“It’s not a salvational issue.”, “That’s works! We are saved by grace!”, “It was done at the cross!”, “That’s nit-picky.”, “It doesn’t matter what we eat. Jesus loves us!”, “It doesn’t matter what we wear. Jesus loves us!”, “I’ve studied that issue out and I’m not convicted…!”, “I’m not going to die on that hill!”, “Don’t talk about standards, you’ll discourage people. People just need Jesus!”, “We don’t need doctrine.”
The above and other questions sort of haunt me these days. Honestly, they make me ashamed. Do we “have” to obey? Really? Having come into the faith in a very conservative environment, I naively thought all Seventh-day Adventists were like those around me. It doesn’t take much exercise of the imagination to grasp my chagrin as I learned the truth. But the conservative environment I was surrounded by was not a focus on Jesus, but on “do’s and don’ts”. I became a really good legalist. But in His mercy, God sent me a very dear friend who really loved and knew Jesus, to help me become thoroughly grounded in the faith–the faith of Jesus. (John 8:29).
Dawn loved Jesus like no one I had ever met before or sadly, since (may that change). As we studied together, new scenes from the life of Jesus were presented in such a way that I HAD to know this Man (2 Corinthians 2:2). Dawn had a gift for sharing from the Bible and Desire of Ages such scenes from the life of Jesus–in my flesh and blood–that I began to see how much He is identified with my struggles. (Hebrews 4:15). She would be so happy as she shared that her joy was almost palpable! Sadly though, my journey took some unfortunate byroads of self-endeavor because of the mindset I’d already adopted.
As the contrast between my own life and that of the loveliness of Jesus, presented and lived out before me day by day in the life and character of my friend, became more and more apparent I began to become very angry. Why couldn’t I live like she lived? Why couldn’t I love Jesus like she did? Dawn was a faithful friend, and I knew she loved me because she would tell me the painful truth about myself, but stuck with me, always offering hope. (Revelation 3:19). I was determined to obey if it killed me…and it almost did.
My anger became violent. So violent that my friends began to wonder if I was possessed, or at least oppressed by demons. I wanted to do right but I couldn’t and it seemed it would drive me insane. Then one day we got the diagnosis of breast cancer for Dawn–late stage 4 with three weeks to live. I was devastated. I really loved and cared for my friend, and the thought of her dying seemed to me to cut off my last hope of knowing Jesus. But God knew better.
Shortly after we got the horrible diagnosis I was bringing in some things I’d purchased to help in caring for Dawn when something life changing happened. Dawn was still able to walk and held the door for me. As I entered, she said something to me and my response was the usual angry rebuff. I turned to look at her and saw a tear in her eye and a gentle shaking of her head, followed by the words, “You are so selfish!” (Luke 22:31-32). I flew into a rage, but what came out of my mouth surprised us both. “I don’t want you to be sick!”, “I don’t want you to die!”, and then I turned and pounded the wall so hard that I broke my finger. I was angry with myself that I could not treat someone I cared so much for with kindness. And now she was dying.
The air still thick with emotion and trembling from head to foot, I looked at Dawn and said, “I can’t do this! I can’t live this life!”, and I fell to my knees. For the first time in my life, I broke. For the first time in my life I fully realized my helplessness. For the first time in my life I fully surrendered. I begged God to come in and help me. He did, and my life did “a 180”–I am not that angry woman anymore, and haven’t been since.
As I looked up I could see in Dawn’s eyes that she recognized this was genuine. Thank God, He changed me! He gave me “power steering” to go in the way of His commandments. But it wasn’t until I was brought face to face with my own helplessness and wickedness that I finally broke. (Jeremiah 3:12-14). Until then, it was easy to blame circumstances, people, the standards, and even God for my failure. It was the raising up of the standards–doctrines– that showed me my need. The law brought me to Jesus. (Galatians 3:24).
Three weeks later I attended the funeral of this dear lady–somehow even mustering the courage to sing. But those last three weeks taught me so much about the character of Jesus. See, for more than thirteen years my friend had put up with my shenanigans and unkind treatments. For more than thirteen years she showed me Jesus. I had a living witness of the power of God for all those years, but do you know where I saw the greatest manifestation of His power? It was in the final scenes of my friend’s life, when she suffered most. Sound familiar? (Desire of Ages 83.4). Now, don’t get me wrong, I give no power or real credit to my friend. I know better. She was made of the same stuff as me. So was Jesus, Who is our Example.
As Dawn lay dying, what dumbfounded me the most was that she wanted ME to care for her. It was me, the one who gave her the greatest grief, that she wanted to be there with her. (Matthew 26:37,38). My friend had become very much like Jesus, Who wanted His friends, including Peter, who hurt Him the most, near Him. The light finally came on for me. It was the realization of such complete forgiveness–from Jesus and beautifully reflected by Dawn–that deepened my repentance, set me free and empowered me to obey like I’d never imagined possible. That’s Jesus. Do you know this Jesus? He is wonderful! He not only transforms, He empowers. And He wants us near Him–so we can be just like Him.