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Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise - Life of Christ Part 103

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
February 1, 2024 3:00 pm

Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise - Life of Christ Part 103

So What? / Lon Solomon

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You know, when it comes to thievery, I've got an unusual one for you. Here's one. You know, we've been talking about Jesus on the cross and two thieves.

Here's one that I got out of the paper this week. This past week, the police finally caught the camouflage bandit. This was a guy who had been robbing banks in New Jersey wearing a camouflage uniform complete with a mask and everything. Turns out, he's an undercover vice cop that works for the Trenton, New Jersey, police force. And when he wasn't out capturing drug dealers or speaking to school children about the dangers of narcotics and crime, he was using his service revolver to rob banks and his unmarked police car as the getaway vehicle. Now, they actually caught the guy in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he robbed a bank. You say, what was he doing in Ohio? I thought you said he worked in New Jersey. Well, he did work in New Jersey, but he was in Ohio because he was attending a law enforcement conference on how to combat crime.

This is true. During the lunch break, when they gave him a lunch break, he went out and robbed a bank during lunch, and they caught him. He faces a possible prison sentence of 100 years.

That's what it would be if they give him the max, 100 years. Now, back in Jesus' day, criminals of robbers were not looked on with any greater favor, except that they had a slightly different way of making sure you never robbed another bank. They simply executed you. And once they executed you, the chances were fairly slim that you'd ever rob a bank.

So they fixed the problem. And so when we find Jesus being crucified, he's crucified between two robbers that are being executed for the crime that they committed. And the story of his interaction with these two thieves, particularly one of them, is what our passage is all about today. So I want you to look with me, picking up at verse 35 of Luke chapter 23. And Jesus gives us some enormous words of comfort and hope regarding heaven.

And I want you to see those here. Verse 35, and the people stood watching and the rulers even sneered at Jesus on the cross. And they said, huh, he saved others. Let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, the chosen one.

And the soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine, vinegar, and they said, if you are the King of the Jews, save yourself because there was a written notice above him that read, this is the King of the Jews. And one of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him and said, aren't you the Messiah?

Then why don't you save yourself and save us, huh? Jesus, as he hung on the cross was the object of incredible abuse. All these people coming up and challenging him and saying, hey, Jesus, go ahead, man. Prove that you're the son of God. Prove you're the Messiah. Come on down off that cross. I mean, just kind of let those nails disappear and just kind of float on down right here next to us off that cross.

And then maybe we'll believe that you really are who you say you are, huh? Even one of the robbers lying on the cross next to him harassed him. They said, but Lon, if Jesus really was God in the flesh the way he said he was, the way he claimed to be, couldn't he do that? Couldn't he just float down there next to him off the cross?

Sure he could. You say, well, then why didn't he do it? Well, the answer to that question, my friends, is that in his human nature, I am sure Jesus would have loved nothing more than to come down off that cross and say, see there, guys. But the problem is something he said in John chapter 12. He said in John 12, looking forward into the face of the cross, he said, now my heart is troubled.

And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. Save me from the cross? No, for it was for this very reason, the cross, that I came. See Jesus couldn't come off the cross because the cross was his whole mission. To die for the sin of man was his whole mission.

The will of God demanded that he stay on the cross as much as he would have liked to come off the cross. So he did. Now there was another thief there. And the other thief had an entirely different reaction to him than the first one who was harassing him. Look at verse 40. But the other criminal rebuked him and said, don't you fear God?

Since we're under the same sentence, we are punished justly for we're getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong. And then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Now this thief approaches Jesus differently than everybody else around by doing two things. The first thing he did is he repented. He changed his mind about himself, about the way he'd been living. He accepted responsibility for his sin.

There were no excuses, no rationalizations. He wasn't up there on the cross going, it's not my fault. I didn't do it. They set me up. Nobody read me my rights. My lawyer didn't come through. My mom and dad were not fair to me. You know, I grew up in poverty.

None of that nonsense. He said, hey, I'm getting what I justly deserve. My punishment is fair. I've been out of step with God. I have been going in the wrong direction and I'm hanging here on the cross as proof that that's true. There was repentance, a change of heart in the guy. And then the second thing he did is he took that repentance to Jesus and he begged for mercy. He asked for mercy.

