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A Cry Of Assurance Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
March 23, 2023 2:00 am

A Cry Of Assurance Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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March 23, 2023 2:00 am

For the thief on the cross next to Jesus, death was only minutes away. If anyone ever needed assurance of salvation, it was him. In this message from Luke 23, we glimpse Jesus’ incredible words of assurance. We all must hang onto Christ’s promise from this life to the next.

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Dr. Gary Chapman

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. If anyone ever needed assurance of salvation, it was the thief on the cross next to that of Jesus. To this new believer, Jesus uttered, You will be with me in paradise. Stay with us for insights on what these words meant for a thief back then and for you and me in the here and now. Get set for some words of hope.

From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, take us into Luke chapter 23 and tell us about a cry of assurance. You know Dave, no matter how often I hear those words, today you shall be with me in paradise.

It seems as if I never hear them often enough. Imagine words of assurance like that given to a dying thief. Now, I want to ask everyone who is listening a question that you wouldn't necessarily know the answer to, but Charles Spurgeon was a wonderful preacher, a great preacher back in the 19th century in London. One day I had the privilege of visiting his grave, and on his gravestone are these words, written by a man who struggled with doubt, with depression, even attempted suicide, a man by the name of William Cooper.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day, and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away. Oh my friend, today hang on to those words. I want to thank the many of you who help us get these messages to people around the world. Because of people like you, we're so thankful that the ministry of Running to Win continues to expand.

Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Here is what you do to get some info. Go to

When you're there, click on the endurance partner button, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. And now come with me to Calvary. I view the cross of Christ as a collision between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. If somehow we could come up to God's standard or else bring him down to ours, there would be no need for a sacrifice, no need for a cross. But because we are sinners and God is holy, the cross was necessary. You may know that this is the message that emphasizes the second saying of Christ, the second cry of the cross.

Today, you'll be with me in paradise. And it is really no, it is no accident that Jesus Christ was crucified between two thieves. You and I had been responsible for the crucifixion.

No doubt we'd have said, well, it makes sense to have the thieves crucified over here and we'll put Jesus next to them. But the centurion who was in charge did not realize that he was really fulfilling scripture because the scripture said in Isaiah 53 that he was numbered with the transgressors. So he dies among the transgressors right in the midst of transgressors.

And when it says that he was numbered with them, it simply does not mean that there was one, two, three, not that kind of numbering. It means that he was reckoned with the transgressors, that he was considered to be a transgressor both by men and eventually by God, as we shall see in this series of messages. What we'd like to do today is to look at this remarkable, incredible conversion story, the thief on the cross.

The text is the 23rd chapter of the book of Luke. And we're going to look at this text today with two goals in mind. First of all, that you and I who have trusted Christ as savior may have more faith in him than ever, that our faith in him will be inspired, deepened, and made more confident. But also that those who are listening who have never trusted Christ as savior, that those might be brought to that look of faith, that they too may be with Christ in paradise.

That's the agenda. What I'd like us to do is to look at the facts of this man's conversion. First of all, his impending fate, his impending fate. You'll notice it says in chapter 23, verse 39, one of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him. Aren't you the Christ?

Save yourself and us. But the other criminal rebuked him. Don't you fear God, he said, since you are under the same sentence?

We are punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong. Who was this penitent thief, as he is sometimes called? First of all, I need to point out that he began to jeer Christ along with everyone else. You can find it in the book of Matthew chapter 27, verse 44, where it says that those who were crucified with him, the two criminals began to mock him.

They joined in the crowd, both of them. But there was something that changed him there on the cross. You know, I believe that this criminal who was a thief represents the whole human race. Oh, you say, well, I'm not a thief. I've never stolen anything significant. Think of it this way. Let's suppose that you worked for a firm in New York who sent you to Chicago and they paid your way and they kept sending you a check month by month, which you signed and deposited. And yet you never worked for that firm at all.

You worked for yourself or for somebody else. Isn't that a picture of the human race? God gives us gifts and abilities. He gives us health. He gives us the ability to earn money. He gives us relationships. He gives us sunshine and bread and food and opportunities. And he gives all that to us. And think of how many people there are in the human race who simply go through life serving themselves, doing their own thing.

That I think is thievery. And so he represents the human race. Now, mind you, he was in a helpless predicament. Look at him there on the cross, this thief. He could not walk in the paths of righteousness because each foot had a nail. He wasn't going anywhere. It was impossible for him to serve others because in his hands there were nails and in a few moments, in a few hours at least, he was going to die. There was no way that he could turn over a new leaf and somehow balance the score and to somehow save himself by his good deeds.

It was too late for thinking thoughts like that. He was in a desperate predicament and his fate was determined. Those of us who are interested in the causes of human behavior, we wish that we could sit down with this man and find out how he got into thievery. One of the questions I would ask him, if I could, is what was the first thing that you stole? It was probably something very little and then the problem was he got by with it.

