Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Real repentance in prison ministries

Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent
 Over December and the Christmas season, I am serving faithfully at the Regional Justice Center in Kent.  I've been back from the short-term missions trip to Rwanda and Burundi in Africa for a little more than a month.

John, an inmate at the RJC, who I shared with earlier this week.  His journey with Jesus began when he was 18.  He's 40-something now and his story is constantly intertwined with drugs and alcohol.  He's in jail now because while he was drunk he struck his two children and frightened his wife.  

He doesn't get it.  I repeated, "You abused your family...that is abuse...that was violence."  He said, "but it wasn't a crime...I pushed them with an open hand.  I shouldn't be in jail...."  

His life does not show fruits of repentance, by his own admission.  His life is without evidence of real change.

He is sober, right now, so he is set on reading the Bible and pursuing Christ.  I told him I just am not sure what happened when he was 18.  He hasn't read his Bible, nor gone to church, nor pursued recovery support groups.  

Without effective recovery support group involvement, the drug, alcohol, or self-medicating addict is setting himself or herself up to fall.  They could remain clean and sober for a season.  They are more likely to fall.  They need a solid, Christian mentor.  John needs a group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Celebrate Recover.  I shared with John he needs a group he will go to regularly.  He needs to engage in his daily and weekly recovery in Christ Jesus.

This is not "works salvation," but the fruit of sanctification through the gracious progressive work of the Holy Spirit.

This real life anecdote is exactly why I am so cautious about leading converts in salvation prayers and altar calls.  Yes, the lord uses these prayers and altar calls.  I am very cautious about giving a seeker or new convert a sense that they might trust in the prayer or walking down the aisle and to think those acts save them or prove their salvation.  

  • Where is a contrite and broken heart?  
  • Where is the repentance?  What does it look like?
  • How will "John" make things really right before God and his family?

I have John reading and studying through a worksheet I developed on living faith in keeping with repentance.  I'll go back in later this week to see where he is at.

I just read an a real life story from missionary John Paton about genuine conversions and changed lives in a missionary setting and what we can observe.

"When I have read or heard the shallow objections of irreligious scribblers and talkers, hinting that there was no reality in conversions, and that Mission effort was but waste...

oh, how my heart has yearned to plant them just one week in Tanna, with the "natural" man all around in the person of Cannibal and Heathen...

and only the one "spiritual" man in the person of the converted Abraham [Paton's Aneityumese friend who worked tirelessly for the kingdom of God], nursing them, feeding them, saving them "for the love of Jesus"--that I might just learn how many hours it took to convince them that Christ in man was a reality after all! 

All the skepticism of Europe would hide its head in foolish shame; and all its doubts would dissolve under one glance of the new light that Jesus, and Jesus alone, pours from the converted Cannibal's eye."

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