Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I was listening to a radio program today on WMBI around lunchtime. I was driving back from a meeting at our church's Barrington Campus and caught a snippet of Nancy Leigh DeMoss' "Midday Connection" program. She was talking about the thief on the cross next to Jesus. The bible doesn't say much about him or his life prior to that point in time. We know he was a criminal and that unlike Christ, he had been guilty of the charges against him. We know his punishment was deserved. So he's not exactly the poster boy for entry into heaven. And yet, that's exactly what was promised to him.

Nancy asked the audience if they had ever wondered if their entry into heaven was contingent upon what they had done - how they had lived their lives (I'm paraphrasing, you understand) and then she made a very helpful statement. She said the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn't salvation based on what you have done, but believing and receiving what He has done for you.

As a kid I was taught that being a good Christian was all about following rules and keeping God happy. Or rather, not making Him angry. Trouble was you never knew how good was good enough (there's a book by that title by the way and I highly recommend it -it's by Andy Stanley).

Isn't it just like God to have the first saint joining Jesus in Paradise be a rebellious, convicted, castaway thief?

In what were literally the final hours of his life, the thief understood that his punishment was deserved, that God was to be feared and that he could ask Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. And Jesus' astonishing response? "Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:39-43.

Third Day has a song called "Thief" that puts a melody to this event and takes some poetic license in painting a fuller picture of what the thief was thinking as he and Jesus both hung on crosses on that hill. It has brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

And it has reminded me, like Nancy Leigh DeMoss did earlier today, that my salvation is secured not by any works I have ever done, am doing or will do, but solely on the work my Savior has done for me.


I am a thief, I am a murderer
Walking up this lonely hill
What have I done? I don't remember
No one knows just how I feel
and I know that my time is coming soon.
It's been so long. Oh, such a long time
Since I've lived with peace and rest
Now I am here, my destination
guess things work for the best
and I know that my time is coming soon
Who is this man? This man beside me

They call the King of the Jews
They don't believe that He's the Messiah
But, somehow I know it's true.
And they laugh at Him in mockery,
and beat Him till he bleeds
They nail Him to the rugged cross,
and raise Him, they raise Him up next to me
My time has come, I'm slowly fading
I deserve what I receive

Jesus when You are in Your kingdom
Could You please remember me
and He looks at me still holding on
the tears fall from His eyes
He says I tell the truth
Today, you will live with Me in paradise
and I know that my time is coming soon
and I know paradise is coming soon.

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