- You Will Be With Me in Paradise
- Luke 23
- Lyndol Loyd April 2, 2017
You’ve probably seen the image before, maybe on a famous painting, perhaps in a movie, or an Easter greeting card. You’ve seen the three crosses. One symbolizing the dying Savior, Jesus, and on both His sides were two criminals. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the two thieves, we don’t know where they were from, we don’t know how old they were, we don’t know what they did to deserve death. But we do know that both of them interacted with Jesus.
One of the criminals looked at Jesus and hurled insults at Him. He said, “You call yourself the Christ? You saved others, why don’t you save yourself and save us?”
The other one, though, had a very short, very simple conversation that changed his eternity and it just might change yours. When the repentant thief looked at Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus looked at the criminal that only deserved death, and Jesus said the most remarkable, grace-filled words in history when He said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
If I could get you all to participate with me for a moment, I want to ask you a question, and I want all of you to think about this; on a scale of 1-100, “How good of a person are you?” One is the lowest, the worst of the worst; the creepy, weirdo, loser, sinner. One hundred is perfect; Jesus, never sinned.
In case some of you are wondering, let me just make it clear. You are not one hundred, you may think you are but you are not! To give you some perspective, let’s say lower digits- one, two, three, four- would be an ax murderer, Hitler, people with five or more cats. Higher end; let’s say, Mother Theresa or Billy Graham, high nineties. Where would you rank yourself? One is the lowest, one hundred is the highest.
It’s interesting and kind of funny to ask yourself, where do you rank compared to others? Let me give you just two really simple thoughts about comparing. When you compare yourself to others, one of two things happens. The first thing is, you often feel better about yourself. If you’re sitting by someone that you think is not that good of a person and you compare yourself to them, you feel better about yourself.
If, on the other hand, you are sitting next to someone who seems to be a better person, you often feel worse about yourself. When you compare yourself to some people, you feel better. “I don’t cuss like they do”, or “I’m not a bad person like they are. I tend to try to help people when they are in need. I give money occasionally to help out. I go to church every now and then. I’m generally a good person. I try hard, I don’t cheat on my taxes… as much as most other people do! You know, I’m a rather good person. You make me feel good about myself.”
On the other hand, there are some people who just are so great. When you compare yourself to them, you don’t feel quite as good about yourself. You might feel worse, you feel a little bit inadequate.
For example, some of you might be a mom, and you’ve have that friend who is a super mom! She’s annoyingly perfect! Her hair is perfect, her house is perfect, her kids are perfect! You ask, “How does she do that? She makes me feel bad about myself. I know I’m supposed to love her and I do, but sometimes I secretly hate her guts because she makes me feel inadequate.”
Another example could be the guy that everything seems to work for him, financially. You try so hard to get ahead, whatever you do doesn’t quite work and he shows up with a new boat, a new house, a new car. “I don’t feel as good about myself.”
Or it could be that you are sincerely a follower of Jesus. You want to please God by being a Christian. Yet, you just can’t seem to get it right. You have a friend who seems to be a mega-Christian! Someone has a hard time, and this person quotes a Bible verse for everything! “The Bible says….!” You think, “How do they do that? That’s annoying, I can’t do that!” When they pray, their prayers are so eloquent and powerful! You’re thinking, “When I pray I just don’t sound like that, my prayers just aren’t quite as good! I’m an ADD prayer. I pray, Dear God, Father in Heaven…. hey look, a squirrel! Where was I?”
You compare yourself with some people and you feel better about yourself. You compare yourself to others and think, “If they knew what I’ve done, and about my thought life, I feel so inadequate!” Here’s a question for you, on a scale of one to one hundred, how good of a person are you?
Today we are going to look at two people who were not so good, who were hanging next to Jesus, as He was giving His life for us on the cross. Luke 23:32-33 “Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to the 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.”
So, let me just drive this home. Who was next to Him? Two criminals, these were not good people. Everybody say not good people! Not only were they not good people, but chances are very, very good that they were considered the lowest of the low in society.
Here is Jesus by two criminals. We don’t know what they did, but we know it was probably bad. But, they were also considered the lowest of the low in society. They were probably two slaves who committed some crime, so Jesus was hanging by, what we would call, the worst of the worst.
Scripture goes on to say in verse 39, “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at (Jesus): ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him, ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence?’ He continued, ‘We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man, Jesus, he’s done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’” Luke 23:39-42
Jesus answered this guy, who could do nothing right, who couldn’t make up for his sins, who only deserved death; Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
This story, perhaps above all others, illustrates one of the most important truths in life and corrects one of the biggest misunderstandings in the world today.
One of the most common misunderstandings in the world today is that good people go to heaven. We are not sure how good, maybe a fifty and above, maybe if your last ten years have been better than your previous, we don’t know where the tipping mark is. But, most people today want to believe, “I’m not as bad as others, I hope I’m good enough, if I try really hard and I’m a good person, that good people will go to heaven.”
But, this story illustrates perfectly that good people do not go to heaven. Forgiven people go to heaven, and there is a huge difference! Good people do not go to heaven, because in reality, none of us are good. Scripture says that God alone is good and that all of us fall short of the standard of God and the good news is that it isn’t good people, but forgiven people who go to heaven.
Let’s look today at the forgiven criminal and look at two things that would apply to our lives. The first one, if you are taking notes is this:
1) The forgiven one admits his wrong. He says, “I’ve sinned, I’ve done something wrong.” He says, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:41
In other words, we have sinned. What’s interesting today is so many people don’t want to admit to doing anything wrong. We compare ourselves to others, “Well, sure I’m not perfect, but I’m better than most.” When we compare ourselves to other people, it’s easy for us to rank ourselves above average.
