Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lessons from a Prison Cell

The Bonds of Liberty
The Apostle Paul is our example of evangelism and church planting. Throughout his missionary tours people were brought to the Lord and their faithfulness became the subject matter of many of Paul's letters to the churches he had visited.  

Yesterday when I was working on blog articles for the week, I introduced you to a publication I had found called "Prisoner to Prisoner." It is a booklet of devotional writings from those who are incarcerated. My mind led me to Ephesians 4 where Paul calls himself a "prisoner for the Lord."  We do know that Paul spent time in prison because of his faith. Some of the New Testament letters were written by Paul while he was imprisoned. 

Why do you suppose Paul would call himself a prisoner for the Lord?  In the context of Ephesians 4, Paul uses this description of himself, to encourage the Ephesian Christians to lead lives worthy of their calling. "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." Further encouragement is for them to be humble and gentle and patient, as well as loving toward each other.   He then went on to explain the structure of the church which brings growth and maturity. 

If I read all of that correctly, I get the picture of those who are actively involved in using their individual gifts to benefit the growth of the church.  To me, it's more of a picture of freedom and liberty than a picture of being imprisoned. 

Then I am reminded of another scripture from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price."  These verses tell of the overall theme of the Bible, that all of us are sinners, Jesus died for our sins, and when we seek his grace and forgiveness we are being redeemed from the penalty of sin by Jesus. His blood is the price paid for our ransom. 

Paul himself is our example here, too. This rugged man who fought long and hard against Christianity, found Jesus on the Damascus road and he was no longer a man to follow after his own aims and desires. He now belonged to God, bought and paid for with Jesus' blood.  

The same is true of us. We, too, become a prisoner of the Lord, a prisoner to the joyous life of freedom from the bonds of sin, set free from the guilt, the misery, and the penalty of sin. Instead of living according to the ways of the world, we who belong to God find direction for living by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. It is then in our weakness we find strength. In our poverty we find prosperity. In losing everything, we find everything. In giving up all things, we gain all things.  We find ourselves bound to Him, with those bonds that bring liberty. 


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