Thursday, April 05, 2012
Pardoned to Paradise
Two men asked Jesus for help on that barren hillside called Golgotha. One received pardon but the other received not a word. The verbal attack of the one showed the condition of the heart was more important than the actual words, because truth spoken in derision can be the worst kind of insult.
"Aren't you the Christ?" The dying thief asked in mockery. And his attitude of scorn destroyed a request for salvation: “Save yourself....and us!" he spat.
The insulting thief found nothing but silence from the King of Kings, while the other found words of assurance and victory. It was the attitude of the repentant thief that earned a pardon.
The repentant thief was about to stand before God, his Creator and give an account of his life. He realized in despair all he had to show was his sinfulness. The very thought of seeing his sinful life revealed in God's holy presence brought an awesome conviction of sin.
If we are to enjoy pardon, we too, must see our sin as God sees it: a reproach to His holy character, an insult to His beloved Son, and destructive to the people he loves.
The second expression of that saving attitude was honest confession of guilt: "We are punished justly," he said, “We are getting what our deeds deserve." Like the prodigal son of whom Jesus earlier spoke, the thief came to himself. He stopped trying to blame his guilt on someone else. And that was the only way he could be rid of it.
The purpose of Jesus' death was to bring pardon but His purpose can only find fulfillment in our honest confession. Until we admit our guilt his death is wasted on us.
The repentant thief realized his Sin brought him to this place. We need to realize our sin brought Jesus, the God-Man, to this day—Crucifixion and to this place—Calvary.
He got what we deserve.
We get what he earned—if we confess our sin, ask his forgiveness and accept him as Savior!
The third expression of that attitude was a full awareness of the Holiness of Christ: "This man has done nothing wrong!"
One reason Jesus came to earth was to show us the character of God in the body of a man. He is the perfect likeness of the invisible God. But, until we recognize the holiness of Jesus, the man, we cannot imagine the holiness of God, the Creator, and we cannot experience his holiness in our own lives.
The fourth expression of the attitude that brought pardon was an expression of faith in the midst of hopelessness: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Picture the scene: The repentant thief hung on a cross in the hour of his death. He looked beside him to Jesus and saw there a man who was beaten, wounded, and bleeding. The blood from the crown of thorns was dried on his forehead, and fresh blood from the nails dripped from his hands and ran down his arms and torso to the sword-cut in his side continuing down to mingle with blood from his nail-pierced feet and fall to the ground. Sweaty from the strain of carrying the cross; with dust from countless feet settled on his body. Chilled from the wind that blew upon Golgotha, he probably shivered violently from the cold. He did not look like a king. There was no indication he could even help himself much less anyone else. But in spite of all the evidence to the contrary this condemned man believed!
In the face of hopeless despair, he believed. He believed so much that even in his agony he groaned those never-to-be-forgotten words, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
That man was the first Christian! He was first to believe and first to receive the pardon Jesus came to bring.
Pardon is a beautiful word to a condemned man. "Today, you will be with me in paradise!” was the word from Jesus that transported him from the agony of crucifixion to the bliss of eternal paradise! From the dirt and stench of execution to the inexpressible delight of the resurrection! From the destruction of sin to the redemption of righteousness through Jesus Christ, God's Son!
Pardon is also a beautiful concept for you and me. Almost 2,000 years ago Jesus paid the price for every one of us! Because of what God did through Christ we hear him say also to us "Today, you will be with me in paradise." We need not wait to die. Life is a paradise for all who live by faith!
Preached @ 1984 Good Friday Service at Hillcrest United Methodist Church in a service planned by the Elkhart Area Ministerial Association. I was pastor of Midtown (now Adamsville Road) Church of God.This Gospel is just as true today as it was then!