My Association With the Thief on the Cross

At some time in everyone’s life we must come to grips with who we are. In those moments, when we begin to ask the questions, most of us search for meaning in who we are. If we are honest and even courageous, we will admit that there are things wrong with us. Each of those “things wrong with us” ultimately come from the reality (a reality we may not know or understand yet) that we are sinners.

Sinners! What does that mean. That means that we have gone against some standard or level of truth that we have not achieved and what we have done to compensate for our failure is sin. Of course that word, “sin” means “to miss the mark.”

I’ve played darts some, I’ve shot a basketball at a basket, a lot (I am a Hoosier), I have tried kicking a few field goals and in every case (especially kicking field goals) I missed the mark. But, that is not as strong a concept as what the Biblical term sin implies.

Missing the mark implies consequence for failing. Just because I didn’t score the points when I missed in darts and basketball and football, doesn’t mean there is a consequence. There may be some sort of consequence. I might lose the game for my team if I miss. That’s too bad. I might, if I am a professional athlete (which I’m not nor have I ever been close to being one) I might lose my position on the team. But the consequence of sin, of missing the mark, is comprehensive, it is death, spiritual, eternal death.

“The wages of sin is death….” Romans 6:23, KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV (cf, 1 John 5:17)

As I realized that I had failed God’s standard; “Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence” (the Good News Bible), because of my sin, I realized I needed Jesus.

Jesus overcame and conquered so much in God’s name for you and I. Most importantly for us right here and right now, he conquered sin and death (Romans 4:25 & 8:2) and freed us to become a part of the Father’s kingdom of love and life.

The thief on the cross, when he looked to Jesus and asked for mercy in his kingdom, took the humble attitude of realizing that he had sinned but Jesus had not, that he deserved death but Jesus didn’t, that he needed Jesus’ mercy and Jesus could give it (Luke 23:40-43).

When I am dying in my sins (see passages above), I am dying away from God, without hope, but not without help. Jesus is there waiting on my call to him to save me. When I come to him in my dying spiritual condition and confess my belief in him, wanting to turn and come to God, when I die through immersion (Romans 6:1-10; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21), Jesus is saying to me, “Now, you are joining me in my glory, with the Father, forever.”

It is then that I become associated with the thief on the cross. Because I am now coming into Christ and am forgiven, forever, for glory, for good.

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Baptism is the Sinner’s Prayer

It’s controversial. It may be the most controversial debate among Christians. To be saved does a person have to say “the sinner’s prayer,” or do they have to be “immersed” (IE., baptized)?

Personally, I had never heard of the sinner’s prayer until I began studying in Bible college. I grew up in church, was a part of Sunday School and youth groups, heard sermons and learned lessons from my parents and grandmother from the Bible and never once did I encounter the sinner’s prayer.

There’s a reason for that. The church I grew up in taught the Bible, not the doctrines of men. The Bible says nothing about a sinner’s prayer. The New Testament teaching about salvation involves a person coming to believe in Jesus Christ, repenting of their sins and their life of sin, confessing Jesus, and being immersed to be saved. There is nothing about saying a prayer.

Some past posts have dealt with this:

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/09/28/evangelism-is-what-it-is-or-is-it-what-must-i-do-to-be-saved/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/whats-the-bible-say/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/the-sinners-prayer/

If you click on the link “Salvation Stuff” on the left you will see several discussions about baptism. The real issue is what does the Bible say. The Bible says “Be Baptized” (meaning be immersed). I can’t find and no one has been able to show me where the Bible says to say a prayer for salvation.

When Jesus was baptized, he didn’t offer a prayer. I know he was sinless, but he was still immersed. Read through Acts,

Artwork entitled, "Difference of Opinion"

every conversion account involves baptism, but there in nothing about saying a prayer.

Recently, I received a comment about this from a reader. When some people he encountered learned he hasn’t said the sinner’s prayer, they question his salvation. You know, I might question theirs because they said a sinner’s prayer. The Bible says because you have believed in Jesus and repented, then be baptized. Were they baptized and why were they baptized?

