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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How the Thieves Shared in the Death of Christ

1What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?  2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. 5 For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed[e] from sin’s claims.[f] 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. @Romans6.1-10 (HCSB)

After Jesus’ death, in order to access salvation one must by faith be immersed (cf., passage above, Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21, etc). We must share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Immersion (aka baptism) is the moment we share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Bible is very clear about this.

But think about this, there were two criminals, specifically thieves that were crucified with Jesus, one on each side of him. One of those thief’s had a change of heart and with a heart of sorrow and repentance and believed in Jesus. He asked Jesus to remember him in his glory and Jesus promised him he would be there with him.  The other thief died scorning Jesus, ridiculing him like the Jewish leaders taunting and belittling him on the cross. He died without repentance and was not given a promise of hope by Jesus.

Both of the thieves died, when Jesus died. I don’t mean they died at the very same instant, but they died on those crosses together. The one in the middle, the Savior for those who have faith in him, one died without faith, and the other died believing. The thieves literally shared in the death of Christ, but only one was given the promise of eternal life, @Luke23.39-43.

In other words, the thief that expressed his belief will awaken to eternal life.

When a person believes and repents, they are baptized. It is in that moment that we experience what the thief that Jesus promised Paradise too, salvation. We experience death and resurrection in the activity of baptism. Dead in sin, we are buried under the water and we rise out of the water alive in Christ. It is there that God applies salvation to our lives.

It is in death that Jesus forgave the repentant thief and it is in death that God forgives the repentant sinner.

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Which Thief (on the cross) Are You?

There’s a cross for you. I mean, the three crosses raised that day in A.D. 29 were our crosses. Our sin, our affront to God with our sin shows we are guilty and deserved death.

Three people died that day; Jesus in the middle, and two criminals on the left and right side of Jesus. When Jesus said “it is finished,” the fate of the two thieves was set. One would suffer in hell, the other, would join Jesus in “paradise.”

Sin destroys! Think about it. Sin doesn’t do good at all. The ultimate purpose of sin is to destroy the sinner. Lying destroys trust. Hate and murder destroys lives. Adultery destroys relationships and families. Sin destroys.

The reason for sin’s destruction is to hurt God. The devil, in the Garden of Eden, in the form of a serpent wanted to convince Adam and Eve to sin. He worked his deceit through Eve and Adam fell in with her in the sin.

The devil wants to hurt God, and what hurts the most, a severely broken relationship. Sin is the break-point and separation and punishment is the consequence, because, we have not obeyed the Father.

The thieves had separate attitudes about Jesus. One taunted Jesus to save himself. The crowds watching the spectacle were taunting Jesus in the same way. The other thief, realized that Jesus was without sin and that he did not deserve punishment. He even scolded the other thief. We deserve this punishment, but this man has done no wrong.

“For all have sinned” Romans3.23; and “the wages of sin is death” @Romans6.23. We are sinners, we deserved the death that Jesus died. But Jesus death was for sin. He was on the cross receiving the penalty for our sin, therefore he became sin for us.

Because the one thief was repentant, when he asked Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom, Jesus told him that he would be in paradise with him that very day. He was forgiven. He was given freedom from the spiritual penalty of his sin.

Have you repented of your sin against God? Have you asked forgiveness for your sinfulness? Have you confessed Jesus as the risen Son of God because you believe in him? Have you been immersed for your salvation?

Which thief are you?

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Inadvertent Wisdom

I love what you might hear when you switch stations on the radio. One person is talking, a DJ, or a commercial spokesman, or someone, and you get one part of a sentence from one and another from the next. Makes for some good laughs.

It happened today. Here’s what I got.

Voice #1, “The great thing about retirement is…,” and voice #2, “the warranty.”

At first I literally laughed out loud. Most people going into retirement probably feel that their warranty is about to run out, but, after I laughed I thought, that’s just it, that’s what it means for the faithful Christian.

One of the promises for the Christian, our future hope, is eternal life with God.  Usually, when we age, our parts wear out. My folks have new joints, Mom new knees and Dad new hips. A lady I work with who is my age (55 this year) has a new knee. This life has no guarantees. Our bodies wear out, our emotions can be injured, our minds grow tired, and eventually, we die. Our bodies in the material state in which we live will not last forever. We will die and be transferred into the spiritual realm, completely.

