Finish Strong!

“Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he 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.”

Luke 23:39-43

We don’t know much about the thief on the Cross but what we do know about him is he finished well, so well in fact Jesus rewarded him with a place in paradise! One of my favorite pastors has humorously said with regards to heaven, “There will be some people in heaven who you do not expect to see there and yet one day they will be there, and some people who you thought would be there in the end wont be there, and yet the greatest surprise in heaven one day is that you will be there.”  He said that as a joke, kind of, but one thing we all know is, the thief on the cross next to Jesus, he for sure is there because Jesus Himself told him. And that’s no joke, just a beautiful picture of God’s amazing grace and a reminder today that God offers us in salvation that which we can not earn nor do we deserve.

None of those gathered at the Cross as Jesus and the two thieves on either side of Him were dying would have thought the thief on the Cross next to Jesus would die and go to heaven that day. I am sure if you gambled back in the days of Jesus this thief you would have thought it to be a sure bet he would never set foot into the kingdom of heaven. After all, he wasn’t just a thief, he was a murderous thief. Yet, the good news of the Gospel is Jesus said when this thief closed his eyes in death that day he would be ultimately be with Jesus in paradise. Talk about a happy ending, talk about finishing well.

The story of the thief on the Cross is in our Bible all to read and to receive so that the devil can never have victory over our hope in Jesus. The bible reminds us again and again that there is nothing too difficult for Jesus and its true. There is no sin too great that the Lord cannot forgive it. There is only one sin that the bible speaks of that will not be forgiven and that is to die without ever receiving the forgiveness Jesus freely offers us when He died on the Cross. Confessing our sins to God and receiving the grace that is ours in Christ assures us just like the repentant thief on the Cross a place for all eternity in paradise! Isn’t it amazing. These two thieves committed the exact same crime and one goes to hell and the other to heaven and all because of what they believed about Jesus. One believed Jesus could and would forgive while the other chose to die in his pride.

Do you need forgiveness from your past? Does a fresh start sound appealing to you this morning? Remember, “the mercies of God are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.”  Today is a new day, an opportunity for a fresh start, to begin a new. 1 John 1:9-10 puts it like this, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” That’s what happened at the Cross. One recognized Jesus as the Savior while the other chose not to believe. One found hope while the other rejected the only hope we have of entering heaven. There is hope today, loved one, and our hope is in Jesus!

The only way for us to finish well is to do exactly what the Word of God tells us we must do, exactly what one of the thieves on the Cross next to Jesus chose to do. Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

You too can finish well by keeping your eyes on the prize, by keeping them on Jesus who is both the reward and the rewarder of those who seek Him. Because of Jesus, the past is history, tomorrow remains a mystery, and today is a gift and is why we call it the present. Live today like the gift that it is.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”

Revelation 2:7


Michael Osthimer





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