31st March 2021

Escaping the prison of sin 

“…if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” 
John 8:36 (NKJV)

It once housed the worst criminals in the USA and it was based on the huge rock in San Francisco Bay. I’m talking, of course, about the Federal Penitentiary, Alcatraz, which is now a tourist attraction. The prison closed in 1963 after 29 years of active public service. A few inmates over those years attempted to escape by swimming across to the mainland, but they were either shot by guards, drowned in the cold water or never found.

Jesus tells us of another prison, one that we put ourselves into. It’s the prison of our hearts and minds! In John 8:34 Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (emphasis mine). People who practise a life of sin create for themselves a spiritual prison. Solomon, writing instruction to his son, made this point, ‘For the ways of man [and woman] are before the eyes of the LORD, And He ponders all his paths. His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, And he is caught in the cords of his sin.’ (Proverbs 5:21-22).

The great hymn writer, Charles Wesley, wrote the famous hymn, And Can It Be; the fourth verse of the hymn is especially poignant in this respect:

 Long my imprisoned spirit lay, 

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

 I rose, went forth, and followed thee.1

So what is the solution to this ‘prison of sin’ we can so easily fall into? Paul gives us the answer in Romans 7. He found himself at times slipping into sinful thoughts and actions and recorded, ‘For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells…O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ (Romans 7:18; 24-25). 

Paul understood God’s grace in his life when he fell short of God’s glory, and this forgiveness spurred him on in his spiritual journey. 

The world’s worst prison is not some physical, high-security building, filled with dangerous criminals. Rather, it is the prison of our hearts and minds that only Christ can free us from,  so let us allow Jesus to lead us along the path of freedom and peace. 

Thank you Father that we can sing with the hymn writer, ‘My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.’ Thank you for freeing us from the bondage of sin. In Jesus’ name. Amen

1 Modern version by Christopher Garth Norton. 

Study by John Magowan


About the writer:
John Magowan is a member of the Pastoral Council at Lisburn Grace Communion church, Northern Ireland.

Local congregation:
Lisburn Grace Communion
Ballymacbrennan School House
129A Saintfield Road
BT27 5PG

Meeting time:  
Sunday 11am

Local congregational contact:

Bob Beggs
Email: bobbeggs@hotmail.com

Word of Life contact: