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We sat together talking about faith in Christ and spiritual matters. As the hours passed I forgot where we were sitting and became absorbed in our discussion about what it means to be a committed Christian. But soon reality set in as a guard announced the end of visiting hours. We hugged and he returned to his prison cell and a guard escorted me to the visitor entrance.

As I walked through the metal detector and then watched the guard wand me, I thought about how as believers in Jesus Christ we are one in the Spirit. Even though my friend was paying the consequences for his poor choices, I was was no better than him. As Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

That is the beauty of the Kingdom of God. Despite our differences; despite our history; despite all our failings, we are one in the body of Christ (Romans 12:3-5). Galatians 3:26 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

As I drove away from the prison, I looked at the towering fence and razor wire that separated us. It was a blessing to be able to visit my friend. It encouraged me greatly to see how God was working in his life through other believers in prison and the prison ministry in the area. I left with greater empathy for his struggles and an understanding of how to better pray for him — a better understanding of what it means to be one in Christ.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. — Hebrews 13:3

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The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been called an ecological disaster. As oil continues to flow from the damaged well deep below the surface, it continues to coat wildlife, beaches and wetlands with the gooey, black substance. A major effort is under way to clean up the oil, but the only way to solve the problem is to stop the flow of oil from the source by capping the well.

It’s a vivid picture of what sin can do to our lives. Sinful thoughts deep inside our minds don’t seem harmful until they spew forth, coating our lives and those around us with its gooey darkness. We struggle to clean the mess sin causes in our life, but the only way to really stop it is at the source. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (NLT)

Each day becomes struggle to control our thoughts and our sinful nature. Paul describes this in Galatians 5:16-18 as a struggle between sinful desires and the Spirit. “These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions,” Paul says to break free we must let the Holy Spirit guide our lives. “Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” If we do not, then we become like Israel who Ezra described as “a land polluted by the corruption of its people.” (Ezra 9:11 NIV) Sin continued to spew forth, coating Israel in darkness.

So how do we capture sinful thoughts and focus on the Spirit? We must cap them at the source. “O Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will you harbor wicked thoughts?” (Jeremiah 4:14) We must fix our “thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” (Hebrews 3:1) We must let Christ and the Spirit capture our mind. “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)

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