forgiveness Posts

Better late than never.

"The Three Crosses" by Rembrandt

“The Three Crosses” by Rembrandt

Luke 23:32-43 describes the story of the crucifixion and Jesus’ conversation with the men on either side of Him of the cross at Golgotha. Why were they not put together? The prophet Isaiah tells us why:

“He was numbered among the transgressors.”  Isaiah 53:12

God decreed that the most holy should die with the most unholy. At His birth He was surrounded by beasts, and now, at His death He is surrounded by criminals, deserving of capital punishment. This “friend of sinners” finds Himself with them once again. In fact, it seemed that was where He was always most comfortable. He lived among them, now He dies among them. Our attention turns to the two men crucified on either side of Jesus. One particularly captures our attention because he received the promise that we must share if we are to see our Lord in Paradise. Pastor Erwin Lutzer wrote, “What a day for the thief!  In the morning he was justly crucified on a cross; by late that evening he was justly welcomed into Paradise by Jesus!”  Let’s look at this thief who is each of us.

The thief in the mirror 

I think we’ll discover he is you and me.  In fact, the two thieves on the cross represent every human being who has ever lived.

  • His failure – We don’t know what he had done but we know, whatever it was, it deserved the death penalty. He was the vilest of offenders.  Like us, he was trapped by his sin.
  • His fate – His fate was determined by his sin. He, like us, is paying the consequences for his sin. Every person in the world is bound for the same fate, the same destination as this man- were it not for the intervention of Jesus. Romans 3:23- “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…”
  • His faith – Consider the faith of this man. It was a simple, yet amazing faith. Consider what he had seen. On the one hand he had heard Jesus say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” No doubt that prayer pierced his conscience. He heard the inadvertent testimony of the crowd: “He saved others…but he can’t save Himself.” No doubt he pondered, “What do they mean- “He saved others”. And then there was the “first Gospel tract” ever- nailed to the cross proclaiming, “This is the king of the Jews.” And then he had this conversation with Jesus.

Do you think his faith came easy? Does faith come easy for you? For most of us it doesn’t. Consider that this man had perhaps never seen Jesus before. It’s one thing to believe in Jesus when He does a miracle or has just provided some great teaching or act of love. But this man believed at a time when it appeared that Jesus was entirely helpless to save anyone. In fact, it seemed that Jesus Himself needed saving! Jesus hung there as the hapless victim, not a king. When you need saving, you don’t turn to someone in the same predicament that you’re in. You don’t turn to someone who is dying in disgrace. Or do you? The scandal of the Gospel is that we worship the God who died. This thief believed before the darkness fell over the land. He believed before the earthquake rocked the place, and before the veil of the Temple was torn in two. Improbable as it was, he believed.

Here’s the point- you too can believe. Does God seem distant to you? Does Jesus seem weak and powerless in your situation, in your life?  How can we explain the fact that this dying thief took a suffering, bleeding man for his God!? There’s only one answer- it was the work of the Holy Spirit drawing this man toward the Man in the middle. The Spirit is drawing you as well.  His faith was simple. It was courageous. It was enough.

  • His future  This man, whose entire life was consumed with a never-ending struggle to find meaning and purpose, enslaved to sin, now finds himself about to enter eternal paradise. Notice the reunion would be that very day!  “Today.” Jesus died before this man did. Charles Spurgeon noted that “this man, who was our Lord’s last companion on earth” was His “first companion at the gates of paradise”. Notice, he did not make a pit stop in purgatory en route to paradise. His future- in heaven- secured by Jesus alone, began that day. With such a dark past, how bright was the future of this dying thief!

One commentator wrote, “There is one such case recorded that none need despair, but only one that none might presume.”  Warren Wiersbe points out that this man was not saved at his last opportunity, but at his first. Don’t wait another minute.

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

William Cowper, the great hymn writer, though plagued with doubts in his own life, understood that if the thief could be saved, then he could too. He wrote a song entitled, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood”. One of my favorite stanzas reads: “The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day; and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.” The thief’s forgiveness should remind you that there is more grace in God’s heart than sin in your past.

