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Sermons and Outlines


Luke 23:33; 39-43

THE DIFFERENCES ARE ALL THAT MATTER

Intro: Ill. The scene at Calvary. It was a place of suffering, sorrow and death. It was a place of intense pain and of eternal loss. It was also the place where our Savior purchased eternal life for those who will place their faith in Him. The Bible tells that as Jesus was dying that day, two other men were also being put to death. We do not know much about these men. We do not know their names. We do not know about their pasts. All we know is that they are called "malefactors", which means "villains or evildoers" ,and "thieves", which means "Highwaymen or bandits" and refers to people who "take the possessions of others through violent means." We do know that these two men share some pretty strong similarities. A casual reading of the text tells us that both are criminals, both have been condemned and both are being crucified.

However, it is n't their similarities that I am interested in today, it is their differences. While these two men are alike on many ways, in other ways they would not have been more different. It is these differences in these two men that I want to focus in on this morning.

In some ways all of us in this room are like these two men. We all have many similarities. Yet, there are differences between us and it is those differences that seem to make all the difference. Nowhere is this more true than on a spiritual level. There the differences in man is all that matters! Let's take a few minutes this morning to consider these two dying men. Let's examine their differences, and as we so, I think you will agree with me that THE DIFFERENCES ARE ALL THAT MATTER.

I. V. 39-41 A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR EXTERNAL DEMEANOR

(Ill. The Context. As we listen to these men speak, in their final hours, it is clear to see that their differences hinged on a different view of God. It seems that one man learned to fear God, while the other did not! In the final analysis, what you think about God determines how you react to Him and to His Word.)

A. The Fear Of God's Person - Note: One man saw his sins v. 40-41, the other did not! One man realized that he and his life had offended a holy God. The other could not have cared less! The difference in them is that one learned the fear of God before he died and the other did not!

(Note: All one has to do is look at the state of things in the local church and in society as a whole to see that men have lost all their respect fro the person of God. Crime is rampant in society. 25 million American households per year are touched by violent crime. In our great nation, there is a murder every 23 minutes, a rape every 6 minutes, a robbery every 58 seconds and a burglary every 8 seconds. According to the M.I.T. mathematicians, an American child born in 1976 is more likely to die by murder than an American soldier was to die in combat in World War II.

Even the church has not escaped this devastation! The church is treated like it is any other place in the community. The man of God is not respected. People name the name of Jesus and live like the devil.)

(Note: Why? Men no longer fear God! For many, God has been reduced to the "man upstairs." He is seen as some kind-hearted old grandfather, or like a magic genie. Just rub His belly and make a wish and He will jump through hoops to make you happy! Nothing could be farther from the truth! Our problem is that we have forgotten the teaching of the Word of God - Matt. 10:28; Rom. 3:15-18; Jer. 2:19.)

(Note: Until we learn a proper, biblical perspective concerning God, we will never fear Him as we should and until we fear Him as we should, we will never be a perfectly right relationship with Him. In fact, learning to fear Him is one of the first steps in coming to know Him!)

B. The Fear Of God's Punishment - (Note the mention of the word "condemnation" in verse 40. This word comes from the same word that gives us the word "judgment". One of these men had come to understand that he was facing more than death, but that he had an appointment with God after death. Even though he had never read it, Heb. 9:27 was real to his soul. While he grasped this truth, the other man did not. You see, the person who does not fear God, will never fear the punishment he faces from God when he leaves this world.

(Note: Have you ever wondered why people turn a deaf ear to the word of God and to His warnings? Well, wonder no more! The Bible tells us exactly why they do this, Psalm 10:13, "Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it." Until a sinner understands the fear of God, he will never experience the grace of God.)

(Note: Friend, where do you stand in relation to the fear of the person of God and the punishment of God? Do you realize that every person who dies in their sins faces a terrible judgment and eternity in Hell? Both of these men were wicked, but one learned the fear of God, the other didn't. Which one best describes you right now?)

II. V. 39-42 A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR EARTHLY DECISION

(Ill. While our first though centered around the fear of God, this thought centers around the Person of Christ. While these men were very different in their approach to God, they also different in their response to Jesus.)

A. One Rejected Him - As the unbelieving thief hung on the cross, he heard the crowd, the rulers and the soldiers question Christ's claim of being the Messiah, Luke 23:35-37. Notice they all used the word "if". He also saw the sign they placed over the head of Jesus, that read, "This is the King of the Jews." He knew who Jesus claimed to be. He also knew that all those around him refused to believe in Jesus. So, when he opened his mouth to speak, v. 39, he merely echoed the same word that everyone else was using, "If." That little word is filled with doubt. It calls into question everything Jesus claimed to be. It denies Him as the Son of God. It denies Him as the only Savior of man. It denies His sinless nature. It denies everything the Bible says about Jesus. When it comes to Jesus, there is no room for the word "if". Either you believe He is all He claims to be, or you are a rejecter of the Jesus! When this man said "if" he threw out everything that Jesus claimed to be and he reduced Jesus, in his own mind, to just another criminal dying on a cross. His "if" decided his fate! And, as a result of his rejection, he spent his last moments on earth ridiculing the only One Who save his soul!

(Note: What about you? Have you come to the place where you are willing to believe everything the Bible says about Jesus? Or, is your heart filled with "if's" concerning Him? The sad fact is, some people in this room will go to Hell, because you cannot get around your "if's" concerning Jesus! Don't let what you don't understand stop you from coming to Jesus! Come to the place where you are willing to accept Him regardless of what you don't understand! Remember, salvation is all about faith - Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:8-9; John 3:16; Rom. 10:9. You don't have to understand it all, but you do have to believe it!)

B. One Received Him - While the one thief was listen to the crowd, the rulers and the soldiers, the other was listening to Jesus. While the one heard all the "if's", the other heard the words of our Lord in verse 34, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

It hadn't always been that way! Earlier, this same thief had joined everyone else in mocking the Lord Jesus, Matt. 27:41-44. But. Something changed as he watched Jesus on the cross. Who knows what made the difference. Maybe it was what Jesus said in verse 34. Maybe it was what Jesus did not say, Isa. 53:7. Whatever it was ,his heart was warmed and opened and he looked upon Jesus with new eyes.

As he looked at Jesus that day, he saw Him as:

1. Sinless - v. 41 - He looked at Jesus and was drawn to the same conclusion reached by Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Pilate's wife and King Herod. All of these looked at Jesus and declared as one chorus, "I find no fault in Him!" This thief saw Jesus as the sinless Son of God. You have to come to that place as well. Only a sinless Savior can take away your sins, 2 Cor. 5:21!

2. Savior - v. 42 - While the other thief was looking for someone to save his skin, this thief was looking for someone to save his soul. The other just wanted to go home, this one wanted to go to Heaven. At this moment in time, no one was willing to call Jesus Lord but this dying thief. Jesus had never looked less like a "Sovereign Lord" than He did at that moment. Yet, this man was able to see beyond the moment and he understood that Jesus, alone, was his only hope for salvation. As soon as he looked in Jesus's direction, by faith, he was eternally saved, Rom. 10:13.

By the way, that is the same place you have to arrive at as well! Jesus isn't just "a way". No! He is "the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by Him!", John 14:6! Is that what you believe? Nothing else will save your soul! Nothing else will fit you for Heaven! He must be seen as Savior before salvation can come!

3. Sovereign - Somehow, while everyone else doubted, this dying man saw beyond the cross. He saw beyond the tomb. He saw beyond the difficulties and he looked at Jesus Christ knowing He was the Sovereign Lord. He believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the King of the Jews. At that moment, though he did not understand it all, he knew that Jesus would come down from the cross, or rise from the dead, either way, but he knew that Jesus was Lord! The eyes of faith allowed him to see what no other person could see that day. Jesus never looked lass like a king than He did at that moment, yet this man believed! Even the disciples and those who loved the Lord Jesus that day could not see what this thief saw! As a result, he was saved!

