One of mankind’s biggest problems has always been an identity crisis. We simply do not know who we are. We see ourselves as our nationality, color, sex, and social class, level of income, intelligence level, and popularity and on and on. When you look at the church, or religious community, we have even more names we use to identify ourselves such as Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, and Episcopalian and so on. There is an endless list of categories to place everyone in that does nothing but create more and more confusion and division.
One of the many cool things about the Bible is it keeps things really simple. The Bible describes those without Christ as sinners and those with him as saints. It teaches us that we are all born into Adam, and we that are born again have been transferred into Christ. We are either a child of the devil or a child of God. We are either with Jesus or against him. We are either a vessel fitted for destruction or a vessel of mercy. We are a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. There is no need of all the other descriptions based on wealth, color, sex, or fame. In God’s eyes those things were meant to express his glory, but if misused by the enemy they become a source of pride and division. The good news is in Christ there is no distinction between race, sex or nationality in him we are all one.
Seventy one women walked into the visiting area to attend church at the prison. Tracey brought our guitar to play a couple songs for them and while I attempted to tune it the noise level grew. There was just too much talking between the ladies for me to tune the guitar so I gave up and hoped for the best.
As I looked up I saw a long line of women walking down the sidewalk two by two. Each of these women wore a green vest indicating they were in what is called the S.A.P. program which stands for “Substance Abuse Program.” Most jails and prisons have these types of programs to help inmates deal with substance abuse and if they participate it takes time off of their stay. There are various rules that they have to follow that none of the other ladies do. For instance one rule is they have to all walk together and sit in their own group away from the others. I particularly like this because I feel with my background of addictive behavior I can relate to them and them to me.
Once everyone was seated and we passed around the sign up sheet I opened in prayer. Typically there are four or five of us that go but this night Tracey and I were the only ones. After sharing a little about the presence of the guitar I handed things over to Tracey, and she led us in a few songs from the hymnal. You haven’t heard singing until you hear seventy one female inmates singing “Victory in Jesus!” There truly is victory in Christ even in a prison.
After the third song the moment arrived. Tracey went over and picked up the guitar and made her way to the front. I grabbed a chair and moved the podium out of the way. She put her music in the chair in front of her. Her first song was a little shaky because of nerves but once she got into the second one you could tell she had settled down a bit and it was great. Everyone clapped loudly for her and seemed to really enjoy it. Now it was time to share the Word.
Seeing how it was just Tracey and I we had lots of time so we could cover plenty of ground tonight. She shared with the ladies how Paul uses an illustration of marriage to teach us in Romans seven. We humans, male and female, are represented by the wife. Our first husband is the Law who is very demanding and the only way to be released from the husband is if he dies. The problem is the Law will never go away or die so what ever will she do? God had a plan to have us to die in Christ so that’s what happened. In Romans six we learned we were co-crucified with Christ and raised again to walk in newness of life. So the wife, or us in this case, was the one to die in order to remove her from the marriage to the Law. Now we are joined to Christ in order to bear fruit for God. It is all about who we are joined to. Who is producing fruit through you?
When my time came to share with the ladies I took the opportunity to expound a little bit more on what Tracey had said. We talk about the Bible and these things so much among ourselves that we teach well together. I took them all the way back to Adam and Eve and told them of how Adam brought death into the human equation with the result being we are all born dead in our spirit. We are born with no connection to God and that is why we must be born again (born from above.) We have to have the Spirit of God to join himself to us, and resurrect our dead human spirit, in order to have the life of God within us. Then he takes over the command center as Lord, Savior, Boss, Master etc.
In the letter to the Ephesians Paul tells us this same thing he said, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Wow! So, Paul is telling us not only were we dead but we had another spirit at work in us. Just like the picture of the woman being married to the two different husbands we are never single. We, as humans, are never unattached. We are always joined to another.
The big lie from the beginning was “You will be as God.” We were born dead in our human spirit and apparently there was “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” that had taken up residence within us at the fall. This explains what Paul was saying in Romans seven. He said, “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me” (the spirit at work in us.) He then goes on to say in Romans seven “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.” Paul discovered the secret. It isn’t that we are not responsible for our own sin but we are not the originator of anything either good or evil. On the other side of this coin Paul says in Galatians 2:20 …It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” So you see we are always in union either with a sin spirit or the Holy Spirit.
At the cross of Christ there was an exchange of epic proportions. Christ became sin in order for us to become the righteousness of God in Christ. He took in the Sin that had been in us and we received his Spirit thereby making us righteous. It is all about the spirit within. Either we are a vessel of wrath or a vessel of mercy, but we are always a vessel.
Even after talking for about forty five minutes it seemed I could go on forever. I never get tired of sharing the truth of the Word of God with people. In the environment of jail and prison it is especially sweet because most of those in attendance are at the end of their rope. They are at a place where they are ready to receive from God. They have come to realize they cannot run their lives and are ready to let Christ do it. Oh, that we were all so ready!