Did the Repentant Thief get off Easy?

Fort Desoto Love Letters 030

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Many Christians squirm and struggle with the story of the repentant thief being saved without “putting in his time” or “earning” it. This story alone makes salvation look too easy. My response is, where in Scripture does it say salvation is supposed to be hard? How hard did Adam and Eve work to be placed in paradise to begin with? How hard did the angels work to be created in heaven?

Sure Jesus said,

“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life.” Matthew 7:14

But does narrow and strait have to be hard?

Against popular belief, the Bible actually says,

The way of the transgressors is hard. Proverbs 13:15

Why? Because God’s love has made it hard for sinners to destroy themselves.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. Lamentations 3:22

At the beginning of my ministry I was working with a pastor who was very popular for his sound Adventist theology. He taught the importance of the law and obedience. He preached that Jesus saves us from sin not in sin. One night providence had us both at the bedside of a dying saint. An elderly woman who spent her entire life giving Bible studies, and baking pies to feed the needy. She was true to Bible doctrine. That night I watched while the pastor held this dear lady’s hand, and asked, “Do you love Jesus?” She would open her eyes long enough to smile and then quickly appear to fall asleep again. the pastor told her over and over, “Just rest in Jesus. He died for you and loves you.” What amazed me that night is what the pastor of righteous living did not say. He did not mention her avid Sabbath keeping, or Bible studies given, or how she fed the needy. I watched this lady die as the pastor encouraged her to cling to one thing, and one thing only-the cross!

Friends that  is how we are all saved, from the repentant thief to Methuselah with his 969 years of service, we are all saved by grace alone!

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Nicodemus was equivalent to a General Conference official today. In John 3 Jesus never flattered Nicodemus with his position, titles or accomplishments. In John 3:14-17 He pointed him straight to the cross, as his only hope. The same hope given to the thief on the cross. So General Conference presidents are saved the same way the repentant thief on the cross was saved. This explains why Ellen White, wife of early GC president James White, asked him over and over on his death bed, “Do you love Jesus? Is Jesus precious to you?” She never mentioned his positions, titles or accomplishments. She knew those were worth garbage. She presented to her dying husband what Jesus presented to Nicodemus- the cross and the cross alone!

Sure it is important to point out that the repentant thief showed his repentance, not by saying he was sorry. He actually never said he was sorry. He did something drastically more important. He changed his attitude! He addressed Jesus not only as Savior but as Lord of his life. He made a confession that was backed up by the way he behaved in front of an unbelieving multitude.  That is exactly how we all are saved.

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

This is exactly what the repentant thief did on the cross. And we all have the promise,

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13

It is worth pointing out that the thief was not playing games. He was not thinking to live as he pleased and then just repent at the last second. That of course is not genuine repentance. Because his repentance was sincere, he was saved the exact same way every repentant sinner is saved.

The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day; And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away: Wash all my sins away, Wash all my sins away; And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away. -There is a Fountain, William Cowper 1772.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Glimpses of The Cross 9; The Power to Forgive

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Lord I believe in you! Please remember me when you set up your kingdom. Jesus turned His head towards Him and said, “I promise you today, When I return with the glory of my Father, I will take you home with me to paradise.” Luke 23:42-43 CWB

As the son of God, Jesus had the right to wear a crown of gold, but He let man take it away and give him a crown of thorns instead. Jesus had the right to wear a royal robe, but Jesus let man take that too as He hung naked on the cross. Jesus had the right to live, but He let men take away His life. On the cross Jesus gave up all of his rights except one which was the right to forgive sin. When a lifelong sinner, turned to Jesus on the cross, Jesus would not give up the right to forgive sinners. On the cross the only power that Jesus exercised was the power to forgive sin. The only thing He asked was, “Father forgive them.”

That prayer of Christ for His enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time. Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God. To all, forgiveness is freely offered. “Whosoever will” may have peace with God, and inherit eternal life. -Desire of Ages, P. 745

From Disappointment to Discovery!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and while he thought he was finding a short cut to India what he found was a whole “new world.” Now granted, the millions of people already living there already knew about it, and there is evidence of visitors well before Columbus. Still that does not change the point of this story. The fact is that while Columbus’ calculations were off, and his trip a “disappointment” as far as finding a new way to India, he still discovered for himself a whole new world!

In 1844 a group of Bible students also had some miscalculations, but even though they had a disappointment they still discovered something very new to them.

So I went to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. “Yes, take it and eat it,” he said. “It will be sweet as honey in your mouth, but it will turn sour in your stomach!” So I took the small scroll from the hand of the angel, and I ate it! It was sweet in my mouth, but when I swallowed it, it turned sour in my stomach.Revelation 10:9-10

Seventh-day Adventists understand this passage to be referring to the great disappointment in 1844, when the Millerites expected Jesus to come. The scroll is the book of Daniel which contains the 2300 day prophecy, and the sweetness was the expectation of his coming in 1844 and the bitterness is the disappointment.

Some believe that the seven thunders (see Revelation 10:4) actually told John about the great disappointment, but when he went to write it he was told not to. If you go with this theory, then you understand that some things must be learned through experience. Sometimes that is the best way to learn, and it is not that God had not already told us that we do not know the day, or the hour of the second coming. There was enough Biblical evidence already in the Scriptures to prevent the great disappointment from happening. Sometimes we have to take our lumps for not appreciating what Biblical evidence is already there, and learn from experience.

