Summary: Do you want to have your sins forgiven? Do you want to go to heaven when you die? Do you want to live in the light instead of being enslaved by darkness? Look to the cross, and know the way of the cross leads home.
Scriptures: Luke 23:43
A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons who were ages five and three. The boys began to argue over who was going to get the first pancake. Mom recognized the teachable moment and said, "If Jesus was sitting here right now, He would say let my brother have the first pancake." The five year-old turned to his little brother and said, "Hey little buddy, you get to be Jesus today!"
Our lives are filled with similar struggles of selfishness and sin. Many have found comfort in the honesty of the apostle Paul, who openly confessed his struggle in Romans 7 to do the right thing when his flesh dragged him toward activities that were sinful. I mention the ongoing struggle with sin to illustrate how incredibly wonderful the forgiveness of God is for those who accept it. This forgiveness is made possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. While we must honor God in our daily lives, our greatest need is responding to God's amazing grace to save us from our sin. Jesus did more than provide help to deal with our stresses related to our daily lives. He delivers from sin. He offers more than making life easy or giving us every desire of our heart. He redeems us for eternity. Jesus did more than teach positive thinking, goal setting, and achieving success in our chosen field of work. He offers a one way ticket for a trip to paradise.
This promise of eternal life to a condemned criminal illustrates the unique holiness and majesty of the Lord Jesus as clearly as anything He ever said. He promised to provide what every person hopes for, but what no one could ever produce with human effort. Author and professor, Calvin Miller, described Jesus' words as, "A cross cry that illustrates the transcendent power of Jesus as He unites the present with the eternal by promising to provide rest for our souls in eternal paradise." The promise also transcends the plight of a thief on a cross.
While we do not face the horror a crucifixion because of our crimes, we need to respond as the thief hanging beside Christ did to enter paradise with Jesus.
I. Condition of a sinner
The thief described in the text graphically reveals the condition of every soul before a holy God.
A. Physical helplessness
The thief was physically helpless. He was unable to attend synagogue. He could not give an offering. He could not perform good deeds. He was nailed to a cross! His condition reflects the insufficiency of our good deeds to accomplish salvation. There is nothing we could ever do physically to obtain forgiveness of our sins. No amount of discipline, no amount of service, no amount of financial resources, and no amount of anything we do can qualify us to enter paradise with Jesus. We are physically helpless.
B. Moral corruption
The thief was also morally corrupt, which is why he was being crucified. He openly admitted his corruption, he recognized his guilt when he rebuked the other thief for mocking Jesus. "We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve" (Lk. 23:41).