Yesterday morning I preached on the Holiness of God in a local prison. During that message I read a passage in Leviticus 11 where God called the Jews the “sanctify themselves” because He was Holy.
Because that chapter dealt with the dietary Jewish law I mentioned in passing this didn’t apply to us since we weren’t Jewish, and are no longer under the law (God deals with us in a relationship of Grace based on our response to Christ instead of good works).
As I walked out of the hall a prisoner stopped me and very graciously asked why I said the law didn’t apply to them…..
He proceeded to say this was wrong because I’d condemned the Old Testament Law
This experience (while he was respectful) illustrates the most serious problem we face in the prison ministry. My church comes and ministers on Wednesdays as part of the “Prison Ministry Fellowship” which holds to the correct doctrine. The issue is other groups can come in as part of that fellowship and share on other days. It’s my understanding they have chapel almost every day.
This opens the door for false doctrine to be proclaimed, and seriously confuse the inmates!
In this case I’m almost certain the teaching of Seventh Day Adventists, who teach Christians should live by the Old Testament law, and worship on Saturday is his reason for disagreeing with me. A few years ago we had to spend three weeks explaining why it isn’t necessary for Christians to obey the Old Testament law in order to be saved. And now because the opposite is being taught we need to do it again.
This does raise a question,
Why continue ministering in the prison if some individuals in that group preach false doctrine?
Sadly there is only one group allowed to minister within the prisons of Saint Vincent, so if I backed out of the Prison Ministry Fellowship our work with them would finish. I also personally know the head of the PMF Is a Pastor who stands firmly against the false doctrine being taught. It’s my understanding the ministry itself has to have an “open door policy” regarding preachers.
But even if that wasn’t true….I would still go to prison every Wednesday
Because those men need a voice of truth in the midst of the confusion, a light in the dark place.
Thankfully the ministry doesn’t try to control what I say. So I’m able to stand before the men and clearly state Rastafarians and Seventh Day Adventists are preaching wrong doctrine from an open Bible. And the Holy Spirit uses Scripture to convict men of their false beliefs.
You see the man stopped me because his belief was challenged. But what if nobody ever told him the Old Testament law is not for Christians, and African Americans are not Israel in the Bible (this is a prominent teaching of Rastafarians). He would have gone on being deceived.
Being a light in a dark place is not about being hateful or angry. Its about calmly and clearly showing from Scripture God’s truth, and allowing the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
I wish with all of my heart I could have sat down with that inmate yesterday and from Galatians, showed him one on one how we are no longer under the law (they won’t let me). But I’m thankful for the opportunity to step into the darkness created by confusing false doctrine, and proclaim the light of Christ.