FORGIVENESS (ADVENTURES IN JESUS).042218

hands of a prisoner behind barsI spent last weekend in prison.  I was a member of a team from the Jubilee Prison Ministry, that goes in to prisons for three days to talk to the inmates about Jesus and what it means to be a Christian.  While I was there, I gave a talk on forgiveness: In the middle of the talk I gave a personal testimony from life as it relates to forgiveness.  My testimony went like this:

When I was a young man, about 20, I met my future wife and I asked her to marry me.  She said, ‘Yes!’  Neither one of us had any money, but we had love, so it was OK.  Pretty quick we had two sons, and then one daughter.  My wife and I grew up together while raising our kids.  Finally, I got a better job.  I was making $125.00 per day.  We thought we’d died and gone to heaven.  Oh, I had to spend a lot of time working away from home; three weeks away and then one weekend at home.  There was a lot of stress, but we both thought it was worth the sacrifice.  This sort of work went on, for 6 or 7 years, over and over, till one day, when we’d been married about 10 years, I found out my wife was having an affair with another man.  At the time our kids were 10, 9 and 3.  At the time I thought it was all her fault, but I’d forgive her and forget about it, if she’d just come back.  Well, eventually she came back, after a long separation.  But you know what’s crazy?  Throughout that hard time in our lives, I never even considered all the way I contributed to that event.  Like never being home when my wife needed help.  Or when she wasn’t feeling good, or the kids were sick, and she had to deal with it all by herself. Probably the worst is that after she got the kids down, when she finally went to bed, she was all alone.  She needed someone to love her, to hold her; to be with her.  Here I am 30 or 40 years later, and I’m just now realizing all the ways I failed to love, honor and cherish my wife; all the ways I wronged her; all the ways I harmed her.  I’m a sinner and I desperately need forgiveness.

            The next morning, after that talk, a brother on the Jubilee team came up to me and said, “All the way through your testimony, God was talking to me about how bad I treated my first wife.  I’m going to have to go see her and tell her how sorry I am.”  Can we ever imagine what an impact God has had on people in the world with little testimonies just like this?  Peoples’ hearts are touched, and their lives are changed, FOREVER.

About two years ago, I ‘self-published’ my first book, called Out o’th’ Bushes, which is based on Six Great Themes of the Bible, including Love, Humility, Gratitude, Trust, Obedience and Service.  It is partially a memoir, and partially a set of essays and stories explaining my understanding of about 100 passages from the Bible.  This book presents the core of what God has taught me about what a disciple of Jesus looks like.  My mission on this earth is to follow ‘The Great Commission’, as expounded by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20, where He says, “Go, make disciples, baptizing them; teaching them to do all things I have commanded you, and I am with you always, even to the end of age.”  I’m pretty sure this is what all people who claim the name of Jesus are supposed to do.  My ‘modern-day’ version of this statement is: “My Mission is to talk to people about Jesus; and help them develop a close personal relationship with Him.”  That’s my ‘Why’.  That’s why God put me on this earth.  That’s what I’m going to do, and keep on doing, as long as I live.

Like Peter said in Acts 4, when they were called up before the Jewish High Council, “We can’t help but tell what we’ve seen and heard . . .” I can’t help but tell people what Jesus has done in my life and in the lives of those around me.  I WANT to be a disciple of Jesus, I WANT to teach others to be disciples; and I WANT to teach others disciples to make disciples too.  What you might call a ‘generational mission’.

And what is my ‘target audience’?  My target audience is YOU!  If you are in the sound of my voice, then you are the exact person God has picked out to hear this message.  It’s no accident that you’re hearing this talk.  Almost everyone I know has heard about Jesus.  Most have spent time in church.  They’ve had time to think about the stories they’ve heard from their mommas, their teachers, and their family members.

It’s kinda crazy.  I’ve spent 17 years in prison ministry, going into prisons to talk to inmates, people we call ‘brothers-in-white’; people who have been convicted of crimes that were bad enough to get them sent to prison for years at a time; almost every single one of them has heard about Jesus.  It’s a rare case when one of them has never heard of Jesus and thought about what He represents in this world and in their lives; almost all these people, most of them boys or young men, age 18-25, went to church when they were kids. Many were raised by mommas and grandmothers and grandfathers who taught them about Jesus.  If all those guys in prison have heard about Jesus; it’s a better than even bet that people like you have also heard; that you’ve also been to church; that you have also had your momma tell you stories about Jesus, since you were a little kid.

So, what am I supposed to do now?  Same answer as before.  Make disciples!  What does that mean?  It means to teach them what to do to BE disciples.  To DO what Jesus commands.  What does Jesus command? THREE THINGS; 1] To draw near to God so God will draw near to THEM; 2] to BE LIKE JESUS, to be humble obedient servants; and love each other; and 3] to surrender to God with all their hearts and souls, all their strength and their minds.

And what are YOU supposed to do?  1] COMMIT: Surrender your whole self to God, so He can use you to touch others. 2] FIND A MENTOR and a GROUP of other disciples so you can grow and develop into the disciple God wants you to be. And 3] START to do what Jesus commands in Luke 9:23, when He says, “If you want to be my disciple, you must deny yourself; take up your cross, DAILY, and follow ME.”

Why not?  Oh, there are lots of good reasons to NOT.  You’re busy; you’ve got to work and support your family; Honestly, they’re really are a LOT of good reasons NOT to COMMIT TO GOD; to turn yourself over to Him and let Him run your life.

But what about that still small Voice you’ve been hearing from God, saying, “The only way you’re going to have REAL LIFE is if you commit to ME and start to share ME and MY LIFE WITH OTHERS.”  If you do that, your whole life really will be CHANGED.  That’s what MAKING DISCIPLES is all about.  If you need help to get started, you can contact me on my website at http://www.textonroy.com.

 

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