FILLING THE GAP

Kurt and Joyce Zander our Jail Chaplains
Photo by Tracey Lewis

I received a rare personal phone call at work from the Chaplain of our local jail. He told me both ministers he had lined up to come in backed out on him, and he wanted to know if I would come in and fill the gap. I told him “sure.” I love it when someone asks me to do what I love to do the most.

After talking with the Chaplain of course I started thinking about what I could share with the guys in jail; then it came to me like a flash! I know I’ll tell them about Jesus Christ and what the cross is all about. Now that’s a wonderful idea isn’t it? So that’s what I did.

Around six o’clock there were about 20 guys sitting in rows in what is known as the vending room of the jail. The first thing I noticed was every one of the guys in the front row had their Bibles in their lap. This is a good sign because there are some nights when very few of them even have a Bible with them at all. So right away I told them to turn to Romans five.

As they were locating Romans five I started sharing with them about how God created Adam and placed him in the Garden. He told him not to eat of one of the trees and of course he did and immediately died. Well, that’s what God told him wasn’t it? “The day you eat of this Tree you will surely die.” Of course we know he lived on for years and years afterwards so what did God mean? He meant Adam would die spiritually. He would be cut off from God and dead in his spirit. This is what Ephesians 2 tells us isn’t it? “You were dead in trespasses and sins…” All of us were born of Adam and that means spiritually dead.

As we looked at Romans five I read to them “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—“ All of us then are born of “the one man” and are born sinners, dead in our spirits and separated from God. I went on to read “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” So we are either joined to Adam in his disobedience or Christ and his obedience. The big question is how do we get out of Adam and into Christ? How can someone that is joined to Adam, dead in sin and separated from God be joined to Christ?

Romans six tells us how God took us and placed us in Christ on the cross. He baptized us into Christ. I shared with the guys that baptism means to be joined or identified to something or someone. The term baptism comes from the ancient practice of dying cloth by dipping it in a dye. For instance if you took a white handkerchief and dipped it in purple dye it would come out a brand new cloth no longer white but forever purple. God placed, or baptized, us in Christ in his death, buried us and raised us a brand new creature in him. This is the method that God used to sever our relationship with Adam and join us to Christ the last Adam. “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son…” The cross is the way out of darkness and into God’s glorious light.

When Adam sinned we all sinned. All of us are related to Adam and we were all born dead in our spirits so we needed to be resurrected. This is exactly what happened in our being baptized in Christ. When Christ was raised we were raised. God joined his Holy Spirit to our dead human spirit and we sprang back to life. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus “You must be born again.” We have to have the very life of God in us. “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” It really is as simple as that.

There is no way I could write all of what was said tonight but you get the gist of it. I ended by telling them God doesn’t want to fix up our old self. He doesn’t see that it’s worth fixing so instead he takes us out by crucifixion instead. The old man really is dead and gone; we are a new creature in Christ. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I love it when I get a chance to share the Word of God with someone, so that’s what I did tonight. I know I probably talked too fast for most of them but we know the Holy Spirit is the only real teacher anyway, so I gave them something to get them going and now the Spirit will do what only he can do. I’m just thankful I get to be a part of God’s work and plan for those men’s lives.

Written by Louie

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OUTRAGEOUS GRACE

Luttrull farm
Photo by Tracey Lewis

I have heard two people recently say, “Anything taken to extreme is dangerous.” This was in response to my view on the grace of God. It seems people simply do not like to think that they have absolutely no control of things. I mean if it’s all grace from start to finish that means we have nothing to do and apparently that is too scary for some.

I believe God’s grace is so wonderful and amazing once you hear it taught it’s no wonder it sounds like license to sin. Paul told us in Romans 5 “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…” After making such a statement Paul knew how some of his readers would hear it so he played along and asked the begged question. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” The answer to that is of course “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”

The Apostle Paul knew when he made that statement it would stir up the flesh and some would think he was endorsing freedom to sin. This is far from true. It is only those folks listening from a flesh view that think that way. A person listening in the Spirit wouldn’t be looking for such loopholes.

Let’s look at this idea of dangerous extremes for a minute. It seems to me that there are still some folks that think we are to find a balance. I’m not sure what that means but to me it reminds me of Paul’s Galatian letter where there was a conflict about the role of the Law in a believer’s life. Apparently the Galatians had started out well enough by the Spirit of God but some legalistic Jews were trying to convince them they had to obey the Law too. Paul spoke very direct to them and said, “This is the only thing I want find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

I for one believe salvation is grace, grace and more grace. I believe we are saved by grace and we are kept by grace. The only thing required from me is repenting (changing my mind) about sin and placing my faith in Christ. I have to trust that Christ and his sacrificial work on the cross truly was enough.

Someone will say, “What about the commands of the New Testament?” My response to that is now that Christ is in me He will fulfill all that is required of me. My mind always goes back to Abraham and his relationship with God. Abraham didn’t have a New Testament to read. He had no Temple or church building to attend, no established rules for sacrificing animals, no priest to confess to he didn’t even have the Ten Commandments.  No, all he had was a promise from God and he believed him. That’s it! God promised him an heir, Abraham believed him, and God counted him righteous. We too are given a promise in the same heir which is Jesus Christ and if we put our faith in him we also will be counted righteous.

For those that still may not fully get what I’m saying here let me say this. Yes Spirit filled believers are engaged in all sorts of service, worship, Bible studies and other ministry but it isn’t because we have been given commands it’s because we love God. Even us loving God is only possible because He is love. 1 John 5:19 “We love, because He first loved us.”

God was willing to send his one and only Son here to die in my place even if I never did respond in faith. That’s how much he loves us. He put everything on the line for us knowing that some would still reject him. God had absolutely no requirement to save us. He saved us because he is love and that is what love does. It goes the whole way for the one it loves and stops at nothing to win them over. That is outrageous grace!

Written by Louie