Summary: Where can we find salvation? The thief on the cross found it right next to him. Based on several sermon I read several years ago. Most original, some not!
TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE
TEXT- LUKE 23: 39-43
I have a friend, and he is the kind of guy that would try anything, and he was driving through Tennessee colony, Texas when he drove passed the Coffield Prison unit. He decided he wanted to see what it was like in there, so he drove into the drive to the guardhouse. They stopped him and ask what is business was there? He said, “ I just want to go in and look around.” The guards told him, “ You don’t have any business here , so turn around and get on down that road.” He did!
I remember my first day to go to prison. I went with Richard who had been going there for 9 or 10 years. Our congregation had a prison ministry for several years and I wanted to be a part. I had never done anything like this in my life, and I didn’t really know what to expect.
We arrived at 9:30am and I noticed the Gurney Unit was a huge facility. The prison unit was surrounded by a 10 to 15feet high fence, and about 10 feet inside that fence was another fence about 10 to 15 feet high. There was also a 30 foot high guardhouse on each side of the unit, and it had guards with high powered rifles.
Now, unlike my friend, I knew there was only three ways to get inside, and that was if the court put you there, or you worked in there or you had an invitation.I was thankful we were invited. I did my orientation in Austin so I had been approved to do voluntary work in T.D.C.
We had been checked at the drive and then we were checked again at the fence. They checked our clear plastic bags for contraband and the guard in the tower opened the first gate and we went in. He then closed that gate electronically and open the next gate. We went in the office complex and registered at the Wardens office. We then went into a small room with locked doors on both sides where they took our drivers license. I ask, “Why?” They said so if a riot broke out they would know we were in there.
The chaplain told us if anything happened in a dorm like a fight or riot to get next to the metal door and they would get you out at the first opportunity. We were lucky because nothing like that happened on any of our visits.
When we walked inside I saw a sidewalk, about the width of a highway going straight for a quarter of a mile. There was dorms on each side housing 200 men with cells containing 50 men.
So, there they were all 1600 hundred criminals wearing there white shirts and pants. We had access to go and talk to any of them we wanted to, and I couldn’t believe they let us to that.
The first thing you find out is that not all criminals are alike. Most of them are young, and there ages are 18-30. Richard told me that this the place that you would meet the Prodical Son, and he was right. Some of the prisoners were middle age ,and some were fairly old. We meet criminals from all different races, and all different education level, and they came from all over the state of Texas.
Some of these criminals have sentences from a few years to life, and their crimes are all different-Alcohol and drugs-armed robbery-rape and murder.
Most of the inmates were willing to talk to us , and some have personal testimonies that are very powerful. It might be how they got to prison or how they came to Christ.
Criminals are different and they may have different testimonies!
You know, one of the most dramatic and powerful testimonies I’ve
ever read is the one we’re going to talk about this morning. It’s the true story of the thief who was crucified next to the Christ. The thief was a man who, in his last hours, confessed his faith in Jesus as the Son of God….the savior of the world.
Take your bibles and turn with me to the book of Luke, Chapter 23, and read with me verses 39-43. These are the second words Jesus spoke on the cross as He was being crucified for the sins of the world.
LUKE 23: 39-43
39-One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “ Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40-But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “ Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same condemnation?
41- And we are indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”