It’s better late than never… but it’s better now than later.


The Saddest Day in History


“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Matthew 27:46

We call it “Good Friday” but like so many things in the Kingdom of God, it was good for us, but bad for Him. What we call “Good” was terrible for our Lord Jesus. As you go about your day today, consider these facts: Early on that Friday morning, after no sleep the night before, Jesus was taken to Pilate’s prison. He was beaten by professional torturers who knew their craft all too well. He was then presented to the crowd who chose a notorious prisoner over the very Son of God. Throughout the day Jesus was silent and ironically, directing every move that was taking place. He was taken into the courtyard (called the Praetorium) and the entire company of soldiers surrounded Him.  They stripped Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, a staff in His hand, and knelt down before Him in mockery. They spat on Him and punched Him many times, as hard as they could. Tortured nearly to death, exhausted and famished, He carried His own cross to Golgotha and was nailed to it about noon. Darkness came over the earth from noon until 3:00 p.m. Close to 3:00 p.m. Jesus cried out “It is finished!” and He died. Around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. the women came to prepare His body for burial and they placed His corpse in a borrowed tomb. The massive stone was rolled into place as the sun went down on the saddest day in history… and the angels were silent as all creation watched to see what would happen next.

As you go throughout the day today, be in a constant state of remembering what happened to our Lord Jesus. Think about each event as though it was all happening today. Consider the horrific emotional strain of knowing you are about to be killed, and greater still, the anticipation of the very wrath of God upon sin that would come upon you. And remember, He did all of this for one reason: you. Of all the faces that came to the divine mind of Jesus, one of them was yours. And it was enough to kill Him.

Pray: Lord, today I will walk with You through Your sufferings. I will meditate on every phase of Your sacrifice for me.  My heart breaks over my sin that put You on the cross.

“Why is this night different from all the other night?”


On the night of Passover, the first of four questions leads the Jewish family into a journey of remembrance: “Ma nishtanah halailah hazeh mikol haleilot?” The seder (“service” or “arrangement”) meal presents a quest to rediscover the ancient mystery and meaning of the Passover, God’s liberation of His people out of Egypt. For thousands of years (according to Levitical Law), Passover has been observed on the evening of the 14th day of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar (Leviticus 23:5).

From the time He was a child Jesus kept the Passover. The Gospel of Luke tells us that His parents went to Jerusalem every year. When He was twelve years old, He went up to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41-42). He observed the Passover throughout His life and did so with His disciples. (Luke 22:7-13). On the night before His crucifixion Jesus observed His last Passover (on earth)  and said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16).

Jesus brought new meaning to several key aspects of the meal, revealing how He was the fulfillment of the long-awaited Messiah. He explained that the bread of affliction (matzah bread- always pierced, always striped), broken before them, represented His body. The next day His body would be broken on the Cross, providing forgiveness of sins, accomplishing the ultimate Exodus of the human heart. He explained that cup of redemption would be fulfilled by the shedding of His own blood upon the cross.

Consider the backdrop of the Passover in light of Easter. Central to the Passover meal was the Passover Lamb. Each family in Israel would select a lamb from the rest of the flock- a male, without blemish, chosen five days before Passover. All the lambs were to be killed during a two-hour period just before sunset. Though no more that two men from each family could go into the Temple area of sacrifice, as many as a half-million people would move through that area in the two to three hour period and a quarter of a million lambs were sacrificed each Passover season in Jesus’ lifetime. This was a bloody religion. And on Good Friday (due to a chronological twist in how the Galileans kept time and how the inhabitants of Jerusalem kept time), Jesus was being crucified at the exact same time lambs were being slaughtered for the sins of the people. As He died on the Cross He cried out, “It is finished”, announcing that God’s redemption was now made possible for all who would believe.

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…” Hebrews 10:11-12

Do you believe that Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the only Way to the Father? Receive His forgiveness now and give your life to Him as an act of worship. And experience the greatest Easter you’ve ever known. He’s done all that is necessary to rescue you from your sin. It is finished.


No News is bad news.

