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A Cry Of Assurance Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
March 24, 2023 2:00 am

A Cry Of Assurance Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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March 24, 2023 2:00 am

Everyone wants to be remembered. Even if we are not remembered by man, how much better it is to be remembered by God. In this message, we compare the two thieves crucified with Jesus. These two represent the division across humanity: those who look to Christ for salvation, and those who don’t.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. There are seven sayings of Jesus on the cross, each laden with meaning. To a dying thief, Jesus gave a cry of assurance, You will be with me in paradise. If you wonder what your destiny will be after death, stay with us for insights on why these words might be the best news you will ever hear. 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, can you briefly tell us what the paradise is that Jesus refers to in this cry from the cross? Dave, I think that paradise actually is heaven. Those who die today are in the presence of the Lord, and Jesus was saying to him, Today you will be with me there. What an honor for a thief.

But you know, Dave, my mind actually is going somewhere else. The first message I ever preached, I was in 12th grade, small church in northern Canada. I based it on this text and pointed out that Jesus Christ actually separates all of humanity. On the one side is the thief who didn't believe, and on the other side is the thief who did believe, and that the whole human race was divided.

I would have given anything if that message had been taped so that I could listen to it today. But what I did preach back then is still true. The cross of Jesus Christ divides humanity into two. I've written a book entitled Cries from the Cross, a Journey into the Heart of Jesus. We're making this resource available to anyone for a gift of any amount. Here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now let us stand at the foot of the cross. 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. 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. Because Jesus had said, today you will be with me in paradise and if Jesus says today you'll be with me, you'll be with him even though there is an earthquake and even though there is darkness and blackness and even if the person next to you cries out in despair, the promise still stands. You and I are going to die someday. Some of us by heart attack, we won't have a lot of time to think through what we should have been doing on earth. We may die in a car accident. We may die also of an impending disease, terminal disease and we know right well we're dying. I didn't intend to share this because today you're learning more about me than maybe you cared to know, but I have always prayed that I would not die suddenly. I want to know that I'm dying. Now it's not because I'm this brave guy, I'm just as scared as anybody else, but I've got some things I'd really like to do and I'd like to see whether God would grant me the dying grace as a witness.

Now having said that much, let me add, I hope that's not going to happen soon, you understand. Lord, you know that there's a P.S. added to this prayer. What are you going to do my friend when the darkness comes? What are you going to do when the doubts begin to arise? What are you going to do when the earth begins to shake? What are you going to do when the people around you are crying up in despair? What are you going to do?

You're going to hang on to the promise of God that he that believes in me has everlasting life and that's the promise that I want to hang on to from this life to the next. I think of Cowper. I know that his name is pronounced Cooper and I know that because once again I get letters particularly from the English purists who say Pastor Lutzer, get it straight, it's not Cowper, it's Cooper.

So all those of you who write letters, listen to this, it's Cooper. He wrote those wonderful words, God works in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform but the night he wrote those words he tried to commit suicide. If you look at his biography which is incredibly interesting, you find that this man with incredible talent who wrote awesome poetry and marvelous poems had so many doubts primarily because of his background and the insecurities that he brought to that situation he was in an insane asylum on four different occasions and yet he loved Christ and he wrote about Christ and he believed on Christ and his friends saw in him Christ and yet he died wondering whether he would be damned. I have no doubt in my mind from what I've read about him he will be saved today.

You'll be with me in paradise. I have a responsibility as a preacher and that is to cause those of you who have never trusted Christ as Savior to doubt your salvation because there are many people who have false assurance and I need to be able to separate you from those who have come to trust Christ as Savior and believed on him but have gone through periods of doubt because in the end Christ does save. I'd like to be able to summarize all this in three very important realities, all from the text of scripture. First of all, I want you to know that both thieves prayed but only one was saved. Both thieves prayed.

Look at the text there. Verse 39, one of the criminals who hung their hurled insults at him, aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us. That's a prayer. But all that he cared about was physical salvation. Get us down from this cross. He didn't care about eternity or where he was going to spend eternity.

Just do something for me now. That's the way many people treat God. William James who had a great impact on American education was a pragmatist. He said we don't know which religion is right because we don't yet know which one gives us the greatest results.

