On a recent trip to an Ohio correctional institution with the HIM Prison Team, I was able to witness something incredible. One afternoon, as the team was greeting each of the prisoners entering the yard, one of the inmates approached me, shook my hand, and said, “How’s it going, man? Thanks for coming in to see us! It’s good to see you guys again!” At first, his “good to see you guys again” comment did not strike me as unusual, as it is common for inmates to see the team multiple times over the course of their prison sentence. However, I soon realized that the man who was greeting me was an inmate that we had seen two previous times this year, in two different institutions! This was the third time.
To understand just how incredible this encounter was, we need an understanding of how the Ohio Correctional system works. When a prisoner first enters into the correctional system, they are assigned to a facility based on their security risk and behavior. Level 1 is for the lowest risk inmate, and level 4 is for the highest risk ones. This man was being transferred from facility to facility because of his improved behavior and reduced security risk. He had been in three facilities in one year, and from what I have been told, this is highly unusual! So, what is going on with this guy? He is growing, and his growth is evident.
It was not long ago that this man surrendered to God’s will and gave his life to Christ. Now, with the grace and mercy of God, the power of the Gospel is apparent in his life. For the first time, he is growing spiritually and has begun the process of becoming like Jesus.
So, what makes this gentleman’s salvation appear different than others? Why does he seem to be growing, and others do not? The Apostle Peter gives us some insight into spiritual growth in his second letter.
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” (2 Peter 1:2–3 NKJV)
Notice that by God’s “power he has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”Anyone can live a life of godliness as long as they are using God’s power and seeking “the knowledge of Him.” For us today, this knowledge is obtained by the regular reading of the Word of God. If we ever expect to grow spiritually, we must have knowledge of the One we are trying to grow with, for, and like!
As I continued my conversation with my inmate friend, it became really apparent to me exactly what was happening.
- He had received and believed in the power of the Gospel message, and the Holy Spirit now lives in him (John 14:16-17).
- He is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- His former nature is fading away (Ephesians 4:22-24).
- He is reading the Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- He is willing to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).
Like I stated earlier, I witnessed something incredible that day. It was the power of a changed life. Whoever thought this prison inmate could or would ever change? I bet the Ohio prison system did not expect him to change, but it is apparent, he has changed. They may not recognize his growth as spiritual, but I did. He is growing, all because he was willing to submit himself to God’s power and His Word.
So, whose power are we using to grow? Are you only using your own power, or are you willing to grow through God’s power?