Three prisoners were sitting in separate cells waiting day by day as time passed by for each of them. Two were waiting for an appearance before the judge to give an account concerning the charges they were accused of committing against other people or waiting on an appeal of a sentence handed down by a judge. Day by day, time passed slowly, minute by minute, which seemed like forever. For these two, the nights were long and restlessness filled their minds and their souls as they struggled to comprehend and understand how the course of events in their lives led to their current situation.
The first prisoner was a young man, Ted, accused of robbery and assault against a police officer. He knew he had an anger problem, but justified it on his upbringing. His natural father was abusive and frequently expressed verbal disappointment to his son for failing to live up to the father’s expectations. His father often abused his mother and younger siblings. There was no moral compass for him to rely on in his young life. He needed a mentor in his father, but his father failed miserably in everything he attempted in life. When pulled over for questioning about a robbery of a small convenience store, he denied he had anything to do with the robbery and that he was not even near the location. The officer had the license tag numbers of the vehicle at the scene of the crime and they matched those on his car. When the officer told him he was under arrest, he proceeded to strike the officer and attempted to leave the scene of the traffic stop. Needless to say, help arrived and he was arrested and taken to jail.
The second prisoner was a middle aged father, Tom, who was charged with sexual assault against a young lady he had been seeing for some time while still married to his wife. Suddenly their relationship changed and he found himself shut out of her life. Because of his emotional attraction toward her, he was angry she would suddenly dump him for someone who was younger than himself. She was a beautiful young lady, always attractive and with a kind disposition. When she shared with him that she was moving on, he flew into a rage, grabbed her and began to force himself upon her believing it was because he had failed to show her enough attention since he partied almost nightly with many of his old buddies. He was always a clean shaven and well groomed man who was full of pride in his ability to have his way with women in his life. She filed assault charges and he was taken into custody and placed in detention awaiting trial.
The third prisoner was an older man approximately 62 years of age named Tim. When he was younger, his father and mother gave him a comfortable lifestyle and instilled in him that he had responsibilities in life to use his talents and middle income upbringing to make something of his life. Growing up with a privileged family gave him a feeling of superiority. He became the playboy of the community and he often made comments about others around him as being trash or lacking proper etiquette and manners. He had the most attractive women at his side and he was always the life of the party. He loved to entertain and would hold large lavish events since he held a well paying job and was even named for the outstanding award as businessman of the year in his community. A problem he faced daily was the consumption of alcohol and drugs which often altered his mood and changed his personality from that of a friend of all into an enemy if anyone crossed his path and he did not like it. One night at a party, a young man hit on his young lady lover while he was drunk. In anger, he entered his house and came back out of the house with a gun just as the police were arriving to break up the party. He reacted violently and began shooting at random and shot toward the officers, striking and wounding one who later died. He was charged with murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
The younger two were in deep depression and regret and thought daily about their past life attempting to justify what had happened in their life as unfair; often blaming their parents, their friends and their lovers.
How could these three men, all well mannered in their youth and highly esteemed by their families and friends, end up in prison with lives now ruined and with little, to no hope for the future, one might ask.
Each of these men had hired attorneys to defend them in their case before the judge. The attorneys would visit often and work with each prisoner in an attempt to formulate a defense that would enable them to go free. Upon consultation with each man, their attorneys had advised each man to enter a plea of not guilty and face a trial by jury of their peers. The lawyers were compassionate and kind, but firm and paid strict attention to the charges against each man and the circumstances surrounding their case.
Other visitors came and went as they visited the two younger men. No one ever came to visit Tim. Even though there was some contact with what was happening in the world outside their cell, the younger two could not bring themselves to understand the seriousness of the charges brought against them and continued to deny responsibility.
To pass time, they would visit the prison library to read and study books about many facets of life. The library was large and held volumes of literature. There were law manuals, books about philosophy, sociology, psychology, the sciences, natural history and the history of man including books on theology and copies of the Bible.
Each man, searching for something to fulfill his innermost being, began to study and read daily to past the time. Outside of the library, interruptions were constant and the noise would deafen their ability to concentrate and think clearly. The library became a sanctuary of some quietness compared to the roaming of the prisoners in the courtyard or banging on their cell doors which enabled them to focus and maintain some sense of sanity. They became friends because of their frequent visits to the library and would sometimes discuss the books and ideas they found interesting to help them make it through the night until the dawning of another day.
The two younger men continued to maintain their innocence and discussed how corrupt and unjust the penal system was against those accused of crime. Hatred toward the guards was common and they complained to the older prisoner about injustice and their desire to be free. He listened but did not say anything.
