Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"
Let us humble our hearts and join the class where our "instructor," the repentant thief on the cross, is teaching us. He is "qualified," because we know for sure that he was truly converted and will be "with" Christ in His kingdom. The thief will have a place of high honor "with Christ"!
This man has literally seen "Christ and Him crucified," but the physical sight didn't convert any of the chief priests and rabbis (the only spectator we know was converted was the Roman centurion). The thief saw "Christ crucified" through the eye of faith. And that vision is what converted him.
We know that then he stood before God as though he had never sinned. In other words, God's forgiveness extended all the way back to his birth. That is the meaning of "justification by faith." The thief had gotten into crime because he had not known God's forgiveness, but God's justifying grace had extended back to his birth, before he had known it or believed it. His heart had been alienated from God all this time--hence his bitterness, resentments, alienation, and then, life of crime. But now, on his cross, his heart is reconciled to God and to the apparent disasters of his life.
That means he is reconciled to God all the way back to his birth! The mysterious providences of his life are unraveled; what he thought were just causes for resentment against God and everybody else were seen in a new light. All the while that he was nursing his bitterness, he was a "partaker of Christ's sufferings" (1 Peter 4:13) but did not know it. Not only in this hour spent with Jesus in crucifixion is his heart reconciled to God, but throughout his whole life he is reconciled.
Let's learn from our lesson: all that we have thought has been "against us" has actually been "for us" (Rom. 8:31-33). Yes, let that load roll off your heart! Thank you, Brother Repentant Thief.
--Robert J. Wieland
From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 27, 2002.
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