While men may continue to debate the purpose of earthly prisons to punish or restore, in my blog, God Soft On Crime?, February 7, 2016 under the category, The Cause, the Lord led me to clearly assert from His perspective it is both. It is the perfect will of God that sin driven crimes be justly dealt with in ordered, human societies. While there is room for mercy, crime in major part must be deterred by appropriate punishment to include incarceration. That said, men commit crimes (some repeatedly) because bound by the same spiritual, mental and emotional ties as other sinners, they breach their conscience and natural self-control. God wills to liberate and restore such men too!
For the record, because men are fallen sinners that in natural pride craft laws and sentencing guidelines, they can and do err with bias and being overly harsh in sending citizens to prison for crimes committed. However, keeping it real, those not breaking the law do not typically face prison sentences (Romans 13:2-3). So, while it happens that those who have not committed a crime are wrongly accused, tried and sent to prison (though consider is anyone truly innocent outside of Christ in the eyes of the ultimate Judge and Warden?--Romans 3:9-20), it is primarily those guilty of breaking the law that have this experience.
Christians are not normally supposed to be among those found guilty of crimes and sent to prison since we are being regenerated as the people of God and honor His higher Law as well as the just laws of men through the inner working of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25; Titus 3:1-8; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Yet, professed Christians prior to incarceration are also well represented in American prisons. Those I minister to, I remind the punishment they endure is Poppa’s woodshed and He wants them to get their lesson (Hebrews 12:5-11)! The Lord wants all incarcerated men to get their lesson because in Christ, His heart is to restore, not crush men’s lives (Lamentations 3:27-42).
Not inferior in the least bit to mortals in mercy, God gives sinners many chances to repent from their sinful deeds before bringing judgment as I am a witness. The Lord’s penalty for sin is death which He has every right as Creator-Judge to carry out on the spot! However, since Eden this has not been done by Him except on occasion as a sober warning and deterrent to all who would consider His typical mercy filled delay to judge, unwilling weakness (Leviticus 10:1-3). When we sin, though others may not see it right away, we can be sure our sin will find us out; God’s judgment overtakes the guilty (Numbers 32:20-23; Psalm 90:8; Galatians 6:7; 1 Timothy 5:24-25).
By the time a man ends up in prison even if it occurs as a result of his first crime, the Lord gracious and merciful has already given him as a sinner many chances to repent and be set free from ties that bind. These ties are common to all mankind and encompass every pathos of the soul and sinful work of the flesh including not looking to or trusting in God (Job 3, 10:1; Psalm 42:1-6a, 77:1-9; 142; Romans 14:23b; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 5:19-21). In our day, the tendency is to separate sin and evil crime; sinners and evil criminals. But in God’s eyes, what starts in the heart of the sinner as sin is evil whether it leads to crimes defined by human law or not (Mark 7:20-23).
Thus, the man that seeks to medicate himself through drunkenness and/or drug abuse (sorcery) to dull the misery of his life, for example, is bound up by the pathos of his soul, his evil conduct in response (having rejected the more excellent way of faith in Christ) and the consequences of violating any human laws as a result in the process. Upon arrest on whatever charges, the man is now bound with physical ties of various types (among them shackles) and incarcerated. In God’s permissive will another bound up prospective strong man of God in the image of Christ is put on lockdown; taken away from freedom, family and his other life goods now to be plundered by the evil one stronger than he who first began to bind him up (Matthew 12:29).
Whatever the mix of ties that Satan has used to bind up those that end up being incarcerated--including in extreme cases, demon possession wrongly labeled by skeptics as just mental illness, they too can come to enjoy the difference between them and us who are faithful Christians (Luke 8:26-39). For we are living by faith in Christ as freedmen, daily put the flesh to death, walk in the Spirit, armor up resisting the devil with perseverance and confess our sins to God as they occur or are revealed in all repentance (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 6:15-22, 8:12-13; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 6:10-18; James 4:7-10, 5:7-11; 1 John 1:8-9).1
Otherwise, the only difference between the incarcerated and those bound up on the outside is that those on the outside have not yet breached their conscience and natural self-control to the point of criminal acts or been caught. They will with all, still have to face the Judge (2 Corinthians 5:10)! Even so, let faithful Christians be warned that with sinful men what is legal today will be a crime tomorrow (Daniel 6:1-17; Luke 22:47-54; John 15:18-20; Revelation 2:8-11).
1 For this reason, I appeal to you to support our Books To USA Prisons Project to provide another resource through my book, The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics God
can use to show unsaved men on lockdown how to become faithful Christians and aspiring strong men of God in the image of Christ! To learn about the project and to give
go to https://thestrongmanofgod.org/Give.
Lest anyone should believe my chief motive in obeying God to preach the Gospel, teach His Word and conduct our Books To USA Prisons Project1 among incarcerated men is of some misguided human sentimentality, I write to declare such ones are greatly mistaken. I am completely aware there are men on lockdown that have committed some of the most heinous crimes in the world, not the least of which is mass murder expressly forbidden by God in His Ten Commandments. Oh, by the way, forbidden also is dishonoring God, parents, adultery, stealing from, lying on and coveting what belongs to a neighbor (Exodus 20:1-17; Mark 12:28-34)!
In God’s eyes, having violated one of His commandments, a man becomes just as guilty as if he had violated them all (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10). In their Jewish context, the Ten Commandments were to be enforced by the community in accord with the judgments, statutes and ordinances God also gave through Moses to guide them. However, the Lord left Himself a role in dispensing justice and judgment and gave that warning through Moses as well (see as one example, Exodus 22:22-24). Even a casual reading of the Old Testament makes it clear God was not soft on crime back then nor is He today if one interprets the New Testament accurately.
Indeed, for while the grace of God has come to the whole world through Jesus Christ, it did not come without a demand for repentance from sin and righteous living, a onetime cost or a continuation of divine hostility toward sin (Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:7-19). Sinners experience the grace of God leading to forgiveness and salvation from the divine wrath to come only through repentance from sin and faith in the once and for all atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross, His burial and resurrection from the dead (Hebrews 9:22-10:18)! Without repentance and faith in Christ and His sacrifice there is no other remedy for sin guilt (John 3:16-21, 36, 8:21-24, 14:6; Acts 4:8-12).
In graciously offering salvation to sinners, God is not looking the other way on our sins, but only at the finished atoning work of Christ on Calvary (1 John 2:1-2). In Christ, all sins save one knowingly committed by the hardest of hearts (many that never see the inside of an earthly prison) are forgivable (Matthew 12:31-32; 1 John 5:14-17). Thus, as the preaching of the Gospel has gone out to all of the nations attended by the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit, both the grace of God leading to salvation for the repentant who trust in Christ has been displayed and also the severity of God toward active sinners even in the community of faith (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 5:1-8, 11:27-34).
So, while the Lord has duly ordained and holds human governments accountable to mete out punishment in keeping order (Romans 13:1-7), He remains such an active participant in human affairs the Psalmist calls the incarcerated, “His prisoners,” (Psalm 69:33, NKJV). This should put great fear into the hearts of every man contemplating doing a crime, practicing criminality and now on lockdown especially if you claim to be of God’s household through faith in Christ. Think about it; God is not only the source and cause of every criminal’s eventual capture, but He is also the sentencing Judge and ultimate Warden of every earthly prison (Psalm 7:11-16)! But that is not all.
God also has another prison under the earth (Numbers 16:28-35; Luke 16:19-31) where He is the exclusive Warden and from which there is absolutely no release now apart from His will until Judgment Day when judged by works, mankind outside of Christ will experience final sentencing to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-15)! So, even if a criminal is not brought to justice in this life, he will not elude capture and confinement in Hades or eternal punishment in Hell by God! In case you were wondering, Jesus Christ led out the one and only human release from Hades to freedom through pardon upon His death, resurrection and ascension (Psalm 16:8-11, 24:7-10, 68:17-20; Matthew 27:50-53; Acts 2:22-35; Ephesians 4:7-10; Hebrews 12:18-24).
We do not naively look past the crimes the men we minister to have committed! But those of us sent into the prisons plead with men there as we do with all on the outside to repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ that regardless of how long they justly remain in the custody of mortal authorities, they may experience the forgiveness, eternal life and freedom of God through His Son (John 8:31-36)!
The incarcerated are seen as those caught in God’s net of grace (Psalm 103:10) and given the extraordinary opportunity to get it right like all of the rest of us that have violated God’s Law (Romans 13:8-10) before finally and for some suddenly, the opportunity closes forever with their eyes in death (Proverbs 29:1; Romans 6:23). Soon, it will be plain to all only God’s gracious longsuffering has held back the full display of His wrath upon unrepentant, sinful men (2 Peter 3:1-9; Revelation 6:12-17)!
1 Please make a pledge to help fund the Books To USA Prisons Project at
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