Friday, April 6, 2007

2nd Word

My senior and I shared 7 last words preaching responsibilities, so you will only find #2, #4, and #6...

Luke 23:42-43

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Contrasted with the other criminal, this one comes to faith—he recognizes Jesus’ role, his coming kingdom, and his rightful authority. And in that recognition, he is redeemed. The man’s past is not worthy of paradise, and he has no earthly future in which to live out his faith, perform good deeds., yet he is to still promised a place in paradise4. No where else could Paul’s words ring more true: (Eph 2:8-10) “For by grace you have been saved by faith, and this is not your doing, it is the gift of God—9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 for we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

In this criminal we see the epitome of salvation by faith. It is not the ways we make ourselves “Good enough” for God. We cannot justify ourselves. We do not earn God’s grace. It is gifted to us, as it was gifted to this criminal. And while good works are the fruits of God’s transforming work in our lives, neither do they keep us saved or pay God back for what God has done. God’s justifying work is what saves, purely and completely, regardless of our past and in spite of our future, we come to salvation through our faith in Jesus Christ, through God’s merciful and bountiful gifts.

So then the question stands: saving toward what?—paradise—also known as a garden—THE garden, the garden of Eden, Christ’s word “paradise” has a double intender—it also represents the Garden of Eden—the place of god’s perfected creativity. The our place in the garden needed to be restored, we had been bared, kicked out, and to get back in, only God’s perfection, could open the gates, and so, Christ, the second Adam, the perfected and redeemed human, unlocked the gate, and offers passage to those who believe. And the promise is not for some far off visit. Some destiny lost in time, the promise is Today---“today you shall be with me in paradise. We enter in with Jesus as soon as we believe. We are restored by our words of affirmation. We are granted re-entry through the second Adam—the one without sin.

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