Look what he said. He said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Now Pilate had said to Jesus, so you are a king. And Jesus in response said, yes, I am a king, but my kingdom is not of this world. And hanging on the cross, this thief was prepared to believe what Jesus said about his kingdom.

And he said, Jesus, I believe what you said about a kingdom in another world. And I know in this world I've been a bum. I know in this world I've been a failure. I know in this world I haven't had any use for God. But now Jesus, I'm begging you for mercy. And even though my performance doesn't deserve it, I'm asking you when you come into that kingdom to remember me. You know what's really interesting is that all those hundreds of people standing around gawking at Jesus, challenging Jesus, mocking Jesus, throwing insults at him.

Isn't it interesting? He didn't have a word, not one word to say to them, but he turned to this guy and he had something very significant to say. Look what he said to him. Verse 43. Jesus answered him and said, I tell you the truth today, today you will be with me in paradise today. Now what he said here tells us two great truths about salvation, two great truths about the eternal life that Jesus is offering. The first thing it tells us is that no human works are necessary to secure it. If you want access to heaven and to eternal life, there are no human works that are necessary to get it.

You say, Lon, how do you know that? Folks, listen, if there was one single little tiny thing that that thief on the cross had to do to get forgiveness of sin and eternal life and access to heaven, he couldn't do it. He was nailed to a cross.

You understand what I'm saying? And if Jesus had said to him, oh, you know, I'd love to take you to heaven with me today. There's only one little tiny thing you got to go do before I can do that.

This thief could not get down and go do it. What's he going to say to the Romans? Excuse me, could you pull these nails out for just a second? I'll be right back.

Trust me, I'll be right back. I just got to run to church for a minute. Now, this guy couldn't sing in the choir, couldn't put money in an offering plate. He couldn't attend church. He couldn't be baptized. He couldn't count the rosary. He couldn't fast for Yom Kippur and he couldn't make a pilgrimage to Mecca. He couldn't go bathe in the Ganges. He couldn't pay back the money he'd stolen. He couldn't do community service and he could not become an Eagle Scout.

This guy couldn't do anything, nothing. And yet in spite of this, Jesus granted him forgiveness of sin and eternal life and a place in heaven with Jesus himself. And what that tells us is that human works have nothing to do with getting forgiveness of sin and eternal life and a place in heaven.

If they did, this guy would have been up the cross without a paddle. You understand? The thief got forgiveness of sin and eternal life and a place in heaven by simply having repentance and faith. That's all he did. Repentance and faith.

And that's exactly how you and I get it. I love in Acts chapter 16, you remember that's when Paul was in jail and the great earthquake happened and the jail doors flung open and the jailer knew that he was dead meat. If these prisoners escaped, the Romans just cut his head off. And so he was going to jump on his sword and kill himself. You remember the story? And Paul said, no, no, no, we're all here.

Don't do that. And he comes running in and he drops on his knees. And you remember what he said? Greatest question you'll ever ask anybody. He said, Paul, what do I have to do to be saved? What do I have to do to know God the way you know God? So he opens doors like this for you.

What do I have to do? And Paul said to him, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you'll be saved. You hear any human works in there? I don't hear any. You know, I work out at this gym around here, Olympus gym, and I try to get there two, three days a week. I've been going there for years now. Everybody kind of knows I'm a pastor or you know, when they first find out you're a pastor, I have people come up to me all the time and they go, you know, I really need to start coming to church more. Well, as though I ask them, I didn't ask them.

I didn't say a word to them. They're just like, well, I really need to come to church more. And I'm like, well, that's good. Oh, and many times they'll say to me, I need more religion in my life.

That's what I need. I need to get religion. I've read about you people who get religion and I need to get some. Now, if I know them well enough, you know what I say in response to them? I say, well, if you want to get religion, don't come to my church because we don't give religion out.

And they're like, what? Church doesn't give religion out? Of course it does. McDonald's gives out Big Macs. Church gives out religion. Easy.

No, no, no. I say, no, we don't give out religion. We don't dispense religion here. And we don't.

You know why? Because religion is a system of human works to help you work your way to God and earn your way to heaven. That's religion. God knows nothing about religion in the Bible. What God knows in the Bible is a savior dying on the cross to pay for your sin so he could give you eternal life free and without anything to do with any works you ever do. The Bible says the wages of sin is death, but the what?

The gift of God is eternal life. Romans 6 23. Jesus said, John chapter 10, I know my sheep. My sheep follow me and I give them eternal life. They don't earn it.

I give it to them. And the thief on the cross didn't do one thing in the world to earn eternal life. He couldn't do anything to earn eternal life. God doesn't offer you religion. God offers you eternal life as a gift in response to repentance and faith, just the way the thief on the cross did. And that's why Ephesians chapter two says that eternal life is a gift. It's not of works, lest anybody should brag. Oh, look what I did.

I worked my way here. God said, uh-uh. Nobody's going to do that. It's a gift. Everybody who gets here, I gave them a gift. And folk, this is the difference between religion and biblical Christianity.

All religions are giving people a way to work their way to God and true biblical Christianity is saying you can't work your way to God, but God will give you eternal life as a gift if you'll do what the thief did. The second thing this tells us about eternal life and about heaven is that it's never too late to turn to Christ. Never too late. I meet people all the time will go, oh, you know, I've gone too far. I've done too much. I've messed up too bad. God doesn't want me. It's too late for me. Oh, wait a minute.

Time out. That's human logic talking. God never says that anywhere.

Here we've got a guy being executed on a cross. It's not too late for him. Wasn't too late for him. And I don't care what you've done.

It's never too late for you. You say, oh, this is good. This is great. I'm just going to do whatever I feel like doing till the 11th hour. Now I accept Christ and boom, presto, man, I'm in.

This is a good deal. Well, one little problem with that, and that is that nobody has any guarantee they're going to have an 11th hour. I'm a coach in a little league team. You all know that.

I keep telling you that. So how's the team doing? Well, we're stinking up. But anyway, we're having fun. This other coach, we played him this past week and he beat us, but we're still friends. Now we'd be better friends if I beat him, but we're still friends. And I saw him the next day and he was telling me about a kid on his team who hit two homers against us, like over the fence deals, not, you know, run for everything you can get.

I'm talking over the fence deals. Not one, two. And I said, hey, that kid's pretty good. And he goes, yeah, he said, but you know, he had a terrible tragedy in his life. He said his dad was 32 years old and last year his dad was coming home from work. He stepped off a Metro bus and there was a car trying to pass the Metro bus on the right because the car couldn't wait. It was too impatient and they hit his dad. The dad stepped off the bus, pow, the car hit him, killed him right on the spot.

That's it. Ambulance got there, already dead, gone. Now I don't know what the spiritual condition of this man was, but I know he didn't get an 11th hour. I mean, it was like off the Metro bus into eternity.

That's it. And folks, you and I don't have any guarantee we're going to get an 11th hour. I love the bumper sticker that says a lot of people who plan to accept Christ in the 11th hour die at 1030.

Have you seen that one? But it's true. And if you're here and you've been thinking about Jesus Christ for your life, may I say to you, yes, it's never too late to accept Christ, but now is the time. It's never too late, but now is the time. Paul said, today is the day of salvation. Today is the appointed time. Today is the time.

It's never too late, but now's the time. Now that's the end of our passage, but it leads us to ask the really important question. And you know what that is, don't you?

What's the question? So what? Right. So what? One, you know, I don't rob banks.

I don't even own a camouflage suit and nobody's going to execute me for anything. So what? All right. Well, remember we said on the cross, Jesus said seven things. This is the second of the seven. And in those seven things, he was leaving us with the most basic fundamental spiritual information he wanted us to carry with us. Now the first week, last week we talked about forgiveness and he communicated to us, Jesus did, that forgiveness is full and it's free and it's forever. Now this week he's trying to communicate some information to us about eternity that we as Christians, he wants us to know.

