In Paradise

Our second last word of Jesus on the cross is also found in Luke 23 and is given in response to one of the criminals crucified next to Him (v.32).

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23.43

The only deathbed conversion in the Bible gives us hope that it is never too late to turn to the Lord, but, it is the only deathbed conversion in the Bible, so it shouldn’t give us a false sense that we can wait until the very last minute to ‘get religious’ as many people see it. 

Imagine floating down a river towards a waterfall and there is a big rock right on the edge of the drop that you plan to grab on to. Whilst you are floating towards the edge there is a man on the side of the river calling out to you with a life-saver but you reply ‘Don’t worry, I’ll grab that rock just before I fall‘. But in the course of floating down the river the current has taken you so far from the rock you can’t grab it. In the course of your floating you’ve also taken on so much water than you may not be physically able to grab it. The man on the side is willing and able to save you should you call out to him, but you never did, vainly hoping to wait until the very last second. 

Sadly, this is how many people view salvation and eternal life: ‘I’ll wait until I’m old and ready to die, then I’ll think about all that‘. Sadly, for many, they never get this chance meaning that decisions made in the here-and-now become all the more important. 

Friends, who do you need to talk to about salvation and eternal life today?

Who do you need to send this to and have them read it today?

These words spoken by Jesus on the cross are – like many others – a comfort and a challenge. For those that have trusted Him they are a huge comfort but the context they are given in brings a real challenge.

These words were painfully spoken during crucifixion but they were given nonetheless. It can be painful having these kinds of conversations with people, but follow His example and have one today.

Father, forgive them…

The first saying of Jesus on the cross is found in Luke 23.34 and we read,

…Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Even to the very end, Jesus was others-focused. This will come up again and again as we move through the last things He said in His earthly life. Others. Right up to the end, Jesus was others-focused. Right up to the end, Jesus sought forgiveness for those that did not deserve it. Is there a more poignant example of His grace in action than Jesus on the cross seeking forgiveness for those literally crucifying Him?

Don Stewart writes,

He came to earth for the purpose of forgiving sinners and He loved them and forgave them up until the end.

How about you?

Is there anybody you need to forgive? Is there anybody that you need to reconcile with? Is there anybody from whom you need to ask forgiveness? We are encouraged to seek forgiveness if we have wronged others (Matthew 5.23.24) and to forgive as we’ve been forgiven (Ephesians 4.32). Seek that today.

As we move through the words of Jesus on the cross and pause to reflect on this truly incomprehensible sacrifice, let us not overlook the practical applications in our lives. Here, as Jesus said “Father, forgive them…”, let us pursue forgiveness and reconciliation with those around us today.

Where Is Wisdom?

In Job 28 the question is asked, 

“But where shall wisdom be found?
    And where is the place of understanding?
Man does not know its worth,
    and it is not found in the land of the living.

Job 28.12-13

So often in life we are willing to give so much for so little. We sacrifice things we will never get back in order to get things which will never last. We give up health, time, friendship and fellowship, and relationships in order to gain money, possessions, a sense of self-worth, and perceived status. 

Is this a good idea? Does this sound wise? Does trading fundamental for futile strike you as a good deal?

Where do we look for wisdom, a model for living, the ultimate example of how we should be investing our time, our talent, and our treasure? How do we know where the most valuable of attributes (v.15) is found?

The Word of God to us bound in our Bibles tells us that wisdom once walked as we walk, lived as we live, and that true wisdom can be found in the person of Jesus;

…I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Colossians 2.1-3

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 1.20-25

Job’s question, and all of ours, can be answered in the person and work of Jesus, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Jesus who is the wisdom of God.

How Do I Find God?

Job answers Eliphaz (ch.22) and asks, simply, how do I find God?

Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his seat!

Job 23.3

It’s interesting and important to remember that this is Job’s response to the worst that life can throw at him: to run towards and to find God.

Rather than look deep within, rather than trying to pull himself up by his own bootstraps, rather than put his hope in the temporary trappings of the world, Job’s singular focus is to find God in the midst of trouble. 

Charles Spurgeon wrote,

“Good men are washed towards God even by the rough waves of their grief; and when their sorrows are deepest, their highest desire is not to escape from them, but to get at their God.”

Do you feel that? Is the current state of the world driving you towards God in a fresh, new, and reinvigorated way?

If you are taking the first steps towards seeking and finding Him, I would encourage you to read this, where we talked about the idea that yes, we can know God. If you already have a relationship with the Almighty, I would encourage you today to prioritise it, to make time for it, to invest in it, to let the worldly circumstances we all find ourselves in push you with renewed vigour to the foot of the cross and to Him who sits on the throne.

Why Bother?

