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JAILHOUSE RELIGION

 

In these days of mass incarceration many of us know, or have known, someone who has been to jail or prison. They are also thus likely to be aware of the fact that a number of people, not necessarily the majority, who are incarcerated seek spiritual solutions to their problems sooner or later. This is a very real occurrence, as those of us who have been behind bars can attest. The Lord indeed goes into the jails and prisons in the Person of the Holy Spirit just like He goes everywhere else, desiring to save souls. And of course, Satan and his kingdom of darkness have a whole array of counterfeit religions and other courses of action to keep convicted criminals from being saved or otherwise truly changing. But what of the phenomenon of jailhouse religion?

 

I would say that logically this would include those who seem to convert to other faiths, but as a Christian I am speaking on this topic from a Christian perspective. Look at this account from Luke’s Gospel:

 

Luke 17:11-19:  Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

 

There are a variety of things which can be pulled from this passage, but the one I want to focus on is a principle like that of false jail conversions. The ten lepers had a serious need—they had a highly contagious disease which left them ceremonially unclean under the old Jewish Law. Remember, leprosy is also symbolic of sin, a “disease” common to the whole human race. The Lord granted the ten lepers their request and healed them. Of all these men, only one, a Samaritan, a race that the Jews of Jesus’s time had no dealings with, came back to thank Him. Jesus was perturbed over the fact that only one of the ten He cleansed did this. Jesus rewarded this Samaritan with complete wellness.

 

Like the ten lepers who cried out to Jesus for help, so also do many people in jail or prison cry out to the Lord. A lot of times it may be for Him to get them out of the legal trouble they are in, and sometimes that does happen. These folks also pray to God for family relationship restoration and other needs, promising to serve Him for the rest of their lives if He grants their request. God often answers this prayer for restoration. However, when these men and women get out of prison or jail, a lot of them forget God. Oh, they may make a token gesture of prayer, Bible reading, or church attendance when they first get out, mainly to assuage any doubts that others may still have about their sincerity, but sooner or later these unconverted souls are compelled to go back to their life of crime and, usually, sinful pleasures. How sad.  For one, this lack of sincerity adds fuel to the narrative that the only religion people who are locked up have is jailhouse religion. Worse than that, though, these individuals who threw God away upon getting out of jail or prison have turned their backs on the only One who can truly help them: Jesus Christ. God in His graciousness will answer the prayers of these misguided souls even though He knows they do not really mean what they are telling Him:

 

Matthew 5:45b; Luke 6:35b:  “…for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”…“For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.”

 

There are two layers to this act of mercy. First, God desires to grant mercy rather than judgment (Psalm 85:10). Second, in the wake of their insincerity God wishes for these persons to know what is in their hearts and come to Him (Jeremiah 17:9; Hebrews 4:12; John 3:16-17). What is even more amazing is that after initially “using” God to get out of trouble and back into the good graces of those whom they have hurt, these people often are given additional chances by God to sincerely repent before it’s too late. Knowing the holiness of God, that is truly remarkable (Romans 2:4).

 

There is another dimension pertaining to those who struggle after getting out of incarceration, however. As you can see from the account in Luke 17, there are also sincere converts. Sometimes it is the genuinely saved who struggle after getting out. I know—it happened to me. I really had been born again behind bars, yet I became severely discouraged and backslidden and eventually I reoffended, landing in prison again. For a lot of those who fit the category of these struggling saved it is not an issue of jailhouse religion but instead an issue of soul wounds and demonization. Back when I reoffended I was still young in the faith, and I had not even heard of deliverance as best as I can recall. I thought it was all my fault that I failed, that I was the whole problem. And yes, a lot of other people felt that very same way about me. Soul wounds and demonization do not relieve a person of moral culpability; I was still responsible for making the choice of reoffending. Still, I cannot help but feel that if I had known about these things then, I might never have reoffended at all.

 

Often when people get saved they have a lot of issues to deal with. As immoral and unstable as the world has been since the 1960’s and 1970’s, this is not surprising. No longer are we dealing with a majority of persons who come from good homes and who simply need saving and a little further cleaning up. Now we are dealing with many individuals who have come from immoral backgrounds, dysfunctional families, and broken homes. People have serious emotional and spiritual wounds, and demonization is rampant. Furthermore, much of the Church does not teach deliverance, and even if they do, many of them do not understand or believe that Christians can have demons. There are Christians who spend the rest of their lives struggling with one or more issues that they can never quite gain victory over, and they feel like they are failures as believers. Their fellow Christians are also often critical and accusing. If these poor souls had the knowledge we have, they could experience the freedom we’ve gained. Indeed, practicing deliverance and helping people get the emotional and spiritual healing that they need are among the major purposes and objectives of It Ain’t Over Ministries.

 

The three of us who are founding members of this ministry have been out of jail or prison anywhere from 8 to 17 years as of this writing (November 2022). Last time I got out, in September 1996, I was back behind bars in May 1999. This time, I got out in May 2009 and have stayed out. It has now been right at 13 and a half years as of this writing. In the early going, determination never to offend anymore plus a better understanding of the fact that I am saved helped me stay out of trouble, although I was still far from whole. Then I learned of deliverance and experienced it for myself in November 2017. Am I completely healed? Not yet, but I am much better off than I was before. Is deliverance a one-and-done deal? No. Demons are extremely persistent, and deliverance must be maintained. Still, the difference between now and in the past literally is like the difference between night and day.

 

For those of you who have struggled but are born again, go to the Contact tab on this website and contact us with any questions you have about deliverance and soul wounds. For those of you who have or have had jailhouse religion, you can have real salvation instead. If the Lord has in fact dealt with your heart, we strongly urge you not to resist but instead to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Do it today. Your next rejection might be your last. God is not obligated to keep coming to you, and if you do not repent, sooner or later He will give you over to your sins and leave you in them (Romans 1:18-32). Once you are born again, do not let the naysayers talk you into thinking you only have jailhouse religion. You can know you are saved and walk in that truth, and none of those who want to treat you like a Samaritan can take that away from you.

 

 

 

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