I was invited by a chaplain friend to preach in a women's prison this last Saturday. While I was excited to do something new, I was also intimidated by the prospects of sharing the Gospel with people that I might not be able to relate to. For starters, being a guy and never having set foot in a prison before, I felt like I had two strikes against me.
The women entered the gymnasium where the service was to be conducted hoisting their own chairs. They were all dressed in blue jumpsuits, but to my surprise, this didn’t subtract from their individuality. Rather, it seemed to enhance it in a curious way that I’m still trying to comprehend.
The chaplain introduced me to several of the ladies, “Pastor, this is Offender Cindy, and standing next to her is Offender Becky.”
“Offender?” I asked privately. “Why do you call them that?”
“Several reasons, we need to keep them at a distance and not get too personal. It’s the way things are done around here for security reasons.”
It was at that moment that I knew I had a Word to deliver. You see, the Gospel is a message that brings “near” those who are “far.” I don’t mean to quibble with prison policy, but I was there, not as a representative of policy, but as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. I knew that God had a redemptive Word, and this was the night that the captives would be set free.
I wish that I had the time to share with you everything that I said to those ladies. I preached for over an hour-and-a-half. I’ve never done this before in my life—not in over 30 years of preaching the Gospel. There was a rare and powerful anointing that every preacher understands. It is that moment when you are so overwhelmed by the presence of God that there is only one explanation—God unleashed my tongue and my mind in ways that only be described as miraculous.
Words poured out of my mouth from heaven’s throne. I preached personal repentance, the grace that knows no limits, a love that pardons, a path that restores, the forgiveness that cleanses and Jesus Christ crucified. Shouts of hallelujah echoed against the prison walls. Tears flowed freely, and the glory of God filled the room that night. The captives were set free, and I was one of them.
As I made the hour-and-a-half trek back to San Antonio, I had a lot of time to think about what had just happened. I praised God for the opportunity to preach to the “least of these,” and to be used of God “for such a time as this.” I may never see any of these ladies again. However, I hope and pray that I will meet some of them in heaven when the day finally arrives.
So this morning I am praising God for the “power of the Gospel.” I hope you are too. There is nothing in this world that can change our world like the simple message of the cross of Calvary.
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free," Luke 4:18.
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