Monday, November 05, 2007

Incarcerated Freedom

This last weekend my pastor, Ron, and I drove to Sayer, Oklahoma, to make a ministry visit to a guy in prison. It was a medium security prison and was quite an adventure. We walked up to the door in which we were to enter the prison and pressed the intercom button.

"IDENTIFY" the voice said.

"Ron Watkins and Rolland Kenneson to see Jason" and we gave the last name (I will leave the last name out but just know we had to tell them who we were visiting).

Bzzzz. The door began to open and we walked into a cage. The door shut and we were now in the prison system. The cage first had a mesh fence which had signs on it warning that it was an electric fence. This mesh was attached to a chain-linked fence. Outside of that was razor wire.

We walked to the other side of the cage and pressed the next intercom button.

"IDENTIFY" the voice said.

"Visitors for Jason."

Bzzz. We walked into a nice courtyard and into a building. After emptying our pockets, walking shuffling through a metal detector, and being padded down, we were able to go to the next door and intercom button.

"IDENTIFY" the voice said.

"Visitors" was what we were told to say for this door. We walked through this door and then waited at yet another door for the prison guard to open the door from the inside. This time she buzzed.

"IDENTIFY" the voice said.

The guard gave her name and we were suddenly in the visitation room waiting for Jason to be brought out to us. When he came, we spent around 4 hours talking with him. At one point, we begin to turn the conversation to spiritual issues. Jason has been taking bible classes while in prison and sounds as if he is truly being changed.

He said, "You know, if you think about it, I have been in prison since I was thirteen, when I began to drink and get into drugs and stuff. It was not until I was sitting with my lawyer as he gave me the plea bargain of my sentence that I realized I needed to change. Now I see that I needed something to wake me up. Prison did it."

I asked him, "So your incarceration set you free?"

"Yeah. I guess so."

This brought to mind two things. First, it reminds me of Romans 6:19-22, especially verse 22:

But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

We all were enslaved or inprisoned from birth, not just since we were thirteen. But,
He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The second thing I think of is Steven Curtis Chapman's song, Free:
The sun was beating down inside the walls of stone and razor wire
As we made our way across the prison yard
I felt my heart begin to race as we drew nearer to the place
Where they say that death is waiting in the dark
The slamming doors of iron echoed through the halls
Where despair holds life within its cruel claws
But then I met a man who's face seemed so strangely out of place
A blinding light of hope was shining in his eyes
And with repentance in his voice he told me of his tragic choice
That led him to this place where he must pay the price
But then his voice grew strong as he began to tell
About the One he said had rescued him from hell, he said...

I'm free, yeah, oh, I have been forgiven
God's love has taken off my chains and given me these wings
And I'm free, yeah, yeah, and the freedom I've been given
Is something that not even death can take away from me
Because I'm free
Jesus set me free

We said a prayed and said goodbye and tears began to fill my eyes
As I stepped back out into the blinding sun
And even as I drove away I found that I could not escape
The way he spoke of what the grace of God had done
I thought about how sin had sentenced us to die
And how God gave His only Son so you and I could say...

And if the Son has set you free,
Oh, if the Son has set you free
Then you are free indeed,
Oh, You are really free
If the Son has set you free,
Oh, if the Son has set you free
Then you are free, really, really free

Oh, we're free, yearh, oh, we have been forgiven
God's grace has broken every chain and given us these wings
And we're free, yeah, yeah, and the freedom we've been given
Is something that not even death can take from you and me
Because we're free, yeah, the freedom we've been given
Is something that not even death can take from you and me
Becayse we're free, oh, we're free
We are free, we are free
The Son has set us free

If the Son has set you free
You are free indeed

My visit was not near as dramatic as the lyrics of this song. However, the thoughts in my mind were similar. Walking out of that prison with my freedom while others trodded back to their cells to wait another 5, 10, 40 years is a sobering thought. To get out, we faced the same voice through the buzzers and were only let out because our name was on the list of those who could leave.

This is what has happened spiritually. We were in prison and God sent his Son to rescue us. In fact, the early church fathers believed Matt. 12:29 to be in reference to salvation. Jesus came into the house and bound the strongman and then led the captives free, but only those who have trusted in Him. Those who are identified as His.

How about you? Are you inprisoned and wanting freedom? Press the button and answer the question:



Mark said...

Excellent post, my friend.

Kimberly said...

great insight! When you write your book you should at least a chapter...