Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Prison We Find Ourselves In -- Acts 16

There are all sorts for "prisons" in which we find ourselves. Some are of our own making and others life throws us into.

In this passage from Acts 16, Paul and Silas find themselves deep within the bowels of a Philippian jail. But, they are not your typical prisoners.

The question I am seeking to answer this week in my Sunday message is what can we learn from their experience that will help us deal with the prisons in which we sometimes find ourselves? How can we be "set free?" Jesus said He came to set the prisoners free, how can we help both ourselves and others experience that deep freedom?

May we all be set free in and by the Holy Spirit as we continue to follow the Master.


Anonymous said...

This is so cool, we can get philosophical with this.

Let's look at Paul and Silas: They are in manacles in a cell, within a cell, within a jailhouse, within a pagan city. They have been beaten, whipped and generally treated without the slightest bit of Martha Stewart decency.

There is, outside of all this incarceration, a jailer with his family, the "plaintiffs" outside the prison walls, and the city "fathers", not to mention the vast hoarde of Roman citizens in Philippi.

Put these two sets of people before the unsuspecting, common "Joe", and he will tell you that the people of Philippi are free, and Paul and Silas are NOT free.

No brainer, right? I mean, Paul and Silas, they're in CHAINS. They're in JAIL. To use today's venacular, Paul and Silas are victims of "The Man". They can't get up and wander down to the Starbuck's on the corner. They can't enjoy free french fries at Red Robin. To the basic understanding of Common Joe, these two are NOT free.

The other folks, well, they ARE free. They can make choices as to evening plans. To Common Joe, the people of Philippi are free.

To Common Joe, he's got this whole free/not free thing pegged.

Of course, he's wrong.

In all of Philippi that night, the most two free people were wearing chains.

If I am in Christ, then I am free, and "free indeed". There are no provisos to that truth. No strings attached. Jesus didn't say that I was free, unless I was wearing manacles of four in a Roman prison, in which case, sorry, I wasn't free anymore.

I. Am. Free. You can't change that. You can put me in a cell, you can make Christianity politically incorrect, you can make many aspects of my devotional life illegal in public, but I will be free nonetheless.

You can put my Chinese brethren in prison for studying the Word of God, throw them in labor camps for evangelism, but they will always be free, and the twisted regime will always be in chains thicker than steel.

You can put two Christians in a Philippian jail, humiliate them before a crowd, but they will remain free and the one holding the whip will be jailed.

You can kill me, and I will remain free, for I am "free indeed".

It's interesting that many feel that Paul and Silas became free because of their singing praise. I think they were singing praise because they were free, chains or no chains.

It's a matter of perspective. Common Joe sees the surrounding circumstances as verification of freedom. However, God looks to the heart (1 Sam 16.7). Too many people see their freedom the same way. If they can have enough money, the new job, a better relationship, then they might be free. However, if you are not free in Christ first, the presence or absence of better circumstances will not make a difference.

I think that the first step of becoming free is to realize that it's already a reality in Christ. We're free to walk in the light, free to serve God, free to worship, free to turn from sin. It's easy to forget.

In Christ, we have a powerful and eternal freedom, yet so many try to live like they're still stuck in some jailhouse, when it is not so.

I am not trying to make light of addictions, or terrible external situations that some find themselves. Some live in very dark and stormy times, and for them, the road will be long, no doubt.

But they will be free in Christ. Always.

Blessings amigo,


Pastor Randy said...

Well said, my brother!

I especially was drawn to your comment about them singing the praises, not to GET FREE, but because the ALREADY WERE FREE! That, my friend, is a vitally important part.

If we are going to be able to face up to the various "prisons" life will place us in (whether of our won making or the world's) then we better start NOW understanding our "place" in Christ. Yes. we must understand our freedom now, if we hope to apply it then.

I suppose, coming at it from the other side, Paul and Silas (and us as well) could not really worry about becoming prisoners, because they already were prisoners of the King of kings and Lord of lords. But, that's a whole "nother" sermon. :o)

Blessing back to ya, compadre'

Anonymous said...

A good question and one certainly worth meditation and prayer.

When Christ promised us that we have nothing to worry about, he wasn't even hinting that we would have lives free from trouble, suffering or persecution. And who wouldn't want to be free from those things? Instead, Christ told us to trust in Him and take no thought for tomorrow for each day has enough trouble of it's own.

I sometimes wonder at myself as I go through life waking up each day honestly expecting a trouble free life. It's how I want the world to be even though Christ assured us tribulation not a bed of roses. Without being sour or pessimistic, but realistic, I am trying to retrain myself to expect "Murphy's Law" so that I won't be taken by surprise.

The disciples did not live in the same little "wonderland" that I frequently try to create for myself. They had a lot more to contend with that "Murphy's Law" too. They knew they would suffer and might even die for their faith yet they persevered rejoicing in the face of suffering?

Due to medical science and longevity, today mankind frequently loses track of the fact that our lives spent in our bodies represent a tiny little portion of eternity.

The only thing I can think of that would make the early disciples rejoice as they were beaten, persecuted and martyred for their faith is knowing that death had been swallowed up in victory when Christ was resurrected.

Christ told his disciples when they realized the demons were subject to them, "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20).

I believe that instead of wearing rose colored glasses, the disciples saw the world through the "eternal eyes" of their savior, and I believe it is a good way to approach life realistically expecting the good, the bad, and the ugly, but knowing that with Christ's help, we will persevere so we can press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14).

Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:21).

It would be an understatement to say that our lives here in these bodies are like a drop of water in a bucket. The eternal life Christ purchased for us is immeasurable and eternal.