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The Thief on the Cross - People Jesus Met Part 53

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
March 11, 2021 4:00 pm

The Thief on the Cross - People Jesus Met Part 53

So What? / Lon Solomon

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March 11, 2021 4:00 pm

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As many of you are aware, I work out five days a week and you say lawn. It shows well. God bless you and God bless you over there but but it's true. It doesn't just come to show little… Yeah okay well anyway I was on the elliptical machine several weeks ago and I was watching television and just randomly I happen to be watching the biography channel and the biography of Rodney Dangerfield came on and I you know I remember as a kid. Rodney Dangerfield performing on television and I remember in the movie Caddy shack.

But as I watch this.

I didn't really realize what an amazing talent. He was maybe the greatest and up comic of all time.

However, the program also taught me something else about his life and that is that off the stage. Rodney Dangerfield was a tortured person. He had been deserted by his dad at age 2. His mom had ignored and rejected him all of his life and by his own confession. He was an unhappy person who struggled his entire life with drug abuse and alcohol abuse, and severe clinical depression, and on top of all of that he was deathly afraid of dying. Rodney said and I quote I can accept growing older. I can even accept getting all but dying man that a tough one." Finally, in 2004 at the age of 82. Rodney Dangerfield did die after being in a coma for 40 days following an open heart surgery that he was terrified about having an you know when the program was over I was in tears literally because my heart was so broken for this poor man, a man who died in fear. A man who died without hope. And the saddest part of all is that it didn't have to be this way for this man. This man could've face the grave in an entirely different way now friends. The same can be said of us that it doesn't have to be this way for us that you and I don't need to be afraid of dying that we can face the grave in an entirely different way than Rodney Dangerfield did this is the good news of the Bible and this is what we want to talk about today. Remember were in a series entitled people. Jesus met and today we come to one of the most well-known encounters that Jesus has with anybody in the Bible, namely his meeting with the fees on the cross were to go back 2000 years ever going to see what happened at this meeting and then working to bring all of that forward ever going to talk about.

Well, what difference does that make for you and me today.

So our passage is Luke chapter 23 and just a little bit of background. Remember, as we pick up the story here that Pontius Pilate has condemned Jesus to the cross and so after beating him and mocking him and abusing him. The Roman soldiers lead Jesus away to be crucified.

That's where we pick up the story. Luke 23 verse 32. Here we go. The Bible says two other men. Both criminals were also led out with Jesus to be crucified. We learn from Matthew chapter 27 exactly what these two other men had done wrong.

It tells us there that they were thieves. Verse 33 and when they came to the place called the call, there they crucified Jesus and the criminals. One of them on Jesus is right and the other on Jesus's left that still today in Jerusalem. There is a hill call skull hill or skull rock and many people think that this is exactly where Jesus was crucified and this very well may have been the hill were these events took place. Verse 34 and Jesus said, father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. Meanwhile, the soldiers divided up Jesus's clothing by casting lots and the people stood by looking on, but the rulers sneered at him, saying he saved others, let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God and the soldiers also mocked him, offering him wine vinegar and saying if you are the king of the Jews say yourself and there was also a written notice above him, which read. This is the kingdom of the Jews in one of the criminals who was hanging there with them hurled insults at him. Also saying are you not the Messiah, save yourself and us. Now we should stop here for a moment and ask the question. If indeed Jesus was the Messiah, and he was then why didn't he come off the cross and save himself. Like all those people were challenging him to do.

I mean after healing lepers, and after walking on water, and after raising Lazarus from the dead.

I mean, ask rafting yourself off the cross couldn't possibly been that difficult. And of course he was able to do that.

So why didn't see. Well, let's allow the Lord Jesus to answer that question for himself, shall we, in John chapter 12 verse 27.

Looking into the face of the cross. Here is what Jesus said. He said now my heart is trouble.

Yet, what shall I say father, save me from this hour from across not always said it was for this very reason that is the cross that I came listen friends.

It is human nature. I am sure that Jesus would've loved to come off the cross, and vindicate his Messiah ship validate his Messiah ship in front of all of those naysayers and all of those mockers. But Jesus knew that he had a higher purpose to fulfill that he had a nobler purpose to fulfill that he had a far more critical purpose to fulfill by staying on the cross, namely paying for our sins and purchasing our eternal redemption before a holy God. And so, in his love, and in his mercy for you and me. Jesus refused the to take them up on their challenge and instead he's paid and died on the cross. Praise the Lord, praise Lord. Verse 40 but the other thief rebuked the first one, and said to him, do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of death and we are being punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man Jesus has done nothing wrong.

Then he that is thief number two said Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom and Jesus answered him and said, truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in the paradise now friends usually people on the cross lasted several days before they actually died. But you see is God in the flesh.