That's one of the worst things you can do is to steal and get by with it and lie and find it beneficial and because you're going to do it again and again and again with more risque behavior. So here he is, one of these men who is bad to the bone and he's going to die real soon. But what I find in the text most interesting is his remarkable faith. Yes, his impending fate, but his remarkable faith. He began by deriding Jesus, as I pointed out a moment ago, and then suddenly he begins to change and begins to criticize and rebuke his friend across the way, his partner in crime, and he turns to Jesus. Why the change?

Well, I think there are several reasons. First of all, I think that the thief obviously heard Jesus Christ say what we emphasized in our last message, namely, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And he said to himself, I need forgiveness too. And he began to see the silliness of his own rebellion.

He began to see how stupid it was to rebel against God. He was dying and he needed forgiveness and the words that Jesus spoke touched his heart. And then, of course, the people who walked by, you remember, they said he saved others, himself he cannot save, and they were giving testimony actually to the good deeds that Jesus did and his ability to heal and maybe even his ability to raise the dead. And so they were testifying to Christ in the midst of their jeers.

But I think there's another reason. Pilate wrote a gospel tract. Pilate is one of the most interesting people in the Bible. If you were to study the gospels, clearly you would see that four different ways he tried to get Jesus released. He tried this, he tried this, he tried that, and nothing worked. He wanted to give them Barabbas, hoping that they would choose Jesus over Barabbas, and that didn't work.

And finally, he reluctantly gives in. But one of the things he did is he took and he wrote a placard. Now this was common to do because when someone was crucified, you were supposed to know why they were crucified. Their crime was written on a placard and placed above the cross. And Pilate wrote the words that are in your text there in verse 38, there was written a notice above him which read, this is the king of the Jews.

Little side light. In the 19th chapter of John, you find that the Jews objected to this. They said, don't write the king of the Jews, but that he claimed to be the king of the Jews.

But Pilate, in a rare burst of courage, said, what I have written, I have written. And there it stood. It was hung around the neck of Jesus as he was paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, as he was brought there to be crucified. And it's very probable that the thief on the cross, both thieves on the cross knew about the sign.

They knew about his crime. They may even have been able to catch a glimpse of the sign. How else could this man know that Jesus has a kingdom unless he saw the sign, the king of the Jews. And so in that context, faith is birthed in his heart and there is something within him that says, this man is different.

I'm going to believe in him. Think of how remarkable this faith was. First of all, it was remarkable because he believed in Jesus when Jesus was no better off than he was. I mean, here is Jesus. He doesn't look much like a savior.

He most assuredly does not look like a king. And he hangs there on the cross. And he seems to be crucified in great weakness.

And he's in a position to help nobody. And yet the man believes. Let's take our video camera and we see the three men dying on the cross. The naked eye cannot tell the difference between between them. We wouldn't be able to say, oh, the middle one, he's the savior.

No, the middle one looked awful, terrible. Bible says that his beard was plucked out by its roots. We see the crown of thorns. We see the mockery.

We see the lacerated flesh. We see the blood and we say, that's not the savior. And in the minds of the Jews that finished it. Of course he was not the savior. How could a savior die such a horrendous, terrible death?

And so they wrote him off. It was proof in their minds that he was not the redeemer. And here this criminal believes. It was a remarkable faith.

Could I say also that it was an honest faith? Let's look at the text again. He's speaking to the criminal across on the other side of Christ. And he's saying, he rebuked him in verse 40, don't you fear God since you are under the same sentence, we are punished justly for we're getting what our deeds deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong. It is sometimes said that it's almost impossible to find anyone who is guilty in prison because of the tendency that we have to justify ourselves, to put the best spin on everything, to try to put everything in context that makes us look good. It is very difficult for anyone to admit what he admits. He says, I'm getting my just desserts. I sinned.

I was a criminal and I deserve to die. That's what I would call honesty. And so he admitted his need.

Could I say also, it was a very humble faith. The man who died there might've said, Oh Lord, as best he can, honor me when you get into your kingdom. That's not what he says. He says, remember me.

Now think about that for a moment. He was the kind of person that society would be very glad to forget. We're talking about scum. We're talking about people who do not want to admit that they are relatives of his.

We're talking about someone who has been a scourge on society and someone that they're glad to get rid of. And so he does not pray, honor me. No, no, no, no. But remember me. My heart to yours, every one of us wants to be remembered. We'd all like to be remembered by man to some degree. It'd be terrible, wouldn't it, if we died and everybody forgot about us for the next week and never remembered us again.

I'd like to have somebody remember us for a little while. But even if we are not remembered by man, how much better it is to be remembered by God. And so he says, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Could I say also that it was a courageous faith?

Just think of this. Underline this in the text of your Bible. He said, this man has done nothing wrong. He went against the jeering crowd. He went against those who were saying, crucify him.

He deserves to die. Those who were mocking him, they said, you know, if you're a king, show us your kingdom. And what he was saying is this man did nothing wrong. In that phrase, he condemned the high priests, the Sanhedrin, all of the Jewish community that wanted to see Jesus Christ die. He also condemned the Romans who crucified then an innocent man.

And he went against the grain and he believed. I think on a human level, if you were to ask why it is that some people do not accept Christ as Savior, the most common reason would be fear. They fear what their relatives are going to say. They fear what their church background is going to say.