The apostle Peter, the one Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom to (Matthew 16:19), spiritually speaking (though he was implying that all the apostles had the keys), who preached the first sermon about Jesus Christ (Acts 2), he taught us that baptism is necessary.

In Acts 2, when the crowd asked what they needed to do to be saved, he said, “Repent and be baptized, for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  Then after a few more words of encouragement, about 3000 people were baptized.

When Peter wrote the letter called 1 Peter, he wrote these words. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:18-21).

Baptism now saves you. When you are immersed, you are appealing to God to save you because you have obeyed and followed the conditions God has set for your salvation. Your baptism in essence is the sinner’s prayer.

I believe the Bible, it is God’s Word, it is what I follow and teach, the Word of God. The Bible says be baptized.

Baptism is the sinner’s prayer!

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Boy Am I Blessed!

It is not hard to become a Christian. You hear the Gospel of Jesus and when you believe the Gospel, you have faith in Christ (Romans 10:14-17). Then when you have met the conditions (faith; Romans 10:9-10; repentance; Acts 2:38; confession: Romans 10:9-10, & baptism; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21), then you are saved, God has saved you because you have identified with Christ through his death (that’s what immersion is for, cf., Romans 6:1-6). That’s the easy part, knowing what to do, but, it can be more difficult for some people to come to the point of belief, or repentance. It can be difficult to let go of what we already know and keep ourselves living in the that way which the Bible describes as sinful and worldly and idolatry.

Once I am saved, when I have become a Christian, well things are new. The Bible even calls it a new life (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:16). I am not who I was. I have a brand new life, I start over. If I simply keep living the way I had before, then I am not different just a little older. But with salvation in Christ, with the Holy Spirit in my life, with God’s Word the Bible leading me, then I am being transformed, renewed (Rom. 12:2) into the likeness of Christ.

At least one time, when there was a huge crowd of people, Jesus taught them. In Matthew 5, he was on a mountain in Galilee and began to teach the crowds. He began with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-16).

Each “Beatitude” begins with “Blessed are…” meaning, “joyful are those who….”

This is what it is like to live in Christ, to be a Christian, to have life.

  • It is a joyful thing to realize you are poor in your spirit and you need God. It is joyful because God’s kingdom is in us; Mt. 5:3
  • It is a joyful thing to mourn that you are a sinner, because God’s salvation will bring you comfort; Mt. 5:4
  • It is a joyful thing to be meek. Gentle in character but firm in conviction; you will “inherit the earth,” fill it with joy; Mt. 5:5
  • It is a joyful thing to hunger and thirst for righteousness, because you will have; Mt. 5:6
  • It is a joyful thing to be merciful, you’ll get mercy back and from God; Mt. 5:7
  • It is a joyful thing to have a pure heart, you are going to get to see God because of it; Mt. 5:8
  • It is joyful when you are a peacemaker, that’s what the children of God do; Mt. 5:9
  • It is a joyful thing when people persecute you because of your righteousness, it means you are in the kingdom and people who hate God hate Christ in you and will try to insult and stop you; Mt. 5:10-13

This is spiritual of course. It plays out here in the material world with the sense that God’s kingdom is expressed in and through your life.

This is the character of those who are saved. Not one or another of the Beatitudes, but all of them together. It’s like the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It’s not one or two things, it’s all of them at once that make up the produce of your life.

Why am I blessed? I am blessed because I have salvation, I have God in my life and Christ is leading me by the means of his Spirit. I have heaven and a great reward, now and in the future (John 10:10, “life abundant”).

Boy am I blessed!

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Am I Really Like This? (Romans Pt. 9)

A few years after I accepted Christ and was baptized, I began to experience a sense of guilt. I got my dad alone and told him I thought I needed to be baptized again.

