From Behind the Bars

Saturday, August 24, 2013
by Brad Hornback
Chad, Keith, and I recently returned from an exciting 6-day Kentucky prison ministry project with our friends from Risk Takers for Christ.  The Lord did some great things in each of these institutions and left us in awe of His power and glory.  We had the opportunity to spend an entire day at each different correctional center we visited.  Our days consisted of playing softball and basketball with the inmates, conducting strength shows and chapel services, visiting individual dorms/cells, and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.  

On Saturday during our trip, we got up at 4am and drove to Little Sandy Correctional Center in Sandy Hook, Kentucky.  As we spent to day there, I had the opportunity to meet and converse with several different inmates.  Many of the men wanted to share their story and testimonies of what God was doing through their lives even while incarcerated. 

One particular inmate's story stood out to me.  As he was sharing various things with our team he stated that he was currently serving a 191 year sentence.  191 years!  This man relayed that he had done some very bad things in the past and he would spend the rest of his life behind bars. 

We left the prison late that night after one of the best days I have ever experienced in 4 years of ministry with Lifted in Faith.  As I thought about the inmate that was serving the 191 year sentence, the Lord put this verse on my mind:                     
 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive 
us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 
1 John 1:9

This is wonderful news to each of us!  This is one of the greatest promises found in Scripture! 

Sometimes I hear questions and statements like, "why do you guys spend your time with prison inmates, those people got what they deserved!" I ask you, does this particular inmate who admitted guilt and is serving his life sentence deserve the penalty that was handed down to him by our justice system?  Absolutely. However, there is something very important to note.  I can look at my own life, taking into consideration that I have never even been arrested, and I can look at this inmate who is serving 191 years, and I can draw one conclusion from the truth found in the Bible.  When God looks at that inmate and when He looks at me, He sees us in the same light.  We are both equally guilty of violating God's law and we each stand condemned before a holy, righteous, and just God who will execute divine wrath and judgment on our sin.  The Bible says that God deals with sin very severely and that the penalty for sin is death.  This is the grave and harsh reality of the situation we are all in.  

 There is good news and hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ.  He is the One who has paid the penalty, the One who has substituted Himself for us, the One who has stood in the gap, taking our sin and shame on Himself, and has satisfied the wrath of God.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: 
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 
Romans 5:8

 Salvation is found through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  I need this measure of grace just as badly as the inmates behind bars.  God has promised to forgive us and cleanse us of all our sin and unrighteousness if we repent and turn to Him, and that is reason to rejoice! 

 Rom. 1:16