by Jim Kilgore
Luke 23; 42, 43: “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
We once again return to Calvary. Calvary, the most sacred and significant place in the world. Calvary is the place where Jesus Died that you might Live. Calvary is the place where we see Man at his Worst while seeing God at His Best. Calvary, where the royal, rich, and red blood of our Sinless Saviour was shed so that wicked, vile sinners could make peace with God through His Son Jesus Christ. Calvary, the place where the Angels in heaven wept while the Demons in hell were rejoicing.
On Monday we studied the first words of Jesus while hanging upon Calvary’s cross. We strained to listen as He prayed for those that had clamored for His crucifixion; placed the crown of thorns upon His hear and then drove the thorns deep into His scalp; He prayed for those that spit upon Him; He prayed for those that had pummeled their fists into His face; He prayed for the one that thrust the spear into His side. In Luke 23:34: “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do …”
As the crowd stood gazing upon the One they had wanted to hang and suffer on the Cross, they stood beholding the excruciating pain of God’s only Son (Luke 23: 35). They had now started the mocking, the ridicule, the gambling for His clothing, the taunting to save Himself. But this was NOT in plan of our Gracious God.
Finally the crowd heard a small conversation taking place between all three that were hanging on the cross. What were they saying? Each wanted to get closer to hear this monumental conversation that would have eternal consequences for both men on either side of Jesus (Luke 23: 39-43).
These words speak loudly and unmistakably of the Glorious Grace of God. Neither man had a right to even ask Jesus to forgive them. They were both guilty, condemned men. They were convicted thieves. Yet, God in His grace listened to each man and responded accordingly to each one.
The Clearest Picture of Salvation by Grace in the Entire Bible
Grace is the unmerited and unmeritable favor of God. Grace is God NOT giving to man that which he deserves. If you and received that which we deserve, we would all be burning and suffering in hell this very minute. No, these men did NOT deserve God to even listen to them, let alone answer their prayers.
An Example of God’s Grace
When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day’s pay for his time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receive s a trophy for winning, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for his long service or high achievements and good performance that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award, yet receives such a gift anyway, it is a good picture of God’s unmerited favor. This is what we mean when we speak of the Grace of God.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus had been “the Friend of Sinners” (Matthew 11:19). His antagonists derided Jesus for this. They mocked Jesus by saying, “Since Jesus loves sinners so much, and they were His companions in life, we will give Him the privilege of dying with them. Little did they realize that Jesus was actually dying FOR them and not merely WITH them (II Corinthians 5:21).
Let us See What Each Person Represented While Hanging on the Cross
We see one man dying IN his sin; one man dying Out of his sin, and of course Jesus dying FOR sin.
We witness one man Scoffing Jesus; another man Seeking Jesus; and Jesus Sacrificing Himself as the ONLY sacrifice for sin His Father would accept.
We witness one man making a decision to go to Hell; the other man making his decision to go to Heaven; whereas Jesus is providing the only HOPE that any will have in gaining entrance into Heaven.
Placing Your Faith in Jesus Christ is Your ONLY Hope of Going to Heaven
One man went to heaven because he placed his faith Completely in Jesus Christ. He finally understood the truth found in John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” This man did not deserve to go to heaven any more than you and I do, but he made the correct decision. He placed his faith in Jesus Christ as his only hope of going to Heaven.
While in India in May of 2014, I realized just how big idol worship was in this great land. There are over 330 million false gods various people worship. Yet, 1,287 came to Jesus Christ during this missionary journey, understanding that Jesus Christ is the ONLY name whereby men MUST be saved (Acts 4:12). What made the difference? Simply preaching and presenting Jesus Christ, and His atonement for man’s sins.
Jesus Christ Wants EVERYONE To Go To Heaven
Now there were two sinners hanging beside Jesus while He was paying for the sins of the world (John 1:29). As joyful as Jesus was in one responding to His sacrificial work on the Cross, He was just as broken for the one that literally saw what the Son of God was doing for all people, yet chose to reject the Work of Christ.
I Timothy 2:4 reminds us that God wants YOU to be saved and go to heaven. “Who will have all men to be saved , and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” I Timothy 2:6 teaches us, “Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
There is no one that Jesus will not forgive and thereby save and take to Heaven. I Timothy 1:15: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
Here what the Repentant Sinner Understood and What He Did to go to Heaven.
He understood his Condition. He knew that he was a sinner. He knew that he deserved his punishment, both in this life, and the life to come. He knew that he deserved hell. Romans 3:10 reminds us that that: “There is NONE righteous, no not one.” Romans 3:23 is clear about the spiritual condition of us all when Paul declared that we have ALL sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
He understood God’s Provision. He finally grasped that Jesus Christ was doing, not only for him, but for any and all that might call upon Him in faith. Luke 23:41: “And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds : but this man hath done nothing.” God’s PROMISE is found in Romans 10:13: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord SHALL BE SAVED”! This is a promise from God.
He understood that he must make his Decision. It was his decision to call upon Jesus Christ. It was His decision to place his complete faith in Jesus and Jesus alone. It was HIS decision to ask Jesus to save him. II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
In light of this, what was the response of Jesus towards this sinner calling upon Jesus for salvation? Luke 23:42, 43, “ And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Jesus promised to take him to heaven.
The same promise by Jesus is offered to you as well. Romans 10:13 is a promise from God to you, : “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord SHALL BE SAVED”!
Will you call upon Jesus right now, placing your faith in Him; Trusting in His Grace?
If you do, please email me at: [email protected] and I will send you some free Bible Study materials to help you as a new Christian.
by Jim Kilgore