For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7
I was just at jail the other night, to lead a Bible study for interested women inmates. I always pray that God would lay on my heart what to share. I’m never quite sure who is going to be there. I can guess that a couple of the ones from the weeks before will still be in, but when I count on it, they either get switched out, or they don’t feel like coming. But God knows.
Change was on my heart. Plus God’s overwhelming mercy that shows up and brings about the change in our lives that we need. If God doesn’t show up in my life to change me, I am stuck in the same old rut. And that rut doesn’t stay the same, it finds ways to get worse. I am no different than the women in orange that I go to meet with.
I began the jail study by asking, on a scale of 1-10, to give a number of how much they really want to change–so they would never return to jail or prison, so they would be free from addiction, and so they would be with their kids again. Each of the six ladies said it was definitely a 10. But then I said what was their reality of change score. They each said it was more like a 2 or a 3, maybe a 4. That’s why they are “boomerangs.” I have seen them again and again over the years.
Instead of lecturing them about knocking off their stupid ways, or not really wanting it bad enough, I turned to Titus 3, which God had put on my heart. I shared how they only way we can really change on the outside is for God to change us on the inside. We are all like the description of verse 3–foolish, disobedient, and slaves to our passions. All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 That’s the sin condition. That’s why God had to send Jesus to save us. We just can’t save ourselves, no matter how hard we try.
There is the account of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9, which we read the week before. David hunted down anyone he could show kindness to on the behalf of his friendship covenant with Jonathan. Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s crippled son who lived in hiding because he deserved to die when his grandfather King Saul died in battle years before.
When the king died, they wiped out all of the sons and grandsons, so there was no claim to the throne. So when now King David found him (appeared), it was Meph’s day of reckoning.
But instead of pronouncing Meph’s death sentence, David showed the same incredible mercy God shows us: David took Meph to Jerusalem to eat at his table as his son for the rest of his life. No longer a death sentence, but now treated like the king’s son and living in the palace.
¤ That’s exactly what God does for us. We have all sinned, but instead of crushing us like ants, He appears in the form of Jesus and pours goodness and loving kindness out, because of God’s mercy. Also it is because of His covenant love for us, just like David’s covenant love that he had with Jonathan. He saves us, just like Mephibosheth was saved, and gives us a seat at His table. It’s not because of works done by us in righteousness–we don’t earn it or deserve it.
¤ The other good news–God washes us because we are dirty because of sin. Not just people with a rap sheet, but all of us, because all have sinned. And not just new believers, but all of us regularly. We all need washing. Jesus told Peter at the foot washing at the Last Supper that he was clean and he just needed his feet washed (John 13:10). So the good news for believers is that we get washed with a cleansing that lasts. It is a part of our spiritual renewal and regeneration that takes place at our new birth.
Isaiah 1:18 reads, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. We get them washed away. And then the Holy Spirit renews us. Again, not just once when we are born again, but all of the time. That is good news! It is this renewing that they need to change to not keep coming back to jail again and again. It is what I need to break my sin habits and to keep becoming who it is that He wants me to be–not the fleshly me that craves self and not the things of the Spirit.
¤ But that renewing of the Holy Spirit is also what keeps me going in my Christian life, some fifty years after my new birth. Psalm 103:5 promises, He satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. And Isaiah 40:31: But they who with for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
The renewing work of Holy Spirit is to keep changing me to be more like Jesus and it is to keep giving me the youth and energy that I need to enjoy life and to live it to its fullest!
¤¤I read a lot that we’re supposed to preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday. Well, I did it at jail, and I’m doing it as I write this. The good news is that Jesus changes everything and He is changing me. Without that I am toast. And without that x factor, so are those women that I spoke to in jail. He is the key to changing the heart and real change in our behavior and in our life.