Tag Archive | judgment

Greatest Faith: Luke 23:39-43

Sad.Buddy.wpI

It’s hard to believe that Buddy was abused for nearly three years before I adopted him from Silky Terrier Rescue. He was so afraid of me that he yanked and pulled at his leash, trying to get back to his foster mother (who is a responsible Silky Terrier breeder). I wondered what I had gotten myself into, he was so adamant about not going home with me. Then he kept running away the next week or so. Fortunately, I had a kitty collar on him with a bell, so I was able to locate him by the ringing when I couldn’t find him. I was so afraid he’d get hit by a car. (Fortunately, at that time we lived in a closed neighborhood which lessened the odds of getting hit, but didn’t eliminate it.)

Then, one day, it was like a lightbulb flipped on in his head, as if he was thinking, “Why am I running away? They love me. They give me good food and treats, bathe me, comb me, kiss and hug on me, and take me for rides and walks.” And he stopped trying to run off. Now, he greets me at the door with joyous adoration.

One of the people I admire the most in the Bible is one of the thieves on the cross next to Jesus. Of all the people in the New Testament, I believe he had the greatest faith.

If you don’t know the story, two thieves were crucified on either side of Jesus. On Jesus’ cross, Pilate had a placard nailed above His read which read, “King Of the Jews” to mock Jesus’ claim to be a King, only Jesus claimed to have a spiritual, not earthly kingdom.

“One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him (Jesus), saying ‘Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!’

But the other answered, and rebuking him, said, ‘Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’

And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’

And He (Jesus) said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.'”–Luke 23:39-43

Though the thief had no opportunity to do any good deeds nor be baptized, he recognized his sinfulness and God’s great mercy. He acknowledged he was a sinner deserving death for his evil deeds, repented of his sin by rebuking the other man for mocking God, and asked Christ to save him. This is why I so greatly admire this man. He was one of the few at the time who really got who Jesus was, the Christ–the sacrificial Lamb of God–who died to cover our sins.

The repentant thief is a great example of salvation. The perfect man, Christ, had to die to take our penalty for God’s wrath against our sin. God is just and must punish evil, and only the perfect God Man was holy enough to take that punishment so we don’t have to.

The thief understood that it was all about repenting and faith, not about working for God’s favor, but receiving God’s approval and gift of righteousness by His mercy alone.

“For by grace you have been saved thorough faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 2:8-9

And this very kind and loving God, though in great torment, reached out to acknowledge the thief was forgiven and encouraged him to look forward to Paradise.

There were two thieves, however. The other continued in his disbelief. Which is really sad, because God’s grace would’ve covered him too–if he’d only believed in the Son of God.

No Greater Love: Luke 23:33-34

donut-bud

One day I came home from work and was greeted by Buddy, proudly displaying his new prize: my donut. I immediately forgave him and laughed. After all, it was my fault that he snagged the donut as I set it down upon my bed when getting ready for work and then forgot it.

I much admire Jesus’ great love for us. When He was hanging from the Cross, in unbelievable pain and agony, His focus was on the welfare of others:

“When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they do.'”–Luke 23:33-34 NASB

When I’m feeling cranky or stressed, it’s a challenge for me to remember God’s great love and patience for me and that I’m supposed to demonstrate that same love to others. How often I’m tempted to repay evil for evil, or insult for insult, to strike back at someone who’s done evil, forgetting that I once was condemned, deceived and far from God, till I was given a saving knowledge of Christ because of God’s mercy. I was tempted not to pray for a wicked public figure (not a politician in case you’re trying to guess who it is), but God reminded me that He loves everyone and so I prayed for his soul.

After all, to someone as pure as God is, we’re all pretty rotten, yet every day He gives us a beating heart, air to breathe, a lovely day and evening sky, all the blessings of nature, and, in general, a government that maintains law and order. I have no right to be irritated with someone else because we all need God’s mercy.

I’ve been thinking about Judgment Day lately, how those in leadership who think they’re getting away with evil, and refuse to repent, will discover there is no escaping God’s judgment. I feel sorry for them and pray they’ll repent, because it is going to go hard on them. Perhaps this Great Day will not only include a summary of our sins if we’ve not accepted Jesus so that they’ll understand why they’re sinful in God’s eyes, but perhaps also a recitation of all the great love He shows each person every day that they never noticed or acknowledged: Escapes from harm, healing from disease, enablement to make a living, a restraining of wicked impulses that helps them to choose good and maintain their relationships, friends and pets who love them, etc.

And they’ll mourn because they’ll realize they’ve rejected spending eternity with the most loving, generous being Who was, is and will ever exist.

God waits to bring judgment because He is showing remarkable patience, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”–2 Peter 3:9

I’m very thankful, since I wasn’t saved till I was 28 years old, God was patient with me.