Encouraging Testimonies

Guilty as Charged

By Jesse Morrell

It was another day in court. By now it had all become routine to me. There were shackles around my legs which made it hurt when I walked. My wrists were cuffed to a big chain fastened around my waist. Only one thought was going through my mind while I was sitting in the small room behind the court with all the other criminals. It was the same thought going through everyone's mind in that room... will I be sent away or will I be set free?

A woman went into the main room right outside the doorway and spoke to the guards. My name was mentioned in the quick conversation so I knew she had come for me. The guard called me out of the small room into the main room where I was greeted by Shannon, the probation officer. She took me into the hallway and explained to me how the court session was going to go.

At the age of 15 everyone thinks they are invincible, and that is exactly how I felt. She could tell by the expressions on my face that I was not taking this very seriously. Every time I had gone to court in the past nothing serious happened. I expected that it would be the same this time. Expressions soon changed as she continued to speak to me. No longer did I see myself as an invincible 15 year old but I saw myself as a guilty criminal facing 5-10 years for Larceny in the 1st degree. I was guilty of robbing a house.

Panic gripped my heart, unbelief entered my mind, and tears started to form from my eyes. The guards led me into the court room where my eyes glanced upon my mother who was nervously waiting for the court session to begin. It seems that only the lucky ones who live the way I did reach their bottoms. Some never reach the point where enough is enough. This was the first time I had reached the bottom. Devastation is the only way to describe it. How could I have been so blind as to throw away 5-10 years of my life? How is my mother going to handle this when she hears the news? How am I going to survive such a long time in a cell and maintain my sanity?

The entire court room knew what my emotions were as I entered. The tears must have given it away or maybe it was the fact that I couldn't even lift up his head to see the judge because of shame and remorse. Maybe the judge will see my broken spirit and show mercy. Receiving grace again was an unrealistic fantasy. They all knew me as a violent, drug using, felon. As the judge spoke her words, they seemed to echo into my core and make me shake with fear. I was guilty of Larceny in the first degree and the entire court room knew that. This would be the second felony I would be guilty of by age 15. The evidence was all laid out plainly enough for all to see. They had enough statements and witnesses to put me away for a long time. Doom was inevitable.

After court they brought me back to Juvenile hall where I was placed in a cell. I had to wait a few weeks until my next court date. Prayer was my only resort. Although at the time I was clearly not a Christian, I had enough sense to pray to the God I thought would be there. In such a situation it would have to take the hand and power of God to get me out of this.

My prayers consisted of two main parts. God's part and my part. I prayed that if God gets me out of this devastating situation, I will do everything that I am supposed to do. No longer would I use or sell drugs. No longer would I be involved with the people that tempted me to do these bad things. Fights would no longer be part of my life, nor anything else that my conscience warned me was displeasing to God. Everything would change if only God would somehow get me out of this. That was the covenant I had made.

Eventually peace filled me heart. It was all in God's hands. My eyes were opened and the filth of my sins was revealed. What an ugly sight it was! How wrong I had been! How filthy I was! Oh, how polluted with iniquity my heart was. Amazingly my heart was determined that whether or not I spent time in prison, I will not spend my life in this filth any longer. Things would have to change.

Due to a previous court case, when I had violated my probation multiple times by failing the drug tests, I had been put on a waiting list for rehab. It was only a few weeks earlier that they had put me on the waiting list. All they were waiting for was an open bed. After only a few weeks of being locked up and waiting for my next court case, some people came to transfer me to a rehab. This was a rather unexpected event because of the current situation with the larceny case. Sure enough, before I had my next court session I was transferred to a 45 day rehabilitation program.

While I was there I learned everything about staying sober. All that I knew was drugs. The word sober itself was from a foreign language. It was during this time in rehab that I was strengthened and encouraged. The determination level for getting clean was as high as it could go. It was at this rehab where I finally became a real Christian and started growing in Christ. I had realized earlier, while I was in Juvenile hall, that there was no way God would find me innocent on Judgment Day and let me into Heaven. I knew because of the lying, the stealing, the adultery, and all my other sins I had done that my soul would be the kindling for the fires of hell. That's why I so quickly clung to the cross when it was revealed to me. After years of not even knowing why Christ died on the cross I became aware of the salvation God offers humanity. I started right away with Bible readings even though no one had ever told me that is what Christians do. The desire to read the Bible just came natural. Then the 45 days were up.

