April 23, 2011
With Jesus in Paradise Today
“And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.'”
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I have a friend who makes it his life to correct people when they are wrong. He tells them what they are doing wrong, and how they are doing it wrong, and what they need to do to correct the problem. He unloads on them, often because he has become angry with them. For all recorded history, people are always telling other people how to live. Each of us has a tendency, for good or for bad, to criticize others and tell them to act better.
Save Yourself. So many people want to rebuke people so that they will be able to help themselves. They often think that personal action will make all the difference. As Jesus hung crucified on the cross, a thief crucified next to Him gave Jesus some mocking advice: “Are You not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39). Let us learn a few lessons from this thief.
Never Tell Jesus What To Do. This thief displayed all the attitudes that had put him on a cross, for crimes he had committed. With his first question to Jesus, he mockingly implies that he does not really believe that Jesus is the Christ expected by all of Israel, a King who would deliver them from their physical enemies. So often, we need to realize that Jesus did not come to fulfill our game plan for Him, but rather He came to fulfill the plan of salvation for all mankind. Anytime we think about telling anyone else what expectations we have for them, we should pause first, and ask ourselves: What plans does Jesus have for this person? If we ask the first question, then we can truly appreciate the second question. The thief told Jesus to save Himself and us.
Save Yourself and Save Us. God ordained the events surrounding the crucifixion. This thief perfectly illustrates in the words of one man the thoughts of the entire nation. Jesus should save people, but save them according to their plans and their desires. Rather than having to pay the penalty for his sin, the thief sought an easy way out, that he would create himself through commanding Jesus to save him from physical death. Instead, the only way that thief would ever be saved from the penalty of his sin would be for Jesus to fulfill the plan of salvation, which meant Jesus must die for that thief and his sins. It was just as if Jesus had died for the unlawful taking committed by the thief. He died justly, as a thief.
This Man Has Done Nothing Wrong. Until you understand two things about Jesus, you will never understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. First, you deserve to suffer spiritually and physically because you are a sinner before God. Second, Christ never sinned Himself, but died for all of your sin. The other thief can teach us a few lessons also. He rebuked the first thief because he did not fear God, and was dying under a sentence of condemnation. When it comes time to rebuke another man, we should always do it with a sense of humility and base our words upon the the righteousness of Christ and His plans, not upon our own ideas of right and wrong.
Jesus, Remember Me When You Come in Your Kingdom. The second thief not only understood the fact that he himself deserved to die for his sins, but also that Jesus had done nothing wrong. The second thief also knew it was not too late to talk to Jesus about eternity. He said that he knew Jesus would be coming in His kingdom (Luke 23:42). I am very impressed with a man under a sentence of condemnation, knowing he was about to die, turning to Jesus and expressing understanding and faith. Rather than ask Jesus to deliver him from the cross, he asked for eternity. He asked for Jesus to remember him.
Today, You Shall Be with Me in Paradise. The second thief heard beautiful words from Jesus. Jesus had one more soul to save while still alive, though crucified. He had one more message of salvation to preach before death. Jesus died, to open Paradise to me and you. Realize too that Jesus did not promise the thief something far in the future about His coming in His kingdom. No, Jesus promised the second thief that TODAY they would be together in Paradise. While they wait for the return of the Jesus as the King of the Kingdom of God, they would spend their time together in Paradise.
So we learn more about Jesus today.
● Jesus saved even a thief on the cross, as they both died a terrible death. No matter what you have done, or how late you have waited, it is never too late to repent of your sins, seek Jesus and His forgiveness, and by faith, have Him forgive your sins and provide Paradise for you.
● When you think about telling Jesus what to do, stop and think about Who should be giving whom the orders. Before you tell anyone else what they should be doing, make sure you are only saying what Jesus has already said, and speak in love.
● As you think about Jesus, remember, He always has a place in His heart for thieves, like you and me.
Application for Today
Today I will be careful to let Jesus lead me. As He leads, I will speak. He will take me to Paradise, and I will be with Him always. Nothing can separate me from His love, not even death. Are you going to Paradise with Jesus today?