Some of us spend time in prisons made with bars of steel while others of us spend time in prisons made of fear, guilt or pride. Either way, a prison is a prison and the end result is a loss of freedom. Of course a physical prison a person is sentenced to due to wrong doing. The mental prison is usually one we stroll into and shut the door ourselves.
I vividly recall the times nearly 40 years ago when I went with a pastor into Federal prisons to hold fellowships with hardened criminals. I was not even 20 years old and I sat in Bible meetings with men three times my age who had committed crimes I could not fathom in my young mind. Sensing my apprehension, I recall the time one of these men put his arm around me and told me he was just a guy who had come to love Jesus just like me.
I conducted one prison fellowship in California in 1977 at San Quentin. That was enough for me. I decided after that one visit that others were more suited for that outreach than I was. All I remember is that the facility was imposing, cold and full of the meanest, nastiest and vile men I had ever seen in my life. It was also home to a small group of converts to Christianity who were the nicest gentlemen I have ever met.
I recall talking to one of these men after the fellowship. I asked him how he endured having to be locked up every day of his life. He smiled and said he considered it a privilege to be there among those who needed Jesus the most. He had no desire to leave for he said his life's work was right there behind those bars that scared the daylights out of me. That conversation had a profound impact on my life for years afterward.
I have never spent a minute behind physical bars (although I have come close a few times), but I have spent much of my life going in and out of the prisons I have fashioned in my mind. I have wasted days, months and even years of my life in a self imposed solitary confinement due to excessive guilt over supposed sins, fear of retribution from those I inadvertently hurt or misplaced pride and arrogance stemming from thinking of myself as invincible.
We recently watched an old movie starring Clint Eastwood about escaping from Alcatraz prison. The things involved with escaping that prison were incredibly complex and time consuming. Thank God the release from our mental prisons does not demand the degree of work it took those men to escape that horrible place years ago.
Perhaps one of the biggest ironies in all the New Testament is that the Apostle Paul refers to himself as a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul willingly looked upon all he endured as part of the price to be paid in serving the Lord. Paul welcomed the times he was physically imprisoned as a witness to his personal commitment to his Lord Jesus.
Release from the bad prisons in our minds is not easy, although it is simple. The operation of various keys to the renewed mind allow us the freedom to serve without wasting time confined in our self inflicted prisons. As the opportunity allows, I will try to revisit this subject and share some principles I know will provide the keys to freedom.
Dear B2Y--You must have been reading my mail--or my blogs of recent days. Self-imposed prisons are the most ridiculous. Very often, I've fashioned them due to the presumptuous and false accusations of others rather than examining myself fully before the Lord. That was one of the raw materials of the last one I was in. Thanks for the reminder of the folly of isolation. Well written. Well said. :) With brotherly love in Christ.
As I read your blog, the words from Isaiah which Jesus read in the synagogue at Nazareth at the beginning for his ministry came to mind.
[quote]The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.
Luke 4:18,19 (NKJV) [/quote]
He was thrown out of the synagogue that day... rejected by his hometown. Will we reject his words also, or will we embrace them and step out of the prison to which He has the key... and He has unlocked the door?