Prisoners 5

The prison in discussion for today is COVETOUSNESS or greed.  Covetousness is the desire to posses, whether it be things, land or wealth.  It is the desire to take ownership when the reality is that all things belong to God.  The closest we can come to ownership is really stewardship, that is to manage it for a time, for the owner.  When a person dies he leaves everything behind and it doesn’t matter how much or how little he had, it is all left behind  :His ownership is temporary at best.

The problem with having possessions is that it is a short step before the pride of wealth possesses you.  1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  This verse does not say the money is the root of all evil but it does say the the “love of money” is the root of all kinds of evil.  Wealth is not evil but the love of it is.  Once the love of money takes control, it demands more and more.  When Howard Hughes was asked how much wealth it would take to satisfy him he answered, “just a little more.”  Wealth becomes the warden and the person becomes the prisoner.  The demand for more drives one to compromise himself and to do almost anything to get more.

As wealth is increased, so also is the demand upon that wealth.   Ec 5:11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?  Not only are the demands of its use increased but also the care it takes to protect it.  It is an awful taskmaster and knows no limits in its cruelty.

When a rich man asked Jesus what must I do to inherit eternal life, Jesus answered him, “go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me” Matthew 19:21  I don’t know of a better answer to how to be free from the grip of wealth than that plan.  The next verse says he went away grieved; for he had great possessions.  In other words, his faith was in his riches and not in Christ. He could have been free but it was his choice to remain a prisoner.  You must hold possessions loosely for the Lord’s use or the possessions will hold you.

Prisoners 3

The next prison that I will examine is VICES AND ADDICTIONS.  This prison is one of the most cruel of all of the prisons.  The suffering in this prison is inflicted on all levels; physical, emotional, relational, intellectual and offers no hope of a better life. The dependency is chemical, social, habitual, emotional and intellectual.  The scope of the suffering goes beyond the suffering and expense to the individual, to include friends, family, community, government and environment.  The property damage exceeds the cost of war by several times, every year, yet we pass laws to protect these vices because of the taxes from them.  Still these taxes are swallowed up several times in the cost to the governments for such things as welfare, public medical cost, police and fire protection, etc.  The number of deaths caused by these vices and addictions in the last 50 years exceed the combined cost of all the wars of all time.  That does not take into consideration the personal injury or the wrecked lives of the innocent who have nothing to do with them.

The interesting thing about this prison is that most of those who go there, do so by their own choice. There are some exceptions such as those who have been thrust there by circumstances beyond their control such as addiction from medications to save the life.   There is an old saying, man takes drink, drink takes drink, drink takes man.  The door into this prison is inviting.  It offers thrill, fun, pleasure, success, happiness, profit, etc.  Then once entered the door slams shut behind and a return to the former life is lost.  Many have testified that they hate what they do now and cannot escape its grip.  I know that it is not as simplistic as I make it sound but the point is not being made that it can be avoided if we make right choices.

The scope of vices and addictions is wide.  It includes the obvious of tobacco,alcohol and drugs but extends to pleasures, powers and passions.  The allurement of all of these vices and addictions are temporary while the consequence remains for a long time. The grip of these vices is strong and the dependence is hard to break but it really is not complicated.  It is as simple as placing that dependency on Jesus instead of the vice.  Even though it is simple, it is not easy.  To make this adjustment requires a complete rejection of the vice and all it offers and choose the life of obedience to the Lord of life.  He has made provision for your stumbling and weakness and accepts you just as you are and will lead you out of this prison.

God’s plan is to free us from this prison ( Joh 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.).  If you want to escape you can but you have to do it His way.  Joh 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Ga 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  There is hope but it is only in Jesus Christ.

Prisoners 2

The prison that I want to discuss today is that of having a COMPLEX.  There  are different types of complexes such as inferiority, superiority, persecution, invincibility, etc.  A complex is a perception about oneself that is believed because of a collection of pieces of information that may or may not be interrelated or complete. Several things go together to compile this belief such as emotion, success or failure, reports, bullying, prejudices. desires, etc.  However true or false the belief actually is, the person with the complex believes it to be true.  Often the case is not open for discussion so responding to the situation is extremely difficult.  It is not until the one with the complex comes to see the belief in relation to the full picture and not just a perception that real progress is made.

I often use the illustration of 4 people looking at a cup in the center of a table.  They are all looking at the same cup at the same time.  One sees a cup with a handle on the left, the person on their left sees a cup with the handle in the middle of the cup, the person on their left sees a cup with the handle on the right and the remaining person sees a cup with no handle at all.  This illustrates that perception is not the full picture and that a person that has a complex does not have a grasp on the full picture either.  It is probably impossible to talk someone with a complex out of their position.  If you are to help them you must first come along side of them and support their individual worth.  Relationship building takes time and love and a quick fix is highly improbable.  Then little by little you can examine each bit of information as it is presented to you. They need to see their perception in light of the greater truth so that they can unlock the chains that bind them because they are the ones that locked themselves in their own prison by their own acceptance of perception as truth.

The Bible declares that a person’s soul is more valuable than the whole world.  It is important for a person with a complex to see their value to Jesus and that He is come to give us life, real victory, not just a way to cope with life.  He will set us free from the imprisonment of our complex to live that life that is overflowing with abundance.  That is the message that they need to embrace.


Prisoners 1

In preparing the SS lesson for today on the sanctity of life, I became burdened for the vast majority of all people who are prisoners of one type or another.  I will be expanding on this theme in the next several days.

When Jesus began his ministry, he quoted  Isaiah. 61:1 which is repeated in Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, It is this message that the gospel focuses on.  As you know, the word gospel means good news.  The greatest news to those who are captives and are bruised would be deliverance.  Jesus said in Joh 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

I have identified a number of such prisons that hold people prisoner and keep people from living the abundant life that Christ intended.  I will address several of these in the next few post.  So what makes something a prison?  I am thinking of a poem written by Richard Lovelace in 1642 to Althea, from Prison “… Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage:”  The reverse is also true, If it controls, it is a prison even if there is not walls or bars.

The first prison I will address is traditionsMatthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  Also, in Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.  Traditions offer a sense of security that sometimes blinds us to truth.  It may be very difficult to break a wrong teaching if it has been held it for a long time.  It makes it even harder if there is some seeming justification for it.  It is much easier to go along with it even if you see that it is wrong.  You can be sure that if you rock the boat, there will be some push back reaction.  So you are faced with the choice to reject the error and receive the consequences or to just go along and become its prisoner.  I have no way of knowing how many lives have endured the consequence of going along with what they knew was wrong but I believe that there are many who have wrecked their own lives as well as being a hindrance to others who were affected by the error.

The gospel will set men free from such a prison.   Jesus said in John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. In dealing with traditions it is important to deal with issues not personalities.  Establish facts, not feelings.  Allow the other(s) to disagree with you if they so choose.  You are not trying to change them but you are trying to establish your own way.  Ask them to allow you the same freedom you give them in not making them a prisoner to your thoughts.  A tradition can be good when it is founded upon truth and does not take prisoners. The good news is that a person is set free in Christ.