Our late friend, Chuck Colson, relates how some prisoners he knew reacted to the gospel. Excerpt from The Faith: Given Once for All by Colson and Harold Fickett.
But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:40–43
'Jesus, You're innocent. You're holy. I'm guilty. Remember me.'
I ask inmates to put themselves in the place of the good thief and to pray just as He prayed, "Jesus, You're innocent. You're holy. I'm guilty. Remember me."
Repentance and the desire to be in Jesus' company are the crucial elements of any sincere conversion.
The good thief's understanding of his own sin, his repentance, and his desire to be with Jesus made it possible for him to be saved — and for Jesus to answer his prayer. Repentance and the desire to be in Jesus' company are the crucial elements of any sincere conversion.
Thousands of times around the world I have seen the power of God work in the most remarkable ways through such simple prayers, whole groups of inmates and the poor praying out loud, individuals weeping, many responding with open confessions of faith. I have seen some of the hardest, toughest, meanest looking convicts dissolve in a flood of tears. In some prisons, I have literally been mobbed afterward by weeping convicts. They get it.
Repentance and acceptance of Christ's saving work bring with them a new understanding of one's own worth that at first may seem paradoxical. However gravely I have sinned, Christ still thought I was worthy of His sacrifice. That's grace, indeed; that's love!
One inmate in a Florida prison looked like thousands I've met; missing teeth, tattooed, his face scarred by dissipation and a depraved life. In tears he said to me, "All my life people have told me I was no good, I would never amount to anything. For the first time in my life today, I feel like I'm worth something." Another inmate in one of the maximum security prisons in America, who turned out to be a Mafia leader, fell to his knees crying. "Until this day I have never felt any good," he sobbed. "Now I know I can be forgiven and be decent. Now I have a reason to live."
As the Scriptures say, "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
- Chuck Colson
Learn more about The Faith.
The "Great Proposal" of the Gospel via Chuck Colson
Chuck Colson's Call to Christians via Colson & Zondervan Blog
Beyond Crime and Punishment: The Prison Fellowship Ministry via Philip Yancey & Zondervan Blog
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