The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all making life and breath and everything. And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him…He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead. Acts 17:24-31
I’ve been going to our County jail for some 18 years now, leading Bible studies with any interested women on Sunday nights. I first went to meet with one Native American young lady who came in late one night and was intent on killing herself in any way she possibly could. The jailer, a friend of mine, asked her if she had ever read the Bible. She said, “Oh no, we’re not allowed to believe in Jesus.”
He asked if she would be willing to talk to a friend of his, and she said yes. He got permission for me to come see her during visiting hours, and I talked through the plexiglass the first couple of visits. That was highly ineffective and I asked if there was any way to meet face to face. We were able to secure the room used to meet with attorneys, and from there, I was able to tell her about what she began to coin as the ‘Jesus Way.’ She soon began to invite the whole cell and I just kept coming back.
I used to think they just came to get out of their cell. Though it is probably partially true, there is still something more that draws them. There is a boomerang effect with many of the women. They are back in again and again. I like it, giving me the chance to speak truth into their lives for a longer stretch. Once they get out, they fall so quickly back into their life of drugs and alcohol.
This Acts passage is one of my favorites to proclaim to them. Paul spoke to the Greeks that were so polytheistic that they even had an altar to the ‘unknown god.’ Today we call our unknown god our ‘higher power.’ Our rock can give us the strength we need to get us through treatment, even though we’ve been here eight times before. “I am here to tell you about a God you can know. He has a name, and He knows your name…”
The truths that I get to present in jail are the ones I want to tell my nonChristian friends and coworkers. They are ones I would put on a billboard in Hollywood or in Washington DC. If I could summarize them from Acts 17, they would look like this:
- God is the origin of all things and the Lord of all things.
- He is unchanging (not relative).
- God has a name. He has revealed Himself through His Son Jesus, the name that is above every name.
- Human life is sacred and important because He has created us for a purpose. He gave us a purpose, a destiny, and He has a plan and a purpose for our lives.
- One day Jesus is going to return and judge the world in righteousness.
These are our reference points, fixed and unchanging. You can call them ‘absolute truths.’ Just like Sir Isaac Newton named physical laws that governed the universe, these would be like the spiritual ones that govern us. I’m sure there are more, like the ones Campus Crusades, or ‘Cru’, use. Or others like “sin has consequences,” and “somebody has to pay the price for sin.”
What Paul proclaimed on Mars Hill says it. He didn’t use Jesus’ name. He referred to Him at the end when he said, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead. in verse 31.
The struggle today is over so many things. We’ve tossed God out as our ultimate reality and our ultimate truth. We’ve made truth relative and individual. We have tried to teach kids self esteem and morality without a basis of a having a loving God who has created us for a purpose–someone who knows the number of hairs on our head, who gave us a plan and a destiny, and has a plan and a purpose for our lives.
Instead, we have taught a secular humanistic version of where we came from, described by Frank Peretti in The Chair: stripped down we’re really saying, “Kids, you’re an accident, with no reason for being here. You are a meaningless conglomeration of molecules strung together purely by chance billions and billions of years ago. All of the dust and the gas in the galaxy floated around and bumped into each other and said, ‘Let’s be organic.’ You have no reason for being here. Your existence is pointless; the universe won’t mind when you die; you’ll just become compost…Now for self esteem class: You’re an accident, but a good accident. You can do things–but what if you can’t? Because people appreciate you–but what if they don’t? (This is a wonderful video series if you ever get time to watch it–do!)
The good news is that Jesus came to die on the cross for you and for me. One day He is going to return and set the wrong right. We will give account to Him. Last night I got to sit with three delightful women in jail and shared the good news once again with them. We laughed and prayed and had a great time in the Word of God. They might be in low places now, but they get to hook up with my Friend Jesus who is in the Highest of High places…