The court had released me from rehab on a PTA (promise to appear) to court. It would be only a few more days until I would have to return to that court room to settle the larceny case. It was early in the morning when my mother and I went to the court house. The guards and the public defender were standing by the metal detectors. As my mother and I walked into the building we saw the public defender speaking to the guards and smiling. As we started to empty our pockets to go through the detectors the public defender said "You don't have to do that."

Assuming that he couldn't have been speaking to us we continued to empty our pockets. Then the defender gently grabbed my arm and said, "You don't have to do that, you can turn around and go home right now." I was shocked. What did he mean? Could I turn around and go home? It was only about three months earlier that the court told me that I would be facing 5-10 years. I couldn't comprehend what the man had meant.

That's when my mother stepped up and said, "What are you talking about?" The public defender explained how the case had been dropped and now there were no more court cases, no more probation or drug testing. The court granted me a clean slate as if nothing ever happened. So without hesitation we left and went home.

I was the guilty criminal who God had mercy on. Those things all happened to me almost three years ago now. I am still unaware of all the details that happened in that court room but the one thing I do know is that God answered my prayer. He not only got me out of the larceny case, but He got me out of all my court-related problems. It was determined, because of a case a month earlier that I would be on probation for a year and a half. I was only about six months into that, yet I was released from it. That had nothing to do with the larceny case. God had been faithful to answer my prayer and so I have worked diligently ever since to hold up my end of the deal.

Do you see how I didn't even take my charges seriously until I realized the punishment? I was continually breaking the law but never received any serious punishment, so I didn't take the law seriously. Maybe you are just like I was except with Gods law. Maybe you're continually breaking God's holy Law, you're living in sin, and aren't taking it seriously because nothing too serious has happened yet. If you check history you will find out that 10 out of 10 people die.

God promises that "it's appointed a man once to die, and after that the Judgment." You may be living in sin now and are not taking God's Law seriously, but Judgment Day is coming. Remember this and think soberly and seriously about it: you too will have your day in court. Once judgment is passed on that "great and terrible day" there will be no appeals. You can't have your charges dropped on that day. You can't have a fancy lawyer for yourself, but rather you yourself will "give an account... to God." Be sure about it, you will give an account "in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel."

How do you know if you should be worried about giving God an account? You might be thinking to yourself "well that's fine, I will tell God all the good things I've ever done." God says that even your "righteousness is as filthy rags." When God looks at your life tell me, what is He going to see? Remember that nothing is hidden from His eyes. Every deed done in darkness will be brought to light. Have you any secret sins that you wouldn't want God to see? The 10 Commandments will be there on that day. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever used God's name in vain? Have you ever stolen anything? Stealing is merely taking something that doesn't belong to you? Did you know that Jesus said that if you look at another person with lust, then you commit adultery, have you ever done that? If you have then you're a lying, blaspheming, stealing, adulterer at heart who is in big trouble when you die.

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived." 1 Corinthians 6:9. Get honest with yourself and admit that you have "fallen short of the glory of God." "The wages of sin is death" God warns us. Well what sin? All sin, no matter if it is big or small in our eyes. Is not all sin rebellion against God who deserves our complete obedience to his Kingship? It all leads to death. I don't care who you are, if you have ever sinned against God then you deserve your death. Just like me, you deserve the wrath of God. It doesn't matter if you're a janitor or if you're a politician. But let me say this. I don't care who you are, if you have sinned against God, you could be forgiven in less than a second!

Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ the Son of God was born of a virgin and lived without sin so that He could be the "unspotted Lamb" to "take away the sin of the world." Every bit of wrath that you're sinning stored up for yourself, Christ took upon Himself because of His great love and mercy. Isaiah 53:5 says "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." Get honest and admit that "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

If you have never turned away and forsaken your sins before then you need to do that. Jesus Himself said that we need to be "born again" in order to see the Kingdom of God. If you turn away from violating God's Law, and believe that Christ took the penalty of your rebellion, then God will grant you the free gift of everlasting life. The greatest gift you could ever receive is eternal life, and the greatest gift you could ever reject is the mercy of God.

See What it means to be a Christian

Then read an insightful parable by Jesse Morrell: The Church of the Comfortable and Tolerant

Copyright by Jesse Morrell. Posted with permission.

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