#11 (The “Remember” Series)
“REMEMBER ME IN HEAVEN!”
TEXT: Luke 23:32-43, 47-49
INTRO: Everybody wants to go to heaven! Some religions try and make it easy, they simply proclaim that there is no hell; therefore everyone goes to heaven automatically. In other religions high price tags may be required, or maybe lots of good works, or big financial gifts might get you in. Men keep trying to come up with clever ways to be eternal but they ignore the best and only way – the gift of God through Jesus Christ, which comes by faith through grace!
ILLUS: ONE OF THE
CRAZIEST WAYS MAN HAS AHEMPTED TO MAKE A STATEMENT OF GOING ON FOREVER WAS BACK
IN 1987. A GROUP CALLED THE
CELESTIS GROUP OF
It is a good thing that God chose the method of salvation for gaining heaven; if it had been good works most people would actually be lost because it would mean that our good works would have to be greater than our bad works – this of course would eliminate last minute salvations since there wouldn’t be enough time to get in enough good works, or we would always be wondering if our tally of good works was large enough over our bad works. You would never know if you are saved until you stood before God and saw the totals! Good works is a lousy system for salvation; even some of our best deeds are done with impure motives and so might be eliminated toward the total count!
Fortunately, God made salvation conditioned on 2 simple things; a recognition that we are indeed sinners, (confession) and a willingness to trust Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins (faith in Christ). It is therefore a free gift, but one that many will never receive because they will fail to accept this!
If you want to be remembered in heaven you have to confess Jesus on earth!!!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches clearly that eternity is real, and the only way to experience it in heaven is through Jesus Christ. What you do with Jesus in time will determine in eternity what Jesus will do with you!
I. THE CENTRAL FOCUS 23:32-38, 47-49
A. Representatives -38
1. This was the most important moment in history, and for the future – the most important moment in time!
a. Jesus was (and is!) the focal point of all things!
b. All kinds of people were there that day; they represent the people of all time.
2. Look at the list here of those we know who were around the cross:
b. Jews and Gentiles (Romans)
c. Male & females
e. Regular people
f. Religious leaders
g. Secular authorities
h. Disciples (though most of them fled)
i. Politicians, government employees
j. Business men
l. Foreigners – Simon or
3. This diverse group of people all stood as witnesses to Jesus’ sacrifice!
a. Just like today, people have been told over and over again about Jesus as God’s sacrifice.
b. Our calendars look back on the time of Christ as the focal point for our marking time; it is A.D. 20xx (fill in the year)
c. No one person has changed the world more than Jesus, our whole western civilization and laws are carved from Christianity and Jesus’ teachings as the Christ!
d. Even unbelieving historians will tell you Jesus has changed the world as we know it!
4. Here they all stood looking at Jesus just as everyone does today!
B. Reactions -38, 47-49
1. Notice the reactions which were similar to those of today:
a. The regular people – they stood just watching without getting involved, like many today!
b. The religious rulers – they mocked and sneered at Jesus claiming to be able to save people by simple faith! – This still happens with liberal religions!
c. The military – they took what they could get their hands on, they had no place for this weak surrendering man, they were just carrying out orders!
d. The politicians – they had issued their pronouncements, their interest was order in the nation, sacrificing one man to regain order was politically ok, order was the expedient thing to do and the politically correct thing.
e. The business people in town just wanted things to settle down so people could get on with their normal life of buying and selling.
f. The criminals insulted Jesus, they were mad at everyone, they didn’t care who was hurt.
g. The disciples (the few that stayed around!) stood at a distance, they didn’t want to look too fanatic as followers of Jesus, it could cost them too much!
h. Most people that day were spectators of Christ, the world still is!
2. Everyone hoped for eternal life but when they witnessed the one who could bring it to them they all reacted differently!
a. People still do this, everyone wants to go to heaven but when they are told about Jesus they want to think about it first!!!
b. Or, they don’t want to accept Jesus’ offer of salvation on His terms they want it on their terms!
3. Just like then, our reaction to Jesus will determine the outcome of our life in eternity!
a. The two thieves crucified with Jesus demonstrate the 2 choices we have...
b. and the two possible outcomes!!
