THE CONVERSION OF THE THIEF ON THE CROSS
PLEASE READ BIBLE SCRIPTURES (LUKE -46)
There are a number of conversion stories recorded in the Bible, the Word of God. Some of these are listed in the “Great Bible Conversion Series” section on the “Messages” page on this website. The Dictionary defines “conversion”, in a religious sense, as “a change from lack of faith to religious belief”. “Conversion” is “a turning around” in order to face the opposite direction. More specifically, it is what occurs when a sinner repents and comes to Christ for salvation. Speaking of the “Dictionary”, it was Daniel Webster who said “The Bible fits man for life and prepares him for death”. This is the reason that various “conversion stories” are recorded in the scriptures. Have you ever had a conversion experience? In order to be saved and escape Hell and gain Heaven you must be converted. The Lord Jesus said in (Matthew 18:3) “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”. In order to be converted there are at least three things from which you must turn:
· It says of the Thessalonian believers in (1 Thessalonians 1:9) “ye turned to God from idols”. Many are not idolaters in the literal sense of that word, but in principle they are. An idol is anything that fills the place that God should have in man’s heart and affections. It says in (Colossians 3:5)”Covetousness which is idolatry”. The excessive desire to have more or to have what others have is a form of idolatry. It says in (Matthew ) “Ye cannot serve God and mammon (money and possessions)”. The excessive desire for money and wealth is a form of idolatry. There are many who “worship silver and gold”. There are many in our contemporary society who worship at the “alter of pleasure”. Sports, hobbies, entertainment, music, gambling, even the fine arts and culture fill the hearts of thousands who are, (2 Timothy 3:4) “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God”. These are some of the idols of life which claim men’s utter devotion. What is on the throne of your heart that has replaced God and denied Him His rightful place?
· The Lord Jesus Christ had a special commission for the Apostle Paul. He said that He would send Paul to the Gentiles, (Acts 26:18) “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me”. Without God, man’s moral condition is affected. It says, as a result of idolatry, (Romans ) “Their foolish heart was darkened”. Man’s moral state is one of darkness, in spite of the fact that light is come into the world in the person of Christ. The sad picture is recorded in (John ) “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil”. Never has the moral blindness and darkness of our society been more evident than it is today. Christian principals of morality, which have raised the standards of life wherever they have been heeded, are being relentlessly attacked and immorality is being justified. Immorality is being promoted in the movie theater, on television and in the music industry. All of this, in spite of the fact, that learning and material prosperity are at an unprecedented peak. Many today grope in moral darkness, unable to discern moral truth. They are calling “good evil” and “evil good”. Your conversion is the only way to escape this moral darkness that is settling over our nation.
· Notice again the Lord’s commission to the Apostle Paul, (Acts 26:18) “to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God”. Behind it all there is the sinister power of Satan. How foolish for man to deny his existence. It was none other than the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who said that man must be delivered from his power. He is powerful indeed. It says in (2 Corinthians 4:3) “If our gospel be hid it is hid to them that are lost; “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them”. Satan is called “the god of this world”. He is called “the prince of the power of the air” in (Ephesians 2:2). From this verse in (2 Corinthians 4:3) we learn that he is active in blinding the minds of those that hear and disbelieve the gospel message. The gospel of God is like a light that shines into the darkened heart of unbelievers. Satan’s purpose is to extinguish the light, to prevent people from being saved. No man can match his might. Apart from Christ, men are helpless in his power. From the Bible we learn, however, that Satan is a defeated foe whose destiny is to be cast into the lake of fire. See (Revelation ). Until that time, he is active in keeping sinners from being converted.
The three things, mentioned above, present a terrifying condition that you are in if your not saved. Before God You are engrossed with idols, swallowed up in darkness and in the grip of Satan. No religious rite, no moral reformation, no lofty resolve, no cultural pursuit can meet your desperate need. There is nothing you can do to save yourself. You must be converted to God and turn to Him from idols, turn from darkness to light, and be turned from Satan to Christ. Conversion is absolutely essential. It provides the only solution to your desperate situation.
THE CONVERSION OF THE THIEF ON THE CROSS
It says in (Luke , 33) “There were also two other,
malefactors, led with Him to be put to death.
