Al Johnson robbed the Hoyt State Bank near Topeka Kansas. He got away with it for over four years, too. You’ll never guess how he got caught!

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19-year old Al Johnson had robbed the bank with two accomplices and escaped with the cash. The case had gone cold and not one of them had been caught. Everyone had forgotten about it and given up. Well, almost everyone.

God had a great plan in mind, an illustration of both justice and grace that would be heard to miss. A few months after the birth of their first son, Johnson’s wife convinced him to accompany her to church. The message of the cross and the forgiveness God offered got through to Al, and he decided to give his life to Jesus. Now 23 and a new believer, Johnson had to come to grips with what to do about the bank robbery. “I prayed about it and asked the Lord to give me an answer,” Al recounted. “The only answer He would give me was to go and give myself up.” So on Saturday Johnson went to the County Attorney and confessed to a crime that could land him in the state penitentiary for decades. He was arraigned on charges of bank robbery and armed kidnapping and released on bond pending a preliminary hearing. On Sunday he went back to church and confessed his crime from the pulpit “in front of God and everybody.” On Monday Al went back to the bank to return his share of the money.

The judge at the preliminary hearing released Johnson. Not because of his willing confession, nor because of his voluntary return of his ill-gotten gains. But because, under the law, he could not prosecute him. The statute of limitations had run out on the crime two years earlier, and though Johnson was guilty by his own admission, the law was powerless. It was a matter of simple math.


Now math was never my favorite subject, perhaps because I’m not very good at it. But some math is SO SIMPLE that even I can understand it. Four minus two equals two. The State of Kansas was two years too late to prosecute Al Johnson. Simple math.

But the truth is that Johnson didn’t need a penitentiary to make him penitent. God had taken care of that. Johnson had seen the sin in his life and didn’t want to carry it into his marriage and family. God had taken care of that, too. Jesus added His grace, subtracted the sin and left the balance of love and faith in Al Johnson’s heart. Simple math.


“Repentance“ is not basically a religious word. It comes from the nomadic culture of the Middle East, developed in a world with no maps or street signs, only hills, valleys and streams. It’s easy to get lost walking through the desert. The sooner you become aware that the countryside is strange and say to yourself, “I’m going in the wrong direction,” the better off you’ll be. But coming to that conclusion is only the first act of repentance. The second act of repentance is turning around to go in the right direction. THAT is what repentance actually means. When I’m driving in the car with my wife, if she tells me to turn left and I turn right I’m heading in the wrong direction. It does me no good to admit it, to apologize for it or even to promise never to do it again. The only change that will really matter occurs when I’m willing to turn around.

Many churches today – as incredible as this seems – are trying to be “Christian” without obeying either Jesus Christ or the clear teaching of the bible. They want to supposedly hold onto both their new “beliefs” and their old behaviors. They are not willing to let go of sin. They are under the misconception that they can add Jesus without subtracting sin. That’s absurd. It’s simple math.

You and I need to be willing to repent – to turn around. Add Jesus. Let Him subtract sin. Do the math.

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