Sermons

Summary: The Thief on the cross

FAMOUS LAST WORDS: SALVATION

This morning we again approach the cross and stand on holy ground as continue with our sermon series, “Famous Last Words.”

The world likes to immortalize the final words of the rich and famous. The world likes to lift up their final comments as being lofty and noble. But there are no words that have ever been spoken on earth that can match the eternal wisdom and power that comes from the final words of Jesus Christ at the cross.

For six hours Jesus hung on the cross and in those six hours He made seven final statements that are filled with immense eternal power. Seven times He spoke from the cross. Seven times he pushed up on his feet to gasp for breath and strength. Seven times He spoke words that are to this day still filled with life changing power.

Every breathe was a struggle and of all the things that He could have said from the cross, these are the final words He chose for us to hear. And hear them we must.

But to hear the final words of Jesus, we must go to the cross. To experience the power of Christ’s words on your life, you must go to the cross. It is only at the cross that you can hear the final and famous last words of Jesus. It is impossible to bypass the cross of Jesus Christ and not hear His heart piercing words.

And today, in the great and mighty name of Jesus Christ, I challenge you to hear His last words regarding salvation and eternal life, and to let His words, His eternal words, fill your soul with the wisdom and might and power of the Holy Spirit.

John 19:17And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. NKJV

Luke 23:35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, "He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God." 36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, "If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself." 38 And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us." 40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." 42 Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." 43 And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." NKJV

THE PICTURE OF THE CROSS

Let’s begin this morning with this picture from the cross.

In the theater of your mind, picture three crosses. See Jesus as Roman soldiers lift Him

up toward the heavens as earth rejects Him. On either side of Him, two other crosses are also lifted up as Jesus is crucified between two criminals.

See Him as He hangs on the middle cross between two thieves. See Him with the crown of thorns. See the inscription that stands out above Him proclaiming for all to see that this man is the King of the Jews.

See the crowd that has gathered before His cross and hear their mockery and ridicule as they scorn the man on the middle cross. They said;

“He saved others but He can’t save Himself.” Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe." (Mark 15:31-32)

Hear His answer to their mockery and scorn as He cries out over and over, “Father, forgive them…”

THE MAN ON THE MIDDLE CROSS

See this man on the middle cross. Do you see Him? It is imperative that you see this man.

And as we behold this man on the middle cross, there are two vital matters that immediately capture our attention.

First, who is this man on the middle cross? You cannot bypass this question. You have to determine for yourself who you believe this man to be.

He claimed to be the Israel’s Messiah

He claimed to be the Son of God

He claimed to be the King of an eternal kingdom

Who is this man on the middle cross? It is a question that demands your answer.

What you believe about this man on the middle cross will ultimately determine the outcome of your eternal destiny.