One day, the two younger men were sitting together and talking as usual. Suddenly, Ted turned to Tom and stated, “have you ever noticed how laid back and relaxed Tim seems to be and he never complains about the injustice and suffering we are enduring in this place?”
“Yes, said Tom, “I wonder why he seems to be at peace with all this strife we face daily. He does what the guards request from us in a quiet and pleasant manner and he always greets the guards with respect and dignity. Why is he so different? If I had been in here for over 30 years, I would be insane.”
“I notice he always has a red pen with him when he goes to the library and a note pad with him. He is always making notes. Wonder what he is studying?”
“I think I’ll ask him,” said Ted.
One their next visit to the library Ted noticed Tim was reading in a black bound book and using the red pen to underline some of what he was reading. Tim was so intensely emerged in reading that he did not notice Ted standing behind him and watching him as he was reading. Ted watched as Tim picked up his red pen and began to underline what he was reading:
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? 9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. Isaiah 53:4-9
“What are you reading and why are you underlining what you are reading in red?” Ted asked.
Tim answered: “I am reading the only book in the world that has all the answers to life. There are a lot of other books that are good, some are even great, but this book has all the answers I need to live in daily peace and rest. This is the Bible, the word of God, who is the Creator of all the earth. This is my source of peace, joy, love and contentment in life.”
“But, how can you be so confident the statements in that book are true?” asked Ted.
“Because several years ago, I was just like you and Tom,” said Tim. “One day, in my search for peace, I picked up this old book and begin to read and I discovered this book explains itself and has all the answers I need to live a life of contentment, peace and rest.”
“How can that book be so reliable?” asked Ted.
“Let me show you.” Said Tom, “look at it states here is Proverbs 2:1-22 where the pursuit of wisdom brings security:
“My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, 2 make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; 3 For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; 4 if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, 8 guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. 9 Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 11 Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you, 12 to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; 13 from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; 14 who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; 15 whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways; 16 to deliver you from the strange woman, from the adulteress who flatters with her words; 17 that leaves the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; 18 For her house sinks down to death
And her tracks lead to the dead; 19 None who go to her return again, nor do they reach the paths of life. 20 So you will walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous. 21 For the upright will live in the land and the blameless will remain in it; 22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land and the treacherous will be uprooted from it.”
“What does this you are reading to me have anything to do with your present situation? You are a murderer, an adulterer, once full of anger and evil to the core,” stated Ted, “and now you are telling me you have contentment, peace and rest in this place?”
“Yes,” replied Tom. “Look what this book states in Romans 3:10-20:
“10 as it is written:
“THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”
13 “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,”
“THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”;
14 “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”;
15 “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD,
16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,
17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.”
18 “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”
19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
“Further,” Tom continued, “not only am I guilty of all you say I am guilty of, I am also guilty of sin in my thought life, my mind, my pride, my desires for the things of this world, my unkindness, lack of a gentle spirit, lack of love for all mankind which is God’s creation, lack of trusting in God that He knows what is best for me and much more…I am a sinner and I confess it openly and honestly. I am guilty. And if you will stop and think about it – you are also guilty – not only possibly of what you are accused of, but guilty of breaking the laws of God – just like I am guilty.”
Ted stood speechless as Tom continued: “You see, Ted, God created all things and He created man in His own image because He desired to communicate with man and enjoy fellowship with man. But Adam and Eve sinned and through their disobedience, sin entered into this world and everyone in it is guilty of sin. As the Scriptures state that ‘All have sinned’ and none does good. Those who think they are free out there on the street as just as guilty as I am. They are not here behind bars because I acted on my thoughts which were sinful and I killed a man. However, this book tells me that if a man is angry with his brother, he is guilty of murder, and, furthermore, if a man even looks on a woman with lust in his eyes, he is just as guilty in God’s sight as if he actually carried out the desire and thoughts of his heart. This book states that if we have ever broken even one of the Commandments of God, we are just as guilty as if we have broken all of God’s Commandments. Ted, God looks on the heart. Man tries to understand God with his head. Man takes a look on the outward appearance of a person and tries to determine whether a person is righteous in their heart with a right standing with God. To have a right standing with God, we have to confess we have sin in our life and we are sinners and need his love, mercy and grace to come and change our hearts – because it is only through a heart change that man can have a relationship with the Almighty God of this universe. I have this relationship with God because He pursued me, He rescued me out of my sin, He restored my relationship with Him through his love for me when He redeemed me by purchasing me from the slave block of sin where He bought me by paying more than the full price of a slave in giving His life on the Cross of Calvary that I might have life and have it more abundantly.