Jesus was able to look down the corridors of time, he was able to see that by 3 PM that afternoon he was going to be dead. He was able to see that a little while after that the Roman soldiers were going to break the legs of the two thieves and they were going to be a couple of hours behind them in dying and that's why the thief number two. Jesus promised that by the end of this very day you will be with me in paradise. Now what is the Bible tell us about this place where Jesus promised to take thief number two this place called Paradise what the word paradise is only used three times in the New Testament here in Luke 23.

The second place that he chooses.

In Revelation chapter 2 verse seven there is what the Bible says it says to him who overcomes I will give the right to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise. There's our word of God. Looking forward to Revelation chapter 22 we find that the tree of life is located square in the middle of heaven, and therefore it's clear that here in Revelation 2, verse seven, the paradise of God is merely a synonym for heaven and the third place were we find the word paradise is in second Corinthians chapter 12, the apostle Paul says verse two I know a man in Christ, meaning himself 14 years ago was caught up into the third heaven.

This man was caught up into paradise. There's our word and this man heard inexpressible words which a man is not permitted to tell. The point is that here in second Corinthians chapter 12 verse four once again the third heaven is also called Paradise their synonyms. You salon a lot of it living.

The third heaven. What is the third heaven and what of what's in heaven. Number one and have a number two well, friends, how in the world I supposed to know I don't have the slightest idea what could happen 12 or three. I've never been there but I will tell you this in the third heaven called Paradise.

The apostle Paul says that things are so spectacular that he wasn't even allowed to come back and tell us about them. That's great news, not pretty cool, but the Bible does tell us a little bit about this place called paradise. In Luke chapter 16 were told. It's a place of comfort and reward. In Revelation chapter 21 which is the full list and the most detailed description of paradise anywhere in the Bible were told that God himself will be there with us were told that the water of life is dispensed freely. There were told that the streets are made of gold and that there is no night there, but nothing impure will ever enter there that there's no longer any curse, they are not a curse over the physical world or curse over the human race. Genesis 317 anymore, nor is there any death or sorrow or pain or crying there for Revelation 21 for the old order has passed away. Friends, this is the place where Jesus promised that he was going to take thief number two that very same day paradise. And this is the place.

Jesus promises you and me as followers of Christ that he is going to take us on the very day that we die here on this earth but just before we move on. There's one other thing in our passage today that I want to make sure you see, and that is please notice exactly when Jesus said he was going to take thief number two to paradise.

He said, Luke 23 verse 43 he said what what store say it again today. That's right immediately. He said I'm going to do this directly.

I'm going to do it instantly. I'm going to do it press so I'm going to do it now. Some people would love to change what Jesus said to the thief on the cross. Some people wish Jesus had said today you will be in purgatory and some people wish Jesus said today you will be in soul sleep somewhere. She had said today you will be reincarnated or today you will be reabsorbed into the cosmic all or today you will be blown out like a candle. But Jesus didn't say any of those things that he said today immediately. Instantly, you will be with me in paradise.

The point is, my friends, that for followers of Jesus Christ leaving this world means going immediately and being with Jesus Christ. There is no intermediary steps. There is no being in limbo somewhere. There is no holy hibernation of any kind going on. The Bible says. Second Corinthians 5 a to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. In other words, the moment we close our eyes and death here on earth. We immediately open them in paradise in the presence of the living risen Christ. There is nothing in between.

Nothing you know.

I go to New York occasionally not too often, but occasionally when I do I like to ride the subway.

Now if you ever ridden the subway New York. You know, there are two kinds of subway trains. There are the local trains that stop at every single little station and then there are the express trains that go right by all the stations and take you right to your destination. I gotta tell you I love the express train yeah I love it I love little local train go by to wait for the express train because I love standing there at the window and, love fly into those stations and seen all those people standing there on the platform watching and I waved to him as we just go right on by. We don't wish to push this something twisted inside of me that just likes that. I don't know what it is of my sin nature. I'm sorry I apologize. Forgive me Lord but I love it now friends you know what the Bible is telling us the Bible is telling us that when you and I die here on earth it were true followers of the Lord Jesus.

We are going to get on board a's spiritual express train that makes one stop and one top only and that is on the shores of paradise that that's friends. This is what the Bible teaches. This is the way it is..! Praise the Lord for his glory.

Now that brings us to the end of our passage, but it raises our most important question of the morning and you know what that question is, and we haven't asked you for couple weeks so I know your little little rusty. So can we all get limbered up here. Yeah I let's go come on now get loose. Here we go all of you on the Internet. Let's get loose and when I say three.

