“And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.'”
How awesome is that? Jesus says these words to this criminal hanging on a cross next to him. We don’t know much about this man, or what he has done that has led him to the cross, what are the circumstances surrounding his life. We know though this man is a sinner before God, and this man recognizes up in verse 41 that he is receiving just punishment for something he has done wrong. He says, “We are receiving the due rewards of our deeds.” He realizes his guilt, he realizes there’s punishment, consequence, attached to it, but he knows Jesus has done nothing wrong. And he knows Jesus is going to a kingdom, and so he says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The key to experiencing what God wants for us in prayer is asking God in accordance with His Word. Lord, help Your Word to abide in us that we may confidently call out to You according to Your Word.
Oh, there is no clearer picture than this one right here that we cannot work our way to God, that we cannot work our way into the kingdom of God, that we cannot work our way to heaven. This man does nothing. He is about to die on a cross. He can’t do anything but put his trust in Jesus, and that’s what he does. He asks Jesus to save him. That’s all he does, he asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom, to save him, bring him into his kingdom. And Jesus says, “Today, I tell you, you will be with me in paradise.” What glorious truth, that we can be saved from all our sins, before God, by faith in Jesus. “By grace through faith you have been saved. It is a gift of God. Not by works so that no one can boast.” Ephesians chapter 2 verse 8 and 9.
It is a gift, it is not from your own doing. And so we see this Gospel reality on full display in a crucified criminal, who would minutes later breath his last breathe and enter into paradise, based solely on trust in the grace of Jesus. And so we pray. God, we praise you for saving us from our sins not based on anything we do, have done, will do, but based totally on who Jesus is, and what Jesus has done for us. Jesus, we put all our faith in you. God, I pray that if there’s anybody listening to this right now you has never put all their trust in you, who has never trusted you to save them from their sin, not in a way that they’ve trusted in you and then tried to work for you on top of that in order to earn your favor, in order to achieve status in your kingdom. God, no, no, we praise you that we’re saved through grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.
I pray that you would brings some people, even right now, to put all their trust in Jesus alone, so that when they stand before you at the end of their lives in the day of judgment, they say, “Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to the cross I cling.” That’s what this man was saying that day. That’s what we say today, and will say on that day, “Jesus, you are our hope. Your work is our only hope for salvation and we praise you. We praise you for your promise, that all who trust in you, that all who realize, confess their sin before God, trust you as the savior of sin, as the Lord, as the King, that we will enter into your kingdom. That we will be the moment we die, in paradise.”
Oh, we look forward to that moment. To live is Christ, to die is gain. We look forward to that moment. And we pray, we pray that you’d help us to spread this good news today. We pray that you might use us to share this good news with somebody today, and we pray that they would put their faith in you, that they would put their trust in you, that today somebody would have the assurance of paradise, of eternal life with you, simply because they have trusted in you, because they’ve called out for you to save them from their sins. They’ve put their faith in you as savior and Lord and King. Oh God, may it be so today. Through our lives, use us to share this Gospel today. We pray.
We look forward to meeting this crucified criminal and, along with him, bowing at your feet, oh Jesus, and giving you glory for salvation we never could have earned, but you have freely given. In your name, we pray. Amen.
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