It seems every time I go to the jail with a particular set of scriptures or ideas about what I plan to share it tends to change. I mean you can study and pray but ultimately when the guys come into the room you simply get a feel for what God is saying. Sometimes we can over-think things don’t you think?
Last night I was talking with a pastor, who also preaches at the jail and the Chaplain, when the pastor asked me “What are you going to talk about tonight?” In that moment I really didn’t have an answer for him. There were several passages of the Bible that I thought about reading but I truly was unsure when he asked. Well, rather than simply tell him “I don’t know” I skillfully diverted the conversation and never really answered him. Don’t get me wrong I am one who likes to be prepared but when it comes to teaching the Word if you’re not led of the Spirit then what’s really being accomplished?
Someone who plays music or sports for a living does the same thing don’t you think? I mean someone who plays guitar for instance has to put in the time in order to get proficient at his instrument, but when the time comes for him to go on stage all the planning and rehearsing is over and it’s time to do what you do in that moment because you can’t get it back. Sometimes Bible teaching seems the same way. You study and pray but when those guys come in the room they tend to pull the Word out of you, and you just go with it trusting that God is doing through you what they need in the moment.
In case you want to know what I did end up teaching I’ll tell you. I started in the third chapter of the gospel of John and shared what Jesus told Nicodemus about being born again. More than anything I was led to talk to them about being born of the Spirit and how Jesus didn’t come here just to get us to do good, but he came here to give us life. I told them how Adam’s, and subsequently all of our, problem was bigger than just doing bad things. The truth is when Adam sinned he died, and we in him, and were separated from the life of God. We need our dead human spirit revived. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly, and I am the way, the truth and the life.” He is the life so naturally without him we have no life.
I talked to them about how Jesus Christ was the only one that could live the Christian life and our job was to let him. I asked “Who’s the greatest basketball player?” A man on the front row immediately said, “Michael Jordan.” I told them “It doesn’t matter how much I practiced, ran or worked out I could never play basketball like Michael Jordan, but if we could figure out a way to get Michael Jordan to live inside me that’s another story. If MJ could live inside me, and just be himself in me, then everyone would see me playing basketball and think man, look at Louie go!” They would think I was the best basketball player then, but I would know it was really Jordan in me. When it comes to living a life that is pleasing to God it works the same way. We have to have Christ in us, by way of the Spirit of God, in order to live the Christian life because it is really he living it not us.
In the end, no matter what I study or plan to talk about at the jail, it tends to involve how we humans are powerless. In fact the last passage I read to them was found in 2 Corinthians 12 where God told Paul “My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” From then on Paul took pleasure in his troubles because he had uncovered a secret. When it comes to living the Christian life we have to learn to let Christ live it. Paul said, “For when I am weak, then am I strong.” I suppose living life with the understanding we are powerless sort of forces one to live in the moment trusting Christ to do what only he can do don’t you think?