Welcome to Bastøy Prison Island. This piece of land is a lush, one square mile isle comprised of pine trees, beautiful coastlines, and serene ocean sunset views. 115 prisoners are fortunate enough to stay at this prison, or maybe a better label would be holiday resort. The inmates enjoy amenities such as a sauna, tennis courts, horseback riding, prime fishing spots, and a beach for sunbathing. There is even a “prison blues band.” They stay in cherry red painted wood cottages to which they hold their own keys. They are allowed to have TVs in their rooms and wear whatever clothing they want.
While on the island the prisoners work weekday jobs such as gardening, farming, grounds maintenance, and gathering firewood. They can have meals prepared by a chef or they can choose to buy their own food from the local shop and cook it themselves. The chef-prepared meals include everything from chicken con carne to salmon. So, what types of criminals are kept on this island? There are murderers, rapists, and drug traffickers to just name a few. As you might imagine, this prison has received plenty of criticism for their methods. Whether we agree with their “punishment” or not, there is no doubt the Bastøy Prison is a lavishly comfortable prison.
Interestingly, there is another prison in existence that rivals the Bastøy Prison. This prison doesn’t even feel like a prison. In this prison many of the inmates don’t even realize they are incarcerated! What prison is this? Paul gives us the answer: “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:21-23).
The prison Paul is referring to is the prison of our own sinful desires. When we give in to our fleshly lusts, we become prisoners of our sinful cravings. This is a prison that every accountable person has stepped into (Romans 3:23). This is a prison many people are ignorantly happy to stay in (John 3:19-20). This is a prison where the majority of the inmates will remain their entire lives, with few obtaining freedom (Matthew 7:13-14). This is a jail where the prisoners can engage in the sins they choose (Romans 1:21-32 provides an all too accurate description). This is a prison where there may not be immediate punishment, but those left in this prison will be transferred to a permanent prison of torture (Luke 16:19-31; Matthew 13:40-43, 49-50).
After realizing the dangerous incarcerated state he was in, Paul asked the right question, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death” (Romans 7:24)? He reveals the answer is in none other than “Jesus Christ our Lord” (7:25). In the previous chapter, Paul tells us more about this freedom in Christ. Those who receive this freedom will “walk in newness of life” (6:4), will become “united with Christ” (6:5), and “freed from sin” (6:7). The question is: how can we receive this freedom? Paul clearly identifies the get the get out of jail card comes through “baptism into Jesus Christ” (6:3-7).
Are you living in the prison of your desires? It may seem good now, but it’s only temporary. Freedom is available. Have you been freed (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21)?