Freedom from Traditionalism

Posted by on Aug 8, 2017

Jon EBC - Coming out of traditionalism

Jon, James & Jeremy Lehman at EBC Madang, Papua New Guinea

Meet Jon and James.  Jon is the handsome beardy fellow on my right, James is on my left.  Jon is a deacon at our Madang EBC Church body.  James, is the Associate Pastor.  I love these men, and find myself continually thankful for their ministry in Madang.  God saved Jon out of traditionalism and he recently shared his testimony with me.

This last Sunday, Jon was sharing his testimony with the congregation.  He is already a soft spoken guy.  Add in the fact that there were fans running, a poor PA system and puppies running around the pews.  It was a perfect storm to make it even harder to hear what he was saying.  So there I am, wondering what this sweet guy is trying to communicate with all of us.  The only thing I heard was, “God’s Word is important”.  That was enough for me.  I was just waiting to talk with him after service.

After I closed the service in prayer, I was looking for Jon.  I wanted to ask him to share his testimony with me.  Now, bear in mind that Jon is a little hard to understand, even in close proximity.  He has always had a soft voice and he is 65 years old.  People age well in PNG but sometimes teeth rot away and pronunciation becomes difficult.   After some general catching up, I asked him to tell me his testimony again.

He grew up in Port Moresby (Capital of PNG), and his family is Roman Catholic.  The missionaries that came to his village first were Catholic so his whole village is “Roman Catholic”.  He talked about how he would continually go to mass, but his life was no different from anyone else.  He would go to confession each mass, pray to saints and participate in the Eucharist.  He was working really hard to feel better about himself, but he found no peace with God.  Interestingly, being in Port Moresby, he did not have a strong pull to Animism.

He kept telling me that he was terrified, “pret nogut tru” to read God’s Word.  It wasn’t just him,  many others he knew in the Roman Catholic church had the same fear.  When he read sections in Revelation, and other passages concerning God’s coming judgement of man, it only made his fear more real and terrifying.  God’s coming judgment dominated his thinking so much that had to leave the RCc.

Sometime later, I think when he was in his 20’s, he starting attending an Assemblies of God Church.  It was here that he heard God’s Word opened to the congregation and regularly preached.  In the RCc he continually experienced rote tradition that promoted ways for him to come to God through his own efforts:  attending mass, the Eucharist, prayers to saints, rosary beads, and confession.  The gospel may have genuinely been around, but if it was, it was shrouded by man’s efforts to become righteous.  In contrast, this AOG Church body’s faithful preaching of God’s Word made something clear that he had never heard before.

Jon heard the Gospel!  He heard about the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  He heard about man’s spiritual deadness, and his inability to come to God.  He heard about Jesus’s death on the cross, consuming God’s wrath for the sins of everyone that repents and believes on him.  He heard about Jesus raising from the grave, conquering death.  He was overwhelmed.  He found out why he was fearful of God.  He was not righteous.  He needed God’s righteousness to have peace with God.  He repented (turned from his life of sin and rebellion towards God) and believed on Jesus Christ.  God saved him!

I think at this point in the conversation I started crying a little.  I was so joyful with Jon!  God had saved him out of the catholic traditionalism that he had grown up in.  Jon said, “Now, I love reading God’s Word!”  He no longer has this weight of judgement on his shoulders, he has peace with God through Jesus Christ.  What a joy to no longer have God as your enemy… Peace has come.

Continue to pray for the local Church bodies here in Madang that are preaching the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jon is a testimony of their faithfulness to open God’s Word.  These local Church bodies are in need of prayer just like the Canns and other faithful missionaries in remote jungle allocations are.


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