4. When facing death there is only one question on everyone’s mind ... WHAT NEXT?
a. The rich don’t think about how their money will help when they are at death’s door.
b. The highly successful business man won’t get special treatment at death’s door.
c. Death is the great leveler of humanity, here we are all equals. We take nothing with us; nothing can help us except being in a right relationship with God!
II. THE CONFESSION OF FAITH -43
1. One of the criminals crucified with Jesus ignores the important issue of death and looks only for salvation in the moment. He insults Jesus and mockingly asks that if Jesus is such a big-shot then He should save himself and of course them as criminals!
a. Even facing death he mocks the reality of eternal life, thinking only of the here and now and his own freedom!
b. Boy, if this doesn’t represent a large portion of humanity today! So many people are only concerned about the here and now!
2. The sense of this thief’s statement is simple: “If you really are God then prove it by doing something for me now.”
a. There is no faith here, just a demand for self!
b. Jesus only responds to faith!
3. It is tragic that some people will only think of God at death and for most they will still reject Jesus then too if they had all their life before!
ILLUS: THE TITANIC WITH CAPTAIN SMITH AT HER HELM WAS ON HER MAIDEN VOYAGE EARLY IN THIS CENTURY. THE BAR WAS OPEN, PEOPLE WERE CELEBRATING LIFE, THE DANCE FLOOR WAS FULL AND THE BAND WAS PLAYING. THERE HAPPENED TO BE A SMALL GROUP OF CHRISTIANS ON BOARD THIS BOAT AT THE TIME, AND WHEN IN THE BALLROOM THE BAND TOOK A BREAK AND THE DANCING STOPPED ONE MAN APPROACHED THE DANCE FLOOR AND MADE A REQUEST, “SOME OF US ARE CHRISTIANS” HE ANNOUNCED, “WE HAVE A BIBLE AND SOME SONG BOOKS, I DON’T WANT TO PREACH TO YOU, BUT JUST LET ME READ SOME PASSAGES FROM GOD’S WORD, AND SING A HYMN.” A MAN FROM THE CROWD CRIED OUT, “TO HELL WITH ALL THAT; GET OUT OF HERE!” IT WAS ALSO REPORTED THAT ONE OF THE SAILORS PRESENT ADDED, “GOD COULDN’T SINK THE TITANIC.” WITHIN MINUTES OF THIS INCIDENT THERE WAS A TERRIBLE CRASH. WHILE THE SHIP SANK, THE BAND THAT HAD EARLIER PLAYED DANCE TUNES TO THE DRINKING CROWD MADE THEIR WAY BACK TOGETHER SINCE THERE WEREN’T ENOUGH LIFEBOATS AND THEY PLAYED “NEARER MY GOD TO THEE.” AS THE BOAT SANK, PERISHING WITH IT! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. It is so hard to believe that even in the midst of death this man could coldly reject Jesus as Lord!
a. So many people assume that people will just get saved if given the chance the moment they are facing death, but this is not always true!
b. Some people remain hard to the bitter end!
ILLUS: YEARS AGO A SURVIVOR OF A TERRIBLE PLANE CRASH DOWN SOUTH REPORTED ON HOW TERRIBLE THE SCENE WAS INSIDE THE PLANE. HE WAS QUITE SHAKEN AS HE REPORTED HOW PEOPLE REACTED TO THE PROCESS OF DYING MORE THAN THE CRASH ITSELF. HE REPORTED HOW SHOCKED HE WAS TO HEAR PEOPLE CURSING GOD WITH RAISED FISTS AS THEY BURNED ALIVE ... HE REPORTED THAT HE ALWAYS ASSUMED PEOPLE WOULD CRY OUT TO GOD IF THEY KNEW THEY WERE GOING TO PERISH, BUT IN REALITY THEY DIDN’T! THEY CURSED GOD INSTEAD. HE HAS BEEN HAUNTED BY THEIR VOICES CURSING GOD FOR SOME TIME! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
B. Repentance -42
1. Evidently one of these thieves had a change of heart ... since they both were earlier reported to have hurled insults at Jesus, this one must have done some soul searching and decided to turn around!
a. Perhaps the way Jesus conducted Himself while being crucified had moved his heart!
b. Jesus’ willingness to forgive those who were killing Him must have moved this man’s heart. Love is a powerful thing!
c. Jesus’ example of love moved this man to change his mind and heart about Jesus.
