The Difference of Christ in a Man

  (Part Three of the Series) For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.  And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of […]
March 30, 2014

 

(Part Three of the Series)

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.  And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?”  But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. Acts 9: 19-22; ESV

Some of you might know that I am a bi-vocational pastor; which means that not only do I pastor, but I hold a full-time secular job. I work with youth at a sheltered-care facility in Ft. Wayne, IN. I have worked here for a total of 12 years on and off. During that time, I have been exposed to the greatest and the worst in life; greatest because I have borne witness to the ways God can take a totally broken life and transform it into greatness and the worst seeing and burying the very youth I once served. The stories of extreme which many read about in the papers and witness on the news these children have lived and shared with me. Thousands of hopeless lives have come through the doors of my work and many of them have exited finding hope because of the people working with these lost and tossed souls. Some, however, continue in their behaviors and actions, and remain detained in the jails and prisons abroad. I have ministered to several individuals through the Jail Ministry and they remember me from their youth. They always state that they wished they would have listened to my advice to get their lives right with God and their families. Now they feel that they may have lost everything. Not so, if you believe what God declares.

Looking at the Scripture provided, we can see a great transformation in Paul once he meets Jesus and turns his life over to Him. Once the greatest persecutor of the church, Paul now leads the church and is himself being persecuted for his faith. The difference of Christ in a man is a very visible change; things of old have passed away and a new outlook, a new attitude, and a new calling comes to life in the man (and woman). If we look close enough in our own lives, we can see that same change in our life.

Speaking especially in the lives of inmates, former inmates and their families; they are looking desperately for the ability to change old habits and lifestyles. They are looking for someone to show them a better way of living, to be accepted and valued as a person and to be given at least a second chance. However, society, the system, and even the church sometimes make it impossible to change because they have already judged them and convicted them to a life of solitude and exclusion. Trying to find a job, a place to live, a place to freely worship without judgment is their greatest battle because they have after their name “felon”. That one word separates them from everyone else and makes them “animals”, “monsters”, and “beast”. They are de-humanized, thus making it easier to hate and disregard them. What a sin on our behalf!

If we look at a different passage, this one written by Paul himself, we can see the way Christ has transformed Paul and everyone who comes unto the Lord:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.      Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5: 16-19 ESV

If we hold this as truth, we must also hold as truth that this is offered to all man; regardless of their past. To deny this to them is to deny Christ the ability to reach them. I believe that if we would believe this with all of our hearts, offer all the “felons” a second, third, or even a hundredth chance, God will help transform their lives and ours at the same time. What would this look like to those who want to see such change?

When someone ministers at a jail/prison and brings the offer of salvation and transformation in Christ, the inmate might be hearing for the first time that their lives could matter; that they can find purpose in life. They might have been raised in families which were torn apart by sinful and criminal habits and lifestyles and know nothing differently. Their concept of God and Jesus might only exists as swear words. But when Christ becomes real, like it happened with Paul, transformation takes place.

This transformation turns a criminal into a child of God. They share their experiences with their cellmates, their families and friends. They no longer seek to do bad; they try to become honest and respectable. This reduces the crime rate: if they change, their crimes stop! If they change and they turn their families and friends to the Lord, they break the cycle of crime in their families’ lives, and the crime rate declines! They become people who take pride in themselves. They become productive. They become rehabilitated!

Realistically, not every inmate will change. But even if one or their family member is helped, isn’t it worth it all? Shouldn’t the church be doing all it possibly can to help those in these lifestyles?

I avoided entering this lifestyle because someone came along my side when I needed it most. They brought me to Christ before the world brought me into that life. Please, for the love of God and the love of man, give those in this lifestyle a chance to find the forgiveness and the joy that we, as believers, have in Christ.

Father God,

I pray that this series of articles will touch the lives of those who read them. Please open their eyes and hearts as You have opened mine. May You restore many lives through our obedience to Your will. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Kenny

Christian. American. Father. Husband. Friend. Brother. Son. Grandson. Uncle. Cubs Fan. Digital.

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