I have to tell you that my dad was an elder at our church then and my dad was and is a man of wisdom. He studies God’s word. He learns and grows in understanding. I was 13 or 14 and he gave me some of the best advice and understanding I’ve ever received. Dad knew that there is only one baptism (Ephesians 4:4-6) and that I had been baptized for the forgiveness of my sins and salvation (Acts 2:38, and 1 Peter 3:21 ). He was there when I asked what I needed to do to be saved. He was there when I was baptized and shared in the prayer my preacher gave right after I was immersed. Dad knew the correct answer to my dilemma.

I needed to repent. I didn’t need to be baptized again (some call it rebaptism – it’s unheard of in the Bible). I just needed to repent. To determine to change and to live out the change into holiness.

Listen to Paul’s explanation of what we often title this section, “The Conflict of the Two Natures” . . . Romans 7:14-25

“14For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 21I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23but 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. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin,” NASB (Check out the New Living Translation; http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%207:14-25&version=NLT ).

Here’s the problem. We are human beings living in the material (fleshly) world. There are sinful, worldly, “fleshly” forces that tempt us and work on our knowledge of what sin is. It’s kind of like this. You walk by a park bench that’s just been painted and there is a sign that says, “Stay off. Wet Paint!’ What is your first inclination? Either you want to touch it to see if it is wet, or you want to touch it because it says, “Stay off!.” Being a little rebellious and disobedient.

We do the things we know we’re not supposed to do and we don’t do the things we know we ought to do. There is a struggle. We are saved by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8). We have the Holy Spirit of God in us (Acts 2:38). But we are still living in this imperfect, sinful world until Jesus comes back. We are going to struggle. It will be difficult to keep from returning to the way of sin. Even Paul, who I thought when I was a teen was able to totally keep from sinning, struggled with doing what is right and not doing what is wrong.

Click on picture to enlarge

We’re supposed to be __________________. You can fill in the blank with words like, holy, righteous, perfected, etc.

If we have to struggle with what we were losing at in the first place because of sin, how is it possible to become what God wants me to become?

This is where you read Romans 8 and learn that God is at work in you and that is how you overcome the power of temptation and sin. Follow this link: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans%208&version=NASB

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This is What it Means to be Saved

You and I can talk all day about the conditions that lead to salvation and eternal life. It does need to be discussed. It IS important to know what must happen in your life and mine for us to gain salvation from God through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). We’ve dealt with these conditions before here (click on Salvation Stuff in the menu to the left).

What has got to happen in my life, what are the conditions that make it possible for God to save me?

I believe in Jesus. John 3:16; Romans 10:10&11). I believe that God sent Jesus and that he is the Son of God and that God raised him from the dead. This is the beginning of discipleship. Every person that has ever been saved were saved because they believed that Jesus is the Christ. They have faith in God and in Christ and in the things of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. BELIEF, that’s one.

I have to repent of my sin, Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30. If God is going to change me, because I am letting him, belief is opening the door and repentance is letting God in to clean out the mess that sin is. Repentance is as Gareth Reese says [“New Testament History, Acts,” College Press Publishing, Joplin, MO, 1976, page 145-147], “individual, inclusive, and indispensable.” Repentance is done by and found in individuals, and it is for everyone (inclusive) and salvation cannot happen without repentance (indispensable). It involves my intellect, knowledge of sin, a change in my emotions, I must feel the sense of guilt that I possess and be sorrowful for it, and it involves a change of my will, letting God take over my messed up life to make things right in my life. REPENTANCE is another.

I must confess Christ, Romans 10:10-11. If I have let change come into my life, it’s got to show. I have to say it. I have to let it out that I believe in Jesus and that I have made him my Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), that I belong to him, I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. This is a continual thing. It doesn’t happen only once, it is constant. I belong to Christ, I declare that I am his by my lifestyle and my message of faith. CONFESSION, that’s a third one.

I must be baptized, Acts 2:38; Romans 6:16; 1 Peter 3:21. Baptism is immersion. That is what the word actually means and it is the only form that the church practiced with the apostles. I must submit myself in humility to baptism in order that God will forgive me of my sins and give me salvation. It all happens when we come in contact with Jesus’ death and resurrection by our own death and resurrection. We are buried in baptism and raised from the water with new life. Pretty cool concept. A new life, a fresh start that propels me on my way to heaven. BAPTIZED, that a fourth one.

But is that what it means to be saved? Those are the conditions that make it possible for God to save us, but what it means to be saved is to be different. Not different for the sake of being different, but different as in changed and being formed into the likeness of Christ.

You were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). Sin distorted that image (it’s in your soul). Sin corrupted the goodness that is in you, it robbed you of innocence as God is good and innocence, you have no righteousness, but Jesus brings the change that will restore you to God’s good graces. He is God come to earth (Matthew 1:23; Colossians 1:15–16). And when we are saved through Christ, we are renewed. He refreshes that original image of God that we possess.

That means how we live, think, and act is totally different from the ways of the world. We possess the goodness and righteousness of God and do right and good and kindness in this world. We live holy as God is holy, without sin, with the power of God. We are saved and eternal life with God the Father is our home. We get to be with God because when we have met the conditions in our lives, where our heart, mind, and soul are prepared to accept Christ, then God saves us.

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God Gets Amnesia (Romans Pt 5)

What if everything bad you’ve ever done was forgotten? No one held any of it against you, no one accused you of being bad and doing wrong. How awesome would that be? Free from accusation and conviction; free from feeling guilt and fear; free to start over a new beginning. That would be great, wouldn’t it?

You are guilty of wrong because you have sinned against God and honestly, whatever wrong you have done (your sin), though it is an offense against God, it was probably committed in relationship with people. You hated someone, you lied to someone, you disobeyed your parents, you cussed someone out, you felt your boyfriend (or girlfriend, whichever) up. You have disobeyed God and you are guilty. Conscience, a law unto itself condemns you (Romans 2:12-16, 26-27). If you live by God’s Law, the Old Testament Law, aka, the Law of Moses, the Law and the Prophets, when you have broken any individual law, you are guilty of the whole Law (Rom. 2:17-25).

Wouldn’t it be great if you weren’t guilty of wrong? That’s what happens in Jesus Christ, through your faith in Jesus Christ. You are made right in Jesus Christ. The Bible, especially here in Romans uses the word justified.

When you write or type a paper or presentation, your margin is justified. It is made right. It is consistent and looks

Abraham

neat, and is easy to follow. It is straight, it is correct. When you are justified in Christ, you are made right, you have become righteous, you have the righteousness of Jesus attributed to your life. You are made just. You are have had justice assigned to you. You are justified in Christ.

Abraham is well-known to most of us. He’s the guy in Genesis 12 who obeyed God, left his country and became a nomad, not the classic 2-door Chevy wagon of the late 50’s, but someone who lived their life in tents, moving about as need and necessity warranted. Abraham was justified by faith. Romans 4 indicates that he didn’t do anything to earn rightness. God offered, he believed God and God certified that Abraham was righteous.

Paul quotes David in Romans 4:7-8. “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the one whose sins the Lord will not take into account.”

Pretty cool, huh! Christ’s death, your faith, God’s forgiveness, your salvation.

It is by faith so that God’s grace can be input into your life, so you can be forgiven, your sins forgotten and not held against you, because if your sins are held against you, you are in trouble.

____________________________________________________________________________

Degarmo and Key sang about God having “Selective Amnesia” on their album Heat it Up! Following are the lyrics:

There is an eye in the sky, that sees in the darkness

He searches the soul and He pierces the conscience
I’m not proud or everything that He’s seen
But when it comes to that past, He’s got selective amnesia
It’s not that He’s old or losing His memory
I’ts just that He knows that we need His mercy
There’s no excuse for living in sin
But there’s always a chance to start over again
He knows it all and there’s some news that will please ya
When it comes to that past, He’s got selective amnesia

Press on and never look back
Press on, the past is the past
Press on, He’s paid for your debt
And you should remember that you’ve got to forget

There is an eye in the sky, that sees in the darkness
He searches the soul and He pierces the conscience
I’m not proud or everything that He’s seen
But when it comes to that past, He’s a mercy machine
He knows it all and there’s some news that will please ya
When it comes to that past, He’s got selective amnesia

Press on and never look back
Press on, the past is the past
Press on, He’s paid for your debt
And you should remember that you’ve got to forget


The Convenient Truth (Romans Pt 4)

Grace sits easily in the chair that sin once occupied.

