What does it mean to be a Seventh-day Adventist? At times we are tempted to define who we are by what we do. We revel about those areas in which we excel and are successful. By focusing on the things we do or don’t do, we easily lose sight of the most foundational factor of Adventist identity—our rootedness in God. It seems that our deepest identity is derived not so much from what we do, but from who we are. Who we are leads to how we will live.

Seen from this perspective, our identity is rooted first and foremost in God because He has called us—individually and as a church. With that in mind I share my reflections on what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist. This article cannot cover everything that could be said, but I hope it proves a good starter for deeper reflection.

Grounded in the Love of Jesus

The bedrock of our spiritual identity is Jesus’ great and steadfast love for us. Jesus loved us while we were still His enemies (Rom. 5:8, 10). Without His love no one would be interested in God’s salvation. Without His love we would have no consciousness of our need for His forgiveness, or any desire to become more like Him. It’s only Jesus’ great and persistent love that leads to our conversion—one of the most amazing miracles in the universe. Only through His love and grace are we called children of God and heirs of His salvation.

This spiritual identity is grounded not in what we have done for Him, but in what He has done for us!

This fact is extremely important for our spiritual identity as Seventh-day Adventists. Why? Because Jesus’ love creates a spiritual identity in us that nothing else can achieve. Knowing He loved us first provides that deep and joyful gratitude that is characteristic of every genuine Seventh-day Adventist Christian. The experience of God’s forgiveness is something we cannot earn. We can accept it only with childlike faith. This fills our hearts with hope. As His children we can know that we are saved and have eternal life, offered to us in Jesus Christ alone (1 John 5:10-13).

This spiritual identity is grounded not in what we have done for Him, but in what He has done for us! Ellen White put it this way: “Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world. The proclamation of the third angel’s message calls for the presentation of the Sabbath truth. This truth, with others included in the message, is to be proclaimed; but the great center of attraction, Christ Jesus, must not be left out. It is at the cross of Christ that mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other. The sinner must be led to look to Calvary; with the simple faith of a little child he must trust in the merits of the Saviour, accepting His righteousness, believing in His mercy.*

Thus our Adventist identity is rooted in Jesus Christ and His great love for us. What He has done for us enables us to respond in faith to His initiative. From this spiritual fact arise a number of other typical Adventist characteristics.

Faithfulness to God’s Word

Only those who have experienced Jesus’ transforming love and forgiveness have the desire to follow His Word obediently. Jesus’ love always leads believers to a thankful attentiveness toward God’s commandments and His will. Such mindfulness about what God has told us will not be selective. It includes the fourth commandment that reminds us of our Creator (Ex. 20:8-11). We Adventists remember our origin every Sabbath. We are not the product of blind chance; we have our beginning in God’s deliberate will. We are created in the image of God.

Just as God rested on the seventh day of Creation week, we, too, follow His example and keep the Sabbath holy. The Sabbath reminds us that our human dignity and worth is not dependent on our performance or on what we are capable of doing, but is grounded in God’s gracious will that we should be.

Our obedience is not limited to the fourth commandment. Seventh-day Adventists take seriously all of Scripture and are people who desire to live according to all that Scripture says. Such attentive mindfulness toward God’s Word is another important feature of Adventist identity. However, obedience is never the path to salvation. Rather, joyful obedience is the path of all who have been saved by God’s undeserved grace alone. God’s commandments are the shoes in which our love for God walks and finds its faithful expression. Hence, “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10).

A Special Understanding of Time

For Adventists, the Sabbath is also implicated in the biblical understanding of time. It is the first time factor in our anchored identity. Seventh-day Adventists are men and women who are blessed through the Sabbath. The Sabbath shapes in distinctive ways our weekly rhythm of work and rest. The Sabbath reveals to us that fellowship with God is more important than any work we do.

Even before Adam and Eve were able to do anything, they spent time with God on the first Sabbath of Creation week. Out of this holy time with God everything we do gains its significance. The Sabbath leads us to set our daily priorities right, and it reminds us that no matter how diligent and industrious we are, something of our work always remains uncompleted. Thus the Sabbath reminds us that we ultimately live by God’s grace alone.

