By Colleen Donahue

Jesus was condemned as a common criminal and accompanied to his death with two criminals who were to die with Him. The Jewish leaders positioned Christ's cross between the two thieves signifying that he was the greatest criminal of the three.

In a similar way the cross of Christ was placed in the midst of the world lying in sin. Jesus represents the great divide and this study shows that a decision is called for by every man. Even if you are nearing the end of your life it is not too late to recognize who Jesus is and to make him your Lord.

Even when all was lost in this life there remained an .....

An Eleventh Hour Salvation
( Drawn to the Cross: The Penitent Thief)

Day 1- In the scene at Golgotha we have a small cosmos that shows Jesus amidst people. In these verses make a note of what the people, the rulers, the soldiers and one of the criminals were doing.
Luke 23:35-39

Notice especially (in Luke 23:35-39) that the people stood watching. There were many trying to make sense of all this. Many in the crowd had heard Jesus speak and watched him heal. Now they were listening to the sneers of the Jewish rulers and the mocking by the soldiers. I believe everyone in the crowd that day had to make a decision and it was exemplified by the two thieves hanging on either side of Jesus.

Day 2- What did the impenitent thief challenge Jesus to do?
Luke 23:39

Notice that even he had heard of Christ or he wouldn't have said, "Aren't you the Christ"? It's the same today. Even the most hardened of sinners have often heard about Christ. They know a little of who he was and what he did but it's all outside knowledge. They live without a thought for Jesus but when something goes wrong they taunt Him by demanding that He "DO SOMETHING"!

This thief is a disappointed, disillusioned man. Jesus doesn't reject him, rebuke him or even answer. Every man when confronted with Jesus Christ must make his own decision for or against him.

Day 3- Instead he is rebuked by the penitent thief as he received the dying grace of revelation.
Luke 23:40

In this rebuke he (the penitent thief) says well what is the situation with all men. We either live our life with "the fear of God" in us or we don't.
What does it mean to "fear God"?

Day 4- At the heart of "fearing God" is a recognition that there indeed is a God, He's greater than man, and that we are accountable to Him. He is the creator of Heaven and earth and as such requires man's respect and reverence.
Exodus 3:5 / Psalm 33:8

The word "fear" means to be alarmed by. But it also means to be in awe of or reverence. Most of us have grown up knowing what this means in regard to people.

I had many great teachers who loved their work and their students. But they would not have tolerated our insolence and lack of respect. We (the students) knew there would be consequences for our actions. Behind the teacher's discipline would be that of the Principle if we needed a heavier hand. So I for one had "fear" for my teachers and school authorities. As a result of this fear I respected them.

Now, in the case of the two thieves both men had obviously lived their lives without fearing God or men. But now with Jesus, the Son of God right in their midst they had a choice to make.

Day 5- When Jesus shows up in our life we see who we are in comparison with the sinless Christ. If we are honest we will express exactly what the penitent thief expressed.
Luke 23:41

In other words we confess our sins in the light of our perfect Lord.

Day 6- Once we have "the fear" of someone what will this lead to?
1 Peter 2:17

Once we have "the fear of God" what does this lead to?
1 Peter 1:17 / Revelation 14:7

Day 7- The penitent thief within minutes of seeing who Jesus was confessed his name out loud and prayed a simple one line prayer.
Luke 23:42

Day 8- To his simple request, "remember me", Jesus replies with a wonderful promise that will carry him over to eternity.
Luke 23:43

Day 9- It's important to see that this thief literally had no time to improve or clean up his life. Even if he would have had the time it would not have mattered. What does this verse tell us about receiving salvation by trying to be good enough?
Ephesians 2:9

The verse before this one tells us how any man can be saved.
Ephesians 2:8

It is God extending his grace to us as a gift and it is you and I receiving that grace by our faith in what the power of God is able to do ---NOT by what we can do for ourselves.

Day 10- The thief simply recognized that he was a helpless soul. He was a sinner. What is true for all of us that confess our sins and renounce them?
Proverbs 28:13 / 1 John 1:9

Day 11- If the first part of being saved from sin and eternal death is recognizing that we are sinners, the second part is our recognition and confession of Jesus Christ as our Lord.
Romans 10: 9-10

Notice the progression in these verses and that the two verses are the reverse of each other.
Verse 9--
1- we confess with our mouth,
2- we believe in our hearts
Verse 10--
3- with the heart we believe and are justified (just-as-if-I'd never sinned)
4- with the mouth we confess and are saved.

Day 12- Did the thief understand all the "ins and outs" of Jesus being the Son of God and Lord of his life? Probably not. Did he understand or realize that Jesus would be rising from the dead? Definitely not.
Reread his simple statement of faith.
Luke 23:42

By calling Jesus by name he is acknowledging Him as much as he knows and understands. But by asking to be remembered when Jesus comes into his kingdom is a statement way beyond his understanding and comprehension. It is indeed a prayer that God Himself put within him to pray. This wonderful, simple prayer is a living example of what is later expressed in the book of Romans.
Romans 8: 26-27

We could say that this thief was the first to benefit from the Lord's sacrifice and death. The first to be saved. The fact that he did not know and understand all that it would mean for him did not matter. He acted on what he knew to be truth (confessing his sin in the light of Christ's sinless self) and from that confession came further revelation from God (that there was indeed a kingdom beyond this world and it belonged to Christ).

There are many who will not believe unless they can make sense of everything in their minds and understand it all. But the truth is that we must first confess what we sense in our heart is true. Only in doing that will God give us further revelation and lead us on into greater understanding.

Day 13- And here is great news for all of us. We do not know if this criminal was a Jew or a Gentile and it didn't matter. What is true for ANYONE who trusts in the Lord? Notice especially the promise for each of us in verse 13.
Romans 10: 11-13

Day 14- There were many in the crowd that day at Golgotha that were ready to call Jesus Lord when he was working his miracles but only this thief acknowledged him at this eleventh hour. Imagine the peace that must have come to him knowing that TODAY he would be with Jesus in Paradise. TODAY he was accepted by God and destined for eternity. That same promise is for us even on a day of apparent defeat and darkness.
Acts 10:36 / Romans 5:1

Next Study: MPGC#20

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