How we love freedom! I’ve learned to appreciate my own freedom through voluntary preaching in a local county jail. Going to the jail, leading worship services, encouraging the inmates and preaching God’s Word is always a joy. However, I am also very thankful to be able to freely leave that jail when the services are over.
Each time I go to the county jail and see those bars and locked doors, one thought always comes to mind. It is what Jesus said in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
This statement implies a negative truth for all of us. We are not free! Jesus went on to say, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” There you have it. Sin locks us up! Sin is bondage! A person under the dominion of sin is no longer free or able to love and serve God and neighbor with his whole heart, soul, strength and mind. All these things are chained up by sin. Have you noticed how people so often talk about “addictions” these days? That only underscores what Jesus said about the power of sin. You’re hooked and powerless to do anything towards gaining your freedom. All attempts of your own strength lead to failure and greater misery.
I hear someone say, “Come on now, that is a little too drastic. I’m not that bad! I’m just an ordinary guy like the rest of them.”
About thirty years ago, Israeli agents captured Adolph Eichmann, one of the masterminds of the Nazi holocaust, and brought him to trial. One witness, a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, Yehiel Dinur, was called upon to testify against Eichmarm. When Dinur entered the courtroom and laid eyes on Eichmann, the man responsible for killing so many, including Dinur’s friends, Dinur collapsed to the floor sobbing violently. Why was he sobbing? Dinur explained later, on “60 Minutes,” that what struck him was that Eichmann did not look like an evil monster at all; he looked like an ordinary person, just like everyone else. In that moment, said Dinur, he realized that evil is endemic to the human condition, that anyone of us could commit the same atrocities. That’s true! Normal, ordinary men and women are slaves to sin according to Jesus.
But the statement of Jesus also gives hope! For Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” That truth is unmistakably spelled out for us in John 14:6 where Jesus says, “I am the way and the TRUTH and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” The Spirit of God moved Isaiah to prophesy concerning the Messiah saying, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach, “freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Is. 61:1). On a Sabbath day in Nazareth, Jesus’ home town, Jesus read this part of Scripture. Then He sat down and told the listeners plainly, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ who was sent to proclaim “freedom to those who are bound.” Bound by what? Bound by sin.
And when Christ proclaims freedom, it has power. The gospel of Christ is God’s power unto salvation for everyone who believes. When God speaks, things happen. God spoke and He created the world! God spoke and He calmed the storm. God spoke and dead Lazarus came out of the tomb. God spoke to those who had faith, “Your sins are forgiven.” God still speaks wherever His Word is faithfully preached. The power of God is also setting wills, hearts, minds, and souls free from the power of sin, freeing them to repent, love God, serve and glorify Him. The power of Christ is freeing the captives to love one another, forgive, and work together for the name of Christ.
Chuck Colson is a free man. He appreciates his freedom. But his testimony of what Christ did to a well-educated lawyer, public figure and savvy politician while serving a prison sentence, testifies to a much greater freedom-the freedom of Christ’s gospel! Freedom from sin’s tyranny and bondage! I’m thankful that Mr. Colson had the freedom to proclaim to a Harvard audience a few years ago that Christianity is necessary to make people good; that only God can change a person from the inside, not Socrates or Immanuel Kant. That’s the truth, and only that truth will set you free.
As you read through the editorial in this issue of Outlook and read the Mission Statement of Crossroad Ministries on this page, be reminded of those who have lost their freedom behind bars and remember, that if it were not for Jesus Christ, we too would still be locked up behind the bars of sin. May God continue to bless the preaching and hearing of the gospel, God’s truth, which sets the prisoners free!
Rev. den Dulk is pastor of the Trinity CRC in Sparta, MI.
The mission of Crossroad Ministries is to proclaim the Gospel of the Grace of God to prisoners, to encourage them to seek a saving, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and to provide them with the opportunity to receive a quality, prisoner specific, Biblically-based, Christ-centered, ministry-directed education from a Reformed perspective, and to give them the tools they need to influence others for Christ, both in prison and among their families and friends.