Give me a little welcome home. Present your ready nice and loud want to pray here how sweet is that you salon. So what express train no expressing what it was that it is made to my life today as well as talk about. We mentioned earlier, Rodney Dangerfield and how terrified he wasn't dying, folks.

Just think how these spiritual truths that we've just learned from the Bible just think how they could've changed Rodney Dangerfield's life radically if he had only known about them, and if he had only activated these truths for his own life, you say, when I went along. Understand first part of what you said. If you only known about what you mean when you say the second part of heat of only activated them for his life.

Well friends. The Bible teaches that Jesus what he did for us on the cross, paying for our sins before a holy God purchasing our eternal redemption making paradise available to us. The Bible teaches that in order for this to become ours. Personally, we must activated, like those credit cards and arrived in the mail. You know the credit limit on the card is real, but before we can actually make it ours. There are certain steps we have to take to activate the cards well in the same way because of what the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross.

The plan of salvation that God offers us is real but just like a new credit card before we can actually make it ours. There are certain steps we have to take to activated in the thief on the cross did it all right. He took every step exactly right. And that's why Jesus said to him today you're going to be with me in paradise because you have just activated the plan of salvation right here on the cross or does it make sense that you and I want to activate the plan of God for salvation that if we can figure out what the thief on the cross did the activated and we do the same thing it'll work for us. Does that make sense to you. Yes okay so what did the thief on the cross.

Do what he do to activate the plan of salvation of God. What he do so we can copy it to things under simple that's it does not try to make this hard. It's simple to things. The thief on the cross. Number one step number one is that he repented he owned up to his sin. He admitted that he was guilty before God and most important of all, he accepted full responsibility for his actions and for the mess that he had gotten himself a look at verse 40 when he talks to the other fee. He says do you not fear God, since your under the same sentence of death watch now and we are being punished justly, for we are getting what authorities deserve look at this. This man made no excuses. He gave no rationalizations.

He made no alibis. It was in his mama's fault that it wasn't his daddy's fault and he wasn't society's fault, and it wasn't the fault of his socioeconomic condition. Instead he said I deserve what I'm getting my punishment is Jost and my punishment is fair.

I really didn't, and it's my fault friends. This is the heart of true godly repentance admitting our sin before God and admitting our sin to ourselves.

Honestly, courageous sleep and openly and this is step number one in activating God's plan of salvation for our lives.

This makes me think the people. The cross does of the story Jesus told in Luke chapter 18 the parable about the rabbi of the tax collector went to the temple to pray. Here's how the story goes verse 11 Jesus said the rabbi stood up and prayed all God, he prayed.

I thank you that I am not like other men, robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector over here I fast twice a week and I give 1/10 of all, I guess this guy sound like he's owning his stuff is sin before God and tell all these doing is trying to brag to God about all the great that he's done all the great religious activity delete is God here comes the tax collector, verse 13 but the tax collector stood in the distance, he wouldn't even lift his eyes to heaven, why not because he was so gripped by his own sinfulness. He was so gripped by his own guilt before God.

Any deed on his breast, and he said God be merciful to me a sinner pay this tax collector didn't offer any excuses to God, nor any offering many religious activity, nor did any offering many good words, he simply humbled himself owned up to his sinfulness and begged God for mercy.

In other words, he repented, he did exactly what the thief on the cross did not listen to the end of the story. Jesus said verse 14 I tell you the truth it was the tax collector who went home justified. This word means acquitted. This word means pronounce not guilty. It was the tax collector who went home acquitted before God friends you want to activate God's plan of salvation for yourself, then we have to do what the thief on the cross. We have to do what the tax collector did we must repent from the heart. We must confess to God, the God if I do end up experiencing your judgment for sin is fair. It's right and I deserve that's repentance God my dad before we go on that repentance is not just for nonbelievers friends once we come to faith in Jesus Christ. The need for repentance doesn't stop is just starting. If we want to unlock God's everyday mercy and God's everyday forgiveness for the things we do wrong every single day, even as followers of Christ. We've got to come to God as believers and repent and admit our sin and ask for forgiveness. My point is that repentance is the basis upon which God deals with sinners. Whether your save centers or whether your unsafe sinners in the neck a bit of difference repentance needs to become a way of life 24 seven 365 anybody who plans and wants to walk close to God. All right, so the thief on the cross, repented you say lawn that's wonderful that God into paradise right now hello not yet, not yet know the still another step he had to take and that is number two. He not only repented, but he placed his total trust for eternity in the hands of Jesus alone. Plus nothing. Loki said verse 42 then he said Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Hanging there on the cross. The thief was prepared to place his entire eternal destiny in Jesus's hands. Plus nothing he couldn't be baptized.

He couldn't be confirmed.

