I was in prison, and you came to me...
Speaking of the Gospel, what's the most productive building in the country for souls believing in the Lord Jesus and being saved? If you guessed Saddleback or Willow Creek Community Church, you're wrong. It's the local county jail.
Maybe a man has spent his life escaping accountability with his mother and father, his teachers, coaches, and boss, but the day finally comes when he's arrested for hitting a young boy with his car and killing him while under the influence of alcohol. And so, for the first time in his life, there in the county jail this man is forced to take a hard look at himself. No more excuses. No manipulation or lies to his loved ones. He's going to face the judge and this time Daddy can't save him...
So there in his cell he's ready to hear the message of the blood of Jesus Christ cleansing us from all sin. Each year, God is pleased to give faith to many thousands in county jails around the country.
Think about the Philippian jailer. An earthquake hits his jail causing the walls to crumble and the prisoners' chains to fall off. What's his immediate response?
He draws his sword to kill himself because he thinks the prisoners have escaped. Doesn't that strike you as odd-that this jailer would react to a natural disaster by committing suicide? But the jailer knew his superiors would not care what caused the prisoners to escape. He was accountable and it wouldn't go well with him. Life as he knew it was over.
Right then, Paul cried out, "Don't harm yourself! We're all here!" Look how the jailer responded to this incredible news: "(He) called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved'" (Acts 16:29,30)?
What on earth? He's already saved--the prisoners haven't escaped--so what's the big deal?
Through His kindness God, allows some of us to come to the end of ourselves and to see our mortality in such a way that we're awakened from our slippery-slope slumber. At that moment, every soul God awakes, whether the Philippian jailer or the DUI sleeping it off in the county jail, asks the one question that defines our existence: "What must I do to be saved?"
If we love God, we'll show up and pitch in to help where He's working. Often that will mean a hospital, funeral home, or county jail--places where God in His mercy awakens the slumbering to the reality of death and the coming judgment. And if we're there, then we'll have the joy of answering the drunken manslaughterer as Paul did the Philippian jailer: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:29-31).
Are you willing to visit the prisoners?