The Sabbath experience shapes Adventist identity in manifold ways. It points us to a lifestyle of shalom. Shalom living means living in harmony with the Creator God and His creation. It tells us that at the beginning there was harmony between God, nature, and humanity.

God’s commandments are the shoes in which our love for God walks and finds its faithful expression.

The Sabbath also points forward to the future: it reminds us that we belong to God and that in our attentiveness of keeping the Sabbath as a day of rest our love and faithfulness toward God become visible. Thus, the Sabbath becomes a sign that we belong to the only true God.

It is precisely for this reason that the Sabbath will play an important role in the final events of earth’s history when God’s character is contested and our loyalty to God is challenged. This end-time significance of the Sabbath is closely connected to the second aspect of our Adventist understanding of time that is significant for our identity.

The second formative time factor for Adventists is prophetic time in Scripture. The time prophecies in the books of Daniel and Revelation provide us with a unique perspective of world history. Here God grants us a glimpse into the great controversy between good and evil. Here we are told how history will unfold, especially as it relates to the salvation of God’s people.

This prophetic view of time gives Seventh-day Adventists an understanding of the signs of the times and the special significance of the times in which we live. It shows our place in history and thus gives meaning to our lives. This prophetic understanding of time has Jesus Christ at its center. It does not focus on sensationalism, nor is it driven by extraordinary curiosity. Rather, it drives us to proclaim more urgently to those around us that Jesus’ coming is close at hand.

This prophetic understanding of time helps Seventh-day Adventists to deal responsibly with the talents and gifts God has given us. As God’s good stewards, those who want to be ready when Jesus comes, we are diligent and careful with what God has entrusted to us. This means that Adventists practice a lifestyle of modesty and moderation in which we gladly avoid any wasteful or extravagant way of life.

Adventists promote and practice a healthy lifestyle, because we recognize that our body is a temple of
the Holy Spirit. We are cognizant that our physical health easily affects our spiritual wellbeing. This attentiveness leads us to refrain conscientiously from all health-damaging things and practices.

Being aware of the times in which we live, and motivated by our gratitude to Jesus makes us also generous. We joyfully return our tithe and offerings to Him who is the giver of all good gifts (Mal. 3:8-11). Seventh-day Adventists love to help people in need, irrespective of their religious background, their gender, or the color of their skin. Because we have experienced in our own lives the amazing peace that grows out of God’s forgiveness, we are people who are eager to foster peace and are willing to grant forgiveness and to work for reconciliation.

In all we do we try to follow the example of Jesus who during His earthly life and ministry spent significant time to heal the sick and restore to health those who were suffering. We seek the wellbeing of those around us, because “Christ’s love compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14).

An Attitude of Hope

Carried and sustained by Jesus’ love, Adventists are eager to overcome the power of sin through the “blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 12:11). In preaching “the everlasting gospel” (Rev. 14:6, KJV), we demonstrate that we are a people of hope. We are propelled by the hope of Jesus’ soon coming.

Because Jesus was bodily resurrected from the dead, we have the hope of a resurrection of all believers. Those who have died in faith in Jesus Christ now rest in their graves until He comes again. The trumpet of God will sound and the dead in Christ will rise first. “After that  we who are alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thess. 4:17).

As people who have experienced the reconciliation and peace of God, Seventh-day Adventists are men and women of hope. We follow the example of Jesus and seek to solve conflicts nonviolently. Christ’s love becomes visible in our lives. Even though we don’t know the exact day Jesus will come again, we live in such a way that we are ready at any time to meet Him when He comes.

Christ’s love remains the starting point, the center, and the telos of Adventist identity. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness” (Ps. 115:1).


* Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1915), pp. 156, 157.


Frank M. Hasel, Ph.D., originally from Germany, is an associate director of the General Conference Biblical Research Institute.

There is an aspect of our love of God that is strangely underdeveloped among Christians. When we think about our love of God, we usually envision something on the emotional level. But in the Bible the love of God also encompasses our thinking.

