I've had a Christian ministry for women in our local jail for over nine years. I feel blessed that the Lord ordained this as one of my 'good works'. Ephesians 2:10 'We have been created in Christ for good works which He has planned...'
During these many years I've come in contact with hundreds of inmates who've committed all manner of crime - from murder to writing bad checks. These inmates are never required to come to 'church services', they do so voluntarily. We who go to share the gospel of Christ know that the Lord Himself has planned for them to be there to hear His message.
The salvation message is wonderful, but they need more. In fact, they need the same as we do; to see the Lord working in our life and to feel His presence daily. We all need to have a very personal relationship with our creator. We sing - a great way to worship, we teach from the Bible, we show love, and ........we totally count on God's grace and His gift of faith. Ephesians 2: 8.
Salvation is a gift of God. We don't deserve it, can't work for it or earn it by being good....it's simply a gift.
In order to want to reach out for this gift, these inmates need to understand the need, the problem. They have the exact same problem as you and I, and everyone else, in jail or not! We are sinners! Who me? I'm a pretty good person! Maybe you are, you haven't committed any of the BIG crimes, but are you flawless? Are you perfect in every way, every day? You need to be perfect to be in God's presence and live eternally with Him. His tolerance for sin = 0!
Those who are in jail may actually have an advantage over those who are not. Their sin is obvious, they've broken the law and now they are paying the price. Sin has consequences!
Ultimately, we die.....'the wages of sin is death' Romans 6:23, but this verse goes on to say, 'the gift of God is eternal life'. Jesus Christ came into the world so we could relate to a living Savior. He died and rose to new life to show us that those who believe in Him will do the same. We bring this message of hope to those who feel no hope, and no power in their life.
God has promised that we who believe will have the power of the Holy Spirit. That is the same power, by the way, that raised Jesus from the dead! Romans 4:21 'God has the power to do what he has promised'! How many times have others disappointed us because they haven't kept their promise? God keeps His promises!
We tell the inmates that they will see 'spiritual truth' when they are 'born again'. It's interesting to read about the conversation Jesus and Nicodemus had in John 3. We all are born physically into the world, some of us are born again, spiritually. When God's spirit touches us
and changes our heart, the natural outflow is a love for Jesus. We come to know Him personally as a friend. We try, but we are not able the live the 'Christian life'. It is always God's faithfulness we count on, never our own.
God in his infinite wisdom didn't give us many options and ways to eternal life, He gave just One, Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." We make it so difficult sometime, so complicated. Jesus was very direct and knew how to give a simple answer. Look at John 6:28 - 29. A group of Jews had just been listening to Jesus speak. They appeared to be confused so they asked a question....'What must we do to do the works (good deeds) God requires (to get to heaven) ?' The simple answer was this..."The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."
But, we may ask....what about going to church every week, studying the Bible, giving money, praying for others, following the Ten Commandments? Jesus didn't say anything about any of that, did He? Of course Jesus exhorted us to live a 'Christian Life'. He wants us to be a reflection of Himself. People should be able to see Jesus in us, but the ONE work of God is believe in Jesus. If you don't own that, nothing else in life you do will ever be pleasing to God.
I love to have my team share Hebrew 9:24 with the inmates, 'Christ .....entered heaven itself to appear for us in God's presence.' This is such a picture of what happens at the judgement seat. We can help the inmates relate this to being in a courtroom in front of a judge waiting to be sentenced. This is a very real experience for them all. While waiting for the sentence, someone (Jesus) comes and stands next to them and tells the judge (God), "I've paid for her crime". The judge then turns to them and says, 'You're free to go, the penalty for your crime has been paid.'
They get it! When Jesus pays for the crime (sin), it is total, complete and eternal.
Who among us wouldn't want that?? Something wonderful then happens....you begin to see yourself through God's eyes! That old person is dead....you know, the one that caused all the trouble? God sees you as a new person and is busy working His life in you. II Corinthians 5:17, you are a new creation!
You will come to know that you are always...
LOVED - Romans 8: 37 - 39 -nothing will separate you from the love of God
SAFE - Proverbs 18:10 - the Lord is a strong tower and we are safe
PERFECT - Hebrew 10:14 - by His sacrifice, He has made perfect forever....
FORGIVEN - Colossians 2: 13 - 14 - He forgave all our sins having cancelled the written code and nailed it to the cross
WITHOUT FEAR - I John 4:18 - perfect love drives out fear
WITHOUT SHAME - Romans 10:11 - anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.
IN HIS WILL - Romans 8:30 - The Spirit intercedes for the Saints in accordance with God's will
We leave the jail knowing that God has put love and hope in the hearts of those who have come that day to hear His story of forgiveness and redemption.
Thank you Lord that we can count on YOUR faithfulness. What an awesome God you are!
Bobbe Van Hise
- Over the past few years my blog has been visited by people from all over the world. Very few know me, or of me, they simply are looking information concerning the Bible and discover my blog. After many years of intense study and teaching, I've come to believe we are vulnerable to misguided and incorrect teaching if we don't understand for ourselves the teaching of God's Word. My 'hot buttons' are - grace, sovereignty, exhortations and sanctification. If you understand these basic principles of Scripture, and apply them to daily life, you will understand what it means to have peace, joy and absolute security in any circumstance.