Psalm 107:13-14 – Free Indeed!
“And He saved them out of their distresses. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, And broke their chains in pieces,” Psalm 107:13b-14.
In the last post, I wrote about two kinds of grief; one produces repentance, the other death. This is a critical point. Godly sorrow or grief over one's sins produces change. A good tree (Godly grief) produces good fruit (repentance, change).
In my book, Changed Behind Bars: The History of My Redemption, I opened up with, “The church is full of hypocrites. I know because I was one of them.” The reason I was a hypocrite was that I had never truly repented of my sins. My life evidenced none of the fruit that must accompany repentance (Matthew 3:8). When I finally learned what the life of someone who has been changed by Christ is supposed to look like, I knew I had never been saved. In your counseling, it is vitally important that you guard against providing your counselee with a false sense of assurance. If their life says they do not know Christ, they may not, and you are placing yourself between them and Christ if you try to simply make them feel better about themselves.
In Psalm 107 and countless other passages, the Scripture makes it clear that Christ produces change. Know Christ, Know Change; no Christ, no change. I am not suggesting that knowing Christ equals perfection in this life. God would not have commanded us to pray for forgiveness in the Lord's prayer “as oft as you pray” or in I John 1:8-10 if we did not have need of daily confession. All of creation groans for the day when we will be completely free of sin (Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 15). Until, then, we will sin and we have need of dying daily to sin and self (1 Corinthians 15:51). But as Steven Curtis Chapman sings, “What about the change?”
I first prayed the so-called “sinner's prayer” when I was 16. The pastor said, “Son, I don't know who you are or where you're going but I know this one thing: if you pray this prayer with me, God is a father to the fatherless and He'll be your father too and Jesus will be your friend to the end.” So I prayed and I was told I had become a Christian, and that there was rejoicing in heaven on my account. But nothing changed. I was still very much the predator on the prowl and now I had the appearance of acceptability. I had a form of Godliness but was denying its power to transform my life (2 Timothy 3:5). I was on the verge of total run right in the middle of the church (Proverbs 5:14). I would have surely been numbered among those who would have been in hell believing I was supposed to be in heaven (Matthew 7:21-23).
After my incarceration, I began to read what I now refer to as “old-school” gospel. It seemed every thing I read had two points in common: (1) I was powerless over my sin and (2) that whom the Son sets free is free indeed. I had no trouble believing the first point but it was the last point that was the kicker, and that finally drove me to my knees in prayer to God. See, I had been told I had become a Christian after saying that prayer. Since then, I had preached, prayed, laid hands on the sick, “spoke in other tongues,” had hands laid on me, and so on. How could I not be a Christian. But the conviction of God's Word was overwhelming: whom the Son sets free is free indeed.
As the Psalmist declared, He saves us out of our distresses and breaks the chains of sin that have bound us for so long! This is the good news of the gospel: Christ has broken the power of sin and death and we have been given new life in Him that we should walk in it. We will not walk perfectly. We will stumble, sometimes repeatedly. But we must look different overall. The reign of sin needs to have obviously been broken so that we, to the glory of God, are changed beyond recognition before those who knew us when…
Not too long ago I asked a man at our church why he still hasn't given to our ministry. He said, “It's not because I don't believe in you or what you're doing, brother. My goodness, 20 years ago your entire focus and concern was on getting what you wanted out of people. Today, your greatest concern is whether or not you'll have the support you need so that you can continue reaching men in prison. What a change!” That was almost worth the price of admission, but just almost, and (if you're reading this) I am still awaiting a check as a confirmation that he meant what he said :)
Simply put, God's Word produces change. My words do not. But His Words, empowered by His Spirit, do. His Spirit is what makes the difference between whether what I say when I teach in the prisons falls on the ears of the deaf or those who hear and obey. When you're counseling those who come to you, remember this: It is God who gives the increase OR doesn't, and you need to ask God to give you wisdom to tell the difference between the two. Somebody shout, “Amen!” saints, He breaks chains!
Posted on October 24, 2011