The Hope of the Gospel, What It Means for Those in Prison and for Those Who Counsel Them
I was sitting in a prison cell in Oklahoma somewhere around 1993 or 1994 when I read Jay Adams write that the hope of the gospel isn't like the fisherman's hope–who, for example, says, “I hope I'll catch one today.” The hope of the gospel is sure and certain. It's sure because it's based on the character of God. It's certain because it's based on His Word. It means that users and abusers may be transformed into godly examples and givers. I know because I was the worst of the former and continue to learn all the time what it means to be the latter. As the saying goes, “I'm not yet who I ought to be but I sure ain't who I used to be.” Praise God!
The hope of the gospel is sure because it's based on the character of God. God is holy; therefore He is making us into a holy bride. God saved as we were, intending to change who we were. It has never been His intention to leave a sinner where He finds them. We are His workmanship and we were created for good works. This means that the user and abuser must learn how to be a servant and a giver. They must, not because if they don't they aren't Christians–as if they must earn their salvation–, they must because it's part of God's grand design. And what He begins, He finishes!
The hope of the gospel is certain because it's based on God's Word. He has said that He will never put anything on us we can't bear. Adams wrote that God tailor makes every test that comes our way. He allows no prisoner–or anyone, really–to say their sin or struggle with sin is unique. He will not place anything on us that we can't bear because He is faithful to His Word. This means that no sin is too great, no sin is too deeply rooted! If He has called us, He will be faithful to root it out!
Adams wrote this must be true, for the thief came to steal, kill and destroy, but Christ came that we might have life, and that more abundantly! Paul wrote that where sin has abounded, grace does much more abound! Practically speaking, what this means in the real world, is that sinful, lost, broken people may have their lives completely transformed. Divorcees can have marriages restored or new marriages that are the envy of people who have been married for 30 years. An abuser of children can raise a child in the faith that makes the godly parents of covenant children scratch their heads and wonder, “How did he raise him?” Fifteen year meth addicts can be transformed into godly examples within their community as they diligently work to provide for their family. I know because these last examples aren't fiction, they are people I know, people whose lives have been transformed by the hope of the gospel, a hope that's sure and certain because it's based on the character and promises of God.
Truly, God has chosen the foolish to confound the wise, the weak to displace the strong, and the base and despised of the world to put to shame those that think more highly of themselves than they ought (1 Corinthians 1:18 ff.). It must be argued then that the worst cases have the greatest hope! There is no one, anywhere, beyond the hope of the gospel. And, those who know have been redeemed of great sin will tend to love and serve Him more than those who fail to recognize their own need for the same salvation (Luke 7:36-50).
Do you need workers for your church? Do you need faithful men and women who will walk alongside you through the worst struggles because they've been there too? Do you pray for God to raise up faithful men and women in the church to help work and lead? If you or your church isn't involved in prison ministry, you are overlooking one of the most fruitful fields into which you could be sowing. You don't have to travel around the world to have an effective ministry that bears fruit to the glory of God. There are more than 150,000 incarcerated in Texas, more than another 500,000 under some form of community supervision, 6 out of 10 of which will go or return to prison within 3 years. Truly, the harvest is great but the laborers are few.
Are you interested in becoming involved in prison ministry? Learn more at www.reducerecidivism.com, www.hopeprisonministries.org or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Posted on June 1, 2014