How am I supposed to live, now that I am saved and in jail?

Not everyone is nice here. There is a lot of cussing. Should I just keep to myself? I am no better than anyone else, but I don’t want to fall back into that kind of life.

By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

I am happy to read your question for it shows that there has been a genuine change in your heart and life. You were a sinner and something you did in “that kind of life” brought you into jail. Now you’ve been saved and you are no longer comfortable in “that kind of life.” God’s Word tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (NKJV). The next verse goes on to say, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ.”

The fact of your not being comfortable with the life you once led is evidence that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in your heart. Being God, the Holy Spirit is holy. Being holy, He cannot stand sin. So you feel that your life should be different from the life you used to lead, the life that resulted in your being put in jail. This is right. You have been born again and are really a different person now. God has given you an entirely new nature and He now calls you a saint. People have strange ideas of what it means to be a saint. Some even have the unscriptural ideas that only people who have died are saints and that they can help us if we pray to them. Another is that a church or a religious official can make a person a saint. No individual or human organization is able to do this, for this is something God alone can do.

A saint is a holy person. He is someone who is separated to God. Your question shows that you realize this in your heart even if you might not express it in precisely these words. While you are still outwardly the same person you always were, a change has taken place in your heart that changes your entire outlook on life, thus your question, “How am I supposed to live now that I am saved?” God answers that question in 1 Peter 1:15-16: “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”

I am not going to lay down a set of rules for you to follow, for God is not putting Christians under any kind of law today. But He has given us the Lord Jesus Christ, His beloved Son, first of all as Savior, but then also as a pattern or model or example to follow. We see this in 1 Peter 2:21.

You mention that there is “a lot of cussing” there in jail. I’m sure it hurts you to hear men use the name of the Lord Jesus, who loves you and died for you and who is now your Savior, in their cursing. Have you ever told men who use His name what He has done for you and what He now means to you? This might possibly speak to their heart or conscience. Perhaps it would bring questions from them or give rise to a discussion. In that way you would be a testimony to them. In any case, speak quietly and courteously; don’t argue or get mad and yell.

If they use the word “hell” in their cursing or ask God to damn someone or something, you might have an opening to ask if they understand what they’ve just said or wished. This might give you an opportunity to explain what hell is and how to avoid going there. You could perhaps explain that if God would damn someone to hell, this would be because that person is a sinner who has sinned against God, who is holy and hates sin. Tell them too that although “the wages of sin is death, the gift of God” (which He would much rather give than pay out death as wages that have been earned by sinning) “is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). This might lead to your telling them how and why Jesus died, that He is still the Savior of sinners, and that He has become your Savior. Back up your words by your life.

If your fellow prisoners argue and don’t want to listen, don’t force the issue. It’s better to keep to yourself than to be in the company of men who are against God, who has become your Father when you got saved, and against the Lord Jesus Christ, your Savior. Read Psalm 1. In fact, read the Bible and thereby get better acquainted with God and the Lord Jesus.

Quietly show by your changed life what it is to be a Christian. Actions speak louder than words. Ask the Lord to help you. Do this each day and even repeatedly during the day. And when you mess up, for that’s easy for any of us to do, don’t hesitate to apologize for what you’ve done wrong and ask forgiveness if it’s something you’ve done to a person. Confess what you’ve done to the Lord; He forgives us when we confess our sin (1 Jn. 1:9); we don’t even have to ask Him for forgiveness.

Pray. Look to Him for guidance each day. Seek to please Him. Don’t worry. Read your Bible daily, preferably early in the day. Don’t waste time with anyone who is trying to pull you away from the Lord and back into the old ways. Don’t act as if you’re better than others or show off. Don’t keep condemning or trying to correct others. Don’t expect unsaved people to live like Christians should live. If the Lord should lead you to a fellow believer, be thankful. Pray together. Read and study God’s Word together. Enjoy what fellowship you can. Discuss differences you may have but don’t argue about different viewpoints.

The Christian life is a life that must be lived during all your waking hours each day, 365 days a year and 366 days each leap year. It does not necessarily get easier as time goes on. When you get out of jail, don’t fool around with things that were a part of your old pre-Christian life. Don’t hang around with the crowd with whom you used to associate, but do tell them why and what has made the difference in your life. May God bless you!