Friday, April 3, 2015

Three Crosses - Three Attitudes

April 11

(Luke 23:32-43 NIV)  "Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. {33} When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left. {34} Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. {35} The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One." {36} The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar {37} and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." {38} There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. {39} One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" {40} But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? {41} We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." {42} Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." {43} Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.""

Spring is the time when new life springs up all around us. What an appropriate season to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The day has become known as Easter, although that particular word is not found in scripture. Still, it could easily be called the most important day in Christianity.

But on this Good Friday, it’s important to remember that before the rising came the dying. Before the resurrection came the cross.

The bible tells us that Jesus died between two thieves on a hill called the Skull. There were three crosses on that hill… three men - three crosses - three attitudes.

First, there was the thief dying IN sin. He had been caught and found guilty. You can hear the anger and bitterness in this unbeliever crushed by his sin. He curses God. He mocks the Savior. He lived his life without God and he goes to his death without God.

The second cross held the thief dying TO sin. You can hear in his voice the recognition of God's holiness and power as he asks the first thief, "Don't you fear God?"

You can hear the acknowledgment of his sin and guilt as he says, "We are punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve."

You can hear the recognition of Christ's sinless innocence as he proclaims, "This man has done nothing wrong."

You can hear the acknowledgment of Christ's Lordship as he cries out, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

This is one of the most beautiful salvation stories in all of scripture. We have honest confession, sincere repentance, and humble acceptance of Jesus as the way to heaven. This man had seen the light. In his last hour he chose repentance instead of rebellion. His body and his heart were broken by sin, but his soul was saved by Jesus.

He was fortunate that there was a third cross on the hill that day. And on that cross was the Savior dying FOR sin. 

God was there… dying between the two thieves... dying for their sin ... dying for my sin ... dying for your sin. With labored breath he tells the repentant thief, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

In a three second sentence, the thief who appealed to God's mercy was spoken into eternity. No time to straighten out his life… no time to be baptized… no time to join the church… just spoken into paradise by our Lord.

The three crosses on that hill divide all humanity into two camps -- those who reject Christ and die in sin… and those who receive Christ and die to sin.

Jesus died for us, whether we believe it or not. It is finished. The rest is up to us. Choose wisely. Choose the right camp. Choose the right cross.

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