We would say we still don't know which one gives us the biggest bang for our buck. Give me a God who will do something for me. Give me a God who will heal me. Give me a God who is going to make me some money. Give me that kind of a God.

If you're God, do this. Well, a man was lost. Another parenthesis, do you realize that if Jesus had answered that prayer that he would not have been able to say to the thief, today you will be with me in paradise? Because Jesus had to die physically to redeem us spiritually.

The cross was necessary if you and I were to be redeemed. And so in the midst of this you find that both thieves prayed. And there are plenty of people who prayed today.

There's people that I've met who said, you know, I pray to God every day. I pray for healing. I pray for my children.

I pray for this and I pray for that. And they are not saved. They are not saved. Let me give you a second reality as we look at the text, and that is that the thieves represent the whole human race.

They represent the human race. As I say, it's not an accident that Jesus was crucified between two thieves because in being there on the middle cross he divides humanity in two. Humanity, you know, is not divided geographically in God's eyes. It is not divided racially. It is not even divided on the basis of who is better than someone else in terms of who is more evil or who is more righteous.

That's not where the division comes. This thief who believed was probably just as wicked as the thief who did not believe. But that was not the issue in the dying moment. The issue was which one looked to Christ as Savior.

That was the issue in that dying moment. And the whole human race is divided between those who have trusted Christ as Savior and those who have rejected him as Savior. And that's the division that God sees.

And we look at those three crosses on Calvary, and symbolically we see the whole human race. The final reality, and that is today is the day to believe. Today is the day to believe. You say, oh yes, but you know the thief believed in the last hour.

Mr. Wiersbe has a very interesting insight. He said that the thief did not believe on his last opportunity. He believed in his first opportunity.

This was the first opportunity. He was unacquainted with Jesus, so far as we know. And so he heard the gospel and he believed. Listen, if you think that you're going to be converted on your deathbed, there are very, very few deathbed conversions.

Some, but not many. In fact, the Puritans used to say about the dying thief who was saved, there is one such case recorded that no one may despair but only one that none might presume. Listen to me very carefully. You cannot come to Christ unless the Holy Spirit of God works in your heart and draws you to him. If you wait until you think that you're going to come to Christ on your deathbed, not knowing of course that there may not be a deathbed because there are so many creative ways to die.

But if you think that you're going to wait until that moment, your heart might be as hard as the other thief at that moment. He's the one who also heard Jesus pray. He's the one who knew about that placard above Jesus, the King of the Jews. He's the one who saw the people parade there, the mobs that says he saved others, himself he could not save, and here he is in his dying moment.

Can you figure this guy out? He's dying and he still won't believe. If I'm to believe, show me, get me down from this cross. And he goes into eternity without the protection and grace and the forgiveness of God. Don't you dare think that it's going to be easier to accept Christ than it is today.

Never, not a chance. Your heart becomes a little harder, you become more used to the gospel message, you rationalize a little more, and it becomes more difficult all the time. Today is the day to believe.

I spoke to you about Cooper, who we now pronounce correctly. And one day he wrote a hymn and it has six stanzas, we only have five in our hymnal, and apparently all six are on Spurgeon's grave in England. And someday I want to go to England, I want to go to Spurgeon's grave, and I want to see all six of those stanzas.

Spurgeon, by the way, was a great English preacher. But the song is, there is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins, and sinners plunge beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains. Some people don't like it because it has too much blood, I understand that, it's symbolic. Symbolic of the fact that we are redeemed by Christ's blood. But the second stanza says this, the dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day, and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away. And my dear friend today, though vile as he, we come to the cross and we accept what Jesus did for us, and we say, I put faith in you as Savior, as King, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And we hear the promise of Jesus that you will be with me in paradise, even though the darkness will come, and the earthquake will rock the earth, and the voices around will sound hopeless. Let's pray. Father, what can we say that has not been said? How can we put it that men and women will believe? We pray in this moment that you might take away all the rationalizations, all the fears, all the excuses, and grant to many today the ability to believe.

We do not offer them a Christ on the cross who is writhing in pain, we offer a resurrected Christ a triumphant Christ, an ascended Christ, and we pray that with that look of faith many today shall believe and live. Now I want to ask you a question today. How many of there are there in this auditorium today, and we're talking about the choir all over, anyone who's listening to me, says, Pastor Lutzer, I know that I have put confidence in Jesus Christ. I've transferred my trust to him, and I have the assurance of his promise that someday I'll be with him in paradise. Could I see your hands, please?

