From our Lenten series, “Words from the Cross: Assurance” Luke 23:43
If anyone was considered outside the realm of God’s mercy it would be the two men crucified with Jesus. The one was belligerent and joined the crowds in the mockery, but extended it. “One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” He wants the quick escape, probably like he had done most of his life. Only it was catching up to him now.
The other responded differently.
But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:40-42)
This man is not trying wiggle out of his punishment, rather he is coming to grips with it. His life of sin, open, public sin would be enough for most people to say, “That criminal is beyond hope!” Maybe he thought so, too. But in the bottom moment of his life, he realizes there is something more. And Jesus is more than a common criminal, in fact, he is no criminal at all. And so his plea, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”
Maybe life has treated us badly and we feel beyond the pull of God’s mercy. Maybe we have matched the criminal on the cross, and feel that we have sinned too much, too big for God to even consider forgiving. Maybe our own memories drag us down, forcing us to live in the uncertainty of forgiveness, salvation, hope.
The key is that no one is beyond God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s compassion. The “blessed assurance” is not like a warranty on an appliance, where we can extend it “for a few dollars more.” No, this assurance is firm, guaranteed with Jesus’ own death, made real by the down payment of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). You cannot out sin God’s grace; not that we try, but even then God’s assurance of salvation is real, it is now, it is forever.
That is real assurance. Jesus staked His life on it, or better He crossed His life on it. And so when we hear the words “Your sins are forgiven” we know that includes life now, and life forever with God.