Yesterday, I posted Part 1.
You reap what you saw. True or False?
The consequences of someone’s sin and the grace of Jesus cross paths and yet also maintain independence. Jesus offers the opportunity for all people to repent, turn to Jesus, and have a new life. In this new life we are free from the punishment of eternal judgement and separation from God. This is great news! Our eternal consequences have been removed and yet our lives are not free from the battle nor consequences of sin on earth.
Paul reminds us in Roman, “no one is good–not even one…all have turned away from God; all have gone wrong (Rom. 3:10,12).” He goes on to say, “for all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard (3:23).” Paul says the good news is, “…God in His gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins (3:24).” Our responsibility is to “turn from your sins and turn to God, so you can be cleansed of your sin. Then wonderful times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and He will send Jesus your Messiah to you again (Acts 3:19-20).”
Many of these men are experiencing the free gift of new life in Jesus. I don’t know which ones. I do not know who was attempting to manipulate me. I don’t know who is controlled by evil and who is controlled by the Spirit of God. I have no way of knowing in my short 2 hour meeting. Romans 2:5 tells us that Jesus is the “just judge of the world.”
Here is an excerpt from the message I spoke to the men at Florence Prison–Sex Offenders yard:
“Jesus has an infinity with those who think they are not good enough, not Godly enough, not religious enough, not compassionate enough, not caring or loving…the famous sinner, the prostitute, the tax collector; Jesus reaches out to those and offers life in his Kingdom, life with Him as leader of their life.
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5,6,and 7 Jesus looks at those who have been overlooked by those who followed God, who believed they had no chance at God’s favor and acceptance and he includes them in his kingdom. If you have ever thought that God would not want to be close to you then you have been mistaken. If you have ever thought that God would never use your life to impact many others then you might have missed the heartbeat of God.
The heart of God is to give you a life with him beyond your imagination. He wants nothing more than to count you in to his life regardless of your shortcomings, mistakes, sins, broken relationships—he looks past all of that to offer you something better.
Jesus is the hope of the world. He is love.
“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” [1 JOHN 4:17-18]
We do not have to walk in fear of man or fear of God. The word ‘fear’ in this passage is fah-boss and it means terror or dread. You do not have to walk around in terror or dread of judgment before God. This is no way to live. If to fear God is to live in terror than this is no God to follow; there is no relationship there and no love.
The healthy fear of God comes from the word: yue-lah-byah which means reverence or healthy respect.
“While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God.” [HEBREWS 5:7]
We must not take the love of Jesus for granted, abuse it, instead we trust in His love and we respond to him in reverence or with healthy respect.
Today men, I don’t know what it is like to be in here or to feel the emotions you feel – but I do know this – you can count on the love of Jesus to be directed towards you.
He loves you and there is nothing you could ever do to change his love for you – NOTHING.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [ROMANS 8:38-39]”
When you give your life to Jesus everything changes. You focus your life on loving Him and loving others, this changes your attitude towards the world, and in turn changes your actions and behaviors.
If anything, this tension and message to these men has revealed to me how much growth I still have in loving God and loving others. It is not easy to love the condemned, yet without Christ I am condemned. I am a sinner saved by grace.
I am thankful that I am on the outside of the bars. Jesus has rescued me from myself and today I live in freedom. I believe the same is true of some of the men I met in Florence. They may be behind bars, but they have found the freedom that no one can take away from them.