I went to the jail the other night and did something I’ve never done before. Usually I have a passage of scripture or some topic to discuss, but this night was different. As I waited for the deputies to bring the guys to the room, and pondered what to share with them, I thought to myself, I could read to them about being born again from John three. Then I thought well, I could talk to them about Romans seven since I had just taught it a few nights ago. Then it dawned on me to simply ask them if they had any questions. Even though putting yourself out there like that is a bit risky that’s exactly what I did.
After everyone came in and was seated I passed around the sign up sheet and introduced myself. We prayed and I asked them if they had any bible questions. For a second or two there was silence then one of the guys on the front row said, “I’ve got a question.” He then proceeded to tell me he has a friend that said to him “If God knows everything, like who’s going to heaven and hell, how does it matter what we do?” I’m not sure if this is exactly how he worded it, but he was basically pointing at the inevitable tight spot any sincere seeker eventually comes to–the dreaded head butt between predestination and free will. I don’t know if his friend just couldn’t reconcile these two or if he just wanted to disagree but either way it was a great starting point for me to teach.
There’s no way I could write my full response to this, but I basically explained how the Bible teaches us God created us (man) in his image. In 1 John five we read “God is love.” If we are made in God’s image, and he is love, it means we are designed to love and be loved. The funny thing about love is it can’t be forced but has to be chosen. In other words, love in order to be love, has to be freely given. God loves us so much and wants us to love him he set’s us free. He set us so free we were even free enough to rebel and go our own way. This to me is the essence of what free will is all about. God wants us to love him but he also knows without freedom love becomes impossible therefore he took what appears to be a risk on us by creating us with the ability to choose. Like I said, with such a freedom comes the possibility we will turn on him and that is exactly what happened. Of course being a Bible teacher I went on to say many more things, but I think the questioner was satisfied.
After we finished and put chairs back everyone stood around talking to one another as we waited for the deputy to escort them back to their cells. While standing there a young man came to me and asked, “Do you know much about the Old Testament?” I said, “A little bit, what’s up?” He said, “Who is Melchizedek?” I thought to myself what a great question. At first I wasn’t sure how to answer him, and especially since I knew we only had a few minutes to discuss this, so I said, “Some folks think he’s an Old Testament appearance of Christ.” He smiled and nodded as if he had heard that before. I went on to tell him he could read more about him in Hebrews chapter seven and you could tell that excited him a bit as he reached for a piece of paper to make himself a note. We stood there for about three or four minutes talking about the Old Covenant and how it was all pointing to Jesus Christ. I shared with him how once Christ came all of those things were no longer necessary like the Temple, animal sacrifices and priesthood.
As I told him these things you could tell he was grabbing hold of the truth and he became more and more excited to share it with his cell mates. Apparently they have been having quite the Bible discussion as of late. As the door opened I walked with him down the hall toward his cell encouraging him to read Hebrews and see how it compared the Old Covenant with the New. It teaches us how Jesus is greater than the angels, Moses, Joshua, the Old Testament priesthood, the animal sacrifices and how Jesus is now our great high priest.
I’ll tell you I can’t think of anything I would rather do than to speak with a young man twenty something years old as excited about the Bible and learning as he was. Several of these young men have really had enough of doing things their way and are looking for answers. These are the times when I know why I love teaching the Bible at the jail. If these men are sincere in their search I am more than happy to help point them to Jesus Christ and his Word.