Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“One of the criminals who was suspended kept up a railing at Him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ (the Messiah)? Rescue Yourself and us from death’. But the other one reproved him saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you yourself are under the same sentence of condemnation and suffering the same penalty? And we indeed suffer it justly, receiving the due reward of our own actions.’”
Luke 23: 39-41
“The Guilt Problem:
Guilt Can Cause Us to Give-up On Ourselves”
“Give-up” - Lose confidence. To lose our will.
“Ah, Lord, my prayers are dead, my affections dead, and my heart is dead, but You are a living God and I bear myself upon You.”
“God abandons no one who is faithful to Him, and He will not abandon you if you rely on Him.”
(1898 – 1945)
His mother held him in her arms – this beautiful baby she longed for. As she rocked her precious child, she couldn’t help but wonder to herself, “What will the future bring for my baby boy?”
Growing up in the rough Judean countryside didn’t give this young man an easy life. The family lived in occupied territory, ruled by the hated Romans. Foreign soldiers terrorized the land bringing with them fear and hate.
Amid this chaos, the young boy found himself drawn into a group of like-minded “patriots” whose only goal was to rid the country of the despised Romans. With fierce passion driving their hearts, this gang of young men set out to conquer at any cost.
Theirs was a motivation driven by one emotion -- hatred. Then one day, the young man happened to get caught-up in a crowd of people. They were going to hear a new voice. Some said this fellow was the long awaited Messiah. For a young man, now an adult, who was intent on revenge, an uprising by another so-called religious saviour was the last thing he needed. Rob, pillage, kill – this was the motto he lived by. But on this day, he decided to follow the crowd and listen, even if it were for just a few minutes. What he heard sounded downright stupid. Nothing but absolute nonsense. “Love your neighbor.” “Do good to them that despitefully use you.” “If someone asks you for your coat, give them your shirt, too.” “When someone hits you on the right side of your face, turn and offer them the left side.” This was rubbish if he had ever heard it. Who in their right mind could ever get ahead and accomplish anything behaving like this. And yet, as this silent observer listened, for some strange reason he found himself drawn to the “Man” uttering these strange words. There was something appealing about the way the “Man” spoke. And for a moment, the rebel heart softened – his thoughts wandered as he remembered the gentle mother who loved him, who prayed for him, who taught him right from wrong. However, in one split second he decided to push those silly thoughts aside. In that moment, his fate was sealed – or so he thought. He had to meet with his gang of like-minded brothers in crime. Yet within weeks, those hated Roman soldiers had this boy in their crosshairs. He and a friend were captured, convicted, and sentenced to death on a Roman cross. Awaiting the day of his crucifixion, the young man had time to think about the path he had chosen. The fact was, he was probably getting what he deserved. He had chosen to live by the sword so he would die by the sword.
Then one dark day, he and his thieving buddy were dragged to a hill called Golgotha. They thought they were the only two troublemakers to be executed. But low and behold, a third cross was lying on the ground waiting to accept some other unwilling victim. To the shock of the rebel, the “Man” who was to be the occupant of cross number 3 was none other than “Mr. Love Your Enemies.” Well…well…well! Just see where this philosophy got this guy; I guess his enemies decided to show him who was boss.
The young man, now identified only as “Thief #1,” shook his head. It didn’t seem to matter if you were a saintly Messiah or a devilish robber – you ended up in the same place on the same day on the same hill with the same verdict – death by crucifixion.
As three crosses were planted in the hard, rocky dirt of Golgotha’s mountain crest on a Friday so long ago, I think about the three occupants of those rough hewn pieces of wood, bodies wracked with unthinkable pain, men groaning in agony as they struggled for each breath of air to feed their oxygen starved lungs. Three dying men – and three crying mothers. For all we know, Mary wasn’t the only mom who was with her boy, at the foot of a cross that day. Maybe there were two other moms there, also. Moms who had dreams for their boys. How those dreams had been shattered. Everybody had watched as their boys had taken the road to ruin. Long ago townsfolk had given up on these criminal louses. But moms – they don’t give up so easy. When the trial began, the mothers hoped for the best but once the verdict came down – hope soon became a thing of the past. Now doomsday had arrived.
Everyone had given up. The sentence was guilty. There wasn’t any way out. These thieves were obviously guilty. They knew it – and so did everybody else. “We’re getting what we deserve,” Give it up. We got caught. We’re the losers here.
Yet, through the raucous laughter and mocking, amid the cruelty of the moment, a lone voice was heard, “Father, forgive them.” It was a voice “Thief #1” had heard before. A calm voice filled with gentleness and love. And in a moment, a thought passed through his mind, “What if it wasn’t too late? What if he hadn’t gone too far? What did he have to lose anyway?”
He decided that even if it were the last breath of air he sucked in he’d ask for one favor of the “Man.” “When you come, will you remember me?” The me I could have been. The me I really wanted to be. The me my mom believed I was. And from the dying lips of the “Man” of love and forgiveness, came the word, “Yes!” No questions asked! No stipulations! No requirements! No apologies! No demands! Just a simple, “Yes, come as you are.” You see, the “Man” in the middle had one characteristic that makes Him different from any other person on earth. He never gives up on one of His children. Period! End of discussion! “The Lord is long-suffering, extraordinarily patient toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance.”
2 Peter 3: 9
“The thief on the cross was saved, that none should despair.”
You Shall Be With Me In Paradise
“Most people wanted some assurance of their status.
Will the number of the saved be small? That is,
am I one of them?
What must I do to be saved? That is
have I left something out?
Life was hard enough.
If eternal death was in their future,
they wanted to know.
It had long been clear to Him that most
would not reach out and take the gift.
Most would stand outside and
knock on a door already open.
But for this one thief on the right,
status is not on the table.
At the end of life, this one is free to ask,
because there is no harm in asking,
and you never know.
At the end of a life that knows it needs saving,
when there is no longer any chance for amends
the thief on the right asks for the gift
and, as always, the answer is yes.”
“I have a great need for Christ; I have a great Christ for my need.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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