“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
I was thinking through the whole Easter happening over the past few days. I was reading the historical week account in the book of Luke and came to the scene of the 2 criminals hanging on their crosses next to Jesus. Remember the scene?
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23
I started thinking, and thinking, and wondering and then I began to imagine paradise, heaven, the place where this criminal went after his death on the cross next to the Savior of the world. Imagine for a minute the people there with Jesus and the criminal in paradise. Well, for starters there would be criminals for sure– like murderers, like all the addictions that are known to mankind will be represented, there will be people that over indulged in every way. There will be winners and losers, successful people and not so successful people. There will be those that smoked till their last breath and those that died from cancer due to smoking. There will be liars and cheats and every kind of scoundrel. There will be rich and poor, ugly and gorgeous. There will be divorced people, married people, adulterers, those that had sex before marriage. People with tattoos and people without, there will be those that did everything right to the best of their abilities and people that broke every commandment. There will be those there that lived evil despicable lives. Really?
That is the question isn’t it? After all, don’t we still tend to believe that only the good, the successful, the people without too many blemishes get to paradise? Don’t we? Well I know first hand what it is like to be in ministry and have a not so good track record and have people– fellow “Christians” treat me like somehow I shouldn’t be doing the “Lord’s” work because I have said it before and for the sake of this little blog I’ll say it again… I’m an addict, I have a long list of sins that I’m sure goes way beyond most. I’m not proud of it one bit. On the other hand I happen to know that I’ll fit right in paradise.
Really? Well, I just celebrated Easter. I took the past 3 days to look deep into the historical account of Easter. As I soaked in the triumphal entry, His mock trial, his brutal death and the resurrection I was drawn in, I was moved to tears, I was moved to amazement, I was moved to thankfulness, I was moved to prayer, to joy, to astonishment in grace, in forgiveness. I heard deep down in my heart, in my gut, in my mind a quiet voice, a soft voice that reminded me of the complete nonsense of the belief that only certain people get to partake in paradise. The nonsense that during this short life of some poor choices, some evil choices, some sinful choices with evil all around and inside, that being “all that” that being smarter, and brighter, and being better somehow causes God to smile. The nonsense that somehow our works are greater than filthy rags, the nonsense that those that in their hearts know they are not perfect believe that if they look perfect, perform to perfection that somehow God loves them more and to those that don’t– they don’t go. “They” to many can just go to hell. They don’t deserve paradise. They aren’t as good, they have bigger issues, they didn’t give it the best college church try.
Isn’t that the way it is?
Interesting that most of the people we see on Sunday have all the above issues. Right? Really? Of course we don’t know, or do we? Over the past 20 years or so of ministry I have had hundreds of counseling conversations, hundreds of broken lives in my office, hundreds of broken people asking for help. Think about it. I know many many many many people over the years and not one is perfect. Not one deserves paradise, not one has done life completely right and that’s just talking about the outside stuff. What about our thoughts, what about the things we say and do that nobody sees? Right?
C’mon who deserves paradise?
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. 27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. Romans 3.19-31
This Easter is a reminder to me once again– “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all (everyone with every issue) and all are justified freely by His grace through (here it is) the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith…”
The thief next to Jesus to most didn’t deserve paradise. To most, myself included I don’t deserve paradise. How bout you? Is this “Christian” life deal still all about you? Are you still looking down your nose at people that you think don’t deserve paradise, which means somehow you think you do?
One more lil Biblical reminder
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” ~Ephesians 2.8,9
Yep, there will every kind of sinful broken people in paradise even those that thought while they were walking this earth they weren’t “that bad, they weren’t like those people”. But before their life was over they finally came to the conclusion that while they tried and tried and tried it just wasn’t enough and they finally realized their need of the Savior.
(more to come)