“And, Ted, only Jesus Christ, who redeemed me as Isaiah stated in his writing in Isaiah 53, as you saw me underlining some of the Scriptures in this book, can redeem you from sin – there is no other way. My self-righteousness is as filthy garments per the Scriptures written in this book. It is in this book that I have found full freedom. I am free from the guilt of the past. I am forgiven for all I have done that is sin in the eyes of man and God and I can now come boldly to God and pray and communicate and fellowship with Him even though I am locked behind bars for the sins of my past.
“Now, Ted, please let me tell you that I would rather live 10,000 years in this prison locked behind bars and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ with whom I will spend eternity than to be a free man walking out there on the streets of life and have no communication or fellowship with the God of all the earth. I have riches most people never know about. I am more content, at peace with God in my mind, soul and spirit than probably 90% of the people outside of these prison walls. All that I am is in Him – Jesus is my hope and my strength. King David stated in Psalm 84:10-12:
“For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!”
“Ted, you see, Jesus did not come to those who are self-righteous and think they can make on their own. He came to seek those who know they have sinned, have failed and have no hope within their self. He came to earth, walked here with His disciples, taught them about Father God and then He gave His life for me and for you and all mankind.
“Ted, there is not one sin that will keep anyone from entering into heaven at the end of this life on earth. The door to heaven is closed to those who refuse to allow Jesus to enter their heart while they are living here on earth even though their sin has already been paid for in full. That is the only difference between those who are granted entrance into heaven and those who are barred eternally from heaven. There will be many outstanding gifts of grace that could pay the penalty for sin in full on judgment day that will have never be handed to the Righteous Judge of all the earth because after this life is over, it is too late to hand the gift to the Judge. Handing the gift of grace to God is giving your heart 100% to Him and accepting Christ, who is the one who granted this grace on Calvary – there is a gift with everyone’s name on it that reads “sin is forgiven – paid in full by Jesus on Calvary.” There will be millions who will accept this free gift of grace and live with Christ in eternity. There will be millions who refuse the free gift from Christ and be forever barred from the presence of God.
“Now, Ted, you know I am guilty. I have stated I am guilty and God has acknowledged my plea in this life: guilty, Your Holiness.
“Ted, I will live out my natural life here on earth behind bars of steel that hold my flesh, my natural body from walking out of here, but there are no bars of steel or any other matter that could hold my mind, soul and spirit captive to sin once I turned my heart over to God and did not plead or argue my case – I simply made the plea: guilty. It is that simple to accept Christ as Lord and Savior of your life and you can be free from sin also. Repentance is to recognize sin exists in the heart and to ask God for forgiveness and then to turn to God and begin to read His word daily and communicate in prayer daily with Him.
“It is not the bars of the steel of this life that hold us captive to self; it is the bars of self that bind us and hold us captive from freedom in life in Christ for eternity. True freedom is only found in Christ. In John, chapter 8, John wrote this statement: “34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
“Ted, I am a free man today. I only live in a house that is built to limit my activity here on earth. Someday, I will be free to roam the streets of glory and rejoice in the majesty and glory of the One who gave Himself for me. Please remember, Ted, there were two thieves who were crucified with Jesus that day almost 2000 years ago. One asked for forgiveness; the other one ignored Him. That is how it is in this life. There will a few who will acknowledge Him and ask for forgiveness and receive His gift of grace. There will be many who will pass Him by as if He never came to earth and gave His life for them, and as a result, they will be barred from heaven for eternity. Everyone will stand before God and give an account to Him some day.
“Ted, when I stand before God, and it will likely be not many days longer, there will be a defense attorney like no other defense attorney that has ever lived, who will stand and plead my case with the Father. It will not be a trial by a jury of my peers. He will take my case and make this argument to Father God: “Father, I died for this man and gave My blood that He might be free. He has accepted My Atonement for the forgiveness of sin. I paid the full price for him and took all the sin debt he owed away. His debt was nailed to the Cross of Calvary. He is forgiven of all debt to be paid. I ask You, Father, to discharge his case.” And, Ted, my hope is build on nothing less than Jesus Christ and His righteousness, and the Father will take the gavel and upon the testimony of Jesus will declare me free – free forever, totally free for eternity.
“Ted, can you say this same thing today? The choice is up to you. The decision is yours to make. You can throw yourself on the mercy seat of God and shout ‘guilty’ and receive His gift of grace or refuse to do anything and you already know what the consequences will be for eternity. Do not delay. This is your day of salvation.”
My friend, this is a story to help us understand the great love, mercy and grace of the awesome God of all creation. I beg you to yield your heart 100% to Him if you have not already done so before today.