I had a friend who went to be with the Lord in January 2010. I wrote about his faith while he was dying (https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/dying-mans-faith/ and, https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/faith-journeying-toward-heaven/ and, https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/the-king-is-coming/, these are all about Jim). Often, when you would ask Jim how he was doing, he would respond, “I’m vertical. It’s better than the alternative.” Jim loved to laugh and tell a good joke, and that was one of his funnies. But a lot of people really believe that living is better than the alternative. The alternative being death.

Death is the last vestige of this life. It is when Christians move into heaven with God. Like Jim, though he died with peace, uncomfortable in his earthly body because of age and cancer, he died going to the better alternative, eternity with God.

Why? Because of the warranty.

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5

There’s your warranty info. No more of the bad and evil and harmful and sinful things of this life affecting our life with God. A new home, a perfect indestructible home, and an eternal Father who loves and cares for us.

The great thing about retirement (dying as a Christian) is the warranty (eternal life with God and Christ).

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God’s Taking Care of Me (Romans Pt. 11)

I like to win. I am very competitive and I really like victory. When it really matters, I will do whatever I need to do (within the rules) to win, to overcome my opponent, to conquer them.

I don’t know if it is that I’m a guy and guys have that tendency, or if it is cultural conditioning and participating in sports, or if it’s just me, but I like to win.

I won when God saved me. I became victorious over sin, over temptation, over death, over everything that puts me in the state of being lost. In Christ, I am a conqueror. The only thing I really did was believe in Christ, repent my sins, confess that he is God’s Son and give my life to him. He saved me. I recognized that the war was going to be won by the forces of heaven with Jesus the victor and I went over to the other side, to Jesus’ side.

I have been given and I have received God’s grace.

In the 4/4/11 post  https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/figuring-out-what-romans-828-means/ , we discussed how Romans 8:28 is misused. Essentially, people take the verse and believe it claims that they will overcome in every circumstance and situation because they are in Christ, yet, it is not about living a victorious life and all about overcoming what sin had done to us in the first place. Sin had separated us from the love of God and now that we have taken Christ as our Savior, we have become conquerors.

And so God has done some important and incredible stuff, both before creation and now.

1st – Before creation he determined that when we accept Christ, that we will become like Christ is being judged sinless and that we will be (as Romans 12:1-2 says) transformed by the renewing of our mind. He already renewed our soul, now the ongoing transformation of making us Christ-like continues in this life – Rom. 8:29-30

2nd – When Paul tells us that God is for us, we are not talking about God cheering us on from the sidelines, or even as a coach. He is for us in that he gave us life. He provided life through Jesus’ death and resurrection and puts eternal life into us when we accept Christ and are baptized. So he makes our souls right (Paul uses the word justified) – Rom. 8:31-32

3rd – Because we are judged innocent of sin with Jesus’ blood covering us for the sake of forgiveness, then no can bring a charge of guilt against us because God has forgiven us. We are even told that God erases our sins from the book that records what we’ve done in this life. They are no longer recognized because when God looks at us he sees Jesus’ blood covering us – Rom. 8:33-34

So, who shall separate us from the love of Christ. Sin can’t because it has been removed and forgotten. Satan can’t because God doesn’t recognized that we are sinners any more. Nothing outside of ourselves can separate the faithful Christian from God’s love (which implies God wanting to and giving us salvation).

In Christ, you are in good shape.

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Why Grace?

“Why did there have to be a covenant of grace? Because people rebelled and could not come to God in their own goodness. They were under the judgment of God with true moral guilt. So God had to give the covenant of grace at the terrible cost of Christ’s death because people were justly under God’s condemnation and judgment without it.”

Francis A. Schaeffer, Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History, page 76

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Where Grace is Sitting

We’ve had several discussions about sin and grace in the book of Romans. Following are links progressively through our discussion.

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/grace-rests-easily-where-sin-once-sat/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/the-uncomfortable-truth/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/no-room-for-sin/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/a-convenient-truth/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/god-gets-amnesia/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/dreaming-that-im-free/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/not-disappointed-romans-pt-7/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/gettin-wet-in-gods-grace-romans-pt-8/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/am-i-really-like-this-romans-pt-9/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/im-free-romans-pt-10/

We will be continuing with the later half of Romans chapter 8.

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