20230507 Everyone Has A Story
32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. 33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. 34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. 35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. 36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. 38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
We all have a Story, everyone does. As a pastor, I have the privilege of listening to many peoples stories on how they came to Christ and how they were freed from sin and gained eternal life. There are times I might play a small part in that story and I can tell you it is the greatest privilege of all.
There are many Christians also who have played a part in the stories of those who have exchanged death for eternal life, who lives have been transformed, who’s hope and joy has been secured, Christians who have told them of Jesus Christ and of why he came and what he did and why he died.
Some of those people have a known influence, an influence that spoke of Jesus, that lived Jesus; these people lent a hand when it was needed most, they had a kind word to say in a time of need, they gave of their time, of their money, they blessed in some way along the way and have become a part of the storyline of those who got saved, no doubt the story of those who are being baptised today.
Some people have played a role in these people’s lives and it won’t be fully discovered until it is revealed in heaven, then shall all be known. Those who prayed for them, who gave an anonymous gift, handed out a tract that speaks of Jesus. They may have left a Bible on a park bench with book marks in significant passages and chance had the recipient read and believe.
These people are not known and might not feature in the verbal testimonies that people tell others of how they came to Christ, and YET they played a role that only eternity can quantify or value.
I am blessed and I am privileged to hear some of those stories as a pastor. I am blessed also when all I do is share the STORY of Jesus to those willing to hear. How do I know how it will impact their hearts in the future?
OF LUKE 23:32-43
The account before us this morning tells a part of the story of two men. Men who were joined in identity and were joined in the temporal penalty for their crime, also joined in its CONDEMNATION, but separated in destination; One will be with Jesus in paradise (Heaven) on that very day and forever blessed; the other separated from Christ in hell, forever cursed.
But both have a story, both have an account they will recall forever. One will be sharing his story forever with those multitudes of others who were like him, as a brand PLUCKED OUT of the fire;
But one will relay his account to himself alone, there is no company in hell, the opposite of heaven, there is no fellowship at all. His STORY will be his eternal torment. ‘ALMOST A CHRISTIAN’ he will recall, ALMOST saved from the damnation of his sin, even while he hung on the cross BESIDE the very Saviour of the world in the moment the Saviour Died for the sins of the world.
He experienced the earthquake that split the rock a moment Jesus cried out “it is finished” and Christ died. He saw the darkness envelope the earth as the greatest evil ever done by man was done to the one who did the greatest good. He saw all that, but there is no account he turned and believed. He is still there today, tormented by his STORY, while his friend testifies of his joy.
My friends there is a similarity in those stories for every person in the world, all people who have every lived will share in a story that ends in one of two ways.
O, I understand that all people in the world ONLY ever want to hear of one way and not the other. It doesn’t seem to matter how many funerals you go to, everyone believes they go to a happy place and most preachers are pleased to be paid to lie to the mourners, telling them all that they too will end their lives wellregardless of what they think of God their creator. According to such motivational ministers, it does not seem to matter what you have done in life, if you have ended life with the most amount of money in the bank or the greatest number of assets, or had the greatest time traveling the world, of if you were a thief and robber, a murderer or politician, everyone seems to end well.
The Bible teaches “it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgement”, but these compensated counterfeits seek to comfort the condemned rather than tell them there is ONE of TWO Stories in which they will share. Jesus turned to only one of the two malefactors with comforting news!
Death is not only the great equalizer, it is also the great separator, and everyone has a story about how they got to their respective destinations.
Now, if you can hear or read this message today it is certain that you have NOT reached that destination, and what you hear will give you an opportunity to confidently change your story or to rejoice in the story Jesus comforts you in.
We all started on our journey in the same way, it was a journey to hell, there is not a person in this room that did not begin that way. It did not matter how well we lived our lives, we were lost; it did not matter how “good” we were in our own eyes or how many “good” things we did, we were sin drenched and damned for it; it did not matter if life treated us well, death would see us in hell!
BUT, for many of us, that journey changed, and its destination is now secured, and the story that saved us is the single most important story our lives to tell.
A STORY OF IDENTITY
A STORY OF CONDEMNATION
A STORY OF HEAVEN
A STORY OF IDENTITY
32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. 33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
What we have here in the text is a unified story of IDENTITY, the men we “malefactors”, a wonderfully simple Latin word that means “doers of evil”, male (Evil or bad) facere (doing or to do) malefacere is the plural for ‘malefactors’.
Both Mathew and Mark identify particularly the evil they did, giving them the title of “Thieves”. Both men shared in this title, it forms a part of their story and so important is this part of their story that the title has led them to the most excruciating form of capital punishment known to man at the time. The very word ‘Excruciate” has its origin in Crucifixion meaning simply “Of the cross”, ‘Excruciate’.