The New Testament contains a noteworthy passage, in which a lawyer is in conversation with Jesus about issues of eternal consequence: he wants to know what it takes to inherit eternal life. Jesus refers him back to what is written. The lawyer then recalls the Word of God and gives an answer that Jesus approves: “So he answered and said, ‘ “You shall love the Lordyour God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself” ’ ” (Luke 10:27 NKJV).1

This is Scripture's amazing declaration: you shall love God not just with your heart, but with all your mind! The Greek word dianoia, which is used here for the English word “mind,” describes the “activity of thinking,” “comprehending,” “reasoning,” and “reflecting,” in the sense of understanding something. This is how God created us to be. Thinking and reflecting is an activity with which God has endowed human beings. We have the privilege to exercise our thinking abilities to explore things not only in the Bible but in all areas of life and learning.

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To love God with all our mind means having His love control all our thoughts. Such thinking is characterized by certain inner attitudes and dispositions toward such things as truth, knowledge, and understanding. Inspired by the work of Philip E. Dow, I now refer to this mindset as virtuous thinking.2 We are dealing here with the question of howwe pursue what we do when we engage our thinking. Without exercising virtuous thinking, we cannot truly love God; nor will we give honor to Him. It will be only to our spiritual detriment to think any other way (2 Cor. 10:5), I submit the following four virtuous thinking traits as foundational in our drive to express our love of God with our hearts and minds.3

Intellectual Carefulness

Any inquiry into knowledge, any serious study and scientific research, requires carefulness. People who are intellectually careful want to know the truth and consistently make sure not to rush to hasty conclusions based on rather limited knowledge.4 Instead, intellectually careful people are thorough and diligent in their thinking, careful not to overlook important details.

We all know stories in which hastiness or carelessness in our work, in our studies, in our relationships, in science and also in theology, has led to disastrous results. Sometimes those negative results of hasty or careless thinking show up immediately; sometimes it takes awhile until they become evident. But the negative effects are inevitable. If we truly believe that we are children of God, then what we do and how we do what we do should reflect the character of Him who is Lord of the details, Him to whom our ultimate loyalties belong.

As Seventh-day Adventists we should pursue and cherish an attitude of intellectual carefulness not just because it is academically sound and scientifically mandated, but because it grows out of our respect of God, who is our careful Creator and Redeemer. His example and character compel us to think carefully. Faith is neither sloppy nor hasty. We do not honor God by avoiding meticulous and careful thought, word, research, publication, and other action! Put positively:loving God with all our hearts and minds includes being intellectually careful!

Intellectual Fair-mindedness

A second intellectual virtue is fair-mindedness. Those who are fair-minded are people who earnestly want to know the truth and are therefore deliberately willing to listen in an evenhanded way to different opinions.5 Such discriminatory thinking would of course make no sense if there is no such thing as truth. The virtue of fair-mindedness would then morph into meaninglessness, and the end of education would not be far away.6 Fair-minded persons have chosen to put truth over any allegiance to their ego, or any allegiance to cherished opinions. They listen in an even-handed way, even if they already have strong views on the subject. Fair-minded people also try to view the issue from the perspective of those they disagree with, because they are aware that they do not always have the most complete or accurate perspective on a given issue. We could say that an intellectually fair-minded person values knowing the truth in a fair-minded manner more than winning an argument. Intellectual bias is the vice corresponding to intellectual fair-mindedness.7

Among the many benefits of intellectually fair-minded people, one is particularly practical: genuinely fair-minded people tend to make and keep friends more easily than people whose thinking habits are closed-minded or biased. The reason for this is simple: it is the inherent link between fair-mindedness and attentive listening.

A humble inquiry is the foundation of all growth in knowledge, for it generates a freedom that naturally produces a teachable spirit.

Fair-minded people, because they are committed to discovering truth, listen. They actually listen! Very few things give people a greater sense of their own value and worth, and nothing attracts us to other people more than the belief that we are valued. This value and respect often is expressed through attentive listening. Such fair-minded thinking leads us toward lives of wisdom, richness, and depth. Put positively, loving God with all our hearts and minds includes being intellectually fair-minded.

