Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Thief on the Cross

This morning Dr. MacArthur preached a sermon that was quite fitting, as we've been having some discussions through another blog that correlated very well with the sermon, or vice-versa.  He gave a  description of the conversion of the thief on the cross found in Luke 23:39-43.  Some of you may remember that I used to discuss some theological issues in my blog, which will no longer be updated, but wanted to continue some of those conversations here.  Here is the text:

"One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying 'Are you not the Christ?  Save Yourself and us!'  But the other answered, and rebuking him said, 'Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.'  And he was saying, 'Jesus, remember me when you come in Your kingdom!'  And He said to Him, Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.'

Luke's is the the only gospel that describes the account of the thief's conversion, however, both Matthew and Mark reference the thieves and give us a bit more insight into his conversion:

"The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words."  Matthew 27:44

"'Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!'  Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him."
Mark 15:32

As we can see, at some point both thieves were joining with the rest of the crowd, including the chief priests, the elders, the scribes, the soldiers, and the rulers in mocking Christ.  They wanted to see if His claims to being the Messiah were true.  The only way they could envision that being true were if He could save Himself.  After all, how can He save others if He cannot save Himself?

So if both robbers were at one point mocking Christ, why the sudden change in the one?!  The answer can only be that God changed His heart.  We have plenty of Biblical grounds for this claim, including Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus.  And we will see why God's enlightenment is necessary as we go along.

The thief utters 3 sentences that demonstrate his true conversion, which was personally confirmed by Christ Himself.  What is contained in those 3 short sentences reveals a whole world of information about which only God could have enlightened in his heart.

1.  The thief came to an understanding of fearing God - "Do you not even fear God, since we are under the same sentence of condemnation?"
Why is the fear of God required for salvation?  Well, the thief had an understanding of his temporal punishment for his sin - death, and wondered how an eternal God would punish him for the same action.  Perhaps he was familiar with Jesus statement in Matthew 10:28:  "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell."  His thoughts may have been something along the lines of, "If we are suffering the same judgement as God here on Earth, how much more severe is our punishment going to be in eternity?!"  So the thief came to an understanding of God's power and ability to take the ultimate action against humanity.

2.  The thief came to an understanding of his sinfulness - "And we indeed are suffering justly for our deeds."
He understood that He had done wrong, that his actions were sinful.  He realized that he was deserving of the punishment given to Him for breaking the law.  Dr. MacArthur gave a nice little quote that helped drive this point home for me:  "Sin is never clearer to the sinner than when he is in the presence of righteousness."  What greater presence of righteousness than Christ Himself!!  The thief was in the presence of the most righteous Person to ever walk on the planet!  That leads to the next point...

3.  The thief came to an understanding of the Glory of Christ - "but this Man has done nothing wrong."
When the thief compared himself to Christ, he realized that he was sinful and that Christ was innocent.  The thief, who was sinful, told all in earshot that Christ was innocent, or sinless!!  And there is only one way to reconcile the sinfulness of man vs. the sinfulness of Christ...

4.  The thief came to an understanding of the hope of forgiveness offered through Christ - "Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom!"
There is so much to talk about here.  When the thief addresses Jesus, he calls Him Yeshua in the Greek, which means "God who saves."  The thief realized that he needed to be saved from his sin by the sinless One, Christ.  But it gets better.  A few verses earlier, Jesus makes the following comment, "Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing."  Jesus is speaking in reference both to being crucified and to being mocked.  The thief realized that he might be able to be an answer to Jesus prayer.  He realized that if God can forgive those that are killing Him, maybe he can be forgiven as well!  And then he specifically addresses Jesus and asks for that forgiveness.  We know this because of the "when you come into Your kingdom!"  Old Testament eschatology (study of the end times) revealed that there would be a Messiah, that the Messiah would die, be resurrected, and bring His kingdom to reign.  So when the thief asks if Christ will remember him when He comes into His kingdom, he is really saying something along the lines of, "Please don't destroy me when your kingdom comes."

Now we can see why a work of God was necessary in order for this thief to believe!  On my own, I wouldn't be able to process all of that information to be able to draw those conclusions.  And the thief did it within a matter of a few minutes, while being tortured in the most harmful way possible!

But Jesus response is priceless:  "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise!"  I want to break it down phrase by phrase, just like we did with the thief's comments.

"Truly I say to you" - Jesus had to say this because what would follow would be so unbelievable to those listening.  It kind of like when we want to emphasize something particularly out of the ordinary and we precede or follow what we say with "seriously!"

"Today" - Not tomorrow, not next week or next year or next millenia; today.  Just a couple little things to add to this one.  The word "today" shines a rather bleak light on a couple of different theologies.  The first is works righteousness theology, which claims that if we do enough good works the we can earn our way to Heaven.  This man was on the cross, found on earth to be so bad that the authorities decided to remove him from the planet.  There is no way that he had enough time while hanging on the cross to complete enough good works to outdo his bad works and allow him into Heaven.  Most specifically, the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory takes a hit here.  Jesus says, "Today," not, "after your sins have been purified by the money your loved ones give or the time you've spent working down your sin debt."  The other thing, that I used to believe, was that Jesus paid for our sins in Hell for three days.  Not so either, otherwise Jesus would have been calling Hell Paradise and would have confirmed to the thief a lie.  Jesus did not go to Hell, otherwise He would not have been in Paradise with the thief.

"You will be" - A positive and affirmative statement made personally to the thief, not to everyone in earshot.

"with Me" - Isn't this the point of Heaven?  So that we can be with the Creator, the Savior, the One who paid the debt for our sins on the cross?  The penalty for our sins is eternity away from Christ.  So the logical alternative is that the prize for having our sins paid for is to be with Christ.

