Monday, July 31, 2017

Imprisoned to Redeem

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved,

Grace can have a strong touch of redemptive irony! As you read in the verses below about Paul and Silas being thrown into jail, notice some of these touches of irony:

  • By divine intervention, the prisoners’ chains are unlocked, and their cell doors opened but they remain in their cells, and when the jailer discovers what had happened, he brings them out of their cells and even takes them home with him rather than locking them back up.
  • The jailer washes the wounds inflicted by those he supervised in the jail.
  • The prisoners tell the jailer and his family My story of grace, baptize them, and free them from being bound to sin and death.
  • The prisoners eat at the jailer’s table rejoicing with a family that was saved after the jailer did not lock the prisoners back up.
  • All of this begins with Paul liberating a young woman who was being manipulated and exploited for money because of her “occult spirit.”
  • The story ends with those in charge begging not to be humiliated for the grievous error of beating Roman citizens without a trial.
  • And as a small sub-plot, Paul and Silas go free because they are both Roman citizens. However, if Paul were still partnered with Barnabas, Barnabas would have gone back to jail because he was not a Roman citizen.

Many things that happen behind the scenes of history empower the spread of the good news. You will never know many of these things. Little subtle connections between people and events that lead to the spread of the good news may appear to be random “coincidences” from your side of history. They are, however, better called “God-incidences.” I’m talking about Our — Father, Son, and Spirit’s — purposeful acts of providence that help bring redemption to those in need of grace.

You are not alone in your work for the Kingdom. Even when things appear to be disastrous messes, please know that Paul’s declaration remains true:

We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.

(Romans 8:28)

As you’ve seen time and again, when the good news message about Me is shared, and people truly believe and are baptized, great things happen. Not one of these things happens by accident. Remember My promise made early in My ministry:

Just ask and it will be given to you; seek after it and you will find. Continue to knock and the door will be opened for you. All who ask receive. Those who seek, find what they seek. And he who knocks will have the door opened.

(Matthew 7:7-8)

Verses to Live

Read carefully the following verses that tell of the continuing work conducted by Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Notice how We — Father, Son, and Spirit — are involved in redeeming each situation and bringing grace. It was true when the events you read about happened, and it is true today.

One day [in Philippi], as we [Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke] were going to the place set aside for prayer, we encountered a slave girl. She made a lot of money for her owners as a fortune-teller, assisted by some sort of occult spirit. She began following us.

Slave Girl (shouting):

These men are slaves like me, but slaves of the Most High God! They will proclaim to you the way of liberation!

The next day as we passed by, she did the same thing — and again on the following days. One day Paul was really annoyed, so he turned and spoke to the spirit that was enslaving her.

Paul:

I order you in the name of Jesus, God’s Anointed: Come out of her!

It came right out. But when her owners realized she would be worthless now as a fortune-teller, they grabbed Paul and Silas, dragged them into the open market area, and presented them to the authorities.

Slave Owners:

These men are troublemakers, disturbing the peace of our great city. They are from some Jewish sect, and they promote foreign customs that violate our Roman standards of conduct.

The crowd joined in with insults and insinuations, prompting the city officials to strip them naked in the public square so they could be beaten with rods. They were flogged mercilessly and then were thrown into a prison cell. The jailer was ordered to keep them under the strictest supervision. The jailer complied, first restraining them in ankle chains, then locking them in the most secure cell in the center of the jail.

Picture this: It’s midnight. In the darkness of their cell, Paul and Silas — after surviving the severe beating — aren’t moaning and groaning; they’re praying and singing hymns to God. The prisoners in adjoining cells are wide awake, listening to them pray and sing.

Suddenly the ground begins to shake, and the prison foundations begin to crack. You can hear the sound of jangling chains and the squeak of cell doors opening. Every prisoner realizes that his chains have come unfastened. The jailer wakes up and runs into the jail. His heart sinks as he sees the doors have all swung open. He is sure his prisoners have escaped, and he knows this will mean death for him, so he pulls out his sword to commit suicide. At that moment, Paul sees what is happening and shouts out at the top of his lungs,

Paul:

Wait, man! Don’t harm yourself! We’re all here! None of us has escaped.

The jailer sends his assistants to get some torches and rushes into the cell of Paul and Silas. He falls on his knees before them, trembling. Then he brings them outside.

Jailer:

Gentlemen, please tell me, what must I do to be liberated?

Paul and Silas:

Just believe — believe in the ultimate King, Jesus, and not only will you be rescued, but your whole household will as well.

The jailer brings them to his home, and they have a long conversation with the man and his family. Paul and Silas explain the message of Jesus to them all. The man washes their wounds and feeds them, then they baptize the man and his family. The night ends with Paul and Silas in the jailer’s home, sharing a meal together, the whole family rejoicing that they have come to faith in God.

At dawn the city officials send the police to the jailer’s home with a command: “Let those men go free.”

Jailer:

The city officials have ordered me to release you, so you may go now in peace.

Paul (loud enough that the police can hear):

Just a minute. This is unjust. We’ve been stripped naked, beaten in public, and thrown into jail, all without a trial of any kind. Now they want to release us secretly as if nothing happened? No way: we’re Roman citizens—we shouldn’t be treated like this! If the city officials want to release us, then they can come and tell us to our faces.

The police report back to the city officials; and when they come to the part about Paul and Silas being Roman citizens, the officials turn pale with fear. They rush to the jail in person and apologize. They personally escort Paul and Silas from their cell and politely ask them to leave the city. Paul and Silas oblige — after stopping at Lydia’s home to gather with the brothers and sisters there and give them parting words of encouragement.

(Acts 16:16-40)

Response in Prayer

Lord God Almighty, You are the Father of grace Who sent Your Son Jesus to be my Savior, Redeemer, and Friend. Thank you. Help me trust that You are at work in our world. I trust that You are bringing grace and redeeming difficult circumstances for the salvation of the lost. I believe You are using the messes that the evil one throws at me to Your greater good. Give me courage, boldness, and confidence to live for Jesus and to share Your grace by the power of Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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From: “A Year with Jesus”
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Category: Passion for Praise

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