I’ve been in jail many times. I spent a year and a half doing jail ministry in the early 90s. I went in every Sunday afternoon and sang, spoke and prayed for the inmates. Jesus said that if we visit those in prison, we are visiting Him. God cares about people who are imprisoned, constrained, bound, locked up, confined or enslaved by any number of restraints.
Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. There are many of us who are enslaved by things that no one can see from the outside. We are restricted to a way of life that controls us. God is not in control of our lives. We are not even in control. The enemy is controlling us. He’s leading us by our desires and our weaknesses. But there is a rescuer!
We all know Jesus as our Savior, but do you know that His nature is to save? He will save you from hell but He will also save you from the circumstance, habit, weakness or relentless thought that keeps you cuffed to your sins.
Paul and Silas were in prison, singing and praising God at midnight when God shook the place and the doors opened and their chains fell off. You may feel as if you are in a type of prison. But, God can shake you in a way that will cause your chains to come off as well. Jesus has a way of doing that. And when the Son sets you free, you are really free!
The first miracle, turning water into wine, Mary says, “Do whatever He tells you.” The second miracle, Jesus says to the official that his son will live, “The man took Jesus at His word and departed.” The third miracle, Jesus delivers a demon-possessed man and says, “Be quiet, come out of him.” On and on as Jesus heals the sick, changes the weather, and even raises the dead, He uses words, “Let down your nets. Give them something to eat. Peace, be still. Lazarus, come forth.” These are just a few phrases that set heaven and earth into miraculous motion.
His words are powerful! They are spirit and they are life. They are sharp enough to divide soul and spirit and they are discerning. His words create! They heal, rescue, light the way and lead us in the paths He has marked out for us. The apostles also had this unique ability. They spoke and miracles happened.
After the apostles died, the miracles, for the most part, died out with them. Why? Do miracles still happen today? Is there something we are missing? Is there some reason our words do not carry the same power as those of that first generation of believers? What must we do in order to speak powerful words that matter and release the miraculous?
Do you ever feel worthy of God’s grace? That is probably the better question. I never do. I can’t remember when I ever have. I’ve always been acutely aware of my sins. Even in my pride, the awareness is there. This is something that most Christians and many nonbelievers struggle with. In many cases, it’s the one thing that keeps us from coming to God in the first place. Our enemy would love for us to believe one extreme or the other. He would have us convinced that we are completely worthy or unquestionably unworthy.
The truth is that we are unworthy of God’s acceptance but we are counted worthy because of the very grace that our shame pushes us away from. Once, when I was young, I was struggling with the guilt of a failed relationship and many foolish decisions that I had made. My Sunday school teacher at the time who later became a mentor to Lynnae and me asked me a question. She said, “Do you believe that God knows the future?” I said, “Sure I do.” She replied, “Then you believe that God knew about all the sins you would commit at the time He saved you. And He still saved you.” That piece of wisdom set me free, not to sin more but to be grateful for God’s grace and leave the shame of forgiven sins behind.
When you think of miracles, you probably aren’t thinking about someone simply talking. But, one of the greatest miracles took place in just that fashion. Men spontaneously began to speak in a language other than their native tongue and many other people from different places who spoke many various languages heard this new kind of speech and all understood it as it was being said. This happened when God poured out His Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Why do you think God did this particular miracle in the beginning when the church first received the power of His Spirit? Why did God use a miracle of communication to display his power? And why do so many try to recreate it in their own churches? What is the difference between that event and praying, using a “prayer language”?
It’s fascinating stuff and as always, we learn in order to do. Have you ever thought about speaking to God in this way? We will take a journey down this path Sunday as we begin our new series called “Louder Than Words.” It’s a look at the book of Acts. Don’t be nervous, we aren’t going to try and recreate that experience. I think you’ll be intrigued and challenged.