The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news
to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners. — Luke 4:18
My friend Mr. Bi was a professor at Beijing University, known as “the Harvard of China.” He once famously lay down in front of the iron gates at the entrance of the school to prevent students from leaving the campus to join a potentially dangerous protest. Mr. Bi knew the danger and told the students they would have to dishonor him and step over his body to join the protest. Most of the students stayed back. The protests that night sparked the massacre of Tiananmen Square. Mr. Bi’s heroics saved scores of students’ lives.
However, he made a joke in class about the Communist party to a group of students. One of those students reported Mr. Bi’s joke to the police. The next day officers burst into Mr. Bi’s office and brought him to a remote, cold Communist prison—without warning, without a trial.
He woke up that morning as a professor chairing one of the most prestigious academic positions in the world. By nightfall, he was behind bars in prison. Chinese prisons at this time were some of the worst places on earth—horrible lairs of disease, torture, and death. Mr. Bi quickly plunged into depression and despair. His depression led to thoughts of suicide over the course of weeks. One afternoon, in a cloud of sadness, he brought himself to the window of his eighth-story prison cell. The Chinese did not put windows in the higher floors of prison cells. If a prisoner decided to throw himself to his death, it was not a problem.
Mr. Bi’s heart raced as he looked out and thought of jumping. And then it happened. He heard a small voice say, “Don’t go. Don’t go. Don’t go.” He sat down in the middle of his cell, desperate.
There on the hard concrete floor, strange memories flooded his mind. A friend of his, a foreign professor who was a Christian, had shared the Gospel with him. This friend had walked him through the story of Christ—how He took the burden of our sins on the cross and in turn offered forgiveness and a new life starting now in this world and going on forever in heaven.
Mr. Bi prayed, “Jesus, if You are real, please bring me this forgiveness and peace my friend told me You promised. In turn, I will offer my life and service to You.”
He looked up and, as he tells the story now, “The sky was never bluer, the sun was never brighter through the open hole of a window, and I had joy rise up inside of my heart like I have never felt before.”
This distinguished professor threw all of his reservations away and shouted out, “I have bright future in Jesus Christ!” There in the prison cell he said it again, this time louder: “I have bright future in Jesus Christ!” The guards heard him this time and cruelly told him to be quiet. But his joy could not be contained. He kept shouting it over and over until they came into the cell and beat him.
A person in a prison freed by believing the Gospel of Jesus is freer than any person outside of prison without the Gospel.
Mr. Bi was eventually released and started several orphanages in the interior of China, caring for the poor and leading many to Christ. He had a bright future in Jesus Christ. To this day his joy is infectious when you meet him. And he will tell you the joy he had in prison is the same he has to this day.
Every person feels at times they are in a prison of their own making—trapped by thoughts, habits, actions, and a nagging past that will not let them go.
The Gospel teaches us that the worst of all prisons is the one we make for ourselves. The cells of this prison are barred with our insecurities, with the deep awareness that something is not right inside us, that something is deeply broken. We carry this with us like chains around our necks. It is the human condition.
This will only change if something drastic happens.
The Gospel is the most drastic of measures. It’s a bloody cross. It’s the death of God Himself for our sake. It’s the utter smashing defeat of death itself in a glorious resurrection to show God’s love and power throughout all eternity.
What would happen if you woke up and reminded yourself of the Gospel every day? It would be Easter every morning. How different would your life be? How much more joyful, grateful, secure, and loved would you be?
Scripture reminds us that we must pay close attention to what we have heard, especially when it comes to the Gospel (Hebrews 2:1). The most important sermon you will ever preach is the one you preach to your own heart, daily reminding your heart, “I have a bright future in Jesus Christ.”
This post originally appeared on Thinke.org and was republished with permission.
This is an excerpt from Chosen, a 30-day devotional (Outreach) by Matt Brown and Ryan Skoog. You can get this book for very discounted rates for use in church-wide campaigns, small group studies, or as a gift book for people who come to faith in Christ, new visitors, or new members at your church. All author proceeds from the book go to feed refugees in some of the toughest areas of the world. Order at: https://www.outreach.com/Products/Outreach-Books/Chosen-52687.aspx