Look what it says here. Today, Jesus said, you will be with me in paradise. Now, why did he say today with this guy? Well, because he knew before the day was over, he was going to be dead. And Jesus also knew that even though sometimes people hang on the cross three or four days before they die, he looked down the corridors of time and realized something the thief didn't know yet.

And that is that the soldiers were coming in a couple hours to break his legs and he was going to die on the same day too. And Jesus says, Hey pal, I want to tell you something before sundown, you and I are both going to be someplace else. Just like one of these days, you and I as Christians are going to be someplace else. And he said, I want you to know where you're going to be and where you're going to be is paradise.

Where you're going to be is paradise. But look at how Jesus said he's going to get there. He said today, not tomorrow, not next month, not in four or five years, not when somebody decides to make you a Saint, but today you will be with me in paradise immediately, directly, instantly.

Presto. Some groups would like to change what Jesus said here. Some groups wish that he said today you will be with me in purgatory. He didn't say that. Some groups would have him say today you will be with me in soul sleep. He didn't say that. Some groups would like to have him say today you will be reincarnated. He didn't say that. Today you will be reabsorbed into the cosmic all along. He didn't say that either.

Today you will be blown out like a candle. He didn't say that. Today your guest is as good as mine.

Where are you going to be? He didn't say that either. He said today, instantly, you are going to be with me in paradise. Let me show you one other passage in the Bible. Philippians chapter 1. For those of you using our copy of the Bible, it's page 831, Philippians chapter 1. And in this passage, Paul is talking about a quandary that he's in where he wants to go to heaven, but the Philippian Christians need him to stay here and work with them and he doesn't know which to do. He's back and forth between the two. Now, what I really want you to see is how he describes death for the Christian.

Look what he says. Philippians chapter 1, verse 23. He says, I am torn between the two, for I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it's more necessary for you that I remain here in my body. But look how he describes death. He uses two very simple little phrases. He said, death for the Christian is first of all, to depart.

This is a word that the Greeks use to loose a ship from its moorings, to strike a tent. And the Bible describes death for a Christian as simply weighing anchor in this world, as simply striking the tent in this world. And then he says to depart and what? Be with Christ. For a Christian leaving this world is the same as going to be with Christ. There's no intermediate steps. There's no being in limbo somewhere. Paul himself said, second Corinthians chapter five, to be absent from the body, to die and leave this body is to be present with the Lord. There's nothing in between, nothing in between.

When a Christian dies, they step on an express train that only makes one stop and that's heaven. How many of you ever been to New York City and have ridden on the subway? Okay, good.

I know you're not proud of it. Raise your hand anyway. Okay, good. Now, I was riding on the subway one time up there.

You know, it's pretty confusing system. And I got this map and I'm reading this little pocket map on the subway and I'm trying to figure out where I'm going and this guy sits down next to me and goes, and I'm like, okay, okay, take my wallet, just don't kill me. He's like, no, no, no, put your hands down. Oh, okay. And he said, look, don't ever sit on the subway and read a map. I said, why not? He said, because real New Yorkers never read the map on the subway and when you're reading a map on the subway, it's like wearing a big old sign above you that says, I'm a tourist, rob me.

I said, oh, okay. So now I never read the map on the subway. But that's a problem sometimes because I'd study it before I get there and then I wouldn't touch that crazy thing on the subway after this warning, but I have occasionally made a slight mistake when I got there. And one time I remember I was going somewhere and I got on this train that was going to my stop, except what I didn't realize is this was the express train. So when we got to my stop, we went right by my stop. I'm like, excuse me, I want to get off there. They didn't stop there.

You know what else? They didn't stop at any place else, even close. I mean, I was like miles up the road before they finally stopped somewhere. That's an express train. Now what God's trying to tell us is that when you and I step out of this life, we're going to step on an express train.

It's not going to make any stops. I don't even know if there are any stops, but if there are, this train ain't making them. This train's going only one destination and that's straight to heaven and it's going there quick in a twinkling of an eye. It makes those Japanese trains look like they crawl and it's going there quick. And that's where a Christian, that's where you're going on the express train right there.

One destination only. Now I want to take the rest of the time. I've got to talk to you a little bit about this place where you're going called heaven. And you know, people all the time are saying, oh yeah, you Christians, man, all you all ever want to do is sit around and talk about pie in the sky, pie in the sky. You know, that's all you all want to do is talk about pie in the sky. I mean, I could afford to talk a little bit about pie, couldn't you? I mean, you know, it's a whole lot better than the liver down here we're eating. I could take some pie in the sky. So okay, instead of liver, let's talk pie now. What's up there for us?

What's out there for us? You know, in second Corinthians chapter 12, Paul says he was caught up into paradise. I don't know the arrangements of how that worked.

I don't understand the mechanics. It never happened to me. But Paul said it happened to him and he saw things. He said up there, wherever it is, that you're not even allowed, he said, to come back and tell other people. He said, God told me, I'm not allowed to tell you some of the stuff I saw there. He said, well, why not? That's not very fair. I don't like that.

That's cheap. I mean, well, I'd like to know what's out there. No, no, no, God doesn't want you to know everything that's out there. Because you know why? If you and I as Christians knew everything that was out there, we wouldn't be willing to stay here.

We'd all be on the phone calling Dr. Kevorkian and say, come to my house, come to my house. So God's not going to tell you everything that's up there. But he's given us a glimpse, just a tiny little glimpse of what's up there. Revelation 21 and 22 have the greatest listing of what's there in heaven.

And let me just read, I'm just quoting them to you. Let me tell you what's up there. Revelation 21 and 22, they tell us, first of all, God himself will be there. And that all things will be different there. The water of eternal life will be dispensed freely there.

They'll have gates of pearl and streets of gold. There's no sun or moon. And the glory of God provides the light there. They don't need a sun or a moon.

That's pretty cool. There's no night there. All right, great. And the Bible says there's nothing impure or shameful or deceitful that will ever enter there. What that means is there's no politicians in heaven. Is this great or what?

This is awesome. Okay. It also says there'll be no curse in heaven.

Remember in Genesis three, where God cursed the creation and curse the human race because of sin. It won't be there. No germs, no colds, no flu, no bacteria, no viruses, no cancer. None of that stuff's there. Not even any dandelions, nothing. It's all gone.

No weeds. And the Bible says there'll be no tears, no death, no sorrow, no pain, no crying because the old order of things has all gone away. Hey, when was the last time you ever remember crying? You want me to know the last time I did? I was at a movie, once he's movie and I cried. You know what movie it was? Sergeant Bilko.

Once he's Sergeant Bilko. Well, it is at the end. It is sad. I mean, you know, it's kind of touching.

They finally get married, you know? And so, I mean, I wasn't hysterical or anything, but I mean, I was kind of sniveling a little bit. My kids, they had to go to the movies and he's like, dad, you're crying to Sergeant Bilko? What is wrong with you? Now, I don't know when was the last time you cried.

And maybe it was over something a whole lot more serious and a whole lot more painful than Sergeant Bilko movie. But let me say to you, if you're a Christian, you better do all the crying you ever plan to do right here now before you leave. Because when you get to heaven, you're not gonna be able to do it anymore.

It's over. You can't cry there. I love the Bible says that God will wipe every tear from our eyes. And I love the fact that the Bible says God is gonna personally do that himself. He's not gonna delegate that to some angel. But God's gonna take out his supernatural handkerchief himself and is gonna sit right next to you and wipe every tear from your eye. I think that's gonna be pretty special. But you know, all of that, none of that's the best part of heaven.

Say, it sounds pretty good to me. Yeah, but the best part of heaven is what Revelation tells us. And that is, and we shall see his face. We shall see the Lord's face. All the living we've been doing by faith now, it's all gonna be sight then. Everything we don't understand now, we're all gonna understand it then.

All the things that we can't explain now, they're all gonna make sense then. We're gonna see his face and we're gonna walk with him and we're gonna meet him face to face. That's gonna be the best part.

Fanny Crosby wrote to him and said, through the gates of the city in a robe of spotless white, he will lead me where no tears will ever fall. In the glad song of ages, I shall mingle with the light. She said, but that's not the best part. Here's the best part. I long to meet my savior, first of all.

