In Luke 23:26-43 (NLT) we read about the crucifixion of our Wonderful Lord. Jesus was crucified between two thieves. His enemies wanted to make Him look like a common criminal and beginning with verse 39 we read:
“One of the criminals hanging beside Him scoffed, ‘So You’re the Messiah, are You? Prove it by saving Yourself—and us, too, while You’re at it!’ 40 But the other criminal protested, ‘Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.’ 42 Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into your Kingdom.’ 43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with Me in paradise.’”
This criminal on the cross exhibited faith in Christ and he received the assurance of salvation from our Lord. I believe there are two amazing truths here.
1. We see that salvation comes as a gift from God. There is no twelve-step process to salvation. There is no human self-help program to realize salvation. This criminal was incapable of reforming himself, even if he tried. Salvation is a gift, and Jesus gave this man the gift because he trusted in Him.
In John 1:12 (NLT) we read, “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”
2. A second truth I see here is that we are saved the very moment we believe in Christ. Note what Jesus said to the second criminal – “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
We don’t deserve salvation. We cannot earn salvation. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT) wrote, “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”
There is a major difference between “works-based salvation” and “grace-based salvation.” Works-based theology uses this formula: Faith + works = salvation. Grace-based theology uses this formula: Faith in Christ = salvation.
As I think of the second criminal who admitted he was a sinner, several things come to mind.
1. God’s forgiveness is complete because He forgives all kinds of sins.
2. God’s forgiveness is complete because He forgives all sins, regardless of their number. I want to be quick to say, that once we are saved, we should not continue in sin as a lifestyle. We may sin, but we will not be comfortable in that sin. We should be quick to acknowledge that sin and turn from it. Christ’s death on the cross covered all of our sins.
In 1 John 1:9 (NLT) the Apostle wrote, “But if we confess our sins to him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
Satan would have you believe that you are too far gone…a hopeless mess…that you will never make it. But that is a lie! Repenting and turning from what you have done is worth it. Our Lord will forgive you and cleanse you from all wickedness if you confess your sin. The fellowship you lost with God when you sinned is restored immediately when you seek His forgiveness.
What peace must have come to that second criminal when he heard Jesus say, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Do you need God’s forgiveness? Seek Him right now and you will receive it.
In Christ alone,