All over the auditorium, hundreds of you. Now I want to speak to those of you who could not raise your hand. So what are you going to tell God when you get to heaven, or when you are judged, I should say, that you've never trusted Christ, you've never given up your religiosity, you've never given up your self-righteousness, you've never given up that pride that has hindered you. Why don't you at this moment pray this prayer? Say, Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I'm condemned with that thief. But at this moment I transfer all of my trust to you. I embrace Jesus as my Savior and my King. Grant me the same assurance that the dying thief had. In Jesus' name.

Amen. Well, my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer. I'm sure you realize that I have considered it throughout the years a tremendous honor to have the privilege of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because all of us, as I mentioned in this message, we identify with the dying thief, but we receive from Jesus a word of assurance. Today you shall be with me in paradise. I've written a book entitled Christ from the Cross, a Journey into the Heart of Jesus.

And as we contemplate the coming of Easter, we're reminded of the cross, we're reminded of the redemption that Jesus Christ purchased. I also want us to understand the depth of his love for us and indeed how great that price was. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours.

Here's what you do. Go to or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. I'm going to be giving you that contact info again, give you an opportunity to pick up a pen or a pencil. But I want you to know that it is because of your support, your prayers, that this ministry can go to millions of people. As you listen to these messages, I trust that your own heart is drawn toward Christ and that you will realize that that is our desire. For a gift of any amount, you can receive the book, Cries from the Cross, a Journey into the Heart of Jesus.

Simply go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Remember that here at Running to Win, always it's about Jesus. Thanks for helping us get the message to millions of people. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Today, we have a question from a very perceptive listener, a question that goes to the very heart of what being saved really means.

Here's what John writes. Based on the Scriptures, can we separate salvation by grace from discipleship? Some say that discipleship is an option that won't influence our eternal destiny because our salvation is eternally secure once we believe in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

But Dietrich Bonhoeffer thinks we cannot separate the two. He talks about cheap grace and costly grace. The costly grace calls us to follow Christ, which means discipleship. And no one is saved by cheap grace, which in his opinion is used as a dispensation from following Christ. He says the only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who is left all to follow Christ. Pastor Lutzer, what's your opinion about this dilemma? John, I want to commend you because you've asked a very, very important question. And you know, believe it or not, it's not one that I can just answer by saying yes or no.

What we need to do is to separate a couple of things, and we need to think clearly. And I hope we think biblically about the answer to your question. First of all, I do believe that those who are truly saved will be saved. Now you can say, well, if you believe on Jesus and then don't follow him, that's cheap grace. Well, looked at from another way, it is very expensive grace because it has come to us from Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ purchased us and that is never cheap grace. When we believe on Christ, we always know that we are believing in grace that really cost God plenty.

So first of all, let me clarify that. Secondly, it's very important for us to realize that Bonhoeffer in saying what he did, and by the way, I am a great admirer of Bonhoeffer, but in saying what he did, he came close to teaching that we are saved by grace and by works because what he's saying is, if I believe in Jesus and then don't follow him, then my salvation is jeopardized. Somehow my discipleship adds to what Jesus Christ did.

Seems to me that that's what he's saying. But now having said that, I don't mean to say that we can believe in Jesus and then live as we please. Because obviously, first of all, we are called to discipleship as an outgrowth of our faith. We are saved unto good works. And if someone has no desire to do good works and to follow Christ after they say they are saved, I have to doubt whether they are truly saved. Furthermore, if we backslide as Christians, God disciplines us. And if we're not disciplined, the Bible says that then we are not true sons. So I guess I need to summarize by saying, yes, I believe that those who are truly saved will be saved. Yes, we should be involved in discipleship – that's what we are called to as a result of our salvation – but there are going to be Christians who will be saved so as by fire.

They will be in heaven, but they'll have no good works to show for it. Pathetic, but saved. Think about it, John, and God help all of us to think clearly about these matters. Some wise counsel from Dr. Erwin Lutzer. Thank you, Pastor Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Next time on Running to Win, a sorrowing mother hears her son commit her to the care of John. Don't miss A Cry of Compassion. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-24 05:38:23 / 2023-03-24 05:47:14 / 9

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