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Unfinished Business

June 2013
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The thief on the cross

The thief on the cross

A couple of days ago I received an email from a friend I used to work with and it was one of those emails requesting me to do something and then send it along to twenty other folks. Since I knew the friend who sent it to me usually doesn’t forward these kinds of emails, I decided to read it to see what it was all about.

The email requested that we send one of our favorite verses to the first name on a list that only had two names (actually, just email addresses) in the email and then forward (via bcc) the email to twenty other folks. When forwarding the email I was told to delete the first email address of the person I sent a verse to and move the second email address into first place, and put my email address in second place. The object of this email was that eventually, if everyone did it, we would all receive individual emails from others with encouraging verses to brighten our day, and I thought it was a great idea.

The person to whom I sent my verse to was another woman I used to work with and we had both, several years earlier, moved on in different directions. I remember her with great fondness and was happy to see her email address was the one I was to send my verse to, and so I sent it. The verse that I sent comes from 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Interestingly enough, I read a short devotion this morning that mentioned this verse. The devotion also included a passage of Scripture that I feel compelled to share. It is from Luke 23:32-43–the scene of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ between the two thieves:

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus, remember meThe two thieves crucified next to Jesus had committed crimes that justified their punishment, yet Jesus had committed no crime. While one of the thieves hurled insults at Jesus, the other thief recognized Jesus for who He was, and rebuked the other thief who hurled the insults. In humble recognition, he asked Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And what was Jesus’ response? “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). What a classic example the forgiven thief provides for us in this verse. Both of the thieves had lived the same kind of lifestyle which brought about their death sentences, but only one recognized the Son of God as Jesus hung on the cross between them and called out, in humble recognition of who Jesus was (and is) to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus did. And Jesus still calls out today to everyone who will hear His voice.

The devotion I referred to above comes from Our Daily Bread and is titled, Unfinished Business.” It includes a short story that brought back memories of the work that I did before I was fired and my career in that field, after twenty years, essentially ended. I worked with adult students of all ages and a couple of the oldest students were in their 70s. One of them, a woman who had finished a very successful career as a nurse before retiring, still had a great desire to finish her bachelor’s degree, which she never finished as she embarked on her career in nursing years earlier. At the graduation ceremony, she was asked to tell her story of what earning her degree had meant to her after all of those years, and it brought tears to my eyes. And the story of Leo in the devotion below reminded me of her this morning. Here’s the story:

At age 99, Leo Plass received his college diploma from Eastern Oregon University. He had stopped working on his teaching degree during the 1930s when he left college to earn an income in the logging industry. Seventy-nine years later, he completed the three credits necessary to graduate and resolve this important unfinished business in his life.

Many of us can relate to Leo. Our unfinished business may include apologies left unsaid or, even more important, unfinished spiritual decisions. One of the criminals who was crucified with Jesus needed desperately to make such a decision. Just a few breaths away from eternity, he realized who Jesus was and wanted to be with Him in heaven. He recognized his sin and Jesus’ innocence, and said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus replied, “Assuredly, . . . today you will be with Me in Paradise” (v. 43).

God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). His offer of salvation is open to anyone, regardless of age, health, or stage in life. His offer is open to you. Don’t delay receiving Jesus as Savior (2 Cor. 6:2). Resolve this important, unfinished business, and you’ll look forward to eternity with Him. ~Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Think of that for a moment . . . . The second thief, just like the first thief who hurled insults and mocked Jesus, was just a few breaths away from eternityE-T-E-R-N-I-T-Y–when he recognized his sin and Jesus’ innocence and said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). And Jesus remembered him.

As the devotion states, our “unfinished business” may include finishing a degree that got sidelined many years ago, or apologies left unsaid (sometimes over an expanse of years), but most important of all are our “unfinished spiritual decisions.” And ignoring that decision doesn’t change the final outcome if we die before it is resolved. The writer of Hebrews states in Hebrews 9:26b-28: “. . . but he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

There were two thieves crucified with Jesus that day long ago. The first thief hurled insults and mocked Jesus, but the second thief recognized who Jesus was and humbly called out to him to “remember me.” And only one made it into paradise with Jesus that day.

While most of us will never commit any crimes punishable by death according to the law, there is a point of connection between us and the two thieves. The point of connection is “sin.” Romans 3:22b-26 states, “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

We are like the thieves in that one of the thieves died believing in Jesus Christ and his sins were forgiven, and the other thief died in unbelief, mocking Him. In that respect we are like them . . . we can either live our lives on our own terms and deny the reality of who Jesus Christ is, or we can come to Him in humble submission for what He did at the cross for us–taking on our sin debt. The choice is ours. So with that in mind, let me ask you this question . . .

Which of the two thieves represents your heart?

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with that person,
and they with me” (Rev. 3:20)
~Jesus Christ

Don’t put off answering that door . . . .

YouTube Video: I originally posted this song on my Easter 2013 blog post titled On the Road to Emmaus.” The song is titled “Jesus Saves/Easter Song” sung by Northland Church Worship Team on April 12, 2009:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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