"Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom." (Luke 23:42)
These words were spoken by a criminal... One of the criminals hanging beside Jesus on the Cross. Jesus' response to this criminal was not just relevant to the criminal, but to all of us.
"Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.'" (John 23:43)
Jesus did not ask the criminal, "What criminal offenses have you committed?"
No, Jesus has beautiful eyes of love. He did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world (John 3:17). One of the last things He did before He died was save a criminal.
There is a beautiful, beautiful hope there for you and for me. It is a hope that screams against our thoughts of, "God could never save me out of this sin". It is a hope that pushes against our low expectations of who God is and just what He can do.
It is a hope that is for you, for me, for all of us.
I hear this hope scream out, "Nooo!" when we turn away from our Savior because we think that He could never save us from the wrong that we have done.
If we were to believe that Jesus could not save us from our sins, then we underestimate the power of Christ and His sacrifice for us on the Cross. Jesus came to save the world. He came to save you and He came to save me. It does not matter what wrong we have done. It does not matter how far we have walked in the opposite direction. It does not matter because Jesus came to save the world. He did not come to condemn us, but to save us.
That truth offers me hope that is found nowhere else. That truth offers me forgiveness and a clean start. That truth is found in Jesus Christ, and in Jesus Christ alone.
And tonight, I am rejoicing in that truth.
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
When we wonder if God could possibly forgive us for our sins, we must look to the Cross... to the criminal and to the One who died there to save that criminal and to save you and to save me.
Tonight, I am thankful for this criminal's story... The one who Jesus saved on the Cross. As they were both dying physically, Jesus promised the criminal eternal life in Heaven, in His Kingdom, in paradise that very day. And He offers it to each and every one of us... We are all criminals who have sinned against God and His perfect Law. That is why I am thankful for that criminal's story. I am thankful for my God. I am thankful Jesus saved the criminal and I am thankful that Jesus saved me.
Tonight, I am rejoicing in Him and in His truth and in His promises.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
And all because "For God so loved the world" ~ and He so loves you and me.