The title that testifies to the story of these two men has led them to the cross with a unified Identity. We do not know anything more of their story prior to this.
- We do not know if they were long time friends.
- We don’t know if they were brothers,
- we don’t know how many acts of evil they did together,
- we only know that they are both identified by that for which they have been condemned to die.
“Thieves” are all they deserve to be identified with, it characterised them, it brought to us the only understanding of the nature in them that identifies their heart toward both God and man! What else is there that is needful? It was a SHAMEFUL title.
We don’t think much of sin today, gone are the days when people were appalled by sin, shocked by the idea that a man or woman might thieve. Today in the US, people are literally just walking into stores and taking what they want and walk out, NO SHAME as the security guards merely become spectators.
Two generations ago, a man would be ashamed to be referred to as a Peeping Tom, peering in the bedroom window of an intimate couple. Such a disturbing act would have been spoken about around the town, today Pornography has made most men and women in our society ‘Peeping Tom’s’ in their own homes.
Vance Havner once said, “It’s hard to find an old-fashion sinner anymore”, referring to those who are ashamed of their sin.
I want you also to notice that there is no back story necessary for these men. The Bible never tries to diminish the responsibility of men and women by excusing their acts. O, they had a bad upbringing. They had ADHD. They had a metal disorder, “Kleptomania”, a inexplicably compulsive desire to steal. They stole in order to boost their self-esteem Etc
No, you won’t see excuses in the Bible nor in the character of God. Man’s desire to find “shades of grey” will find it perfectly elusive in the mind of God; his book is black and white.
LOVES THE SINNER BUT HATE THE SIN?
We have long used the term, “God loves the sinner but hates the sin”, it’s a phrase Christians use in order to soften God and give the illusion that the sinner is ok with God even though he sins. But the Bible teaches that the sinner is IDENTIFIED by his SIN, and that both the sinner together with his sin is cast into hell.
1 Corinthians 6:9–11
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
All sinners will be identified ONLY by their sin in hell.
The prison system that naturally has every prisoner enquire “what are you in for?”, is but a reflection of this truth.
“Fornicator”, a person who is identified by his or her ongoing participation in sex outside the covenant of marriage. This describes an individual without any commitment to any singular individual who’s very identification is known by his sin.
“Idolator”, a person who derives meaning and comfort, hope and happiness from that which is NOT GOD. They may worship their car, their house, their job, their money, their children, their husband or wife. All of these they have a fear of losing or offending, but not God.
“Effeminate” refers to men who desire or play out the characteristics of women.
“Abusers of themselves with mankind” actually refers to the sodomite, who’s harm is against themselves as seen in Romans 1:27 who receive “in themselves the recompence of their error which was meet” or just.
“Thieves”, how many things do you need to steal to become a thief? How big an item? Can you steal time? When you take a “sikky” from work, a benefit given to you for the exclusive use of when you are unwell, suffering outside of your control, but claim it just to have a day off because you have things to do, IS THAT NOT THEFT? When you claim payments from the government that you are not entitled to, is that NOT THEFT?
Let me tell you, it is also Idolatry and Covetousness. Those who commit such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
“Covetous”, those who lust for things, either that which is not your own, or that which you own. Ananias and Sapphira coveted their money but also the praise of men, and so lied to the holy ghost.
The same can be said of men and women who give the appearance of tithing or giving to the work of the Lord in the Church, but never actually do. Be careful beloved, there are several sins here that are perfectly akin to that for which God took the lives of these two in Acts 5.
“Drunkards”, simple enough and self-explanatory. These are those without self-control, also referred to as “incontinent” in the old fashion sense.
“revilers”, basically those who need their mouths washed out with soap. Not only do they offend the ears of the hearer, but testify by their mouths the very nature of their heart for all to see. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt 12:34).
“extortioners”, usually done related to money, overcharging for their services, or making a high demand for that which should be simply granted. My wife works in Family Law and sees versions of extortion all the time, wives placing huge demands on husbands to see their own children which should simply be granted. Etc
The first, second, eighth and tenth commandments being broken buy those identifiable acts.
Jesus died for the sins of the world, and by it he testifies that he so LOVED THE WORLD, no greater love could ever have been demonstrated. BUT DO NOT ever think your are separated from you sin before you have accepted the forgiveness of Christ for sin.
Before you are washed. Take a look at the very next verse;
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
Malefactors, doers of evil. This is the title that unifies their story, and all sinners will be identified ONLY by their sin in hell, their names will be forgotten.
A STORY OF CONDEMNATION
39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
Now we have a unified story of condemnation.
One of the malefactors desired to be saved from the punishment of his sin, not realizing that his sin has a cost that must be paid for. It is either born by him or by the community against which he sinned.