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Sharon Oliver

commented on Jul 11, 2020

As I look at the world today, and particularly the events in Israel, I feel it is urgent that we get Jesus Christ to the nations. I have written a book, which has not yet been published, "It Was All So Simple." It is in God's hands. In it, I tell of the need of the world for a savior. I am pasting in an article I wrote for the Methodist Story newspaper in January 1986. I think the words are pertinent today. The number of professed Christians is decreasing dramatically. Do You Know Where You’re Going To? The title of this article is taken from the theme song for the movie entitled, “Mahogany.” The song was recorded by Diana Ross and began: “Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to—do you know?” This question had already occurred to me as a good text for a sermon before the worship services conducted the last Sunday of the year. This service was conducted by the membership of the church comprising the college-age students. During that service, Tim Bayley sang a song with words to the effect: “I know where I am going—I’m going to see Jesus.” I was thoroughly ashamed of myself because this young man had already made his plans for eternity, and it seemed I was just now catching up. No doubt, many of you have noticed that my recent articles seem to be “preaching, but they are not meant to be. They are being written merely to urge the readers to start asking questions of themselves and encourage them to start doing some serious thinking. Someone once said, “This country needs a good five-cent cigar.” My friends, this country needs a good dose of Bible teaching. America was settled by people seeking freedom to worship and to grow in the Spirit of God. Now, God is being discriminated against in our society. He is banned from our schools. If He’s riding the bus, I am sure He is sitting in the back. Nobody is putting God first in their lives any more. Revelation 14:7 says, “Fear God and give glory to Him.” Who is God? Does anybody remember? Out schools are teaching philosophy, psychology, mythology, cosmology, anthropology, American history, world history—you name it, and they are teaching it. Who is teaching the Word of God? The appropriate answer to this question is possibly, “Go to church!” First of all, people have quit going to church. Secondly, it may or may not be God’s point of view but man’s point of view as to what God meant. The only reason that I can address these issues is because I, too, have been playing the game of life by man’s rules. When the book, Passages,” written by Gail Sheehy, first was published, I admit that I was one of the first to read it. It would have been an unpardonable social faux pas (blunder) to go to a dinner party and not be able to discuss the latest approach to solving life’s problems. After all, I wanted to be “chic” and “smart.” I did not want to show my ignorance—I read all the latest books. Sad to say, I was ignorant and only deluding myself. For if anyone has not read the Bible and fully understood it, they are ignorant. In one of my articles, I told you I was praying for wisdom. I found it—it is in the Bible, I told you I was praying for patience—it’s coming. Patience takes a little longer, I have found. It is truly comforting to know that the Carmi First United Methodist Church is making plans to enlighten their members by offering some Bible study. It is my earnest prayer that the members, especially the younger members, will avail themselves of this opportunity. At the present, church is the only place where the opportunity is available. If there was advice that I could give anyone (and I am not qualified to give advice to anyone for I, myself, need advice), it would be: read your Bible, study your Bible, seek the answers yourself; the answers are there. We have become such a specialized, man-oriented society that we are programmed to turn to man for our problems. Go to a psychiatrist for a psyche problem; go to a lawyer for a legal problem; go to a marriage counselor for marital problems. True, all of these people can and do help, and there is a place for them, but who is saying, “Go to the Lord.” Men and God are going to have to learn to work together. Many are doubtlessly asking, “Sharon, where have you been all your life?” I’ve been where most of you have. “I’ve read all the latest books. I’ve had my moments of attending church regularly—attending for sanctimonious reasons rather than to be sanctified. There is a difference, you know.” Perhaps, it is time for a spiritual regrowth in our lives, this country, and the world. Once God has been restored to His sovereign majesty, man will cease playing God, will respect all men as equals, and will stand against tyranny and oppression of any kind. No man with the love of God instilled in his heart can discriminate against a person because of the color of his skin. No man with the love of God can hate a Jew. No man with the love of God can allow a man, woman, or child to be hungry. Sad to say, our children are growing up without knowledge of God. School is compulsory; church is not. I personally do not know why we do not call out the National Guard to see that God is admitted to school. In the meantime, however, the churches have the responsibility of training these young minds. The American taxpayers pay billions of dollars each year to train their armed forces to defend this country. How much money is the government spending to train our young people the basic spiritual truths—which were the principles upon which this country was founded. At present, God is playing against a deck of stacked cards, and they are stacked against Him. Jesus taught His disciples about God’s interest in little children and that it was His desire that every child should be saved. Matthew 18:14 reads, “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” This verse is contained in the parable concerning the lost sheep wherein Jesus teaches that even those who have been lost in sin can be saved and men must become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Does Jesus mean that men are supposed to throw tantrums, pout, and become childish in order to gain admittance to heaven? Not quite! Jesus is referring to the impressionability of the mind of a child, knowing that childhood is the most convenient season for conversion and that a child can enter the Kingdom with ease. As adults, we must, also, assume this childlike receptiveness. How much easier the task would be, though, if children were instructed before so much other teaching had been fed to them. At least, to be fair, teach both at the same time. Let the child decide on his own as he grows in years. It is here that I am reminded of a song to which I have forgotten the exact wording but can only recall the meaning. It is referring to Moses’ plea to Pharaoh to let his people go. He makes mention that they have lived in bondage so long that they do not know anything else. Their lack of knowledge concerning the alternative, being freedom, does not permit them to make a comparison and choose a preference. With the decline in church membership, the majority of American children are being raised up like the children of Israel—having knowledge of only one doctrine—the doctrine of man and not of God. This will be my last article to the church as church editor because I have resigned so that I can begin to reconstruct my life and to resolve the present uncertainties. No, I do not intend to become a preacher, as I have done all my preaching to you that I ever plan. However, some day I do plan to write a story of the bizarre event which occurred in my life on July 1, 1985, at 5:30 p.m. which propelled me on this odyssey for truth. Since that time, I may well have read over one hundred books. At last, I found the only real book I ever really need to read—the Bible. I was running in and out of the library with ten and twelve books at a time. I must have personally purchased forty books. All the time, however, the answers were in my youngest daughter’s six-dollar Bible from Sears and Roebuck. Oh, yes, I have one of those big beautiful Bibles laying on the coffee table and I am reminded of a conversation once between Barbara Karger and myself. I had made the remark that a piano was a beautiful piece of furniture. She chastised me quite firmly and said, “Oh, Sharon, I never like to hear a piano referred to as a piece of furniture.” Barbara, of course, knew that a piano was to be played. She probably knew that a Bible is to be read, too. Do you know where you’re going to? Perhaps, it is time to sit down and do some serious thinking and planning.

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