They fear what it might cost them in the marketplace. They fear. They don't know what it's like to trust Christ as Savior and therefore they are filled with fear. Maybe this is why it says in the book of Revelation that the fearful and unbelieving are in the lake of fire.

They were too scared to accept Christ as Savior. Well, he wasn't. He believed. Well, we've looked at his impending fate and his remarkable, incredible faith.

What about his future? Let's think of the words of Jesus, today you will be with me in paradise. You know, when Jesus said you're going to be with me, obviously the inference there is fellowship. We're going to have fellowship together. We're going to sup together, to use an old word. We are going to be together. And we think of the promise of Jesus to the disciples. I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am there you may be also.

Incredible! The same promise is made to this thief. Today you will be with me in paradise. You say, well, where's paradise? Paradise is heaven.

I have to add a parenthesis here. Did Jesus go to Hades as the Apostles' Creed says that he descended into hell? That's a very debatable point. It's based on a text where it speaks about Sheol and so forth. It may simply mean the grave. I'm not going to solve that problem today because scholars are divided on it.

But let me simply tell you this. If Jesus did go into Hades, he did not preach to anyone there as some people think he did. He did not redeem us through that suffering.

And if he did go, it was only for a very brief time because he said to the thief, today you will be with me in paradise. Now I have to add another word today. And that is the word today.

You know, because especially because we're on the radio, we receive lots of letters. And I receive many letters from dear people who always want to instruct me in soul sleep, who believe that when someone dies, their soul sleeps until the day of resurrection. So everyone who dies now is unconscious until the day of resurrection.

I can appreciate these people. Unfortunately, however, they put confidence in a prophetess who told them these things because I don't think you get this from the Bible. So look at this text here. Today you shall be with me in paradise. These people interpret it this way. They say, Jesus said to him, I tell you today, pause, you shall be with me in paradise. But that's not what the text says.

You look at it and you can see in the Greek construction what Jesus was saying is today you will be with me in paradise. Obviously he said those words today, not yesterday, not tomorrow. He said them today. That's very evident. But what he's saying is today you are going to be with me in paradise.

What an incredible promise. Now I know that sometimes I get criticized because people say, Pastor Lutzer, you're clearer than you'd have to be. I suppose that's a good criticism that I'm clearer than I'd have to be. So once again, I'm going to be clearer than I probably would have to be.

But I need to tell you this. Notice that he went directly into the presence of Christ. There was no purgatory. Now, if purgatory existed, he'd have been a candidate for it.

Believe me, with his history. Notice that he was not baptized. He had no opportunity to participate in communion.

He did not have to call on Mary, who was right next to the cross, to intercede for him. Direct contact with Christ, God working immediately in his heart, granting him the ability to believe, and Jesus is speaking to him directly and says, today you will be with me in paradise. What a promise to hang on to when you're dying on a cross or on a hospital bed. Now, folks, what happened after the promise was given to him? I want you to notice that the text says in verse 44, it was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining.

That's from noon, if you calculate the time the way in which they did, that's from noon till three o'clock. Three hours of incredible darkness. Not only does darkness come, but Matthew says, and you have to read all the gospels to get the full picture, Matthew says that there was a terrible earthquake and the rocks were broken and smashed. And not only that, but we find that in the darkness there was a voice that this thief heard right next to him. The very one in whom he had come to believe said, oh my God, my God, why has thou forsaken me? And now that thief begins to doubt and he begins to say, maybe he isn't a savior because he is just as bad off as I am. He himself is forsaken by God.

How can someone forsaken by God be a savior, be a king? And I don't know, but I tend to think that his heart began to tremble. He saw the darkness.

He felt the earthquake. He heard the voice and he thought maybe my faith was misplaced. Let me ask you something today.

Was his place in heaven secure even though he now had doubts? And the answer is yes. Yes.

Yes. My friend today, this is Pastor Lutzer. I may be speaking to you and you have doubts. Perhaps you're facing death imminently. Your faith and trust is in Jesus Christ, but you are beginning to tremble. But if you have believed in him, your place in heaven is secure. You know, there are people who struggle with Alzheimer's disease and they even forget that they got saved.

But they are also secure if they have believed on Christ. Let me ask you a question. Do you believe that these messages that you are listening to, do you believe that they should be shared with even more people? Would you consider helping us?

Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? I'm holding in my hands a letter from someone who says, when I lived up north, I lived alone in a cabin. I could get only two radio stations.

One of them played running to win. I started listening every day and I was saved. All of a sudden, God's creation, beauty and majesty mattered more to me.

I came to appreciate what God the Father in Jesus did for me. Would you consider praying for us regularly, supporting this ministry? Here's what you can do to get more info. Go to

That's Of course, when you're there, click on the endurance partner button. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.

Of course, the amount that you give is entirely your discretion. Here's what you do. Go to Click on the endurance partner button.

Thanks in advance for helping us. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 514. Running to Win comes to you from the Moody Church in Chicago to help you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Next time, why we're all on the same borrowed time as the guilty thief and why the offer of Jesus for salvation is one we must accept. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-23 05:41:37 / 2023-03-23 05:50:46 / 9

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