Whenever I have the fortune to participate in events with brothers and sisters in prisons, I am curious why the participants are where they are. I don’t mean what led to their incarceration. I wonder why they would take the time to have a conversation with a rather boring, middle-aged guy who is famous for nothing and offers only his perspective of God’s promise.
Some speak practically of time away from boredom. Others are candid about their desire to get out of their dorm or cell. Some want to challenge me with atheistic or Islamic points of view. Occasionally, I hear a believing inmate who craves a Christian conversation. Whatever the makeup of the group I have in front of me, I raise the prospect of opening your heart, so the prison gates may open, too.
That’s about the time the side conversations falter off and more eyes are directed toward me. “It’s already begun,” I tell them. You made a choice to attend this session and they opened the gates to let me in.”
The Bible tells us of how Paul and Silas sang and praised God until an earthquake shook off their chains and opened the doors to the prison. Or how the angels came and led Peter from another prison. But I am not about to tell you that your bars and cement will dissolve in the real sense like that.
My belief is that accepting Christ and living a Christian life in prison could open doors for you. It won’t lead to your release, but good behavior is good behavior. Maybe your parole hearing will go better. Maybe there are furlough or work release opportunities coming for you. But of course, that’s not what I’m really talking about.
The prison gates I talk about are more figurative than physical. They are the gates that keep us trapped in a worldly prison of uncertainty, sin, and despair. Those of us living in a literal prison understand the feeling better than most. Imagine what it would feel like to open your heart and have the prison gates open, too. What would you do?
Paul and Silas stayed put and assured the guards they were not in danger. They were rewarded by being taken to a guard’s home for food and medical attention. The reward of the guard was that his entire family heard the Word and were saved. The gates opened and the roles were reversed. Paul and Silas saved the guards. Would you stay here to help others?
Or would you go out to show everyone how free you are? Let everyone know how you opened your heart and the prison gates opened, too. There is a lot to be said for that plan. Spread the faith!
But to whom will you open your heart? There is only One who can open the prison gates of your life. The one who sent the angels for Peter and shook the earth to free Paul and Silas. The one who tore the temple’s curtain and could not be held by the grave. The one who looked to Heaven and asked His Father to forgive us. The One who died a horrific death, so we could be free to open our hearts to the Lord and be saved.
For years I was imprisoned in my own apartment. No, I was not under house arrest. My walls and chains were anxiety and social phobias. Until the day I opened my heart to Jesus as my Lord and Savior. My prison gates were open, too. All the walls crumbled down so I could share His Love and Hope with all of you. It is a freedom I cannot adequately describe. But you can feel it, too; even if you are surrounded by bars and concrete.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good news to the meek; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…(Isaiah 61:1)