The Thief on the Cross

cross and crownLuke 23: 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ 42 And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ 43 And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

I have often contemplated the potential scene in my mind as one by one, the proponents of all religions were given the opportunity of talking to the thief on the cross, and what they would say to him. This was a man who was a criminal, a notorious sinner, and definitely one whose so called “bad deeds’ would outweigh the good ones. Being nailed to a cross negates any further opportunity for good works to be done. But it would be an interesting conversation, wouldn’t it, to hear what each religionist might say to him? In every case (apart from perhaps universalism which teaches that all people will be saved regardless of their works) each religion would require the man to somehow come down from the cross to do something.

What would a spokesman for Islam say? How about a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness? What would a Buddhist say? or a New Age guru? How about a Roman Catholic? If each could speak to this man, what religious advice would or could they give to him for the purpose of being saved (however they even define what that means)? Some might say that all he could do would be to hope for mercy, but Christ, the biblical Christ gave him far more than just hope. In contrast to what all man made religious systems could give the man, Christ gave him full assurance of salvation – and not just eventual salvation after countless years in the fires of purgatory, but bliss and paradise that very day!

Certain religions would require baptism, others would require the man go through religious instruction and devotion of some sort, while others would ask him to do more good works before his death hoping that they might outweigh the bad ones. But here’s my point, the man could never find salvation in those religious systems because he was stuck, pinned, nailed to a cross. His chance to help elderly people cross roads, or to give to charity or to live a life of service was gone. Nailed to a cross, works and service were no longer possible. His was a totally hopeless case.. except that crucified next to him was Someone who was able to save him by what He was doing, rather than what the man might do. Only the real biblical Jesus with the real biblical Gospel could announce to a criminal that before the day was over, he would be with Him in Paradise!

This thief’s salvation portrays the Gospel so clearly. Someone embracing anything other than the biblical gospel can only scratch their heads in wonder at the precious words given to this man, for in their system, such words would be impossible to say.

As far as I know, this man was the only person in the Bible that Jesus gave instantaneous assurance of salvation to. Jesus’ words, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” removes all doubt.

Can we know what was going on in the heart of this man? Well, we do not have a perfect understanding, but putting the pieces of the biblical text together, we can get quite a good picture. What is clear from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark is that this man had been amongst the many who had mocked Christ. Yet seemingly, out of nowhere, he turns to the other thief and says, “Don’t you fear God?” Obviously, this thief was now fearing God for him to be asking this question of the other one.

He also knew he was getting exactly what he deserved – “we indeed suffer justly” he said.

In addition, recognized the innocence of Christ when he said, “he has done nothing wrong.”

When he turned to Jesus and requested, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom” though knowing death was inevitable for all three of those crucified, he believed Jesus would triumph over death, and therefore, would be resurrected.

In affirming the fact that Jesus would come into His kingdom, he affirmed the Lordship or even the Deity of Christ. How much he knew of this we do not know, but obviously, he knew that Christ was indeed King.

So, he had an awareness of divine judgment, he knew the availability of forgiveness, he believed Christ was the true King and that in Christ there is hope even for him, he knew of the coming Kingdom and wanted to be a part of it.

As God opens our hearts and mind to the one true biblical Gospel, we will also find in Christ the full assurance of salvation. As we turn away from any attempt at self justification, knowing that it is by grace that we are saved, through faith and all of this is the gift of God, not as a result of works (Eph. 2:8,9), we too will enjoy the sweet saving mercy of God.

What a testimony to the Gospel this thief is. His testimony is exactly the same as mine. God saves sinners through the perfect work of the perfect Savior, plus nothing! Hallelujah!

Gospel Tract (Flyer)

flier - man with face in hands pictureHave you made peace with your Maker?

Or can you relate to this picture when you think of standing before a holy Judge, giving an account of your life? Does your conscience bear witness that you will be in serious trouble?

If it doesn’t, it should, because if we’ve told even one lie, we are liars. If we’ve stolen anything (even something small) we are thieves. And Jesus said if we even LOOK with lust, we are adulterers at heart.

So the important question is, “Do you know how to make peace with God?”

Who do you listen to for answers? The Discovery Channel? Oprah? Are you willing to trust your eternal welfare to what they say? Have you given as much time to planning your eternity as you did planning your last vacation or shopping list?

Have you noticed that 10 out of 10 people die? It’s not a matter of IF but WHEN you will stand before your Creator and Judge.

Does the Bible have answers that you CAN trust? We believe it does! And here’s the thing… God demands 100% faultless, perfect obedience, and if you can’t do that, you had better find someone who can do it for you.