News is not news if it’s something you already know.

Most of us think that the Gospel is something we already know. I was bad (but not that bad) and Jesus has come to make me better; and I get heaven too! This is not the Gospel. We have forgotten from where we’ve come. We were never anywhere close to being good and we’re not getting much better. Indeed, getting better is not the point. Jesus did not come to make good people better; He came to bring dead people to life.

It seems the only explanation to our lackluster approach to the Gospel is that we do not really believe that it is Good News. Or at least, we have misunderstood the News we have received. If it’s not news, it’s not a big deal and it’s certainly not worth sharing. When it comes to the Gospel, this is when no news is bad news.  We have no news to share because we don’t think the Good News is all that good. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I am not real good but I’m not that bad either. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I’m doing pretty well without Jesus but with Him I could do better. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I could choose a religion to follow that is superior to all others. That’s not Good News. And if Jesus is my model to follow, that’s crushing news! And if, when I die I get heaven, that’s not really news either. I was kind of thinking I was going there anyway.

The Gospel (“the Good News”) is first “News”. It’s something we did not know, and would never know had God not made it known. It is News. It is a declaration. It is a proclamation of an event that has come to us in the form of a Person. News needs a herald and this News has been heralded by God Himself. In fact, He told us it was coming. He prepared us for this News but we missed it. And who could blame us. This News has no comparison, no rivals, no precedent. This is truly breaking news.

This News is breaking because it did not come from any man. Only God could bring this News. Indeed, to study the theological thread leading up to Jesus there was no resurrection theology. The resurrection was a complete departure from Orthodox Jewish theology. No one saw this coming. But suddenly, after the Christ event (His birth, life and teaching, crucifixion, and resurrection) there emerged a clear resurrection theology (or better, Christology) that changed everything.

This was the breaking News of heaven- that Jesus had lived the perfect life so that we wouldn’t have to. No longer are we crushed under the weight of God’s holy demands; they have been met in the One who came to fulfill the Law. He suffered and died in our place so that there would now be no condemnation for those who are covered in His righteousness. He rose again so that we too could live in the power of the resurrection power and in the hope of our own coming resurrection. We were brought from death into life. To say this News is “Good” News is an understatement. “Great” doesn’t qualify this News. This News is the heaven-breaking, earth-shaking, life-rescuing grace of God that has come to us through the One and Only Son of God.

We need to rediscover the Gospel. We need to scrutinize it, get underneath it, on top of it, and all over it. We need to obsess over the Gospel. We cannot study it enough. We cannot think about it enough. We cannot talk about it enough. This is the News that keeps on coming and is constantly new News to our feeble minds and our wayward hearts. This is the News to which are now heralds!

Praise God for the Good News of the Gospel.

He is Risen! – Easter Sunday

“Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” Matthew 28:5-6

Was it a morning like this? Quiet and early, all of nature stretches to a new day as the sun comes up again. Or shall I say, “the Son comes up again!” He is risen! Everything has changed! All of history hinges on this day. Paul said, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Take it a step further. If Christ has not been raised, all of life is useless. Without the conquering of death we all are destined for hell and a life apart from God. Praise be to our glorious Savior. Rejoice today and celebrate your new life in Jesus Christ! Worship Him today with all your heart.

At the risk of putting a damper on your dancing and your celebration, pause for a moment and ponder this – what’s next? Consider the response of the disciples. They celebrated, no doubt, but their response was more than giddiness or mere celebration. They told others what had happened. They realized that all of Christ’s hopes for the Church would rise or fall based on how persuasive these eyewitnesses would be for all – including us today – who have not yet seen. Let us rejoice today, but let us never forget the responsibility we have now that we have experienced the risen Christ! For He is risen indeed!

“… blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” John 20:29

Pray: Jesus, my Lord, I praise You for the resurrected life You have now given me. I want to crucify sin in my life, live in Your resurrection power, and be a pure vessel of Your love. I thank You for how I have grown in my walk with You to the cross. I don’t want to stop here. I want to continue to live a life of sacrifice and self-denial. I will continue to devote myself to You in my quiet place.