Do you ever feel like really bad person? Perhaps even too bad for Jesus to love or forgive? I meet a lot of people who carry around a lot guilt and condemnation; I have felt that way too. Jesus was crucified between two criminals (Luke 23:33). They were two really bad people. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the two thieves, we don’t know where they were from, we don’t know how old they were, we don’t know what they did to deserve death. But we do know that both of them interacted with Jesus.
One of the criminals, he looked at Jesus and he hurled insults at Him, The other one had a very short and simple conversation that changed his eternity and it just might change yours. He looked at Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus looked at the criminal and said the most remarkable, grace-filled words in history when He said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
I love how Jesus interacts with this criminal on the cross. It’s such a great picture of the forgiveness! Jesus still extends this same forgiveness and hope of eternal life to all who would accept it.
Let me ask some obvious questions:
Did the criminal (who was going to be with Jesus in paradise) have the ability to get off the cross and get baptized? Did he have the ability to serve or do any good works? Give an offering? Say “Hail Mary’s”? Nope. He did just 2 things. The same 2 things you and I must do to be forgiven.
What did he do?
- He admitted his wrongdoing. He confessed his sins. Here’s what he says,
“We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:41
Notice he did not confess each sin individually. I’ve heard people say, “you committed your sins individually, you should confess them individually.” Not here! This guy has what I call a “blanket confession.” “I messed up.” “I’ve blown it.” And that was good enough for Jesus. It still is.
2. The second thing that he does is call out to Jesus. He said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43
Notice he vocalizes his request. I think this is important because it goes beyond just thinking about it. When I knew I wanted to marry my wife Niki, I moved beyond just thinking about it to asking personally, “Niki, will you marry me?” Let’s say you are supposed to call someone but only thought about it. Did you call? When it comes to Jesus, move beyond just thinking, “He’s a good teacher, he died on the cross, he rose from the dead, I believe in Jesus.” Make the call. “Jesus will you save me?” “Jesus forgive me.”
This passage, perhaps above all others, illustrates one of the most important truths in life and corrects one of the biggest misunderstandings in the world today. One of the most common misunderstandings is that, “good people go to heaven.” Nobody is sure how good, but, most people today want to believe, “I’m not as bad as others, I hope I’m good enough, if I try really hard and I’m a good person that I will go to heaven.”
This passage illustrates perfectly: Good people do not go to heaven. Forgiven people go to heaven. There is a huge difference! Good people do not go to heaven, because in reality, none of us are good. Scripture says that God alone is good and that all of us fall short of the standard of God. The good news is, good people do not go to heaven, forgiven people go to heaven.
Have you been forgiven? Just admit your wrong and call out to Jesus. That’s it.
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