That someone is the Lord Jesus Christ. He lived the perfect life (never breaking any of God’s laws) and yet He died a criminal’s death, paying the fine we owed, so that all who repent of their sin and trust in him can have their “case” dismissed on the Day of Judgment: not on the grounds of being innocent, but because Jesus Christ has paid their fine. We would count it a privilege to point you to the Biblical answers that God the great Judge, in His great mercy, has provided.

KINGSJSv3We worship every Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. at Palos Verdes, 18441 N. 87th Avenue, Peoria, AZ 85382.

www.kingschurchaz.com

Update on “The Trial” Tract

Trial - MalayalamGood News: 10,000 of “The Trial” tracts have now been printed in English, with another 25,000 printed in Malayalam (a dialect in the state of Kerala, INDIA).

It has also been translated into Hungarian and is being distributed in the city of Budapest, HUNGARY.

Now it is being used for ministry to merchant seafarers in their ships off the coast of AUSTRALIA. All glory to God.

May the tract be used by God for many to be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tract Project for India

Pappy DanielUPDATED, MONDAY FEBRUARY 17, 2014

Pappy Daniel is a man of God from Kerala, India whom I have known since I started out in ministry back in 1987. I have been out to minister there with him in India on numerous occasions, doing many Gospel Crusades through the years. Pappy Daniel’s sincere passion for the gospel has resulted in many souls reached for Christ and his ongoing care of orphans has given hundreds of local children both a place to stay as well as a first class Christian education.

He recently read my newly written Gospel tract called “The Trial” and wrote to me today as follows:

Dear Brother John,

I have carefully read the tract, ‘The Trial’ and showed it to some other people here to see what they think about it. I was told that it will help our outreaches among the students of high schools, colleges, universities, law colleges and other institutions of higher learning if the tract is translated and printed in Malayalam language we speak here.

If you will give us an okay we shall translate and typeset the copy to make a pdf file for printing.

Would you be in a position to help us print a quantity between 10,000 and 25000? Please let us know how the Lord leads you on this. Thank you. PappyDaniel-Kerala

With love from all here,

In His abundant grace,

Pappy Daniel.

I am currently in a start up church situation here on the west side of Phoenix and this means that there is little in the way of finances to help with the printing here. Perhaps in sharing this letter, some who read of this request might feel led of the Lord to partner with Pappy Daniel to see many of “The Trial” tracts translated and printed. If so, please contact me and I will be happy to provide further details.

God bless,
John Samson

Update: Here’s an email I received from Pappy Daniel today (Monday, Feb 17):

Dear Brother John,

We have translated and typeset the copy ‘The Trial’ in Malayalam. The cover page is being attached herewith. Trial - Malayalam

It is estimated that it will cost US$250 to print 10,000 copies.

The cost will be reduced to some extent for 25,000 copies – $576.20.

The tract will be three fold as the English copy.

We pray that the Lord will make it possible to complete this project.

In His mighty grace,

Pappy Daniel.

The Trial (Tract)

judge-gavel2THE CASE OF GOD THE FATHER AGAINST ______________________________ (FILL IN YOUR NAME)

PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: SATAN (THE ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN – Zechariah 3:1)

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: THE LORD JESUS CHRIST (1 John 2:1)

JUDGE PRESIDING: GOD, THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE (Psalm 7:11)

IN ATTENDANCE: A VAST COMPANY OF ELECT ANGELS (1 Timothy 5:21)

“it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” – Hebrews 9:27

You now stand before God, the Righteous Judge, faced with the charge of great and terrible acts of high treason in the courtroom of heaven.

Gabriel, the high ranking angel addresses the court saying, “All rise! The Righteous Judge is coming into His chamber!”

The Judge declares His court to now be in session and asks for all to be seated.

Without any delay, Satan stands up and addresses the court. He states that the record will show that you have broken all ten of the Ten Commandments. On countless occasions you’ve lied, you’ve stolen, you’ve used God’s name in vain, you’ve hated (which Jesus said was murder of the heart) and you haven’t put God first, before anything else in your life, just to name a few. Satan will prove your guilt on all counts.

Also, there is indisputable video evidence as well as reliable witnesses to attest to the facts in this case. Even your thought life stands as testimony against you, for the Scripture says, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)

After the case is made against you, there is a hush in the court. The prosecuting attorney has shown that you have indeed committed acts of high treason against God. It seems inevitable that you will be found guilty. Continue reading