And when they were come to the place, which is called
· THERE WAS A RIGHTEOUS MAN (JESUS CHRIST)
· THERE WAS A REFUSING MAN
· THERE WAS A REPENTENT MAN
THE RIGHTEOUS MAN (JESUS CHRIST)
It says in (Luke ) “Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, certainly this was a righteous man”. Only a sinless Savior could save sinful humanity. The Lord Jesus Christ proved Himself to be the eternal Son of God by the perfect life He lived on earth as a man., by the wonderful words He said, and by the mighty deeds He did. He came; however, to do more than demonstrate His Deity, He came to provide salvation for sinners. This could only be done by the sacrifice of Himself on our behalf. God declares in His Word, (Romans ) “The wages of sin is death”. Further, He says “the soul that sinneth, it shall die”. God is holy, just and righteous, and therefore cannot ignore sin: it must be punished. How then can the sinner be delivered from the just and righteous judgment of God upon his sins? There is only one way: by Christ’s substitution sacrifice and victorious resurrection on his behalf. It was upon that center cross that the righteous man, the sinless Son of God willingly offered Himself as a sacrifice and (1 Peter ) “bore our sins in His own body”. God, who knew all our sins, placed them upon Him. Read (Isaiah 53:6). Because He took our sins upon Himself, He must suffer, to the fullest extent, all the punishment due to those sins. As He hung upon that cross, all the judgment of God fell upon Him. All the waves and billows of God’s condemnation and wrath against our sins swept over the One who was bearing them. Dear reader, He did all this for you. By His death, He satisfied all God’s demands against sin and the sinner. On the third day He rose again, out from among the dead, thus accomplishing all the work that was necessary for the salvation of every sinner that will trust in Him. Have YOU grasped this tremendous fact? Have YOU put YOUR faith and trust in Him? Are YOU saved? Can you say like the hymn writer who wrote;
All my sins were laid on Jesus,
Jesus bore them on the tree;
God, Who knew them, laid them on Him,
And, believing, I am free”.
“The Righteous Man”, the Lord Jesus Christ, went to the cross willingly. He said in (John , 18) “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again”. “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father”. It says in (Philippians 2:8) “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”. He died because He would not live. (1 Peter 3:18) “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God”. It was not the same for the two malefactors who were crucified with Him. They died because they could not live. Let us now consider the:
THE REFUSING MAN
We read of him in (Luke ) “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, IF thou be Christ, save thyself and us”. Then, in the next verse, the second malefactor speaks to him, (verse 40) “The other answering rebuked him, saying, dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation”? We call this man “The Refusing Man” because he refused the Savior. He refused to acknowledge that he was a sinner. He refused to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ. It says he “railed” on the Savior. It means he spoke evil of Jesus, he reviled and mocked Him and blasphemed His Name. His great sin however, is found in his use of the little word “IF”. By saying “IF”, he put himself in company with those that crucified the Lord Jesus Christ. In (Luke ) the “people and the rulers” who were responsible for His crucifixion said to Jesus, “Let Him save himself, IF He be Christ, the chosen of God”. In (Luke , 37) “The soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him and offering Him vinegar, And saying, IF thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself”. It is the “IF” of lack of faith. It is the “IF” of unbelief. Regarding the malefactor, THE REFUSING MAN, his only interest was relief from his present distress and impending death. He did not fear God. How is it with you my friend? Is this a description of you? Is what it says in (Romans ) true of you? “There is no fear of God before their eyes”. Are you a “refusing person” when it comes to God’s Word, the Bible? Are you without faith and without belief in God’s Savior and God’s salvation? Because of this malefactor’s unbelief, there was no answer by the Lord to the malefactor’s question. Because of his unbelief, the savior was silent to him. How awful to experience the silence of God. The refusing man died that day and like the rich man that died in (Luke , 23) “in hell he lifted up his eyes being in torments”. Dear reader, have you ever considered this question? When you die will you go to either heaven or hell? What is your eternal destiny? In order to insure that heaven will be your eternal home, you must be like the second malefactor, THE REPENTENT MAN.
THE REPENTENT MAN
In considering this second malefactor, we find AN EXAMPLE OF CONVERSION. There are five particular things that we might notice about his “conversion experience”;
· HIS CHARACTER (His need for conversion)
o It says in (verse 32) he was a “malefactor”, i.e., his pattern of life was to do evil. He was an evil doer, a sinner. He was a thief who stole from his fellowman, from God, and from himself. He had wasted his life and his crimes were so bad that he was now being led out to be crucified. Even as he hung upon the cross he participated in the scorn and mockery of Jesus who was hanging next to him. We read this in (Matthew 27:44) “The thieves (both thieves), which were crucified with Him (Jesus), cast the same in his teeth”. It means they also participated in the reviling and mockery of Jesus. There was a time then, when this malefactor was a rejecter and a blasphemer of the Son of God. Dear reader, you may not be anything like this malefactor. You may be cultured, religious, self righteous an upstanding in your life. But, remember, God says in His Word, (Romans ) “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. YOU must have a conversion experience.
· HIS CONDITION (He was facing death)
o It says in (verse’s 32
and 33) “There were also two other malefactors, led with Him (Jesus) to be put
to death”. “And when they were come to
the place called
Dear reader, YOU are traveling on “the highway of life”. If you have read this message, you have come to “the crossroads of life”. Which way will you go? Will you be a believer or remain a non-believer? You may never come to this crossroad again on your life’s journey. Your eternal destiny depends on your decision. When you die and leave this world, will your destiny be Heaven or Hell? Will you acknowledge to God what you know yourself to be, a guilty, helpless sinner in need of mercy and forgiveness? Will you confess your sins to Him who is willing to pardon and is not willing that any should perish? If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and receive Him as your Lord and Savior you can have God’s great salvation. You can become one of the blessed beneficiaries of the work accomplished by Christ on the Cross. Like the thief on the cross, you can have a conversion experience and obtain TODAY the greatest blessing that anyone can possess. You can rejoice to know that you have eternal life and will forever be in Heaven. It is all up to you.