October 18, 2006

Literal and Spiritual Prisons: Are You Free?

There are many people serving sentences in prisons all across the world. But recently, a thought came to my mind. How many of us are serving a sentence without ever having visited a prison? The bars are there, even though they cannot be seen. We live in chains of pride, addiction, depression, anger, resentment, and shame.

This made me reflect on what true freedom is all about.

What is freedom?

To those in prison, freedom often means getting out of that cell. But if all those held in prisons were suddenly set free today, would they “truly” be free? Or would they still be in a prison spiritually and mentally speaking? How free are you if you are in prison? There are people like the Apostle Paul. Even though Paul spent many years in prison, he was free indeed. Look at some of his writings from prison and then tell me that he was a prisoner of anyone but the Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Corinthians 11:23

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.

24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.

25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;

26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.

29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?

30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.

31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.

32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:

33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.

We see that Paul was free by God’s standards, even though by man’s standards, he was often a prisoner.

Who held Paul prisoner? The Lord Jesus Christ, as the following scriptures reveal:

Ephesians 4:1

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

2 Timothy 1:8

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

Philemon 1:1

Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow laborer,

Philemon 1:9

Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

Those who are not bound

I thought about the vast number of people who are not confined by a prison cell. These people, who like me, are free to roam anywhere they please upon this earth. No man has them bound and nobody tells them what they can or cannot do. Yet these free people are living in a prison, and many of them don’t ever recognize it. The cold steel that surrounds those in a literal prison, these people have never known. Yet they are bound by a prison of the mind and spirit. Yes, they are spiritually and mentally bound up. You could also say that many of them are physically bound as well. Who could deny that these people who have never known a literal prison cell are prisoners nonetheless?

Breaking free from your prison

There are many ways you can become a prisoner, but there is only one way to gain your freedom and make those chains fall off. Your only chance for freedom is through the great author and finisher of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Through the spirit, you can gain freedom. You can get this freedom whether you are serving time in a literal prison, or in your own chaotic and sad life in which you have never known the confines of a literal prison cell.

We are taken prisoner when we don’t have our spiritual compass pointing towards Jesus Christ. We are taken prisoner when we don’t know who our creator is and what he has done for us . If we have known the Lord and backslid away from his truth and love, other things in life enter in and we are taken captive by them at random. Do not be deceived. There is a literal devil and a literal hell. The devil desires to deceive and distort every thought we have and every step we take in life so that he can take us with him to hell. He desires nothing more than to get man’s eyes off of God and onto themselves, other people and then by deception, get mankind to treat others as beasts. While God desires our love and concern for one another, the devil desires our hate and lack of concern for one another.

Are you bound up by sin? Confessing that you are will start you toward the path of freedom. How can you be free if you are lying to yourself and others? How can God help you be free if you will not acknowledge that you are a prisoner of sin and are in need of a savior? The one thing that keeps all of us from confessing our sins, our need for a savior, and our own weakness is PRIDE. Stubborn pride will only end you my friend. It will always hinder you and since the dawn of time pride has proven to be man’s downfall.

The irony in all of this is that those of us who have never known a literal prison, often look down upon those who are bound in them. We may not be held behind those steely prison bars, yet so many of us are bound in these prisons of our own making. Those who serve time in literal prisons have been captured by the law and are serving time for their offenses and crimes. Yet many of us who are walking around, living our lives with abandoned are prisoners nonetheless and we are blind to it or else we don’t choose to acknowledge it. Many in their literal prison cells right now are free, where it counts, in their minds and spirits.

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