‘Purposing Change’ Meditations: 25. Release the Prisoner
Lk 4:18 “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.”
We talk a lot about freedom and yet the truth is that it is an elusive commodity. Anyone who is unthinkingly locked into a way of thinking, anyone who is locked into a set of attitudes, anyone who has habits they cannot break, has not got freedom; they are a prisoner.
Now of course my atheist friend might challenge me and say I am a prisoner to the Christian faith, but the difference between us is that I (yes, after having come to faith) have very thoroughly researched the origins of my faith, the origins of religions, the origins of the Bible, have read the Humanists manifesto, the arguments and books of Richard Dawkins and his like, and so I have examined other religions, other belief systems, as well as the depths of my own, and am utterly convinced in the veracity and integrity of my own.
The past year has seen the coming out into the open of various prisons – the prison of racism, the prison of sexism, the prison of Covid-deniers, all emotion-driven bad prisons of the mind. Some are locked into the prison of affluence, having to make money, of having to keep up with others, of being envious of others in the family, perhaps, who appear better off. These are all prisons of the mind and so when Jesus said, “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” that was a reference to mind, emotions and the spirit. He has come to bring a sense of contentment and peace in respect of who we are and how we view others and, as I said earlier, it is often an elusive commodity.
Anyone who is locked into ‘self’ is a prisoner. Self-awareness is natural, self-concern is natural (akin to self-preservation) but ‘self’ that is blind to God, to spiritual realities, and is utterly inward looking – is in prison. After you have read this today, close your eyes, imagine your love one, prodigal, friends etc. standing in chains and imagine yourself leading them, hobbled by the chains into the throne room of heaven and petition Jesus to set them free. Yes, they have to change outlook etc., but plead with the Lord to send His Spirit, angels, whatever it needs, on behalf of this prisoner to help them see the truth. Keep asking.
Now I want to speak to someone who has been living in a prison of their own making. You felt guilty when you married your partner for you knew they didn’t hold the same beliefs as you, but you went through with it. Since then you have imposed what is tantamount to a curse upon yourself – I have done this, I have got to live with the consequences of this and it will be like this until I die. No, it won’t! In Jesus’ name I come against that lie. This series has been for you, Jesus wants to set you free, first from the prison of this lie and then by saving your loved one!
Jesus doesn’t just observe our mistakes and leave us with them, he comes to redeem us in them. Note that ‘in’ them, not from them. Yes, there have been consequences and sometimes you have regretted them but Jesus now comes to do something more glorious – redeem your loved one. He will step into the circumstances as they are and bring good in the midst of them. He knows you love him with a faltering love, but it is love and He is there working in all things for you and for your loved one. The thing with prison walls is that they seem so impenetrable, so solid, so unmoving. I am sure Peter, sleeping in the prison in Acts 12, didn’t have any idea of getting released, he didn’t know the church were praying for him, he didn’t know God wasn’t going to tolerate the antics of Herod, so he just lay there accepting the situation until, “Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up.” (Acts 12:7) I love this. I see this angel kicking Peter in the ribs to wake him up. In my words – come on Peter, it time to change all this and get you out of here. Peter thought he was dreaming but he wasn’t. Hey, this is your wakeup call. Get yourself ready, God is on the move!