Updated: Mar 31, 2022
Luke 23:42-43; “Then he (The Thief on the Cross) said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom. “And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Let me start out by saying this: The verse that I just read should put an end to the debate about being saved by grace verses works. Remember, you can’t have it both ways. Grace is grace, works is works. Grace is a free gift, works, means you have to do something to receive it. Since this teaching is not really about grace verses works, let me get into what I want to discuss.
I want to start out by telling you about an experience that I had a couple years back while attending a friend’s mother’s funeral. This particular friend of mine was probably my best friend for most of my life, until about thirty years ago when we parted ways, mostly because I chose to serve Jesus Christ and he stayed in the world and as we all know the two do not blend very well. Jesus even said in the following verse, 2 Corinthians 6: 14-15; “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Baal? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” You won’t understand what this is saying unless you have truly become born-again. But once again, this is also not the topic of this message.
When I was attending this funeral, I felt encouraged to share some comforting messages of scripture with him that I thought might help ease the pain of sorrow which he was obviously feeling. But everything that I said, seemed to go right over his head as to what I was trying to get across. I believed his mother was in heaven because she obviously had a relationship with Jesus, whereas my friend, obviously did not. I preceded to tell him that all wasn’t lost because he could see his mother again, if, he repented and turned to Jesus Christ. His response to me was painful to say the least. He went on to say that he felt that he had done so much evil in his life that there was no way he could go to heaven. His response didn’t surprise me because of the religion that he was brought up in. It’s a religion that teaches salvation by works, which is a lie, from the pit of hell. See, he believed that because of his lifestyle, he could never do enough good to make up for the bad that he had done. How sad! Let me say this right up front, if you commit one sin throughout your life, and if it is not repented of, you will not spend eternity with God. Here is a sobering verse that validates what I just said. James 2: 10; “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” Did you hear what I just read? One sin, and it is as if you had broken every part of the law. If you believe the Bible is the true and inerrant Word of God, then listen to what this is saying. One sin or many sins, it doesn’t matter, you need to be forgiven, and the only way to be forgiven is by accepting the gift of grace, (Which is Free gift) accept Jesus Christ into your life and become born-again into the Holy Spirit. It is then, that you become justified and it as if you have never sinned. No matter what you have done in the past, your sins will be forgiven and forgotten by our Holy God. We read this truth in Psalm, 103:12; “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” God will remember your sins no more; they are washed clean. You can have a lifetime of sins and at the last moment, (Which I would not suggest) accept the gift of grace, turn to Jesus Christ and become born-again into the Holy Spirit. If your conversion is true, and you walk with Jesus Christ as evidence that your commitment was real, you are saved, and nothing can take that away from you. Here is what Jesus said about that, John 18:9; “that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You (The Father) gave Me, I have lost none.” If God places you in the hands of Jesus Christ, which happens after your commitment of faith, nobody can remove you from His hands. What a comforting verse this is.
Now, with these truths above, listen again to what Jesus told the thief on the cross, "Assuredly, I say to you, today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” This man was saved minutes, maybe seconds before he died, He didn’t do the sinners prayer, he did no good works, that we are aware of, he just received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Here is an interesting thought, most people will say that this man will have no rewards in heaven because he did nothing for Jesus once he was saved, he had no time, but think about this, how many people on their dying bed, heard this story and came to Jesus because of this man's confession. I would venture to say millions of people received Jesus Christ moments before they breathed their last because of this man’s statement of faith. He may have more rewards than we can imagine.
I’m going to turn to one more story in the Bible that comes by way of a parable. Matthew 20: 1-16; “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ so they went. Again, he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” First let me explain what a parables is. It is a story that Jesus used to get a point across. The point of this parable is this; no matter when you come to Jesus Christ it is not too late. There are people that came to Jesus when they were young and many came to Jesus when they are old and gray, the point is this, they will be saved just as those that came to Jesus long ago. With this being said, you should also know that those that serve Jesus Christ longer will most likely receive more rewards in heaven than those that came at a later hour, because they have had more time to do so, but nonetheless, all will be saved. When the Bible speaks of rewards, it is speaking of those things that we do once we are saved and born-again. You can do all the good you want, but if it is not for the Glory of God after you became born-again, it is all for nothing. Good works do not save you, Only Jesus can save.
So, my point is this, if you feel that there is no way that God can forgive you, then you do not know God, nor the love and mercy that He processes. He loves us all and wishes that all would come to repentance, but unfortunately, we read this verse in Matthew, 7:13-14; “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” What does it say, “few “If you listen to this teaching and decide to ignore it, than you will most likely try to enter the wide gate that leads to destruction. When you stand before Jesus Christ at the “White Throne Judgment” you will have no excuse, because ignorance of the law will not hold up in His court any more than it does in our own judicial system. You have a choice to make, make the right choice, but don’t wait much longer. Once Jesus returns for His church, the door to this opportunity will close and the age of grace will come to an end, then, it will be too late.
I have one more question for you, why would you wait another day to make this commitment? You may not be here tomorrow. When you pass from this world, you will go to one of two places, there is not a third option as one Christian sect will tell you. Do not be deceived, read the scripture for yourself, only you are responsible for your salvation. If you are trusting in a certain religion or person for your salvation, you are playing Russian Rolette with your eternity. That, my friends is not a gamble that I am willing to take…how about you?