That's gonna be the best part. Heaven, pretty good place. I've always wanted to go to Paris. Any guys ever wanted to go to Paris? Yeah, I've always wanted to go to Paris. I mean, how can you see the movie Sabrina and not want to go to Paris, huh? And I always thought, what an awesome place. What a great place. Well, a couple of years ago, I got the privilege to go to Paris.

And you know what? It really wasn't all that cool. I mean, the people were nasty.

The waiters were rude. I came back from the whole thing kind of going, all right, been there, done that, never want to do that. Again, Sabrina was wrong.

Okay. And you know, God's given me the privilege of going lots of other places in the world, pyramids, bunch of us. You know what I've learned? They never live up to their billing. I mean, you get all pumped up to go and you go and it's all right. But I don't know, it's always kind of a letdown. They're just never as awesome as you dream about things being.

If you guys know what I'm talking about, they're just not as awesome as you think they're gonna be. I've got a place I'd like to offer you that I can guarantee you will live up to the billing. In fact, I can guarantee you it'll be greater than the billing. And that's heaven. I can't imagine anybody getting to heaven and saying, eh, okay, been here, done that, let's go back. Don't think so.

I can't imagine that happening to anybody. And that's why Paul said right here in verse 23, I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. It's why he said in verse 21, to die is to gain because this is a product nobody likes to be in sales and be selling a product that they don't think will live up to its name. This is a product that when we sell it to somebody and we sell Jesus Christ to them in the right sense of that word, we give them a product that's gonna do better than anything we can ever even claim for it. Pie in the sky theology.

Okay, I need some pie in the sky in light of the way things are down here. Maybe you do too as a Christian. I'm so grateful that God who loves us made a place like this for us.

And if you know Christ is your personal savior, that's where you're gonna be. I had a couple in one of the early services who had a little boy that was operated on a week ago and died, open heart surgery, little two year old boy. They think that the boy actually died a day or two before they actually took him off life support. His whole body shut down. They put him on life support. And the doctor said, you know, it may have been a day or two really before that, that he was actually dead. We just put him on life support. And I was talking to the mom and she said, you know, she said, I think that he was up in heaven a day or two before they pulled the life support, probably saying, stop, leave me alone. I don't want to come back down there. Leave my body alone.

Just stop messing with me and let it go. The point of all that is, she said, my little boy's up there in heaven. And you know, the comfort I have is that he didn't even want to come back. Not once he saw what heaven was like.

He didn't even want to come back. And you know what, folks, when you get there, I don't know if they're going to be beating on your chest or injecting you with adrenaline or giving you CPR. But when you get there, you're going to say, leave me alone. I don't even want to come back. Just forget it.

This is exciting where I am. Just leave my body alone, put it in a grave, okay? And I'm fine. And indeed, that's what Jesus Christ is offering you and me. I hope you know Christ is your personal Savior, because if you do, man, pie in the sky, call it whatever you want, but we've got a great future. And if you don't know Christ as your personal Savior, let me just caution you, don't keep pushing the 11th hour deal, folks.

1030 comes for folks when they're not expecting it. Like Paul said, yet yes, it's never too late, but the time is now. Let's pray together. Heavenly Father, thank you so much that you loved us enough to die on the cross and pay for our sin so that we might have access to this fabulous place called paradise, called heaven. Thank you that there's no intermediate steps.

Thank you that there's no roundabout way of getting there. Thank you that it's departing here and then being with Christ there. And Lord Jesus, I am so grateful that we have a place that's so fabulous that you told Paul he couldn't even tell us about it, because we wouldn't be willing to stay here if we really knew. Thank you for giving us that kind of hope. And for those of us who are going through great pain and suffering in this life, who feel like that all we've got on the plate is liver, I pray, Lord Jesus, that you would encourage us today with the truth that there's pie that waits us. For people who are here that have never trusted Christ, I pray that you would really use what we've talked about today to challenge their thinking and bring them to a decision point for you. And we pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-10 12:31:34 / 2024-02-10 12:45:01 / 13

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