THE CLIMB TO CALVARY
Meditations on The Seven Last Words of Christ
Tuesday: The Second Words
“And Jesus said unto him, ‘I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:43).
A lot has been written about bad things happening to good people. But it is equally jarring for many in our world to reconcile, accept and embrace the truth of our faith that tells us in the end, good things can happen to “bad” people.
As you know, there were two thieves hanging beside Jesus on Calvary, one to His right and the other to His left. The first sneered at Him, but the other did not. That second thief accepted Jesus as the Christ and asked the Lord to forgive him.
If Christ’s first words are startling, these second words are among the most difficult for many people to accept or at least embrace warmly. In fact, it makes some very uneasy. That’s because they run contrary to the popularly held theory that our salvation is based upon behavior rather than belief. To think that a person might live a wicked life and yet still enjoy all the benefits of eternal life - all thanks to a death-bed conversion? It just doesn’t add up. But in God’s economy, none of us is worthy of our salvation purchased through Jesus’ death on the cross, and even death-bed conversions qualify the guilty for admission to heaven.
Cynically speaking, death-bed conversions make for great stories, but are sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to confirm or verify. For one-hundred years a rumor has persisted that Charles Darwin became a Christian at the end of his life. He is reported to have declared, “How I wish I had not expressed my theory of evolution as I have done." A friend of his wrote that he told her he would like to gather a group and “speak to them of Christ Jesus and His salvation, being in a state where he was eagerly savoring the heavenly anticipation of bliss." In more recent years, some have suggested the late eccentric pop star, Michael Jackson, converted prior to his untimely death.
True? I don’t know.
What I do know is that God is a turn-around God and that Christianity is a turn-around religion. He is always willing to embrace the repentant heart. Does it make any sense that He would use Saul, one of the most zealous persecutors of the early Christians, to serve as the main architect of the early Church? It does if you realize that ours is a paradoxical faith. He humbles the mighty and lifts up the lowly. His power is made perfect in our weakness. He often does the exact opposite of what the world might expect.
The story of the repentant thief assures us that Christ makes Himself available right to the very end. Of course, none of us knows when the end will come. Therefore, if you’re not certain of your salvation, I would urge you to ponder His promise and assurance of eternal life today. Don’t wait until tomorrow! We’re not promised that tomorrow will come. Turn your troubles and doubt over to Him. Stop trying to go it alone. Accept Him as your Lord and Savior. Believe that He is who He says He is. Begin to experience the “abundant life” (John 10:10) right now and know that heaven will someday be yours:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
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