By Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva
Friends Magazine Hong Kong
April 2011 edition
Even before the appointed time for God to realize His grand plan of salvation for mankind came, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16,17, NLT), Jesus already knew that the road to Calvary would not be easy.
“Jesus was in great pain and prayed so sincerely that his sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44, CEV).
Christ who knew no sin became the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God (2 Corinthians 5:21). “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3-5).
He silently went through the mockery of a trial in mere human court, and though was found innocent (Luke 23:15), the very same people for whom He did miracle after miracle demanded His death … even death on the Cross. The mocking continued until …
“One of the criminals hanging there also insulted Jesus by saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and save us!” (Luke 23:39, CEV).
“But the other one made him shut up: “Have you no fear of God? You’re getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him—he did nothing to deserve this” (Luke 23:40-41, MSG).
“Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43, NCV).
In the hour of men’s worst wretchedness, God’s greatest grace was displayed. Discover the beauty of these four truths:
I tell you the truth. The promise given by Jesus to the repentant criminal was not an empty consolation to a dying man, but the truth as surely as He who promised is the Truth (John 14:6). And the same promise is available to us now. “We believe with our hearts, and so we are made right with God. And we declare with our mouths that we believe, and so we are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” That Scripture says “anyone” because there is no difference between those who are Jews and those who are not. The same Lord is the Lord of all and gives many blessings to all who trust in him, as the Scripture says, “Anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:10-13, NCV).
Today. Salvation is available today to anyone who will confess with their mouth and believe in their heart that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. Jesus Himself guaranteed this to a condemned man who was “criminal” by all worldly standards; He asked of him no requirements, no laws, and no good works before He promised him the joy of being with Him in paradise. Because salvation is God’s grace at work in us, it is something we can never work on.
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NLT).
“For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6, NLT).
“Jesus is the only One who can save people. No one else in the world is able to save us” (Acts 4:12, NCV).
You will be with Me. God offers us a relationship that is intimate and personal. Imagine how, amid the frenzied shouting and cheering of a crowd that was celebrating His slow death, He turned His ear to the soft pleading of one repentant man. And while this man merely asked to be remembered, Jesus promised him companionship.
Since the fall of man, God hasn’t changed in His desire to fellowship with men. This is the very reason why He sent Jesus to reconcile us with Him, through Christ (John 3:16).
Jesus promised His disciples, “There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you” (John 14:2, CEV). The same promise is true to everyone who believes in Him.
In paradise. These two words tell us that life doesn’t end in death. Paradise is waiting for everyone who has put his faith in Christ.
“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man. Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment” (John 5:24-29, NLT).
Because of God’s amazing grace, salvation is available to all because Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even the chief of them (1 Timothy 1:15).
Let us not render powerless the work of Christ on the Cross. He’s our only way to salvation (Acts 4:12).