Saturday, January 19, 2013
Wanna Be Set Free?
There's a story of a man who survived the troubled life of an orphaned, street child only to become a hardened criminal. He had spent about as many years of his adult life in prison as he had on the streets. He entered into what he thought would be his last trip to the slammer, because he was getting on up in age and was sure that his life would not outlast his sentence. But it did.
After 20 years behind bars, the time finally came that his time was finally up. The day he had only dreamed about for probably the first 15 years of that sentence; the day he actually started to hope for in the last 5, had finally arrived. He was so ready to leave everything in prison behind that he hated so much. The violence, the isolation, the despair, the hopelessness; he was ready walk away from all of that, and so he did. Or so he thought.
But it was only a matter of about 6 months before he was right back behind bars. Different charges and different bars, but the same old routine for the man who would never be set free. See, he was there again, not because some old stuff that was waiting for him on the outside caught up with him; and he wasn't in there because he just wasn't smart enough to not know he'd get caught. He was back in there because...he wanted to be. Sure the other prisoners were mean and the food was crappy; sure the chances to inhale fresh air into his lungs and to feel the sun shine on his face were rationed everyday like beans during a famine. But life behind bars was about all that he had known, and he found that life on the outside was too much to get used to. He was not ready to trade familiar for freedom; familiar felt safe even though it was in prison. So he made his way back in.
I'm sure that story describes a lot of people sitting in prison right now. But even more so, I believe it describes a lot people still sitting in the prison of their sin. I'm not talking about the people who are far from God, or who have rejected Jesus, or who simply know nothing about salvation. No, I'm talking about those who know Him, who have heard the Gospel message, and who know that receiving Christ will start a process of setting them free from the sin that binds them. And they want that but are scared to try that. All they have known is their sinful lifestyle, and even though it brings heart ache and pain to them and people around them, for now it's familiar and they are not willing to trade that in for freedom.
So they may read the bible every now and then, or they may go to church from time to time, and they get glimpse of what life could be like for them outside of that sin. And it looks promising. Looks like it would have more joy, more blessings, the family of God waiting to love them and support them, and of course the hope of salvation which is eternal life with God through Jesus. And all of that sounds great, but they know they would have to repent and turn from that sin, and that is just too scary to bear. So what do they do? They walk back into that prison and slam the door behind them.
If this is speaking to you, and you are the one who wants out, but you're too scared not to be in, let me share something with you that's even scarier. The truth is that you may feel comfortable and familiar with that sin even though it is a prison right now, will only get worse. And not only will it get worse, but spiritually speaking, it will last for ever. At least the man in the story would one day lie down on his prison cot and never wake again, and all of that was over for him. But your sin prison never goes away, not even when you die. It goes on forever in a place the Hebrews called Sheol and the Greeks called Hades, and we call hell. And to me that is the scariest thought of all.
Look, God wants you to be free because He loves you. In fact He loved you enough to provide your key to freedom, His Son Jesus. And I know taking that step towards Him and away from the life that you know is scary, but focus on the fact that God loves you. The bible says that, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18 NIV) So let God love you, and love Him back. Then all of your fear about the unknown will slowly fade away, and you will allow God to set you free.