Our lives are a mess. Your life is messed up, my life is messed up. It’s the reality that results from sin. Sin sits so easily in our lives, sin is so natural for us it would seem we were born with it. We weren’t, we are born totally innocent. It would be immoral for God to count sins against a child who had never sinned, who couldn’t sin. They haven’t learned to sin . . .  yet, but the world will get a hold of them to the point that they will eventually sin and be guilty before God.

And that guilt is why we have all the trouble in the world that we do. Sin effected more than our souls, our spiritual side, it affects our natural world as well. That is why things are going from bad to worse. That is why more diseases are discovered every generation. That is why the earth and nature are in such turmoil. We sinned and the whole world has been effected by it.

Romans chapters 1, 2 & 3 tell how those with different relationships with God are guilty of sin.

  • The Gentile, the non-Jew, those who have no relationship with God at all are guilty of sin because nature itself, our own bodies tell us there is a God but we ignored that fact and lived as if there is no God. Life full of what is immoral according to God’s character, filled with the me-tude. It’s all about me, whatever I want, whatever I feel, I will do and it’s ok. I’m my old god in one sense. I make my own way, my own decisions and live by that (Romans chapter 1).
  • The Jew, who knew better, who had the law of God, who knew to honor God alone, to honor parents, to be faithful to their spouses, to not lie about their neighbor and more, they are guilty of sin because they too have sinned. They found ways around God’s laws, they avoided the relationship they had with God and they are guilty of sin within their system of religion (Romans chapter 2).
  • To sum it up, Paul writes in Romans chapter 3 that every individual is guilty before God. The non-Jew and the Jew alike. The Gentile who didn’t know God and the Jew who did. And even the Jew who did is responsible for their sin individually. God’s promises and protection in the past had to do with dealing with them as a nation for the sake of the world, but they were always individually responsible to God. Everyone is guilty of sin. “All have sinned and come short of God’s glory” Romans 3:23.

What’s the use then. If we are all guilty, what does it matter if I live for God or not. And it’s not as if God is out to get us with lightning bolts or flipping his finger at us and going, “F-U!”

This is actually when grace comes in and shouts, “Here I am!” God’s not out to get us, he wants to have an intimate relationship of love, grace, mercy, and openness with you and with me.

Read Paul’s words from Romans 3:21-31…

21But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,22even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justified of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27Where then is boasting? It is excluded? By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29Or is He not the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. 31Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

(New American Standard Bible)

This grace, comes through YOUR faith in Jesus. God’s grace overrides sin’s power and effect. It not only sits easily where sin sat, it moves sin out, grace destroys sin. In fact, we are told that when our sins are forgiven, God blots out the record of our sin, as if there is an actual book that each of our sins has been recorded in and God uses “Wite-out” to cover over the record of our sins so that he can forget them and will not hold them against us because of his grace that comes by faith that is propitiated by Christ Jesus’ blood shed on the cross.

And God’s grace rests in our lives with merciful forgiveness so that we are not guilty.

I had a “Mandrake the Magician” game when I was a kid. It was based on the Mandrake comic book. I don’t remember much about the game except that there were these cards that had clues hidden on them. The clues were red and the there were these blue markings all over the card to hide the clue. You had to look through a view finder of some sort in order to see what the clue was. It was red. The red somehow washed the blue out and the clue in red was easily seen.

Christ’s blood given to us by God’s grace applied to our lives reminds me of the hidden clues and the view finder of the Mandrake game. Our sins cover our lives and when God looks at us all he sees is sin. When Christ’s blood covers us, our sins, though they are still a part of our past are not seen because God sees us through Christ’s blood. His blood covers us and gives us God’s grace in our belief.

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