Saturday, March 8, 2014

Smoking through Romans

 For some reason I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s power and His standards lately.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading through Romans, and in chapter 3 Paul makes it clear that there is a standard we need to meet and without Christ’s power we fall way short.

As I was reading through Romans, I was reminded of one of my favorite illustrations of God’s power. You see if you’re like me you sometimes get caught with this idea that God can only work in people’s lives in certain ways, and under certain circumstances.

I sometimes have this mentality that because God worked like…this before, He must always work like…this in every situation. God however doesn’t play that way. He plays by His own rules, and His own standards.

He works in people’s lives however He pleases. This truth came to me in a crystal clear fashion, when several years ago I heard a prison chaplain share about how God had radically changed the life of one of the prisoners he ministered to each week.

He basically said that every week he would go into the prison to meet with prisoners and talk about faith, God’s Word, their lives and all kinds of things. Each week he would take in Bibles to give out to any inmate that didn’t have one. It struck the chaplain odd that one of the inmates took a Bible back to his cell every week.

This had been going on for several months, and the chaplain was getting curious about it, but didn’t mention anything to the inmate, he just prayed that God would use His Word to touch the inmate’s heart.

Well, as God would have it, He did use His Word to touch the inmate’s heart, especially when he got to Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

God used that verse and several of the other powerfully clear challenges to help the inmate see that He needed Jesus to save him, and change him. His own power wasn’t going to cut it, because God’s standard is perfection, and our sin disqualifies us.

That particular night God touched this guy’s heart and in his cell by Himself he put his faith and trust in Christ alone!

The next day when the chaplain showed up for Bible study the inmate came running up to him with a definite glow on his face and a new spring in his step! He couldn’t wait to tell the chaplain what had happened. The chaplain was so happy to hear what God had done in this inmate’s life and how now he is a new creation.

As the chaplain was listening and rejoicing with the inmate, he finally asked him the question that had been lingering in his mind for months.

“Why did you take a Bible back to your cell every week?”

Upon being asked the question, the inmate dropped his head and with an ashamed look on his face said, “I took a Bible every week so I could rip out the pages to use to roll my cigarettes and smoke them!”

What! The chaplain couldn’t believe what he was hearing, but before he could interject anything to the conversation, the inmate continued with “it was last night as I was SMOKING THROUGH ROMANS, that God hit me with the weight of my sin, and the fact that because of them I deserve death, but He made a way for me through His son Jesus!”

As you can imagine, the chaplain was blown away, as he realized that when it’s all said and done, it’s all about God doing His work in the lives of people, in His time and in His way!

That chaplain learned an incredible lesson that day, and it is my prayer that I wouldn’t get stuck in a “God has to do it this way, because He has always done it this way, RUT,” but would be continually praying for Him to do His thing in the lives of people I work with, and if He so chooses, allow me to catch a glimpse of His amazing power along the way!

I’m so glad He is still in the prisoner freeing business!

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