He couldn't be bar mitzvah.

He couldn't sing in the choir. He couldn't teach a Sunday school class.

He could lead a small group he couldn't join a Bible study, and he couldn't recycle he was nailed to a cross goodness say friends if faith in Jesus alone apart from human works wasn't sufficient if faith in Jesus alone, apart from religious activity wasn't sufficient if faith in Jesus alone apart from human effort of any kind wasn't sufficient to get this thief into paradise. He did not have plan B. There is no other plan for him which you notice didn't need plan.

Why is faith in Jesus plus nothing is sufficient and it was sufficient, and always will be sufficient. It works and you know it's interesting, is that Jesus didn't have a word to say to all those mockers down there and all of those naysayers and all of those people standing around the cross.

He didn't answer them a word, but he sure had something to say to the thief on the cross did what he say he said today you will be with me in paradise. While so this is step number two, my friends, if you and I want to activate God's plan of salvation we have to place our trust for our eternal destiny fully in the hands of Jesus Christ and what he did for us on the cross. Plus nothing, no good works, no human effort, no religious activity just Christ and what he did for us on the cross so let's summarize how do we activate God's plan of salvation to things number one with true godly repentance from the heart, and number two with absolute reliance on Christ and what he did for us on the cross as our exclusive plan getting into heaven.

One final thing would you notice, please that it's never too late to do this. Would you notice that the thief on the cross was down to his last couple of hours of life and yet it wasn't too late for him. I mean God's plan of salvation was open to him. He access it within two hours a leave in this world friends as long as there is breath in somebody's body. It is never too late to take advantage of God's plan of salvation as long as there is breath in your body. It's never too late and as long as there is breath in the body of somebody you love and care about. It's never too late.

Don't you dare give up on anybody down to their last breath. The offer is still open for them. Praise the Lord. Now let's summarize, there you go. Let's summarize you know, it may come as a big shock to most of us to relearn the gods ease every one of us here, just like he saw the thief on the cross. How did he see the thief on the cross while the thief on the cross was utterly helpless to redeem himself hanging there on the cross he could do anything to help himself and the thief on the cross was utterly powerless to get himself into heaven friends. That's how God sees us, which means that for every one of us here.

The only hope we have of ever getting into paradise is to get in the same way the thief in the on the cross God in that and how did you get in just to conclude number one. He got in by truly repenting of then before God, and number two by casting himself on Jesus and what he did on the cross as is exclusive hope and plan for getting into heaven after here today and you've never done this really give you a chance to do it right now to lift our heads together with our heads bowed in our eyes close his what going to do. I'm going to lead us in a short prayer that simply going to allow us to repent and to transfer our trust for heaven off of anything else we've ever trusted and onto Christ and what he did for us on the cross. Plus nothing and I'm in a pray out loud. One phrase the time. I want you to pray silently right behind me one phrase at a time and if this is something you want to do this is your moment here we go. You pray silently on the pray out loud, Lord Jesus, I come to you today because I want eternal life. I want to know for certain that when I leave this earth. I'm on that express train directly to paradise. And so today I confessed my sin to you, and I accept full responsibility for the things I've done and said for the messes I got myself in and I also confess that if I were to experience your judgment for sin, you would be right and fair and just. But today, Lord Jesus. I cast myself on your mercy, like the thief on the cross to like the tax collector do and I transfer my trust today off of everything else I've ever trusted to get me in the heaven. My religious activity my good works and instead I embrace Jesus Christ and what he did for me on the cross as my exclusive plan for getting into paradise. Plus nothing more.

Jesus come into my heart today. Forgive my sins grant me eternal life and become my personal Lord and Savior. Beginning today.

In Jesus name I pray. Father, I want to pray for the folks to pray that prayer that you would assure them that if it was prayed. Sincerely, from the heart that if you were hanging on the cross next to them.

You could say to them today you will be with me in paradise. Lord, give them that assurance that they're going to heaven, and it can never ever change and if they can face the grave different than Rodney Dangerfield.

Because they have your promise today I'm taking you to paradise Lord.

For those of us here we've already pray this prayer. Thanks for reminding us that you stayed on that cross so that we could have this confidence as we look into eternity so that we could have the assurance of eternal life in Lord Jesus. May our hearts rise up in gratitude and thanksgiving to you for doing this. Even though we didn't deserve it. Finally, Lord remind us that there are lots of Rodney Dangerfield's right here in Washington people who are terrified of this but they don't know what the Bible says they've never been able to activate it and so Lord make us missionaries every day to our friends, our neighbors, our loved ones or coworkers so that they can face death with confidence and not like Rodney Dangerfield is more.

Thanks again for all that you did for us on the cross. We pray these things in Jesus name, amen

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