After we explained the gospel back in the spring, one of our first tasks was helping our new believers understand the purpose and role of Israel’s law. Since long before we arrived ‘religion’ meant one thing in Menya: legalism. So when folks were grasping God’s grace and the finished work of Christ, they had to reach a new understanding of the Law (while facing fierce challenges from their neighbors.) We cleared this hurdle gradually with our first believers through patient and consistent teaching combined with the Holy Spirit’s work.
Since then we have watched a trickle of newcomers joining our group. Some of these folks have had a chance to hear and understand the gospel and some haven’t. But many have the same baggage and questions about Israel’s law. Because of that, I decided Sunday was a good time for a lesson aimed directly at the issue.
While I was at it, I figured I would kill two birds. I never received an invitation from the sternest legalists after my marathon conversation with them, so I resolved to do the inviting myself. I invited a few individuals and after I shared my plans with our Friday small group, they did some inviting as well.
On Sunday, we had a pretty full house overflowing into the grass including eight or ten guests from the aforementioned group. The lesson went well. At one climactic point there was actual cheering and applause–not for me, but a jubilant reaction to God’s grace.
Afterward, I zeroed in on one of the guys I had most wanted to be there: Roken. (Tomas, who I also really hoped would be there was off in another village the entire week and so I never got word to him.) I talked with Roken for more than two hours while a number of our core-believers (and a few newbies) listened. He repeatedly skirted my questions and contradicted himself, but kept smiling. He was, and still is, convinced that the thing that will get him to Heaven is not working on Saturday.
In truth, I was hoping for a breakthrough that would change the course not only of one man’s life, but for his whole group. Unfortunately, I’m not sure even a dent was made. Nonetheless, I think the whole day was really good for our believers. They saw clearly that our team is basing our speech and our teaching on God’s word. And they saw a leader of the group that has condemned them for years not just stumble, but fail completely to justify or explain their position.
Later in the day I was talking with Api and Wati about the whole affair. Wati said
It was incredible. You were asking him questions that were clear and straightforward. But he just didn’t answer them. He couldn’t.
Wati and Api, and many others as well, saw the weakness exposed.
As much as we are excited for the good that came out of this for the believers, we are still burdened for Roken and others. We are not here to prove people wrong, but to teach them truth. I told Roken, “I’m so sad for you. My heart is heavy because I see that Satan has blinded you to the truth which is so clear. Like Paul says in Galatians 5.4, you have left (or never arrived at) Jesus along with God’s grace. I hope that you will go home and read Galatians for yourself. Clearly I cannot change your mind. But I hope that you will give God’s word a fair shot.”
Please pray for Roken, Tomas and others like them who are still in bondage not understanding God’s grace and goodness. And pray for us to continue to pursue them with patience and love.