2. This man does what is necessary to find salvation, he first acknowledges his own guilt and sin – this is confession.
a. God is against the proud heart, the one that says they have no needs!
b. God’s heart is moved by honest confession, the heart that recognizes the reality of sin in our lives!
3. He turns to Jesus after admitting that he deserves the punishment of death and makes a simple request; “JESUS, REMEMBER ME WHEN YOU COME INTO YOUR KINGDOM.”
a. All that mattered now was the future, one that he wanted to be different than what he had lived in the past!
b. This is true repentance, admitting sin while turning to God for wholeness!
c. This thief finds in Jesus what he couldn’t give himself – LIFE!
d. It is a good thing that it was Jesus he turned to, the answer was available!
4. How tragic indeed for someone to be dying and not have the answer to the reality of death!
ILLUS: A YOUNG MAN
WORKING AT THE FAMOUS IRON WORKS IN
1. Jesus’ heart must have leaped for joy over this one man, the only one in the entire audience who was turning to Him for hope in these dark moments.
a. Out of all those present who were looking at Jesus only one now sought Him out!
b. While all the others stood there interpreting the moment by their own thoughts this one repentant thief was seeking salvation!
2. Jesus does not disappoint him, in fact, clearly the news was GOOD NEWS!
a. Not only will Jesus save him ...
b. But Jesus says to him, “TODAY, YOU WILL
BE WITH ME IN
c. There would be no delay in honoring this man’s faith!
d. There would not be some long delay in a place called purgatory!!!
e. There would not be eternity in hell though he had lived an entire life selfishly up to this point, faith in Christ even in this last moment changed eternity for him.
3. The assurance Jesus offers was beyond his wildest hopes!!
a. Faith’s rewards are great!
b. You don’t work your way into heaven, you arrive there by faith!
4. The man had made the right decision to turn to Christ. Anyone else would not have been able to save him!
5. How tragic it is that people turn to so many false sources of hope.
a. Today we have the “psychic network on TV” – people looking for hope with their future!
b. People turn to the stock markets to make their future secure, Ha!
c. They turn to mystic religions, all the new age stuff! Which is really old cult stuff repackaged for today!
d. People look everywhere for hope and assurance but there is only one right source, JESUS CHRIST!
6. No matter what they trust in they will be disappointed one day if it wasn’t in Christ that they trusted!
ILLUS: IN THE
7. What a joy! This man’s life that had been lived so selfishly and tragic ends with eternal life. God will accept anyone who comes, it doesn’t matter what you have done before, in Christ all things are made new!
8. Imagine the other thief on the Day of Judgment; to think he got so close to having eternal life and yet he missed out. How tragic the stories will be of those who came so close and yet missed!
ILLUS: NOTHING IS MORE TRAGIC THAN THE STATEMENT OF “ALMOST”... HOW TRAGIC IT IS WHEN YOU ALMOST MISSED HITTING THE OTHER CAR! WHEN THEY ALMOST MADE IT TO THE HOSPITAL, WHEN THEY ALMOST PAID THE BILL ON TIME, WHEN YOU ALMOST HAD THE WINNING NUMBER, WHEN YOU ALMOST GOT SAVED!!! HOW TRAGIC THIS LAST STATEMENT WILL BE ONE DAY WHEN IT IS UTTERED BY MILLIONS WHO WILL FIND THEIR WAY INTO ETERNAL HELL! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
9. Why gamble on your eternal soul? You can be assured of salvation today just by acknowledging your sin and turning to Christ in faith!
CONCLUSION: Jesus Christ is still the central focus of humanity; He marks the transition of time; B.C. & A.D. More importantly, He marks the transition between the temporal and the eternal! He is the central focal point for any hope of eternal salvation! Those who reject Him are lost; those who receive Him will experience eternal bliss! Where are you headed? Ask Jesus to remember you in heaven, He will!