After Job closes his last response with the words ‘There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood” (21.34), Eliphaz replies and asks, simply, why are you bothering to keep going with this, Job?

“Can a man be profitable to God?
Surely he who is wise is profitable to himself.
Is it any pleasure to the Almighty if you are in the right,
or is it gain to him if you make your ways blameless?

Job 22.2-3

Eliphaz is trying to convince Job, look, stop telling us you are right before God, so what if you are?, does God even care?, why bother?

It’s so easy to feel like this, isn’t it? Why am I bothering to keep going down this path paved with hurdles and obstacles, does it really matter? Does God even care? It is making any difference? 

In Luke 15 we read of three examples that show us that yes, God cares, and that there is a reason for us to be so bothered about the life we are living. Through reading the parables of the lost sheep (15.3-7), the lost coin (15.8-10), and the prodigal son (15.11-32), Luke records for us three proofs that we should be bothered, that we should keep going in the face of push-back, of trials, of temptations, of opposition, of our own self-doubt, of anything. 

Eliphaz asks is it any pleasure to the Almighty if you are in the right? Yes, it is.

…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15.7)

…there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15.10)

the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15.22-24)

Be bothered. Keep going. He sees, He cares, and He loves you.

Living a Life of Words

There are things for us to do now we are believers in Jesus, and, sure, choosing words carefully is one of them; kind, loving, caring, encouraging, edifying, counselling, and consistent (James 3.1-12).

Imagine that Jesus was taking another walk on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24.27) with the New Testament in hand, how would He explain this part of James in relation to Himself?

I’m gonna suggest that He would say this – Words of life are found in one place only.

In John 6 Jesus said 

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. 

Basically, you will never tame your own tongue in your own power and never. 

Edwin Blum wrote that

The Holy Spirit, poured out in the world, gives life (salvation) to those who believe. Without the Holy Spirit, man (flesh) is utterly unable to understand Jesus’ person and His works [and then act accordingly].

Jesus continues and says

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

He was talking about eternal life, how it is only found in Him, that we must partake of His life and work and sacrificed body to truly inherit eternal life, and that we must look beyond the physical rituals of religion to the words that He is saying and the things He is teaching. His Words carry meaning and truth, and because this is hard, some left Him. We read,  

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 

So He asked the 12, are you leaving as well? He had said some tough truths and people left Him…imagine that. Do you know what the 12 said to Him?

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus’ words lead to life. No one else, nobody else’s words lead to eternal life.

It’s so easy to look at passages like James 3.1-12 and be very moral: You need to be in control of your tongue and your speech. Words are powerful, words can heal, words can cut down, words matter, your words matter. 

That’s not incorrect, but it’s incomplete. 

Rather than be all moral and preach-y, we ought to look at passages like this with a Christ-centred lens: Your words do matter, but Jesus has the words of eternal life.

So yes, work hard to choose your words carefully, but ultimately let us rest in the promises of eternal life found in the words of Jesus.

Is Life Fair?

Back in 20.4-11, Zophar said, basically, that the wicked get what is coming to them and die. Here Job responds with another probing question, is life fair?

Why do the wicked live,
reach old age, and grow mighty in power?

Job 21.7

How do we accept things like this?

How do we accept that the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? If we are trying earnestly to live the life that God wants us to live, how can we accept the fact that those who are brazenly not living His life seem to be prospering (v.14)?

In a world where we (want to) control everything and everyone around us, this kind of deep moral contradiction seems to outrage us; he/she is bad…but they are doing well…this should not be so…

Deep down, this is a perspective issue. Do we think we are the ultimate authority and judge in the universe? Do we think that everything ought to be as we want it to be? Are we so detached from objective truth that everything is evaluated through our own lens of subjective truth?

Do you know what, sometimes life isn’t going to feel fair. People who seem to be wicked will seem to be prospering, people who do objectively bad things will seemingly face no consequence, and people who are diligently trying to follow God’s plan for life will be seemingly second best. 

The answer to this is perspective, to look beyond our brief physical habitation on earth. I read somewhere that one of the big problems with people and their assessment of life as unfair is that they only look at themselves and their earthly physical life. No thoughts of eternity, no big picture thoughts. That’s true, isn’t it.

We forget that we are made with eternity in mind.

We forget that we are not working towards earthly rewards and riches.

We forget that no eye has seen, that no ear has heard what is waiting for us.

We forget that we are created, finite beings, with a limited perspective.

We forget that we are not the centre of the universe and ultimate moral judges.

Sometimes life is not going to feel fair by your standards and expectations. When these feelings creep into your mind, turn to the timeless and objective truths of the Word of God, and slowly but surely begin to accept that His perspective is different, bigger, better, and ultimately how you want to see things.