The Thief on the Cross
People like the thief on the cross (who did NOTHING BUT BELIEVE but was promised paradise), and Samson (who COMMITTED SUICIDE yet is listed in the Hebrews Hall of Faith) blast holes in many folks’ theology and religious dogma. Or at least all of the “imperfect people” in scripture makes them have to dance hilariously to try and make it fit into the rulebooks they have chosen as idols (in trade for their laying down the grace of God and trampling upon the precious Blood of the Lamb).
So it seems important that we understand and avoid those same mistakes ourselves!
I saw the following “copy pasta” on social media this morning (anonymous social media postings are ALWAYS SUSPECT but many times are worthy of contemplation):
“How does the thief on the cross fit into your theology? No baptism, no communion, no confirmation, no speaking in tongues, no mission trip, no volunteerism, and no church clothes. He couldn’t even bend his knees to pray. He didn’t say the sinner’s prayer and among other things, he was a thief. Jesus didn’t take away his pain, heal his body, or smite the scoffers. Yet it was a thief who walked into heaven the same hour as Jesus simply by believing. He had nothing more to offer other than his belief that Jesus was who he said he was. No spin from brilliant theologians. No ego or arrogance. No Shiny lights, skinny jeans, or crafty words. No haze machine, donuts, or coffee in the entrance. Just a naked dying man on a cross unable to even fold his hands to pray.”
For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son so that whosoever believed in him would not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
I read this today and was reminded of the simplicity of the Gospel.
Copied from a Friend.
It reminds me of a recent conversation that I had with my aunt about Jesus, about salvation, about judgement, and about faith. No matter how I tried to introduce her to the concept of grace, she refused to accept it and would ask another, “Well if I do _____ is that going to be good enough to get into heaven?”
Ephesians chapter 2 is a great scripture for tearing down people’s religious theology that has God constantly “changing the rules” on what they “must do to prove themselves a Christian”. I suggest you correct anyone who places the requirements for your salvation on anything more than God’s grace to draw you and give you the gift of faith.
For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God;
Ephesians 2:8 AMP
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 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.
Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT
Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. But don’t take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God’s ways had no idea of any of this, didn’t know the first thing about the way God works, hadn’t the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God’s covenants and promises in Israel, hadn’t a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of Christ—dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything.
Ephesians 2:7-13 MSG
The account of the thief is here in the book of Luke:
Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.” 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!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:32-43 NLT
If your theology rests upon the precious Blood of the Lamb, upon Christ alone as the justification — and the gift of grace through faith as the salvation — you have nothing but a response of gratitude to lead you along this narrow path holding His hand as He leads you. This is the gospel.
If your theology REQUIRES OF YOU (checking off a list of requirements/rules) — instead of TESTIFIES OF GOD’S GRACE — it probably has left the narrow path. Let what He has done be what PRODUCES INSIDE YOU the good work. That isn’t the same as doing good works trying to prove or earn something.