“Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Dying declarations are powerful statements!

As Jesus was nailed to the Cross, His first dying declaration prompted such a change of heart in a hardened criminal that the criminal’s own dying declaration caused Jesus to say, “Amen!” The story is found in Luke 23:32-43.

But first, we need to ask, why were criminals crucified alongside Jesus? An obvious answer is that it fulfilled a First Testament prophecy—He poured out His life unto death, and He let Himself be regarded as a criminal and be numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). 

How did this come about? Maybe…

  • Pilate was trying to justify his actions? 
  • the Sanhedrin had used these criminals as “evidence” that Jesus was stirring up a rebellion against the crown? 
  • a Roman centurion suggested, “Let’s kill three birds with one stone”? 

Whatever the case, they couldn’t have been very happy about this, especially since Barabbas (a fellow criminal) had just been released. They probably blamed Jesus for their awful predicament, so they naturally joined in the mockery. 

And what cruel mockery it was! 

  • the people stood watching these crucifixions and, since Luke uses the word for a sports spectator, it appears they were cheering the bloodshed they were observing
  • the Pharisees and Sadducees derided Jesus
  • the Roman soldiers continued the inhuman mockery and abuse that they had begun hours before 
  • the criminals crucified on either side of Jesus blasphemed Him 

Luke kindly records that only one criminal was hurling insults at Jesus, but Matthew and Mark make it clear that both criminals were blaspheming Jesus (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32). 

It appears that one criminal, although at first a blasphemer, had a change of heart. 

Perhaps it was because He heard this Jesus, who was being so horribly mistreated, ask His Father to forgive His tormentors instead of asking for retribution. The apostle Peter says that when we follow Christ’s example in this it can actually make people become ashamed of their slander against us (1 Peter 2:23; 3:14, 16). 

Or perhaps this criminal had been in the crowd earlier that week on Monday when Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God all day. If he was, he would have heard Jesus talk about the rewards for the righteous and the punishment for the wicked, and he would have heard Jesus talk about how even criminals like himself could be allowed into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 21:28-32). 

All of this was working on him until his own slander against Jesus stuck in his throat and he rebuked his companion for his blasphemy. He said, “We are guilty and deserve this death sentence. But this Man is totally innocent!” 

Then turning to Jesus, he delivers his faith-filled declaration, “LORD Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He called Him Lord, asked for a reward, and acknowledged that Christ’s Kingdom was not of this earth. This dying declaration was more faith-filled than even the disciples of Jesus could make, since all but one of them had fled in fear!

Jesus is so moved by this man’s declaration that His first word to him is Amen: “I tell you the truth [literally: Amen!], today you will be with Me in paradise. 

King David taught us that the sacrifice that God accepts is a broken heart, and the apostle Paul agrees by saying that it is the heart change and the confession of our mouth that brings our salvation (Psalm 51:16-17; Romans 10:4-11). 

My friend, Jesus has opened the way to Paradise for you by His death on the Cross. When our humbled hearts speak the truth about God’s Kingdom, Jesus says, “Amen!” and God welcomes us into His presence for ever and ever! Don’t wait another day, but cry out to Jesus today: tell Him that you are guilty, but you believe He has paid for your sins. He will then say the same word to your heart: “Amen! You will spend eternity in Paradise with Me!” 

If you would like to follow along as we look at all seven of the dying declarations Jesus made from the Cross, please click here. 

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Finishing Well Is Better

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

The land was at peace… (2 Chronicles 14:6).

King Asa started out so well. The beginning of his reign could best be described by the word “peace”:

  • The land was at peace 
  • No one was at war with him 
  • The Lord gave him rest 
  • “[God] has given us rest on every side”  
  • The Lord his God was with him

When Cush attempted to attack the nation of Judah, Asa called on God: “Lord, there is no one like You to help the powerless against the mighty. … Do not let mere mortals prevail against You” (14:11). God gave Asa a great victory over Cush, and other God-fearing people from Israel began flocking to Judah “when they saw that the Lord his God was with [Asa]” (15:9). 

This peace lasted for 35 years!

And then came one poor decision from which Asa never recovered. 

The king of Israel began to make preparations for war against Judah. Instead of calling on God as he did when Cush was preparing to attack, Asa reverted to political maneuvering. He sent a bribe to a rival nation, enticing them to attack Israel. 

The prophet Hanani told Asa, “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war” (16:9). 

From “the land was at peace” to “from now on you will be at war” came about because Asa…

  • …trusted his own ingenuity instead of relying on God 
  • …calculated his odds instead of calling on his God 
  • …forgot about God’s past provision 
  • …refused to confess his sin and repent from it, even when the prophet called him out
  • …utterly abandoned his God (16:2-12) 

Starting well is good, but finishing well is far better! 

A mark of a godless leader is one who refuses to confess and repent from his sin. 

Asa’s refusal to admit his sin resulted in the end of his life being spent afflicted with disease and his country being surrounded and oppressed by enemies. 

This is part 54 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Poetry Saturday—Trinitie Sunday

Lord, who hast form’d me out of mud,
    And hast redeem’d me through Thy bloud,
    And sanctifi’d me to do good;

Purge all my sinnes done heretofore:
    For I confesse my heavie score,
    And I will strive to sinne no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
    With faith, with hope, with charitie;
    That I may runne, rise, rest with Thee. —George Herbert

The Need For Confession

Jesus taught us to pray to OUR Father. This speaks of community and accountability. Ken Blanchard noted: “Accountability means: We owe each other for something we’ve agreed upon.” What have the saints of God agreed upon? That God is our Father, that Jesus is His Son and our Brother, and that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. We’ve agreed that if we are brothers and sisters in God’s family, we are mutually accountable to one another. 

The part of accountability that some people don’t like is the realization that I make mistakes: I let people down; I sin. In a community of saints, my shortfall not only affects me but the rest of the community too. But there is a remedy—The remedy for my sin starts with my confession of my sin. 

If people like David, Isaiah, Daniel, Nehemiah, and Paul confessed their sin and called themselves sinners, what makes me think that I’m exempt from that diagnosis or that cure?! 

Confession is an owning of my sin. It’s saying to God, “I have sinned. I need forgiveness. I will repent of this. I need Your mercy.” And it’s saying to my fellow saints, “I need your help so I don’t have to repeat this sin.” 

Unconfessed sin is life-draining (Psalm 32:1-5). The word confess in the Old Testament Hebrew means to “throw out your hand.” Expose it all! In the New Testament Greek confess means to acknowledge that my life does not measure up to God’s standard. 

Confession may start in my personal prayer closet, but it needs to move to the public domain of the community of saints. Jesus made it plural, “Forgive US OUR debts, as WE have forgiven OUR debtors.” 

Sometimes I cannot see my own debts that need to be forgiven (Psalm 19:12), so I need the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the loving confrontation of someone who loves me (Psalm 139:23-24; Proverbs 27:6, 2 Samuel 12:1-13). 

The apostle James helps us see how a loving community brings healing, deliverance, and restoration. The key components that James lists are prayer and confession (James 5:13-16). 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoed James when he wrote, “A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.”  

Confession may be the most under-used resource for Christians to gain power in prayer and victory over falling into temptation!

Let’s continually make use of this wonderfully freeing discipline. 

Poetry Saturday—A Good Confession

It seemed as if nothing less likely could be
Than that light should break in on a dungeon so deep;
To create a new world were less hard than to free
The slave from his bondage, the soul from its sleep.

But the Word had gone forth, and said, Let there be light,
And it flashed through my soul like a sharp passing smart;
One look to my Savior, and all that dark night,
Like a dream scarce remembered, was gone from my heart.

I cried out for mercy, and fell on my knees,
And confessed, while my heart with keen sorrow was wrung;
’Twas the labor of minutes, and years of disease
Fell as fast from my soul as the words from my tongue. —Frederick William Faber

Thursdays With Oswald—Do You Have The Goods Or Just The Label?

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Do You Have The Goods Or Just The Label? 

     Our Lord makes the test of goodness not only goodness in intention, but the active carrying out of God’s will. Beware of confounding appearance and reality, of judging only by external evidence. …  

     The baptism of the Holy Ghost turns men into the incarnation of what they preach until the appearance and the reality are one and the same. … He does in us what Jesus did for us. … 

     Human nature is fond of labels, but a label may be the counterfeit of confession. It is so easy to be branded with labels, much easier in certain stages to wear a ribbon or a badge than to confess. Jesus never used the word testify; He used a much more searching word—confess. “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men….” The test of goodness is confession by doing the will of God. “If you do not confess Me before men,” says Jesus, “neither will your Heavenly Father confess you.” Immediately we confess, we must have a badge, if we do not put one on, other people will. Our Lord is warning that it is possible to wear the label without having the goods; possible for a man to wear the badge of being His disciple when he is not. Labels are all right, but if we mistake the label for the goods we get confused.

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Some people only wear the labels—they use the name “Christian” without ever surrendering to the lordship of Jesus. Oswald Chambers reminds us that these are the people to whom Jesus will say, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). 

Listen to the Holy Spirit. He can make sure that your preaching your living are one and the same. You and I don’t want to just testify that we are disciples of Jesus, but we want to be the living incarnation of all that Jesus did and taught.

Labels are fine (if other people put them there), but just make sure you have the goods! I’ll say it again: Listen to the Holy Spirit and immediately obey what He points out to you.

A “Slip Of The Tongue”?

Have you ever said something and then immediately thought, “Where in the world did that come from?!?” 

You might have thought it was just a slip of the tongue, but it’s not. That slip of the tongue is actually a gift to us to help us know what’s really going on in our heart. 

Check out this 2-minute clip—

The Scriptures I reference in this passage are Psalm 39:1; Jeremiah 17:9; and Matthew 15:19. 

This is a snippet from a longer message on putting other things in our life in perspective. You can check out the full video by clicking here, or you can read the list of the 5 things we need to keep in proper perspective by clicking here.

Confession Is Good For You

One of the best definition of Selah is the bracketed comment used next to that word in the Amplified Bible: pause, and calmly think of that. 

Psalm 32 is only eleven verses long, yet Selah—a call to pause and ponder—is used three times. In other words, David is very interested in getting us to weigh something important. This whole psalm is a call to ponder the heavy, unbearable burden of unconfessed sins vs. the freedom and fresh start that comes immediately with confession.

And in case you think that confession is just something that someone does one time when they become a Christian, keep in mind that David is writing this song to be sung by the choir in church. That means confession is good for everyone!

The weighty CURSES of unconfessed sin

  • I feel worn out, wasting away like old, flimsy clothes (v. 3a)
  • I am groaning (v. 3b)—I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears (Psalm 6:6)
  • I feel God’s hand of displeasure heavy upon me (v. 4a AMP) 
  • My strength evaporates like water in the summer heat (v. 4b NLT) 
  • I’m led around like a dumb mule (v. 9)
  • I experience many woes (v. 10a) 

Then comes confession—I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord continually unfolding the past till all is told”—then You instantly forgave me the guilt and iniquity of my sin (v. 5 AMP).  

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).

The weighty BLESSINGS after confessed sin

  • My transgressions are forgiven, which means they are lifted up and carried away (v. 1a)
  • My sins are covered; they are literally overwhelmed by God’s forgiveness (v. 1b)
  • My sin is no longer counted against me (v. 2a) because my record of forgiven sins has been cleared (v. 2b NLT; see also Psalm 103:2-3, 12) 
  • I get a fresh start, my slate’s wiped clean … Suddenly the pressure was gone—my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared (vv. 1, 5 MSG) 
  • I’m protected in God’s hiding place and surrounded by God’s songs (vv. 7, 10b)
  • God instructs me and protects me to keep me from sinning again (v. 8)

What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record (v. 2 TLB) 

The mark of a maturing Christian is the one who is constantly closing the gap between sin and confession. 

Don’t let unconfessed sin weigh you down. As soon as you feel the Holy Spirit pointing something out in your heart, confess it and experience God’s immediate release! 

I am going to share one more message in this series on the Selahs in the Psalms this Sunday (but, God willing, we will return to this next summer). Please join me either in person or on Facebook Live. 

Saturday In The Proverbs—Setting Myself Up For Failure (Proverbs 20)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

Wine is a mock, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise (Proverbs 20:1).

This collection of proverbs warns against things that impair a person’s judgment, or things that set us up for failure. Things like…

  • intemperance (v. 1)
  • making leaders angry (vv. 2, 8, 26)
  • starting petty quarrels (v. 3)
  • laziness (vv. 4, 13)
  • shallow thinking (vv. 5, 12, 25)
  • unfaithfulness or a lack of integrity (vv. 6, 7, 11, 27)
  • unconfessed sin (vv. 9, 24)
  • duplicity or favoritism (vv. 10, 14, 17, 23)
  • not valuing wisdom (vv. 15, 18. 25)
  • risky business deals (vv. 16, 25)
  • gossiping (v. 19)
  • dishonoring your parents (vv. 20, 21)
  • holding a grudge (v. 22)
  • unkindness or dishonesty (v. 28)
  • not valuing life (v. 29)
  • not allowing anyone to correct you (v. 30)

Now that you know these items that set you up for failure, ask the Holy Spirit to help you root any of these out of your life before failure happens to you! 

What If I Sin?

I have been trumpeting this truth: God is for you! He’s not looking for opportunities to blast you, but to bless you. God wants you to know that you have found His favor. 

But what happens if we sin? Do we lose God’s favor? In a word—NO! 

Here’s what happens instead: God becomes our Prodigal Father. 

Let me show you from both the Old Testament and the New Testament what I mean, but first, let’s define prodigal: it means recklessly extravagant or lavishly abundant. This is always how God treats His children. 

In Isaiah 59, the prophet reminds us that nothing about God’s strength or ability to respond to our pleas has been diminished. Instead: your sins have separated you from your God—we can leave God, but He never leaves us! 

Isaiah catalogs all our sins that have become a quicksand trap for us. God looks to see who can help us, and finding no one, here’s what He does: so His own arm worked salvation for Him, and His own righteousness sustained Him. 

God did what was underserved. God did what no one else could do: HE HIMSELF BECAME OUR SALVATION! 

If ever there was a definition of recklessly extravagant, lavishly abundant love… this is it!! 

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a story that people often call the story of the prodigal son, but it’s really the father who is prodigal. The son squanders all his father’s blessings on wild living and finds himself bankrupt, starving, and completely disgraced. But the moment the son came to his senses and began to move toward his father by confessing his sin, his prodigal father ran to him! 

Jesus tells us this father was overflowing with compassion. There wasn’t anything his son could have done to diminish the father’s love, nor was there anything the son could have done to make his father love him more. The father was all-loving all the time. He was recklessly extravagant and lavishly abundant in his love. 

The father RAN to his son and covered his son’s disheveled, stinking rags with his royal robe. 

This is exactly what Isaiah said God would do for us…

  • instead of ashes, we get a crown 
  • instead of rags of mourning, we get an anointing of gladness
  • instead of a spirit of despair, we get a garment of praise
  • instead of shame, we get a double portion of God’s riches
  • instead of disgrace, we get God’s inheritance

How does all this happen? Our Prodigal Father abundantly, lavishly “clothes me with garments of salvation and arrays me in a robe of righteousness”!!

Don’t ever buy into satan’s lies that God loves you less, or that you’ve used up your changes, or that your sins are too many or too big. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). 

Join me this coming Sunday either in person or on Facebook Live as we learn more about God’s favor toward us. 

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