Tuesday, January 13, 2009
By Ramone - November 6, 2008
I painted this picture for the introduction to "Faith or Fear", a study by Cherry Brandstater. I had felt impressed to ask God for a picture for each of her three studies and when it came time to ask Him about her third study, I was suddenly at a loss. Her third study deals with the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the "Sanctuary" and "Investigative Judgment", which was created to explain why William Miller's date-setting for the day of Christ's return was not incorrect but actually of salvational importance to understand. The doctrine is so complicated and convaluted that I just had no idea where to begin or what to paint.
As I prayed, it was like I saw all the calculations -- the mess and Miller's calculations, and I saw a man at the cross. He's letting go, but having trouble letting it all go. His hands are wanting to embrace the cross... but his hands are at the same time questioning, still offering the fruits of the numbers, like saying "God, but what about this?" Isn't there something of value here in this? Something worth keeping? It couldn't have all been wrong or off, Lord? It was so close, Lord! It fit so well, made so much sense...
He's facing letting go of hoping to please God. His attempt to calculate Christ's return (or the events prior to His return) and thus "be ready" for it is ultimately an effort to earn God's approval, to earn His pleasure and "be ready" and "acceptable" for when Jesus returns. It reveals the buried, deep-seated fear that unless we do something, we won't be saved. Making these calculations, knowing what's coming and when (or how), seems to give us assurance that we'll be ready, we'll be saved, we won't be lost. We think.
But you don't have to calculate it to be saved! See the cross? He loves you! He has saved you! You are safe in Him! You are sealed in Him, by His Holy Spirit! And while you are safe in Him, He will one day come and get you to take you home and to a new world!
I was reminded of a film entitled "Pi", in which a man uses his super-computer to calculate the Kabbalah's mythical 216 digits of the name of God... and nearly kills himself in the process. Film critic Roger Ebert noted about this that "the closer you get to finding something that does not exist, the more insane you become." The closer you think you get to it, the more validated your journey seems, and the harder it is to realize your goal is was a mistaken impossibility. The harder it becomes to just let go of it all. The man with his super-computer calculations in the movie was just like Miller and the foundation of Adventism, trying to calculate the impossible to ultimately attain God (or salvation). Because it felt so, so close, Adventists could not let go of their calculations. Miller did and repented. But Adventists could not accept that it was all mistaken from the beginning. They couldn't repent and find rest at the cross.
The next day after sketching this picture, I realized God is bringing Adventists back to the root, back to the original place and opportunity for repentance that the unrepentant Millerites could not humbly take (because of the shame of humiliation and fear of futility). I realized that the picture shows the "meeting" which the unrepentant Millerites needed to have, but ran away from. It's the point of the realization which they avoided; it's the run-in with the cross which awaits them still.
I had no idea where to begin in portraying a picture about the complex and difficult Sanctuary/Investigative Judgment doctrine. But with the picture God showed, He took things past all the complicated spaghetti of the Adventist doctrine and back to the simple root of it all: the call to repent of the original error which started it all, the works of calculations attempting to garner favor with Him. Before Adventism He sets the Cross and offers rest from trying to make the calculations work, from trying to save face, from trying to avoid the fear of futility. Yes, it was wrong. Yes, it was futile. The sooner we can admit that, the sooner we can find rest and true security. Here is the choice God is presenting Adventism and has been presenting for over 165 years: Will it be the this, or will it be the Cross?
As I was copying down the "equation" numbers (and now as I write and weep in the Spirit), I note that the Cross event plays a very minor part in the calculations. The "Messianic week" is a parenthetical, "by the way" in Miller's calculations. It's just a brief stop, a supporting-evidence, a footnote on the way to getting to 1844. The Cross became a numerical proof for 1844. Miller's calculations say, "Even the Cross pointed to 1844!", instead of pointing to Christ and Him crucified as our salvation. Miller's calculations and the Adventist doctrine based on them simply set aside the message of the gospel, and declare that the way to be saved is instead to "be ready" for His coming.
"Lettin Go" is a picture of Adventists in our age (and in any age) coming to the foot of the cross and being overwhelmed as they see the choice of surrender before them. They have a brief, faint glimpse of something... a salvation with a magnitude greater than anything they had imagined--or calculated--to be possible. They hear a faint whisper of what He has done on the Cross. The Spirit calls them, both inviting and commanding, to come fall on their knees here, surrender all to Him, trust Him alone, and be broken by the Rock. And find rest. But it feels risky to believe they can be accepted bringing nothing to make themselves pleasing or "ready". It feels shameful, fearful and futile to face the possibility that so much and so long of a journey began on the wrong foot. It's hard to let go.
But ask for His grace to let go. And find rest for your souls at the Cross. Please!
See also: "Letting Go" (at Heart For Adventists)