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Mending the Body of Christ Behind Prison Walls

Lesson One

Experiencing God's Love

My friend, Dr. James Richards, in his bookSupernatural Ministries, states: "The more you experience God's love, the more your heart will be changed, and the more you will do what you should do." 1 If we haven't experienced God's love, resulting in a changed heart, our efforts in ministry will be only a religious program, not a powerful move of God.

As Christians, we place great emphasis on loving God and others, but this is impossible without first understanding that God loves us. The Apostle John wrote: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us ... By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us... In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us... " (1 John 3:1,16; 4:10).

The key for winning the lost is to "...know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16). The wordabide means to settle down and make yourself at home in God's love. Then, the power of love is free to flow.

Only a few prisoners have experienced true, loving relationships in their lives. They have not been able to make themselves at home with a loving father. They have come from homes with violence, abuse of all kinds and turmoil in the family. They have gone elsewhere to find a substitute for the love they can't live without, never realizing that only Jesus can truly satisfy their need.

Jesus is our example of a loving father throughout the Gospels. He taught concerning the love of His Father, saying: "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser ... you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing ... As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you, abide in My love ... If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:1,5,9,10).

As a result of abiding in God's love, we are promised answers to prayer, fullness of joy and the ability to love God and others. Most prisoners have become very fearful, angry and controlling because they are connected to unhealthy relationships. They have never experienced contentment in Christ, but instead search for fulfillment from the world, never realizing that God's love is the missing element. Even after coming to Christ, only by experiencing God's love can the old man with his behavior traits be put to death or mortified. If not, our witness for Christ will suffer.

Not experiencing God's love hinders our mending, healing and change of heart, which allows us to become a productive member of the body of Christ. The Bible reveals two kinds of Christians: spiritual, those who know God's love; and carnal, those who don't! Those who know His love are healthy and radiant with God's glory shining upon their face. Their witness is contagious as they reach out with care and respect for others. Those who don't know God's love have a veil over their face. They are judgmental, argumentative and insecure. One is a productive member of the Body of Christ; the other hinders the work of the ministry, never entering the divine flow of love.

Jesus prayed for all believers before His death, asking: "... that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me... that they may behold My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world... that the love which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:23-26). Is there any doubt that our Father loves us just as He did Jesus before the foundation of the world?

I have met hundreds of struggling Christian brothers in prison. For example: One has never been able to live a committed Christian life, living in fear of failure. Another contends for his chosen doctrine with great ferocity, even to the point of expressing his views with anger. And another shuns all Christians who don't believe like him, living in fear of compromise. All these brothers share one thing in common. They are involved in religion, legalistic Christianity, instead of a powerful relationship with their loving heavenly Father. They admit to never truly knowing the love of God, and are willing to pray to understand God's love for them. Only this awakening can deliver them from their fears.

In other words, the love of God motivates us to love. As the Apostle John says: "we love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Likewise, we love others because He first loved us. The Apostle Paul says: "For the love of Christ compels us... " (2 Corinthians 5:14a). As a result, a wave of revival moves through the Body of Christ to the unbelieving world.

1 website: impactministries.com, recommended for purchasing the book Supernatural Ministry for prisoners.

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