Too many want to start halfway through a book hoping to understand the plot and then think that they understand who the author is and what he is trying to express to the reader. Many readers come to the Scripture with a similar mindset. They start at the points that are of interest them and ignore the basics of Who the Author is and what He expresses to the reader through each page. When a person has little or no knowledge of the Scriptures, it is often best to start right at the very beginning. People need to understand Who God is by what is given in Scripture.
One huge issue to overcome though when starting at the beginning is some who consider themselves to be smart want to ignore or erase the first eleven chapters of Genesis. The reason is because if we can erase the truth and validity of the accounts found in Genesis 1-11, we can then make God into our own image. We no longer have to worry about those troubling doctrines such as: original sin, the fall of man, the total depravity of man, hereditary aspects of the sin nature, the judgment of God, and even the need for a promised Messiah.
I was convinced that the pastors, elders and deacons sitting in that hot concrete building had never heard a complete gospel message. They may have known that a person named Jesus Christ died on a cross, but they did not know why. Several attendees expressed their own thoughts on sin and how they believed that they would be judged by God and allowed into heaven because of their good works.
By beginning in Genesis, for the next two hours, I laid the Biblical foundation of the gospel. The basis for my lessons was a series entitled “Firm Foundations” which is published by New Tribes Mission. Working through the first few chapters, I told them about the Creator who made all things for His own glory. My next point was to reiterate that God made man in His own image and that the Garden of Eden was a special place for Adam and Eve. They were able to fellowship with God face to face because sin had not come between the created beings and their Creator.
We broke for lunch and they decided that they would turn off the generator and let it cool down before the second session. The attendees lined up to take a plate of rice with palm butter which is a very good Liberian dish. One of the ladies brought me a plate and the pastor of the church brought me a can of soda which was very appreciated due to its coolness on my parched throat. My stomach seemed to have calmed down, so I enjoyed some of the cooking provided by the women of the church.
Finishing my lunch, I realized the 55 minutes from the day before was only a warm-up to the marathon I felt like I was running today. By just after 12:30pm, I was ready for a nap, but the leaders were ready for round 2 which seemed to hold a greater interest by several than the first session had done.
In the next two hours, I moved quickly to dealing with the law given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. The accounts I shared included the need for the law and the punishment demanded by a holy, righteous God for breaking the law. By now, pens and pencils were being used by several to take notes; however, there were some who began to cross their arms like a barrier and more than one bore a picture of defiance. One of those was Paul Zawolo as he sat on the second row from the front.
Two more hours went by almost as quickly as the streams of perspiration that fell from my face. Early afternoon is the hottest part of the day and being in a concrete building with a metal roof was not helping the situation. Finishing the second two-hour session, I sat down and answered a number of questions while waiting for Pastor Togba to return.
When he arrived about twenty minutes later, we left and Paul Zawolo came with us once again as Pastor Togba offered him a ride back to another part of Monrovia closer to his home. As before, he said nothing until we were about half-way back to his home and he spoke with the words, “I did not like what you had to say! I am a good person and God will accept me. After all, I am a pastor and I always try to do good!”
Those words told me that the Word of God was making inroads into his soul. Paul refused to listen to what I shared, but kept repeating about how good he was. He wanted to try and impress me with all the things he was accomplishing and finished it up by asking me to support him financially as soon as I returned to England or to America. I responded by telling Paul that my prayer and hope was that he would understand the truth of the gospel.
Pastor Togba stopped by an orphanage being run by an older woman, whose name I cannot recall. She shared about her belief in God and that she felt it was her responsibility to care for those who had no parents. This small woman sitting on a dirty stool in the middle of a pockmarked building with no electricity or running water was content with her position in the community and before the young children who were in her care. Yet, even as I listened to the words she shared, I wondered whether she was in the same category as the preachers from earlier – lost and without Christ.
Listening to this woman speak, it sounded like the same social gospel belief that drove Mother Theresa to care for those who lived in the slums of India. The problem is that caring for others by putting food in their stomachs and providing a roof over their heads for shelter will not remove the guilt and stain of sin that is found on every man, woman, and child who have ever lived.
We returned back to Pastor Togba’s house where I spent some time preparing for the following day and even managed to get a little bit of rest before the evening meal. After the meal, we enjoyed another time of fellowship talking about the Lord with Pastor Togba, Dr. Trexler, Pastor Philemon and myself. I was able to share with them a brief synopsis of the four hours of teaching earlier.
The next day was similar to the first in that Pastor Togba dropped me at the church with a promise to pick me up later that afternoon. Walking through the door, I noticed that the number of attendees had increased from the day before. Looking around, I could not help but wonder where some of the church leaders that had been there on Monday were on the Tuesday meeting. One of those who had not returned was Paul Zawolo. While he had not wanted to talk with me anymore, he had assured Pastor Togba that he would be returning for the next sessions.
While I was disappointed that Paul was not present, there were plenty of others who were there to hear the Word of God being taught. My second day was spent going over examples of the judgment of God being poured out upon mankind, and why that judgment had to take place. Reading from James 2:10, I pointed out that even though they thought they were good that if they broke the law in even one point then they were guilty of breaking all of God’s laws.
Lunch was a repeat of the previous day and just as tasty. Thankfully my stomach was feeling much better than the previous two days. During the lunch period, a handful of pastors came up to me and asked several questions about what I had shared. It was clear they had never heard the reason for the law being given. By the end of the day, I believed that I had painted a very bleak picture of the harsh reality of what the law revealed about mankind. I wanted to make sure that they fully understood that the wages of sin is death. They needed to know that no matter the status in their church, that if their faith was not placed in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, then they were doomed to an eternity in hell.
Returning to Pastor Togba’s home, I asked him if he would be willing to share in one of the next day sessions and he agreed to take an hour in the afternoon right after lunch. By 8:00pm, the door was locked and bolted shut. It was a not so subtle reminder of the security issues being faced in that part of the world.
Around 8:30pm, we could hear somebody outside and almost immediately there was a banging at the door. A voice called out from the darkness, “I need to talk to the missionary right now. I want to speak to the Missionary Pastor!”
(…to be continued…)