Prisons of the Past

“Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt

Men and women, when they are born again, are given something special. They are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are no longer under the laws of the world’s system or those of sin and death. (Romans 8:2) They are made new in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and are capable of far greater things than they were by themselves (Matthew 19:26).

However, though people accept that they are heaven-bound when they die, many people rob themselves of God’s other countless gifts and choose to replace them with man-made rules, rules that suspiciously resemble the laws from which Jesus had just previously delivered them.

“Why?” I’ve asked myself repeatedly. “Why would anybody want to do that? People don’t want to be prisoners, do they? People want to be free!” After a rigorous study on 1 Corinthians during a mid-week Bible study, I believe I have been given the answer to my burning question.

It has been said that though a state prison may set an inmate free, it cannot truly MAKE him free. A prison is a completely different world than that of free men. The people within have their own social norms, their own laws, and their own culture. After so many years, inmates become institutionalized. They can barely sit at a restaurant table for lunch unless someone gives them the command to eat. They stand at their apartment door for a minute until they realize that they don’t need the warden to open it. Suddenly, being alone scares them. They realize that once they’ve been set free, they cannot cope with the free world because it’s alien to them. Their only solution is to bring old baggage into the new world, and obviously, this is where trouble brews.

So, what does this have to do with accepting Jesus? Everything.

Though a man may spend his lifetime in a brick-and-mortar prison, mankind itself has been imprisoned for hundreds upon thousands of years longer. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22) We have lived in a bubble. We have lived under our own set of rules, our own set of laws, and our own culture for so long, that it has become normal. As one television commercial suggests, we are an island of flightless birds who have never realized that we have been given the wings to simply fly away and explore. We have essentially become just as institutionalized as any state prison inmate, and we would never realize it, because we cannot remember a time when it hasn’t been considered “normal”.

But what IS normal?

Read chapter two of the Book of Genesis. Complete fellowship with God through Jesus. Blessings beyond measure. Life intended for ministry unto Him and for Him. No shame. No condemnation. No fear. No anxiety. This is the normal that Jesus gave His life to give us, but we’ve spent all our lives institutionalized in a spiritual prison that we don’t know a good thing when we see it any more. Even when God delivers us from our sins, our anxieties and our condemnations, we still hold onto them. Suddenly we’re set free, we find ourselves alone, and we don’t know how to cope with such an alien concept.

You can take the man out of prison, but you can’t always take the prison out of man.

This is why God tells us that we need our eyes opened (Ephesians 1:18). It’s not good enough to be set free. We have to be MADE free. Then, and only then, can we begin to claim our inheritance and our true calling.

After realizing this, things that people do that used to irritate me to no end don’t bother me as much any more. When I see miserable people that seem to want nothing but to make everyone else miserable, I see poor people in cold, drafty prisons. They’ve been there for so long that they don’t know what freedom is, anymore. They’ve become like animals because that’s the only way they know to cope. They’re sickly and starving, and they’re crying out for help the only way they can. Do I still want to kick them back as hard as I can for all the hurt they’ve caused?

I can’t. Can you?

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