Luke 23:40-41 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.”
This criminal, nailed to a cross in almost indescribable pain, makes the great and incredible confession that he deserves it. That, with the request to be remembered by Jesus, the divine King, brings him salvation, as Jesus makes clear in verse 43. His question to the other criminal echoes down through the ages even today: “Don’t you fear God?” The sad thing is, so many don’t fear Him. It’s hard to find people who will admit they deserve even the bad stuff they experience here, much less the hell they are headed for. God is love, yes, but He is also perfectly holy, and we are not. We no more deserve to approach God on our own than a snowflake deserves to approach a blast furnace. Realizing that is the fear of God. Without realizing that, we have no real grasp of or appreciation for the grace of God. It was because Paul realized that he was the “worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15-16) that God was able to use him so mightily. Assurance of salvation is wonderful, and God wants us to have it, but it is far sweeter when we have a grasp of what we deserve. That’s why former criminals and prostitutes are often such magnificent disciples of Jesus Christ. It was true even when Jesus was walking this earth, as people who acknowledged themselves to be sinners flocked to Him, while the people who saw themselves as upright were His worst enemies. Failing to fear God puts us in the category of His enemies.
Raised to love God from infancy, far too often I have taken Him for granted, failing indeed to fear Him. My lapses, my failures of obedience, have been far too many for me to count. At the same time, most people looking at me from the outside would think that I am a real “straight arrow,” deserving of God’s blessings. The thing is, the closer we are to Him, the greater the betrayal when we deny Him, whatever form that denial takes. I’ve been immersed in the Bible from infancy, so I have no excuse for any of the stuff I’ve done that placed me and my flesh ahead of God and His Spirit. I too am deserving of a cross, but Jesus took it in my place. I am to live out my life in obedient gratitude, not just today but every day, so that as many as will may repent and believe, for their salvation.
Father, off hand I can’t remember an Easter when I’ve thought as deeply about it as You are leading me to do this year. Thank You. May the cross have its full work in me so that, dead to sin, I may walk in Your life in every respect, communicating it to all for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!