Because He first loved us


Today I wanted to share the testimony of my friend Samuel Leiro:

I just realized that today marks four years to the day since the last time I was arrested. I was a slave to the needle and to my own flesh and weighed about 135 pounds. I was without hope. This is my mugshot from that last arrest.

God was merciful enough to take me as I was, but gracious enough not to leave me that way. Four years and 60 pounds later, I’m still not perfect, nor will I ever be this side of eternity. The difference is that now I have hope, and in Christ, I have life.

Soli Deo Gloria – To God Alone Be the Glory

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)

There’s hope for your life. There’s redemption for you in Christ.

Sam’s testimony means a lot to me, because when I first met him at His Mansion, just a few years ago he was just beginning his recovery from a serious heroin addiction. My wife and I were serving on staff at His Mansion, a Christian Recovery Ministry. Sam came to my Bible Studies, asking some really good questions, and obviously very interested in scripture and very motivated to give his life to Jesus. Today Sam is a seminary student, equipping himself for a life of ministry and service to our Lord.
Sam shared this report about his new ministry on Death Row in Florida State Prison. I love the line Sam wrote: “This man knows God as if he shared a cell with Him. And that’s because he does!” It reminds me of these verses from Psalms:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
Psalm 139:7-8

God is with us, even in prison or jail.

Here’s what Sam wrote:

I went to Florida State Prison today with Lewis. There are three men today that I spoke with who are living testimonies to the power of God’s grace.

First I spoke with Corey, my friend who is serving a life sentence without the chance of parole for a murder he committed about five or six years ago. He has been praying more and reading his bible, and has been overcoming some of his anger issues that he has had for most of his life. I gave him some copies of my weekly bible study to do and he was really grateful. He really encouraged me today and I’m looking forward to continuing to disciple him.

Lew and I also got to meet a man who was sentenced to death for murder. He was very polite and soft spoken. He made no excuses for His past sins. He knows that he has destroyed his own life as well as the lives of many others, and has negatively affected many more… But he also knows the Lord. He knows that no amount of his own works can ever change what he has done in the past, but even sins as grievous as his can be forgiven if he is born again in Christ. He has lots of questions, and still has a lot to grow. I hope that this will be the beginning of a long friendship.

There was another guy on death row a few cells down named Robert, and let me tell you, this man knows God as if he shared a cell with Him! And that’s because he does. He has nothing but time on hands and has taken that time to face the reality of his condition. He knows there is nothing within his natural self that could ever make him better. He has been seeking for an answer to his own depravity, and found that answer in Christ. He wasn’t just sick, he was spiritually DEAD. But now he is alive and full of life! You could never expect a man who has been sentenced to die to have such peace about him, even joy! That peace and joy comes from the Holy Spirit who now lives inside him.

These men have found peace in Jesus Christ in one of the most chaotic, frightening, and lonely places on the face of the Earth. One is just beginning, another has really started to grow, and the third is unquestionably bearing fruit of the Holy Spirit! These men are murderers. They actually killed people. Let that sink in. They were violent, hateful, prideful, men who took the lives of other humans, and because of their sins they will never see freedom again. Before coming to Christ, their lives could not in any way be described as peaceful.

2 thoughts on “Because He first loved us

  1. I too was saved in prison… Thank you Jesus… I did my time and by God’s grace I go back behind bars to share His love. Glory . and Forgiveness.. ..

    Liked by 1 person

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