He would relent, but only because Jesus had interceded on our behalf. Remember, this was during an era when the emphasis was on being good commandment keepers. Without an eternal burning hell, we had to have something to take its place in cowering frightened souls to follow the straight and narrow. A stern heavenly Father served the purpose.
Of course, Jesus was easy to love; He is the Saviour, the Good Shepherd. He is gentle, tender-hearted, kind, long-suffering. But I was not sure about God. There were all those times in the Old Testament that depicted Him as pretty tough. I can remember having dreams (really, nightmares) as a child that would wake me up at night. It was always the same: Jesus was coming again, the sky was filled with angels, everyone else is being caught up into the air but I don’t leave the ground. Panic! What’s wrong? I guess I was around 10, 11 maybe. Deeply disturbed I’d sneak into the living room and get a Bible. I would try to find something in Psalms, usually, that would give me some reassurance and peace.
It wasn’t until my Junior year in college that I learned that “the Father Himself loves you.” Morris Venden introduced us to this text at a week of prayer. It was transforming. Then Emilio Kneckle came for a series and painted the most beautiful picture of the Father and Son planning for man’s salvation in eternity past. I saw the great controversy theme, seemingly, for the first time, and God’s incredible love in giving up His Son to save us. The Bible became alive and suddenly Ellen White was no longer the author of restrictive rules and red books filled with do’s and don’ts. I became fascinated with and personally convinced of the undeniable inspiration of her writings. That has not, by any means, changed. After graduating from Loma Linda School of Medicine and spending 10 years in the mission fields of East Tennessee our family went to the real mission field of Malawi, Africa. When it came time for our children to enter college, we moved back to the U.S. and settled ultimately in the north Georgia mountains.
In the summer of 2007 we saw a clip on 3ABN promoting the Global Rain project: 10 days of studying and praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The 10 days were to commemorate the time in the upper room of Acts 2. They were to end on 7-7-07, a Sabbath! Wow! What an auspicious date! It was also the start of the 10 Commandment Weekend which was receiving lots of publicity and I hoped that this might be The Time. War with Iran was in the news. Everything was shaping up for what could be the real End. I downloaded the study materials, we announced the meetings at the church each night and pleaded for everyone to come and be unified as the 120 were in the upper room before the first Pentecost. This was our chance! If we could get a critical mass of Adventists around the world united in prayer and supplication SOMETHING had to happen!
Well, the study materials were nearly all from the Spirit of Prophecy regarding the character, the promise, the function and agency of the Holy Spirit. Not very many came the first night and it dwindled down to about 3 by the end, but we stuck it out.
We were encouraged to pray to the Holy Spirit as part of the exercises. I found this strange. Not only had I never prayed to the Holy Spirit before, but I couldn't recall anyone in the Bible do that either. So, I decided to take the opportunity to collect all the Scriptural references I could in Strong's Concardance on the Holy Spirit to compliment all the Ellen White references. As I organized them, it soon became apparent that there was a LOT about the Spirit that could be separated into two broad categories: 1) what the Spirit does and 2) who the Spirit is. It was this second group of texts that were of most interest because, frankly, I personally found it awkward praying to the Holy Spirit. What or who are we praying to?
Jesus referred to the Spirit (as the Comforter) as “he”…when he the Spirit of truth shall come, he shall guide you into all truth, he shall abide in you, etc. Well, sounds like a person all right. But then God is spirit and God has a name. Does the Spirit have a name? Many scriptures speak of Jesus abiding in us, “let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus”, “Christ in you the hope of glory”, “that Christ might be formed in you”, etc. We sing, “Into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus”. This is straightforward, easy to understand. I know Jesus and it is truly heart warming to contemplate Him living in my life. “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives within me, and the life that I now live I live by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ”. Practicing the presence of Jesus, walking with Him, following in His steps, a thoughtful hour in meditating on the life of Jesus, feeding on His word—all this brings great comfort because He is the Great Comforter.
I discovered that Jesus spoke of Himself as “he” or “him”… “No man ascended up to heaven, but "he" that came down from heaven, even the Son of man. He that believes on "him" shall not perish,” John 3:13-19. “f you knew...who it is that says to you, Give me to drink, you would have asked "him" and "he" would have given you living water.” John 4:10. “"The Son can do nothing of Himself; but what "he" sees the Father do" John 5:19. “You have both seen "him" and it is "he" that talks with you.” John 9:38.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus was speaking of someone else. Likewise, I believe He was speaking of Himself when He said, “You know him (the Spirit of truth); for he dwells with you.” John 14:17. Jesus had just said that He was “the truth, the life, and the way.” He is the Spirit of truth. He was dwelling with them that night at the last supper. “These things I have spoken unto you being yet present with you.” Verse 25. But Jesus also promises that the Spirit of truth “shall be in you” verse 17. He then explains in verse 20: “In that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
Jesus desires more than anything to “come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Rev 3:20. Judas (not Iscariot) asks, “How will you manifest yourself to us?” verse 22. Jesus answers, “My Father and I will come…and make our abode with him.” This is why John wrote in 1John 1:3 “Our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” The Holy Spirit is not mentioned here, I believe, because the Father and the Son ARE the Holy Spirit. When they come to abide in us and fellowship with us it is automatically by way of Their Spirit.
So, please understand, I fully believe in the reality of the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit is as much a person as God is a person” because it is the personal presence of God Himself. Not just a force, not a mysterious power, but a real personal manifestation of the Godhead. Thus “the Spirit of God…the Spirit of Christ…dwells in you” Romans 8:9. Because we are temples of God, “the Spirit of God dwells in you” 1Cor 3:16. “He abides in us by the Spirit which He has given us” 1 John 3:24. “God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts” Galatians 4:6.
I am thrilled at the thought of Jesus and the Father sending their Spirit to dwell in us. You can’t more personal than that!