But, when we compare ourselves to Christ, the one hundred, none of us are a one hundred. None of us are good people. In fact, I can remember when I was a kid, people would tell me, “You’re a good kid, you’re a good kid!” The first time I realized that I was really sinful, happened to be in church when a man giving his testimony shared that he was a classic West Texas “Good Old Boy” and that there would be a lot of good old boys who went to hell.
Well this rocked my world to hear that because I was a good kid who had been counting on the fact that my goodness would be what got me into heaven as long as I had done more good than bad. I came to understand that I could never be good enough, but that it was only by grace through faith in Jesus that I had any hope of Heaven.
Yet today, much like I was, all over the world we have people convinced, “I’m pretty good, I’m not a bad person, I’m better than most, I hope I’m good enough!”
Many of you feel that way, you hope you are good enough. Today I want to prove to you that you’re really not! I’m going to ask you just a series of questions and if you were here for Christmas Eve these are going to sound familiar to you:
- How many of you have ever told a lie? Raise your hands up, just raise them up! Leave them up. Find the people whose hands are not up right now, look at them and say, “Liar! Liar, pants on fire hanging from a telephone wire.” Okay, so this is obvious, but help me out! If you’ve ever told a lie, what are you? You are a liar!
- Just be honest, how many of you have ever stolen something? Just raise your hands, lift them up, leave them up! Okay, so if you’ve ever stolen something, what does that make you? It starts with a ‘th’ you are a thief!
- Here’s a personal one, don’t raise your hands! I really don’t want to see your hands, but I want you just to show me your eyebrows, just give me a little eyebrow raise. If this is you, no hands up, how many of you have had a lustful thought before? Just give me an eyebrow, just come on! A lustful thought, I don’t want anybody else to see, a lustful thought.
In the New Testament, Jesus said, “If you look lustfully at a woman you’ve committed adultery in your heart.” According to Jesus in the New Testament, if you’ve ever looked or thought lustfully, you are an adulterer.
- How many of you have ever put something ahead of God? Just be real honest, if you’ve put anything ahead of God in your life, raise your hand. What do you think that would make you? That would make you an idolater. So, let’s just go ahead and call it what it is!
If you’ve done all of these things, and most people have, you are a lying, thieving, adulterous, idolater! Welcome to LakeRidge UMC, where we are here to make you feel good about yourself!
Okay! You are not a good person when you compare yourself to the standard of God. In fact, the Bible is so clear. James 2:10 says: For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.
If you’ve done one thing wrong in God’s eyes, you are as guilty, your sin separates you from Him, as much as if you’ve broken all of them. It doesn’t matter if you are a twelve, a forty-eight, a seventy-two, or a 99.999! We’ve all fallen short and we are not good in our own behavior and morals before God.
The forgiven criminal, he admits wrong; ‘I’ve sinned, I’ve done something wrong.’ The second thing that the forgiven one does is asks for eternal help.
Don’t miss this. Both of the criminals ask for help and a lot of people today, when it comes to God, they may not be sure if there is a God. But if there is one, they certainly want God to help them out in this life. The first one does that. ‘Jesus, if you are the Christ, save yourself; and hey, while you’re at it, save us too!’ In other words, “God, if you’re there, make my life better. Heal my grandmother of cancer, help me get the promotion, help me get the date, help me buy the house, give me the raise. God, if you’re there, help me now.”
But the forgiven one asks for eternal help. Here’s what he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43
Check this out. Both criminals were guilty. Both were suffering severely. Both were dying. Both needed a Savior. Both heard and saw the same things during those fateful six hours. One was forgiven and one wasn’t.
The reality is that every single one of us are one of these two criminals. The amazing thing to me is that there will be those of you who will sit side by side today. One of you will call on Christ, and will be forgiven for everything you’ve ever done. You are going to be totally transformed, you are going to be brand new, spiritually, and your life on earth and eternally, will never, ever be the same! And sitting right by you, will be someone else, who will hear the same things, have the same need and say, “Check, church service done. Where are we going for lunch?” And nothing is going to happen.
Both, with the same need and the same opportunity, and one is transformed and one leaves exactly the same. You are one of the two criminals. It doesn’t matter what number you are.
Here is the deal, because of what Jesus did, His death and His resurrection, no matter what your number is, He makes up the difference. If you are an eighty-two, He’s the missing eighteen. If you are a eighteen, He’s the missing eighty-two. He makes up for the difference.
If we are going to be technical; technically, we are all zero, technically He is one hundred, and when you call on Him, you become a one hundred, not because of your goodness, but because of His goodness. You become a one hundred, for those of you who are in Christ, you are not a seventy-nine, or a three, you are a one hundred, you are declared righteous because of what He did for you on the cross.
The Bible couldn’t say it any more clearly than this; in Romans 3:20-22, the Bible says: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.”
If you put out the Ten Commandments, there’s not a person who will say, “One, two, three, four, five, ten; check, check, check, got them all!” What’s the purpose then of the law? Rather, though, the Bible says: “Through the law we become conscious of sin.” The law is not there for us to say, “Oh, I did it all!” The law says that you can never do it all, you need a Savior! Here’s the good news: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known…This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Romans 3:20-22
This righteousness is from faith not works. It’s from faith in Christ, not works. It’s not from religious activity, it’s not from joining a church, it’s not from being good enough, it’s not from not being bad enough, and it’s from faith in Christ.
The forgiven criminal on the cross couldn’t do any good works, his hands were bound. He couldn’t turn over a new leaf. His feet were nailed to the cross. This guy couldn’t give money to some organization, because he couldn’t get down. He couldn’t start over and say, “From now on, I’ll always, or I’ll never…” He couldn’t do anything but trust in the grace of Christ, saved by faith in Him not by works, because the reality is this, good people don’t go to heaven, forgiven people go to heaven.