Wednesday, July 15, 2009

To Jail & Back With The Gospel

We went to jail again tonight. Every Tuesday the Archdale church of Christ sends a delegation of two men to our local county jail. Jails, it seems, are part of the “world” that Jesus commanded us to go into with the gospel. Much “seed sowing” and “watering” takes place there and God WILL give the increase! Prisoners are very attentive, full of questions and eager to discuss the Scriptures. It turns out that our Bible studies are the high point of the week for the prisoners. Having said that, these men face obstacles (of their own making we must add) that few on the outside can imagine. Come with me as we visit the jail and see what awaits us.

Our Scripture passage this evening was John 9. Our purpose was to show similarities between what happened to the man born blind when he returned to his neighborhood and what will happen when these men return to their own neighborhoods. We illustrated that one’s reception upon return home from jail is often quite different than these men may imagine at the moment. Like the man born blind these men, instead of the “yellow ribbon round the old oak tree,” may find jaded neighbors, alienated family and outright opposition to their return to society. May God grant these men the strength to deal with the waves of disappointment that may await them upon their release. Just like the man born blind, the happiest day of one’s life can turn out to be, in some ways, the worst. BUT… there is always the silver lining! May these men who will soon be released know that, just like the man born blind, Jesus seeks them upon their return to the neighborhood! “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Our message was well received by most. However one man, a professed Muslim, became highly agitated with our message and attempted to suppress it. By the grace of God and reliance upon Scripture alone, he failed. He failed to show that Jesus was a prophet only, for the man born blind wound up later in John 9 worshipping Jesus. Prophets never were worshipped in the Bible, nor did any prophet ever accept worship from other mortals. He failed to show that Jesus was slain by being forcibly overcome by sinful men. Jesus clearly states in John 9 that He “had the power to lay down His own life and the power to raise it up again!” Though the truth did not win that man’s heart, he became silent and allowed the study to continue. We closed with the sobering thought that upon the day of their release that BOTH Jesus and Satan will be seeking them. Each man will return home that day following one or the other. Our final statement as the guard re-opened the door was a reminder of John 3:36 and Acts 2:37-38 that belief alone is not sufficient for salvation. Faith and obedience are intertwined and cannot be separated and if one is to “see God” he must not only repent but be baptized as well for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We always explain God’s plan of salvation each and every time for our assigned group is a transitional group, always full of men coming and going. Often, we see men only one time. Our assigned mission is critical to a singular moment in time. God be praised for the opportunity to share the gospel with these men!

The opportunities and challenges in the jail are many. The opportunities and challenges OUTSIDE the jail are many! Preaching the gospel “in and out of season” includes preaching the gospel “in and out of jail!”

We encourage all brethren everywhere to begin and sustain jail ministries. It is, after all, God’s will that “all men come to repentance,” those who wear orange and those who do not.

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