The other rebuked him, recognizing the justness of the condemnation as “the due reward of our deeds”.
No matter who it is that I talk to when I ask them of their testimony, their own story of how they came to Jesus, not a single person did so believing they deserved heaven!
No one I know, who have truly believed the gospel and are this day justified by what Jesus did for them on the Cross, none of them believed they were good enough to go to heaven. Each one believed they were justly condemned for their sin and sin nature.
Now please understand, I have baptised children as well as adults, young and old, and each story has a similarity, a unified similarity in one area, they all know they were sinners before they believed the Gospel. NONE thought they deserve heaven. None thought they were good enough.
ALL thought that without Jesus, they should receive “the due reward of their deeds”.
Each one of us share in this.
There was a time in our lives when we stood condemned before a holy God and had no hope of getting away with our sin.
Each of us had a share as “fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of ourselves with mankind, … thieves, …covetous, … drunkards, ….revilers, … extortioners, etc, and none of us should have any inheritance in the kingdom of God!
That was what we were, something miraculous occurred, something that is unexplainable apart from the scripture, we are washed, we are sanctified, we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
The Bible tells us that we “were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1), “condemned with the world” (1 Cor 11:32), “damned” when we believed not (Mark 16:16).
In that we shared in the same story of condemnation.
Today, many still share in that story. Like the malefactors on the cross beside Christ, they stare at hope in the face and rather than seek forgiveness, they slur him and rail against the Saviour of their souls. And remain CONDEMNED.
The most famous passage in the Bible tells the entire story if we simply add the three verses that come after it.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
A STORY OF HEAVEN
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
We are not sure when the divergence began, both of the thieves on the cross were up until this point, unified in their respective stories;
- They were unified in the story of their identity, both were “melefactors”, doers of evil, thieves specifically.
- They were unified in the story of their condemnation, indeed justly condemned, receiving the dure reward of their deeds.
Both of them even mocked Jesus together, in Matthews account the scribes and elders were mocking Jesus saying;
42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. 43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. 44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
But suddenly we see a divergence, a point of difference, the very moment when one of the thieves suddenly believed the Gospel to the saving of his soul;
Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
You see, its this key time, this one point that I long to learn about when I hear of the stories of those who have the desire to be baptised. Up until this point everyones stories are similar only in that they are identified as sinners, and that they are condemned, but a part of the journey along the way, something begins to change;
We are not told of the particulars of what changed for this one thief, what was it that began to work in his heart where suddenly he sees Jesus for who he is, “LORD” he cries, “Lord, remember me….” Remember the one that hung beside you and looked to you and recognised your perfect innocence, that you had done NOTHING amiss and yet there you hang….
Remember me, for I heard you speak to the father and ask him to forgive all those who are even now sinning against you unjustly.
Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
What was the part of the story that finally led him to this point?
Was he a resident of Jerusalem? Of Gallilee? Of Nazareth?
Did he see the wornderful works that jesus had done over the three years prior to this finality?
Did he hear of all the talk about him, one person and then another, did he go to the feast in John 7 and hear, “he is a good man” and then the disputes of him, “Nay; but he deceiveth the people” (Jn 7:12), did he hear the jews marvel at him saying “How knoweth this man letters having never learned” (Jn 7:15).
Was this malefactor casing the feast and looking for an opportunity to steal when he over heard some say “Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?” (Jn 7:26) and did he hear some say “When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles that these which this man hath done?” (Jn 7:31)”
Or was he there in the township that belong to the woman that met him at the well and he heard her testimony… “Is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29).
Maybe, he frequented that other place where the scoundrels of Jerusalem frequented, when Jesus made his small scourge and drove them from the temple saying;
It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. (Lk 19:46).
Indeed, so many might have been the opportunities for him to have seen evidence of this one promised from before the world began to be the sin bearer of the world, that the world by him might be saved.
How many times have you heard of him?
Have you been attracted to Christ or repelled by him?
It is clear that those who are being baptised today were at some point attracted to Jesus but then finally took the opportunity to call him “LORD”, desiring also to be remembered by him.
But there was another beside him, one who, like most of the people of the world, are repelled by Christ, not desiring to ever be remembered….and he wont be.
The Bible itself testifies to this saying;
7 The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot.
Yes, their names shall be “blotted out” it tells us in Ps 109:13, they will be “forgotten” we are told in Eccl 8:10.
Just like the, never to be recorded name, of the rich man “who died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” in Lk 16:22-23
Lazarus is remembered, his name has come down to us through the ages, but not this rich man who is only recalled in mythology.
5 Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever.
Which story will describe you?
Like all of us in this room today, our story is the same in that we had been identified by our sin, we had been rightfully condemned, but so far our paths may have taken a different turn.
Those being Baptised today, chose that good part and will never look back.