Intellectual Honesty

A third virtue is intellectual honesty. Those who are intellectually honest want to encourage the spread of truth. Therefore they consistently use information in an unbiased way.8Intellectually honest persons are careful not to use information that is taken out of context. They will not exaggerate facts or distort the truth by describing it with loaded language, or otherwise mislead by using statistics or other types of evidence that might have a deceptive effect. They do not take credit for evidence or ideas that are not their own.9

Of all the intellectual virtues, honesty is perhaps the most admired. Unfortunately, it is too often less practiced and more tampered with than ever should be. Honesty often seems the more difficult road to take. But in the end it is always the one characterized by greater freedom. The most ominous peril of dishonesty is that, ultimately, we firmly believe our own lie and are thoroughly deceived: damned for choosing not to believe the truth, and finding satisfaction in falsehood and wrong (2 Thess. 2:12). On the other side, honesty inevitably builds trust between people and restores confidence in leadership; it is the foundation of all healthy relationships. Put positively:loving God with all our hearts and minds includes practicing intellectual honesty!

Intellectual Humility

Last but not least, there is the virtue of intellectual humility. Intellectually humble people have come to the amazing realization and humbling insight that in their thinking they are dependent upon something or someone outside themselves. They are aware that truth is not of their own making, but is ultimately God-breathed. Thus, they have realized that they are not the measure of everything.10Therefore they gladly bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ and His Word (cf. 2 Cor. 10:5).

Our worship and our relationship with God demand that our minds be fully engaged.

Humble inquiry is the foundation of all growth in true knowledge, for it generates the freedom to be teachable. Humble people tend to be pleasant to work with. This does not mean that they lack firm convictions. Rather, it means that they are submissive to God’s truth, while ever aware of the limitations of their knowledge. The humble arecapable of expanding their knowledge and understanding of the world in a way that arrogance and pride will not facilitate.11 Put positively: loving God with all our hearts and minds includes being intellectually humble.

For the follower of Jesus Christ loving God with all our hearts and minds will include being intellectually careful, fair-minded, honest, and humble.

Worship

These intellectual virtues are particularly significant in the realm of worship. Entering into meaningful worship with God is inseparably tied to the state and character of our minds. The more we apply our minds to understanding God in His written Word, and to exploring His creation, the more our ability to worship Him increases. Worship is certainly far more than merely knowing a lot of information about God. But our worship and our relationship with God demand that our minds be fully engaged. We cannot truly worship God without thinking. But when we engage in virtuous thinking, our actions will reflect God’s goodness and display a teachable spirit that is fair-minded and honest.

How we think is expressed in how we behave. Your virtuous thinking will express itself in how careful you are in what you say about me, in your fair-minded treatment of my opinions, your honesty in your dealings with me, and the humility your demeanor reflects.

Imagine if the church we love and belong to were filled with people of such character and attitude. What a fellowship that would be! Imagine how the relationship and the atmosphere within the church would change for the better if we all practiced this. God would be delighted. Others would be attracted. We would all be greatly blessed!


  1. Bible texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
  2. Philip E. Dow, Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2013)This delightful book has greatly stimulated my own thinking and inspired me to become a more thoughtful person. I am greatly indebted to Dow, and follow several of his ideas closely.
  3. Dow's book lists seven thinking virtues, but the present article will focus on just four indispensable thinking traits.
  4. See. Dow,p. 147.
  5. Ibid., p. 148.
  6. Ibid., p. 48. For a powerful argument in favor of truth, see Princeton professor Harry G. Frankfort’s short book On Truth (New York: Alfred E. Knopf, 2006).
  7. See Dow, pp. 49 and 149.
  8. Ibid., p. 151.
  9. Ibid., pp. 61-69, 151. Here I again freely admit my strong dependence on the magnificent thoughts found in these pages.
  10. Ibid., pp. 72, 152, 153.
  11. Ibid., p. 72.

Frank M. Hasel, originally from Germany, serves as an associate director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference.