Archive for June, 2009

18
Jun
09

Grace at Work

Luke 23:33-43
33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.
34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.
35 And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine,
37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”
38 Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”
40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
41 “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”
43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

“There was one man at Calvary who realized who Jesus was; on that awful day he was able to rejoice with joy unspeakable. The penitent thief was an amazing miracle of grace. Even the sky darkened and God forsook his Son, at that very moment the angels of heaven were rejoicing over one sinner who repented.

In the story of the two thieves, we can see God’s sovereign grace in saving sinners. Both were physically near to Christ, both saw and heard everything, both were criminals who deserved judgment, both were dying men, both were sinners who needed forgiveness – yet one died in his sin and the other was saved.

A fact like that ought to teach us humility. As Christians, we are no better than anyone else. The difference between the saved and the lost is the grace of God.

It should also teach us a sense of urgency. It has been said of the two thieves that one was saved at the last moment of his life as that no one might despair, but only one so that no one might presume. Sinners need to be saved, and they need to be saved now.

The work of grace in the redeemed thief follows the same path as it does in all the people of God. The steps of repentance vary little no matter what the sinner’s background or circumstances. There are four:

1. Fear of God (look back up at Luke 23:40). Proverbs says that the fear of God is “the beginning of wisdom” and we might add, it’s also the beginning of salvation. It’s a realization that we are answerable to a holy God who will not tolerate sin; One who has said that no one who sins will enter his presence. It’s the awareness that God means what He says and that He is not to be trifled with. Jesus said “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). The fear of God is the beginning of an awareness of the reality and presence of God, and of a true respect for Him. There’s no salvation without this.

2. Confession of sin (Luke 23:41). Fear leads to confession. When we see God, we also see ourselves for what we are. We stop trying to justify ourselves and realize that our sin deserves hell. This conviction of sin will, in the grace of God, cause us to look for a Savior.

3. Recognition of Jesus (Luke 23:41b). “This man has done nothing wrong”, said the thief. In other words, Jesus is not like us. We are sinners; He is sinless. We are humans; He is the Lord, the Son of God. He is our only hope and the only One who can save us. There are no “ifs” of doubt here, just a quiet confidence in the ability of Jesus to deal with sin.

4. Prayer for mercy (Luke 23:42). This man was a criminal and therefore crucified by the Roman authorities. He was a sinner and therefore condemned by God. His situation was hopeless and he deserved nothing good. But he rested on divine grace and asked simply that Jesus would remember him. It’s beautifully simple — to some it may seem too simple — but to be remembered by Jesus is enough. Christ’s answer to this man epitomizes both His power and willingness to save sinners. The man was saved at the hour of the Savior’s greatest weakness as He hung on the cross, forsaken by His Father. Surely, this is power!

The thief was saved as a guilty sinner at the point of death with nothing in his past life to recommend him, and nothing in his present position except a prayer of repentance. In the morning he was a condemned criminal; in the afternoon he was a redeemed sinner, and by the evening he was a glorified saint!”

The Cross – The reality of the cross for today by Peter Jefferey

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