Remembering that there were no chapter divisions in the original Scriptures, the first two verses of Revelation 11 give us a strong clue as to what actually happened in 1844.

Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told, “Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers.  But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. Revelation 11:1-2 NLT

What these Bible students discovered after their great disappointment was the wonderful truth about the investigative judgment and cleansing of the sanctuary!

Still, that did not take away the sting of the great disappointment.

Here is the account of one of the Millerites, Hiram Edson of that great disappointment when Jesus did not return in October 22, 1844:

“Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before. It seemed that the loss of all earthly friends could have been no comparison. We wept, and wept, till the day dawn.” -Christ and His sanctuary, Page 4.

Many people mocked Hiram and his friends while they were already grieving. Does that make any sense to you? Making fun of hurting people, just because they made an honest mistake in misunderstanding the Bible?

1844 was not the first time such a thing happened. After the crucifixion, God’s true followers, the disciples, were severely disappointed. Of course their disappointment came from their misunderstanding of Jesus’ clear words. Still pain is pain, and there was no reason to make fun of them while they were hurting. And their mistake in misunderstanding and not comprehending the Scriptures regarding the cross, did not stop them from still being true disciples of Jesus! They were still God’s people even though they still had a lot to learn, some of which they would have to learn by going through bitter disappointments, and even what they (both the disciples in A.D. 31 and A.D. 1844) perceived as public embarrassment, in addition to grief.

I want to make two points here.

  1.  We should never make fun or mock people who misunderstand the Scriptures. Since 1844 other people have set dates for the second coming and been sorely disappointed, and I hear Adventists joking, poking fun at them for not realizing that Jesus says nobody knows the day of the hour of His return. So they should have known better, so should William Miller and the Bible students of his day. Still, why are some Christians, more eager to mock people’s pain rather than sympathize with them! Telling someone “You should have known better” does not ease the pain. It only makes it worse. When the shepherd finds the lost sheep, and binds up his wounds, I don’t recall the shepherd ever telling the sheep “Hey you made a mistake! This is your own fault!” Such words would bring no healing for the wounds. We are told to cry with those who cry, instead of making fun of them.
  2. Hiram and his friends were heartbroken when Jesus did not return. He wrote, “our fondest hopes were blasted.”Is Jesus coming soon your fondest hope? Would you rather be with Jesus than with all your friends on earth? Dare, I ask, are some of us even relieved that Jesus has not come yet? Do some of us find a delay, whether real or apparent, as no disappointment whatsoever?  Is the second coming of Jesus your fondest hope, or are you relieved instead of disappointed that He has not come yet?

On the cross, there was a thief who was mocking Jesus and making fun of all of His claims. This thief was belligerent and would have just as easily mocked Jesus’ followers. But somewhere in the midst of that dark afternoon, this thief stopped mocking Jesus and started looking at his own heart. When he did, an amazing revival took place. Maybe it would be a good idea for us, instead of mocking the claims and theology of others, to take a good look at our own hearts, and our own attitudes about meeting Jesus one day soon.

You may explore this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Glimpses Of Grace; The Only Right Worth Dying For

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

 

Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Lord I believe in you! Please remember me when you set up your kingdom. Jesus turned His head towards Him and said, “I promise you today, When I return with the glory of my Father, I will take you home with me to paradise.” Luke 23:42-43 CWB

As the son of God, Jesus had the right to wear a crown of gold, but He let man take it away and give him a crown of thorns instead. Jesus had the right to wear a royal robe, but Jesus let man take that too as He hung naked on the cross. Jesus had the right to live, but He let men take away His life. On the cross Jesus gave up all of his rights except one. When a lifelong sinner, turned to Jesus on the cross, Jesus would not give up the right to forgive sinners. On the cross the only power that Jesus exercised was the power to forgive sin. Wow! He didn’t ask for His crown of gold back. He didn’t ask for His clothes back. He didn’t ask for His life back. The only thing He asked was, “Father forgive them.”

That prayer of Christ for His enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time. Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God. To all, forgiveness is freely offered. “Whosoever will” may have peace with God, and inherit eternal life. -Desire of Ages, P. 745

This Friday, January 6 at 7pm  we will be celebrating this agape love at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, with Pastor Brad Cassell. There will be an agape feast and communion service. I would like to personally invite you to come and celebrate the wonderful love of Jesus if you are in the Tampa Bay area.

Click here to celebrate God’s amazing grace at a church near you.

The Only Right Worth Dying For

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The Only Right, Worth Dying for

 

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.  And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee To day, shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43

 

Behold the matchless love Jesus has for sinful man! He comes to our earth King of Kings and Lord of Lords the Creator and Ruler of the universe. Satan wants to destroy Jesus. What Satan did to the Son of God here on Earth is exactly what he would have done to Him in heaven if he had been able. What love Jesus has for us when He comes down to this Earth and tells Satan, “Okay, I will let you take my crown away and give Me a crown of thorns, you may strip me of my royal robes and let me hang on a cruel cross. You can take away My scepter and mock me and slap Me in the face. You may mock My claim to be king of the Jews, and at last you can crucify Me and take away my life, and yes I will give up my omnipresence eternally. But the one right that I will never ever let go, is My right to forgive sinners!”

 

Out of all the rights and privileges of being the King of this universe, the only right Jesus did not give up on the cross was His right to forgive your sins! When we fail and feel hopeless, let us keep this in mind. Jesus never gives up on us, so we must never give up either. He died for us not when we were at our best, but when we were at our worst.

 

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.   Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:15-16