"in Paradise" - The Greek word translated Paradise is the word for garden, however there are a couple of other places in the New testament where this same word is used to describe Heaven.  In II Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul is describing being taken up into Heaven.  One time he uses the word for Heaven, and the other time, the word for Paradise, but if you look carefully, you will see that he is referring to the same place because his thoughts are interrupted to describe another topic.  The other reference is located in Revelation 2:7.

An understanding of the fear of God, a sense of our own sinfulness and the holiness of God, and an understanding of the hope of forgiveness found in Christ are the requirements for getting into Heaven.  I am confident of these things because Christ confirmed that this thief who was hurling insults at Him a few minutes earlier would be spending eternity with Him in Paradise.


Monday, September 22, 2008

San Diego Highlights

Love love love San Diego. First of all the weather is PERFECT! Warm during the day but not too hot, and nice and cool at night. I even got to wear a sweater! How fall-ish ;) We wandered around the Gaslamp Quarter and enjoyed the old buildings and fun downtown atmosphere for most of Saturday. Ate at a great authentic mexican place, yummm. Gotta love mexican-the best ever. There was live music all day in the streets; someone on nearly every block. It was a marvelously relaxing day.

Sunday was even better. We enjoyed some morning hot chocolate and a little walk around downtown where we could hear shouts and outburts every few blocks from taverns that were already open for football games. So funny to walk by and see all the guys asking the hostess for apple juice while watching their morning football.... We took our hot chocolate to Balboa Park and wandered around the grounds looking at all the marvelous architecture - so much detail! There was a particular set of doors that I'd love for my house someday. There were quite a few museums that we would have loved to have gone through but we just didn't have time, and we couldn't decide which one we wanted to see most anyways. We had one more thing we wanted to do before leaving our peaceful vacation city: the BEACH! We drove up the 101 for a bit to La Jolla and ate at this great terrace restaurant called George's. The view was gorgeous. We could see snorkelers and kayakers from our table as well as a flock of birds that Matt thought were seals haha. Finally, it was time for the beach. Even though we live relatively close, it's not a location that we typically take the time to visit. Probably because we figure its always there and we can take the time to visit later. Whatever the reason, we haven't been in a while and it was fun to walk along Solona Beach and enjoy God's beautiful creation. And by the way - the little town Solana Beach is super cute and filled with unique little shops and one of a kind restaurants. All in all it was a wonderful weekend - take a peek! :) The very first thing we were able to do... find salt water taffy. My favorite!!! Gaslamp QuarterYummmmGhirradelli at work and the yummy goodness they made. Love these doors :)
"My feet are hot...oooh water." Is this what our kids will be saying? Haha The view from George's...definitely recommend it if you are ever down there. Food was wonderful.

I think he likes this pose

Soccer Star

Back by popular demand! We took last soccer season off as it started shortly before our wedding and ran until a few weeks after. We would have missed the majority of games. But we are back! Well Matt is, my knee is still recovering (hopefully) so I just take pictures and cheer from the sidelines.

Last week was their first game and I am proud to say they won! They all seemed to enjoy themselves and there were countless subs to relieve anyone who was even a bit winded. It is a very different team this year, new people have been brought in and they seem to have amped up the intensity quite a bit. I'm mildly glad I'm not playing - I do not do well in less than very supportive environments hehe. Some dear friends once said that if I were to be compared to a UPS package my label would read "fragile - handle with care." oh, how well they know me. Thankfully my hubby knows this as well so I am having a much better time cheering from the sidelines and taking pictures :)

Matty is number 18....antsy to get started and get in there.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Road trip

We are going to San Diego!!!!!

I have only been once and Matt has never set foot in the beautiful city so we are taking the weekend to get away from both of our full time work schedules to have some fun! Our bags are packed and we're putting in our last few hours at work before we can run off and hopefully hit the beach and do some fun shopping in downtown. Other than that we have no set plans so it will be a perfectly wonderful relaxing time. And the best part - IT'S FREE! After a stay at the Wyndham in Palm Springs for Resolved in June we were offered a free weekend on them if we attended a sales pitch for their time share. Well, seeing as we don't have any money to spare its not going to be tempting to purchase, but getting a whole weekend in return?! It feels a bit like cheating :-D

We will have lots of pictures upon our return so check back. I also have pictures from Matt's first soccer game of the season last weekend, but we've just been soo busy. Just more for you to look forward to :)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Delta and garage sales

Forgive me, it may take a little while for me to get used to doing this. So if I skip a week (or two or three) without any updates - just remind me :)

A couple weeks ago we were able to go to the Sacramento River Delta with the Amandus/Clarke family. We all "shacked up" in a beautiful ranch style house right on the Delta where we were able to dock the boat right outside the back door. We had an AMAZING time! Sooo worth the drive and the time off of work!

I learned to wakeboard, which made my hubby very proud. Quite an experience... I must say for someone with no arm strength. Let's just say I imagine it to be akin to your arms being pulled out of their sockets. Apparently someone needs to pull those dumbbells out of her closet and pick them up every now and then :) But it was definitely a good time, I'm just a weakling. Sorry I don't have any pictures of that but I do have some of Matty. It was great to see him have so much fun doing this.
This was the first day. By the end of the trip his jumps were twice as high as this and the guys were doing some pretty crazy stuff.

Then last weekend we did something I haven't done in years!! Garage sales!! We dragged ourselves out of bed on a Saturday morning - which tends to be the day when we take advantage of the lack of duties that we have and sleep later than we probably should. I was looking for an older coffee table to put in our living room. I knew I wanted to paint it white, but other than that I had just a vague idea of what I was looking for. At the end of the day we ended up with this:

And by the end of the next day it had turned into this: