To the thief on the cross Jesus said,"Today you will be with me in paradise."
That's grace. All that thief had was a prayer, but that's all it took. He had no time to be baptized, or do good works, or turn over a new leaf. He was on a cross dying. That's grace.
Most people celebrate the forgiveness of the thief on the cross, but how about Jeffery Dahmer? He was a serial killer. The Milwaukee Monster was convicted of 17 murders. Eleven corpses were found in his apartment. He dismembered them. He consumed them. He was sentenced to life without parole.
A few months before an inmate murdered him, Jeffrey Dahmer became a Christian. He repented and said he was sorry, profoundly sorry for his sins. He was baptized in the prison. He began reading the Bible and attending chapel. His conversion was genuine. His sins were washed. His soul was saved. His past was forgiven, and that bothers some people.
As Max Lucado expresses the hearts of many, "God is kind, but He's no wimp. Grace is for average sinners like me, not deviants like [him].”
Can Grace really extend to the worst of us? What about people in the Bible? Abraham lied, but he is in heaven. Mosss murdered, but he's in heaven. David was an adulterer, but he's in heaven. Paul arrested Christians and had them killed, but he's in heaven.
The thief on the cross is in heaven, and so is Jeffery Dahmer.
Rather than being bothered by Grace being extended to the worst, we should marvel at the magnitude of God's love.
If they can be forgiven, we can be forgiven. Whatever you've done, you can be forgiven. Nothing is beyond God's grace, because His grace is greater than all our sin. Learn from the thief on the cross. Forgiveness is just a prayer away.
"Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise'” (Luke 23:42-43, NIV).
What was he thinking?!
Jesse B. Shawin was wanted in Oregon where he was facing three separate arrest warrants, including charges of stealing a car. Police located and confronted him in Washington County as he was sitting in a construction excavator. But instead of disembarking from the heavy-duty vehicle, Shawin took off, putting pedal to the metal to outrun the officers.
Let’s just say his efforts were futile. According to one online construction equipment source, “Most tracked excavators are limited to a top speed of four to six miles per hour, while some lumber along at a tortoise-like two or three.”
The sight of Shawin’s flight was nothing short of comical, as heavily armed police officers calmly walked behind the fleeing rig, content to pursue until he was ready to stop. (You can view it here.)
The ending was inevitable. Just a mile and a half later, Shawin finally stopped the vehicle and surrendered.
I can just imagine the officers’ words to him as they pursued from behind. “Turn off the engine and climb on down, son. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Your choice.”
Running from God is a lot like running from the cops in an excavator. You can’t possibly outpace Him. And even if you could, where would you hide?
Yet, committed to our own willful ways, this is what we so often do. We attempt to run from Him, run from our accountability to Him, run from His control, or even His correction.
In the end, we would be much better off if we simply surrendered to His will, forgiveness, love, and grace. So why not just climb off that rig and surrender to Him? Run toward Him, rather than away from Him.
His righteous, yet gracious, heart is calling out to you: “We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”
“I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart! (Psalm 119:32, ESV)
“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. … Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:5-7, NIV).
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? (Matthew 18:12, NIV).
2022’s Season 17 of the hit TV show America’s Got Talent has seen many highlight moments, not the least of which being a performance by 11 yr old Madison Taylor Baez of Yorba Linda, California. Rather than having a regularly scheduled audition, Madison had been invited by the producers to sing from the audience during one of the breaks from scheduled auditions. Only then was she invited up onto the stage to perform.
She absolutely stunned the audience and judges alike with her rousing, emotionally rivetting rendition of the beloved Christian hymn, Amazing Grace. Madison sang it with authority and passion, as if she believed every word and was celebrating every truth conveyed in the “amazing” lyrics.
So moving was her performance and her “story,” that judge and former Deal or No Deal host, Howie Mandel, reflexively reached for the Golden Buzzer, assuring young Madison a place in the “live show” competitions and a chance to win the coveted $1 million prize.
Accolades gushed (and deservedly so) from the mouths of the host and judges for the quality of her performance.
“Incredible!” exclaimed the shows host, Terry Crewes.
'I normally leave during the break, because people do sing.” famed celebrity host Simon Cowell mused sarcastically. “So this is actually the opposite. It actually brought me back into the room.”
"Everybody is going to know your name now young lady," proclaimed Mandel.
Click here for a video of her AGT audition.
What strong reactions these judges and audience had to this performance!
Crewes found her performance incredible. Cowell was drawn back into the room by the power of it. Mandel exclaimed that he wanted to be sure that everybody would come to know her name.
Yet one critical component of the performance was left utterly ignored … the very subject of the song itself. Young Madison, as lovely and talented and gifted she might be, was extolling the virtues of the God of the Universe, Who, by His AMAZING GRACE, condescended to become the Savior of the world, to seek and to save us wretched, lost souls!
This was of course, as Simon would say, a talent competition, not a church service. But what a picture of the tone deafness of lost humanity!
But for the fact that we are fallen creatures living in a fallen world, the audience and judges would have jumped to their feet, first and foremost, to celebrate, laud, and praise the amazing grace of God that was being extolled. That’s what Crewes would have found incredible! It would have been the message of the song that drew Simon back into the room! It would have been the name of the Most High God which Mandell wanted to ensure was recognized by every man!
While human talent is no less a gift from our most gracious God, its purpose, like any “good and perfect gift” should be to draw our focus to the Lord Who bestowed it.
Grace was showcased side by side with the talent, yet no one noticed the grace.
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:25, ESV).
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV)