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THE GOOD NEWS

We know about the certainty of death for all, the certainty of a judgment and yet the gift of eternal life that is offered to us through faith in Jesus Christ. This is not fake news. Our news comes from the Holy Bible. This news is without a doubt the most important news we will ever have opportunity to hear on this earth. To miss it will be far more disastrous than if we didn't hear the news of

when the new department store is opening    or    when the new bridge will be finished    or    who is playing in the Super Bowl     or    what celebrity just got married.

This news is more important than anything on this earth because how we respond to this news determines eternity. The greatest news report in all of history occurred over 2000 years ago. It was the news of a God/Man who revealed Himself as the giver of all life now coming as God in the flesh to rescue us from power of sin, death, and the grave. Over a three year period, He gave indisputable evidence that

He was who He said He was and did what He said He would do. He made it clear that we just don't die and then that is it. He made it clear there is a life beyond the grave, a life even far more real and extending much longer, even eternally. The biggest news that we must not miss is the news of the meaning of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To make this greatest news in all of history relevant to our life, I want to briefly go to the news report of the crucifixion from the archives of God’s Word.

As we examine the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion, we quickly notice that Jesus did not die alone. Two other men were "crucified with Christ" that day. All four Gospel accounts tell of the two thieves who were crucified with Christ, but only the Gospel of Luke tells of the penitent thief who turned to Jesus in the final hours of his life. Let me read highlighted portions of Luke's article:

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? 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, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

These two thieves represent the two groups of people who have ever lived or ever will live--the saved and the lost, the righteous and the wicked.

First, they were both guilty of rebellion, murder, and stealing. As Romans 3:23 says, we too have "sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We have rebelled against our Maker's will, committed murder in our hearts, and robbed God of the time, wealth, and talents He has given to us for his glory. And according to God's standard of judgment, not ours, the wages of that sin is death, both physical and eternal. We receive what is due.

Second, they could do nothing to save themselves. Picture them hanging there naked, with their hands and feet spiked mercilessly to a cross. I cannot think of two individuals who were ever more utterly powerless to rescue themselves.    We are just as helpless to save ourselves by our good works as were those two thieves to escape from the cross, the symbol of judgment. Isaiah 64:6 makes it clear: all our righteousness is as filthy rags before him.

Third, they both had an equal opportunity to be saved. Although helpless to save themselves, these two men were in the immediate presence of the greatest expression of love and power in the whole cosmos. But salvation, eternal life, and Heaven are not obtained by osmosis. To be helped, they had to first reach out in faith and ask for it from the only One able to give it.  

In His famous parable in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus compared the two groups to sheep and goats. The Son of Man set the sheep (the righteous) on His right hand, and the goats (the wicked) on His left.  Those on the right inherit the kingdom of Heaven and are blessed by the Father. To those on the left, Jesus says, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

This true news over and over again reports there is a Heaven and a Hell, and we will spend eternity in one or the other. In Daniel 12:2, the prophet declared, Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

We also are ever in the presence of the Savior, and He awaits our response to His invitation to receive Him as the only way to be saved and the only God worthy of Lordship. But many souls will be needlessly lost, while hoping and desiring to be saved, because in pride they never surrender and ask for the gift He offers (Romans 10:9).

This is what the penitent thief did. How did this thief come to the point of making this decision and confession? At first, both of the criminals joined the mob in mocking Him as Matthew 27:44 says. In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. But as the agonizing hours dragged by, the one thief began to reflect on his wasted life and now his hopeless future. He was confronted with his own death just moments away and a judgment that was waiting on the other side. As he humbled himself, the Holy Spirit began to penetrate his heart and urged him to consider the thought of Jesus bearing his sin and taking his punishment.

There was a growing conviction in the thief's mind that beside him was no ordinary man. He probably overheard many believers in the crowd speak of Christ's miracles and great deeds. He also heard Jesus say in Luke 23:34, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. He read the sign directly above the head of Jesus, which declared: This is the King of the Jews. As the evidence of Jesus' divine nature continues to mount, the Holy Spirit presses upon the thief’s now softening heart for only one logical verdict: this is the One the prophet wrote about (Isaiah 53:5-12).

Somehow this thief understands that Jesus is suffering for "the transgressors" and knows that he is in that category. And so the thief who recognized he was getting what he justly deserved and knew he had nothing to look forward to but eternal judgment turned to the one he now by faith saw as truly the Messiah dying for the sins of the world and cried out for grace and mercy.

Three days later the true news of God's Word testifies: Jesus rose from the dead, and over 500 witnesses would verify it putting a stamp of authority on His own words in John 14:19. Today, even right now, be not deceived. In this life, all humanity who has breath hangs on the cross as those two thieves.  Because of sin, it is appointed unto us to die, and every funeral you have ever attended proves it. But the decision we make while we have yet breath in this body regarding the Lamb of God crucified for our sin and raised to life for our righteousness determines our eternity.  Don't miss any part of this.news report from John’s Gospel (John 3:16-18; John 5:24)

Here is the news! Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. You can by faith turn to Him in this prayer now.

Lord Jesus, as I recognize myself as one like that thief on the cross with death awaiting me also, I confess I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I can't save myself outside of your work of salvation on the cross for me. The only thing that awaits me is an eternity of judgment, darkness and pain.  Lord save me! I receive you as my Savior. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. 

Today I hear your voice. I accept your invitation and by faith commit to follow you as Lord, to learn your ways, and to obey your desire for my life.  Thank you for the gift of salvation and the assurance of Heaven and eternal life.     In Jesus’ name, Amen.

As 1 Samuel 16:7 says, The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

And your Word says declares in Jeremiah 17:10, I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.

I’ll close with words from Paul in Philippians 4:7. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen