“One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.””
Luke 23:39-43 NASB
I am a thief.
I have not robbed banks, stolen money from anyone, nor have I committed any crime. Yet I am a thief. I spent years stealing from the grace of God, enjoying a life of sin, never acknowledging that every sinful breath, every sinful step was granted by the mercy of a loving God.
As a sinner, I am bound for hell. I knew the wage due me for pursuing the flesh and my appetites was death. For many years I walked, pretending to be unaware, on the precarious path as narrow as a knife blade between heaven and hell. At any given moment I could have fallen. I look back in horror.
In retrospect, I shudder when I consider the degenerate me, so bent on sin, and so far from God. The passage above moves me deeply. Here we have two people, both having lived lives dedicated to sin and depravity, faced with the presence of God in Jesus Christ. Each had a choice. One chose well and the other not.
I was in a far more desperate circumstance than the thieves on the crosses. They didn’t know the full implications of who they were talking to, I knew full well of the finished work of Jesus.
I can only imagine the emotions of the thief who repented. He went from the dismal, desperate situation facing death, to the promise of eternity in Paradise.
I remember that moment for me. In many ways my life was also hanging in the balance. I hung on a cross of my own construction. I had pounded each and every beam into place. Mine was truly a cross of self destruction. I will always remember that Easter Sunday in 1998 when I finally understood and admitted what Jesus had done for me. Like the thief on the cross, I went at that moment from death in hell and separation from God to eternity with Jesus.
I was a thief.
Unlike the thief, I have life to live. I use every moment to glorify my Savior. Sadly, there are moments when I am tempted to fall back into old habits, as the old me seeks to shake off the coldness of death and wag a withered finger. “You’re still a thief!” The voice whispers in its satanic tone, that strikes a cord with in me. More often than not, it is a call to action. I heed the reminder and am saved by a spirit of repentance. I must be daily reminded that the thief is indeed dead.
As I go through each day, the magnitude of the ministry of Jesus is manifested in my changed life. I am not sure if I would even recognize the Bernie of old.
I have gone from thief to priest, once rejecting and now proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
May this be the day that many thieves find truth and change their destiny for hell to Heaven.
Pray for the world today. Pray for the thieves in your life. Believers, rejoice that you are destined for paradise.
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