Luke 23:42-43 (NIV) Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Welcome to today! It is a gift you have been given for your own private use. Yesterday is expired, over and never to be regained. Tomorrow is not promised. You have today though to do with as you may. What if the Will of God is that “today you will be with me in paradise”? What if this is it? Can you save yourself? Please do not take these as somber thoughts sent out wrapped in melancholy or deep despair. Consider them as a reality check. It is human nature to live for tomorrow because most are not content in today. Tomorrow has to be better and bring satisfaction since today is forecast as cloudy with a chance of rain. So often caught up in the forecasts and predictions of life by those who think they have a say – distracts us from the One who gave us today. This day. The one I woke up in. What about today?
Three men went to Calvary that day. Two had committed crimes and the consequences seemed just. Then there was Jesus who was an innocent man. His Only Offense was claiming His Identity to a disbelieving world. One criminal woke up reading to face his accusers and take his punishment. The other woke up ready to be saved. The man wrapped in pride marched straight to his death. While the other humbly approached His Savior if even from afar. The criminal in pride taunted Christ like the rest, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” He didn’t have a clue that it was the Will of God and Desire of this Man to die for me and you. This man was completely oblivious to the fact that the Son of God was dying for his sins right there next to him. How significant? Am I aware every day of the sacrificial gift given to me by God’s Only Son? Do I live like it? The man on the other side of Jesus could see past his pain and pride to the beauty of innocence hanging next to him that day, and his heart broke for the Son of God. He asked the Lord, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Clearly the man could do nothing to prove his heart change. He would not be able to attend church or feed the homeless. He could not become a disciple or fisher of men. His hands and feet nailed to a beam yet his heart that day set free. Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
I can do nothing for Jesus Christ. Even though I am not bleeding and dying on a cross or locked in a jail cell, I am still incapable of doing anything to earn my Savior’s Unfailing Love, Amazing Grace or Overwhelming Goodness – I am only a recipient just like the thief hanging next to my Lord on that day. So why do I try to seize the day and make a difference for God, if there really is not point to my flurry of activity? My list of to-do’s for church and ministry mean nothing unless my heart is set free in the One that I love. Is my heart free today? Can it come boldly and confidently into the Kingdom today? Or once again, am I trying to save myself?
Are you working on your salvation today? Trying to feel confident and satisfied in the Kingdom provided in our surrender to Christ? Or like many, including me most days, trying to earn it like everything else in life. I have never been to prison. I have not been tried and judged. But I am guilty. Sin is a plague in my life with only one solution. How can I be prideful and judgmental when I am just as guilty as the rest? No sin is greater or transgression deeper than the ones that I have committed today yet I try to place myself above others looking down from my throne. The exaltation and self-preservation of pride only hides the insecurities within us that the Work of Christ on the cross was not enough. It proves that in our heart is disbelief that His Grace is sufficient for me. A glimpse of forever or that placed called eternity can often jolt us back to the reality that we are saved by faith through grace and not of ourselves. Lord, remind me today that I cannot save myself and that Your Work on the Cross is complete. I can add nothing to it or take nothing from it. I must learn to live in the place of submission and surrender in the Light of your Glorious Grace.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
If the only way to be saved is by grace and through faith, why do we try to get there so many other ways? If salvation is a gift that I cannot afford or ever earn, they why do I boast about it on so many levels? When the “things” I do for the Lord overshadow my ability to stay humbly submitted and forever indebted at the cross, I have missed it altogether. When my life (or pride) is too much to lay down for a friend (or enemy), I am saying that I am more important than Jesus Christ who though He was completely innocent and all-powerful gave up His Life so that I could be saved.
Nothing I have is my own. It all belongs to Jesus Christ. I did not find myself imprisoned to discover my inadequacy but at the bedside of my child who was given a death sentence called cancer. After three relapses, the doctors were uncertain of his fate. But God had given me a promise on the very first day as his diagnosis began to sink into my brain. “He will live and not die. Trust me. Throughout my life and many disappointments, I learned to trust no one. Not even me, most days. I seldom set high expectations because then I would not be disappointed when the outcomes did not meet them. It was in my complete inability to save my son’s life that I came face-to-face with Jesus in an encounter that has changed my life forever. Entering the realm of hope to most people is a place of uncertainty and fate, but for me it was the place where impossible things happen. It became a place of confidence that I enter boldly each day.
I saved by grace through faith, not of myself. This statement changed everything when I read it and applied it to my life. Each day that I wake up with breath in my body it is by grace through faith that I successfully navigate this day one step closer to eternity. My life goes on forever and ever in Christ so my earthly expectation has waned. I am going to die. So are you. It is that next step that I must concentrate on. The one where I am holding on to grace by my faith so that I can enter forever with Jesus. There is nothing I can do to attain it – I must simply believe. Jesus told Thomas (the doubter) that he believed based on seeing, but more blessed are those who believe yet never see. Is it possible to live for forever today? To truly step out of our self and reality to enter the realm called hope and live there. It is absolutely possible. We must crucify self.
Galatians 2:20-21 (NIV) I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
I must be crucified with Christ and no longer live so that Christ can live in me. Me = pride. If anything I do or say becomes more important than surrendering my life, mind, will and emotions to Jesus Christ – I have missed it completely. I have a great uncle who my family witnessed to for the majority of my life. My grandmother prayed for him often. It grieved her heart that even though his entire family had accepted Jesus that he flatly refused to believe. My grandmother and aunt got the news that Uncle Jim was sick and traveled down to be with him. On his deathbed, he asked Jesus to be his Savior and Lord. He died the next day. He did not attend church. He never gave in an offering. He told no one about Jesus and refuted God his entire life until the day before he entered the Kingdom. Is it fair that I give my all to Jesus day in and day out yet someone can pray and make it into Heaven just the same?
Blessed are those who have not seen yet they believe. The man who hung next to Jesus and gave the Lord his heart that day walked into the Kingdom just like any other saved person. He didn’t have to do a thing for Jesus. He simply believed. “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Period) Sometimes I think we have to make a journey to the Cross and look at the man who wasted his whole life yet in the final moments made them count. He did not do it as a preacher, teacher, deacon, usher, faithful attender or obedient giver. In fact, he didn’t do anything religious. He did the one thing that is required. He believed.
Philippians 3:7-9 (NIV) But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
It is human nature to make our life about us. It is not uncommon for Christians to try to find self in service. But it also up to us to crucify our flesh to be found in Jesus Christ each day. I am nothing apart from Him so have I made room for Him to live in me. To know Jesus is to love Him. I cannot know Him completely without surrendering my life and love to Him and following Him. Where He goes I go. What He says I say. What He does I do, and yet still in all this my life is meaningless without Him and I am of no use. My service does not add a moment to my day or anything to my salvation – it is all I have to give the Lord. He graciously accepts my offering of love not based on what I do but looking into my heart to see its intent. Everything I do should be to intentionally love the Lord though I cannot see Him and trust Him by faith that walks where it cannot see. Today is a gift given to me by God. It proves nothing of my worth but simply gives me the opportunity to know and love Him more.
Righteousness or right standing with God can only come through His Son, Jesus Christ. I wonder if I have forgotten that living in this thing called today making projections about tomorrow? Such a life pushes Jesus back for another day and time but what if this is all that there is? Any regrets? Guilt? Shame? Should have, could have, would haves as they say? The only thing that matters today is that I know Jesus Christ and He knows me. If anything comes between me and His Glorious Grace, then I am in big trouble and doomed in that moment. Nothing is worth more than knowing Him and loving Him today. In this moment and for this purpose, He died to set me free. Are you free today? Souls set free in His Love tear up long lists of dos and don’ts to be with their True Love. It means that nothing I have to do is as important as making sure nothing has come between us. Looking around to make sure that Jesus is on the Throne of my life and I have not taken His Place. Has anything or anyone else for that matter? I woke up today because the Lord continued to breathe new life in me. I cannot save myself. Jesus has saved and set me free. My purpose today is simple. It is to live in the Presence of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. This is how I save myself.
Revelation 2:7 (NIV) Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.