Establishing our Verdict

I met a man through a prison ministry even before I was truly saved, although I thought I was. This was in 1996. He had and still has a sentence of Life Without Parole. He and I both have become truly born again since that time and are good friends and brothers in the Lord. Over the years, at times, I have heard him complain about conditions at the prison such as the other inmates, the correctional officers, the type of food and the portion sizes, among other things. Not wanting to sound uncompassionate or reveal my ignorance of life inside those walls and other inmates day after day after day, I wanted to think and choose my words carefully to him, and now to you.
Those complaints and similar ones proceed from a wrong perspective or outlook. What he fails to hear in his own words is what they communicate to others- in this case, me- that he has “rights.” He doesn’t see them for what they really are, and they are privileges. While he was in the free world, he broke the law on several occasions over a period of time. Under the Habitual Offender law, he now serves a life sentence. For thirty years or so now he has been in the same institution (so you can see how that environment rubs off on him and negatively impacts his Christianity, although that need not be the case as Christ overcomes anything). What he has forgotten is that it is he who transgressed, operated outside the boundaries of civilized society and did it repeatedly. He is owed nothing. It may not be what he wants, to be sure, but he has no right to complain about the free shelter, free clothing, free bed and pillow, free medical attention and free meals he receives.
When you (and once, I) expect Almighty God to protect you from evil- including the consequences of your own sins, which means you willingly operate out of God’s good and safe boundaries- and even question why He “allows” bad things to happen in the world (especially since this very question proceeds from the innate knowledge that He is all-powerful and all-knowing and ever-present), what you are doing is very similar to my friend’s attitude that we used as an example: We presume our innocence and deny our guilt in this life, and wonder why things are the way they are.
The Bible tells us that “all are sinners” (Romans 3:23) and that “none is righteous” (Romans 3:10). If we wrongfully assume our innocence, then our words and questions and confusion make sense. Why do bad things happen to supposedly good people? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why, if God has all power and is loving, doesn’t He DO something to prevent it all? These are some of humanity’s enduring questions, and they’re hard and painful. But if we take God’s Word which is Truth, change our faulty assumption and allow ourselves to have the correct mindset and worldview which say we are guilty from birth, then we begin to see that everything good and necessary for living are not “rights,” but privileges; gifts from God.
Here we are as guilty, sinful, imperfect creatures walking around daily wanting little or nothing to do with the One who gave us life and sustains it, taking for granted or worse- demanding- that He intervene for us in the trials, tribulations, sufferings and devastations of life that we, ourselves, caused. Are we to think we are innocent? Are we to plead for His help only because we know of no one else who has the power or capacity to help us, when only a day or hour beforehand we wanted virtually nothing to do with Him? Does this convict your heart? If yes, it should and it’s a good thing because only conviction leads to true sorrow, makes us apologetic and stirs our hearts to ask solemnly for forgiveness. Thank God for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News, which is that He has richly, lovingly and mercifully made a way- THE Way- possible for our wretched souls to be forgiven and for us to begin, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to hunger and thirst for righteousness instead of the deception, condemnation and fleeting “pleasures” of sin, if they can be considered such. Thank God that He has restrained His holy wrath and that, though time is short, the offer and free gift of salvation is still possible and available!
God announces in the Old Testament through the prophet Isaiah, “…though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land: But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it” (Isaiah 1:18-20). Praise the Lord! And the apostle Paul encourages in the New Testament speaking of Jesus and confirming, “For while we were still sinners, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). We don’t procrastinate and wait for the impossibility that we somehow become good enough first. That’s reassuring.
So you see that our presumption of innocence and our denial of guilt needs to be reversed into our acceptance of guilt and redemption to innocence. After all, the overarching theme of the Bible can be summarized and divided into four essential parts: Creation, the Fall, Rescue and Restoration. Let today be a new day; the day we accept and embrace the truth, and live for God and His purposes. Then, if we turn, we can walk in newness of life through Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross which paid for OUR sins. He suffered our consequences for us! He is coming back soon to take His beloved home. Will He be taking you with Him?

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