Friend, regardless of what others are saying about Jesus Christ, in the end, it will al come down to the decision you make concerning Him! Have you trusted Him as your personal Savior? Have you been able to see beyond the jeers of the crowds, the hatred of religion, and the apathy of the world? Can you see that there is no other way to Heaven, but through a relationship with Jesus Christ? Until you do, you aren't going?

(Note: can you see the difference in the way these two men responded to Jesus Christ?

    • •One saw Him as liar to be ridiculed, the other as a Lord to be received.
    • •One saw Him as clown, the other saw Him as Christ.
    • •One saw Him as a foolish sinner, the other as the Father's Son.
    • •One saw Him as a wretched loser, the other as a Wonderful Lord.
    • •One saw Him as a pitiful buffoon, the other as a precious benefactor.
    • •One saw Him as just another sinner, the other saw Him as an awesome Savior.

Which best describes your reaction to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ?)

III. V. 43 A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR ETERNAL DESTINY

(Ill. Because of the differences in the reaction to God and their response to Jesus, these men also experienced a vast difference in their eternal state.)

A. The Destiny Of Hopelessness - The thief who rejected Jesus is not mentioned again until John 19:32, when the Roman soldiers come by to break his legs. The last thing he felt in this word was the crushing blow of the hammer again his shins. He felt the bones shatter and he was no longer able to push up against the nails in his feet so that he might breath. It would not have been more than a few short minutes and this man would have entered a Christless, hopeless eternity. There is no doubt that when this man died, he went to Hell. The last thing he experienced here was [ain, rejection and sorrow. The first thing he experienced when he left this world was more pain and the endless torments of Hell and of eternal separation from God. His was a hopeless destiny!

Friend, don't let this happen to you! You do not have to die without Jesus and perish in Hell. You can be saved and you can go to Heaven instead of Hell. It all depends on what you do with Jesus Christ!

B. The Destiny Of Hope - The dying thief who looked to Jesus by faith received one of the most wonderful promises ever recorded in the Bible. He was just hoping that when the kingdom was established that Jesus would somehow remember him then. Jesus tells him that this very day they will be together in paradise! There will be no waiting. There will be no soul sleep. There will be no time in purgatory to pay for his sins. There will be nothing but joy, and glory and the presence of the Savior in paradise. He got far more than he asked for! Note a few quick thoughts about this man's salvation.

1. A Gracious Salvation - This man was not saved by works or by baptism. He was saved purely through the power of grace alone. By the way, this is how everyone gets saved, Eph. 2:8-9. (Please note that this is the only "death bed" salvation scene recorded in the Bible! Someone has said, "There is one so that no man might despair, and just one so that no man might presume!") Don't count on getting in at the last minute! The time to come to Him is now, Isa. 55:6; 2 Cor. 6:2.)

2. A Guaranteed Salvation - Jesus said "verily". This is the translation of the word "amen." Jesus said, "You have my 'Amen' on it! You will be with me in paradise today!" This man was in the presence of the Lord in paradise before the soldiers ever pronounced him dead! He is a perfect illustration of "absent from the body and present with the Lord."

3. A Glorious Salvation - The last person this thief spoke with on earth was the Lord Jesus and the first person he saw in paradise was the Lord Jesus! Jesus told him, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." "With me", what a glorious thought! Here is a man unloved by humanity, unwanted by society, yet cared for by Christ! So it is today, regardless of your background, you are loved by Him my friend, Rom. 5:8. You can experience this same glorious salvation and the guarantee of Heaven if you will come to Him by faith! Only Jesus offers hope for the lost soul!

Conc: In the end, the differences are all that matter! When you reach the end of life all that will matter then is what you did with Jesus Christ. When you boil it all down, the only difference between these men was that they died on different sides of Jesus Christ. The same will be true of you. When you die, you will either be on the right side of Jesus, or you will be on the wrong side of Him. If you died right now, which would it be?


 
 
 
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