Truly, truly, I say unto you, today, you will be with Me in Paradise

A Worship Service for March 29, 2020

WELCOME

Today, we will continue on in our series focusing on the last seven statements that Jesus made as He hung upon the cross.

I hope that your time spent here on our website will enlarge your appreciation for God’s amazing grace. And I pray that when you have finished worshipping, you will have a greater sense of the mighty power of the cross.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Obviously, we do not know when we will be able to resume corporate worship. But rest assured, as soon as we are able, WE WILL GATHER TOGETHER AGAIN! And I, for one, am already looking forward to that day with great expectation!

Until that day comes, we will have to be creative. Once again, let us open our hearts to praising and hearing the Word of the Lord by reading through the worship service. Please take advantage of the opportunity to read, pause, reflect and pray when you feel led; knowing that “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13).

Today is ‘Gather to Scatter’ Sunday. Although we are not gathering, it does not mean we cannot fulfill our mission. As you were e-mailed on Thursday, we are collecting items for the Church-at-the-Lake Food Pantry, as they are running low. You can drop them off at our church today between 12 noon and 2:00 pm. If you wish you can stay in your car and someone will take them off your hands. Or, if you want to take them inside yourself, there will be a table in the lobby.

During the same time, you may drop off your offering. Look for a lockbox on a stand in the lobby. Lift the lid and drop it in. These will be collected for safe-keeping at 2:00 pm. If you wish to send it in the mail, the address is CrossPointe Community Church, P. O. Box 126, Chippewa Lake, OH 44215-0126.

Last but certainly not least, announcement-wise, here is one of those letters written by the members of my Disciple I Bible Study Class to the CrossPointe family:

Dear members of CrossPointe Community Church, I am writing to you with thanksgiving for your faith, love and steadfastness in Christ Jesus. Your commitment to each other and the community shows the love you have in His Word and you share the Word through your good works in the community. God is working through you in all the lives you touch.”

Joan Long

And now, let us worship the Lord together.

CALL TO WORSHIP

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:20-21

SONGS OF GOD’S LOVE

Grace Flows Down

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
Amazing love, now flowing down.
From hands and feet that were nailed to the tree.
As grace flows down and covers me.
It covers me, it covers me, it covers me, and covers me.

© 1993 dB Music
CCLI License No. 1843349

Amazing Grace

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

© Public Domain
CCLI License No. 1843349

OPENING PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, no matter what we face in this life, regardless of what we are called upon to endure, in the good as well as the bad, Your grace surrounds us, saves us, and sustains us. For this, marvelous and wonderful gift, we worship You in the name of the Grace Giver, even Jesus, Our Lord. Amen.

THE GIVING OF THE LORD’S OFFERING

PRAYER SONG

Still

Hide me now under Your wings
Cover me within Your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father, You are King over the flood
I will be still, know You are God

Find rest my soul, in Christ alone
Know His power in quietness and trust

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father, You are King over the flood
I will be still, know You are God
I will be still, know You are God
I will be still, know You are God

© Reuben Morgan, Hillsong Publishing
CCLI License No. 1843349

THE MORNING PRAYER

Robyn Tresch

Dear Lord,

This morning we take the time to thank You for the blessings we undoubtedly have. We know it is a blessing to worship You, even when conditions are not ideal. There are days when we feel that the storms are raging out of control. We may feel that the darkness can overpower the light.

In spite of the fear we have, we are here to take time out of this day to remember Your wake-up call to be still and know that YOU are GOD. Help us to acknowledge who You are and simply be in awe.

We ask that You please bless the healers, heal the sick, and protect those who come to You for shelter. Teach us to turn panic into patience and fear into acts of kindness. Please help us to stabilize our communities, unite in our compassion, remove all fear from our hearts, and fill us with confidence in Your care.

We come to You for comfort and through You, we know that we can find it.

In Jesus’ name we pray… Amen.

THE SCRIPTURES

When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.

Luke 23:33-43

For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work. At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing. At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, “Why haven’t you been working today?”
They replied, “Because no one hired us.”
The landowner told them, “Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.”

That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, “Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.”

He answered one of them, “Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?”

So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.

Matthew 20:1-16

Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it:
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sins are put out of sight.
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.”

Romans 4:1-8

THE MESSAGE

Randy K’Meyer

“Truly, truly, I say unto you, today, you will be with Me in Paradise”

If one of Jesus’ earlier sayings from the cross was a prayer: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34),” today’s exclamation is an answer to prayer. For there he is . . . a convicted felon . . . hanging on a cross next to the Lord’s. The hinge on death’s door is squeaking and just before it slams shut a prayer of desperate hope, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom?” (Luke 23:42)

Think of it: a low-life thief asking the Son of God for eternal life! The only thing more surprising than the request . . . was that it was granted! “Today, you shall be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Notice that Jesus promise is ‘today,’ not some far-off, future-oriented event . . . but today.
Paul tells us in II Corinthians that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (5:8). Perhaps the Apostle derived his theology from this scene played out on the cross.

“Today, you shall be with Me in paradise.”

William Barclay tells us about this word, ‘paradise’

The word ‘paradise’ is a Persian word meaning ‘a walled garden.’ When a Persian King wished to show one of his subjects a very special honor he made him a companion of the garden which meant he was chosen to walk in the garden with the King. It was more than immortality that Jesus promised the penitent thief. He promised him the honored place of a companion of the garden in the courts of heaven.” 1

“Hey Jesus, how’s about putting in a good word for me with the Big guy?”
“You got it.”

And he, who in all probability never said grace, much less did anything to deserve it, received it.

There are two points that I feel compelled to make about this remarkable story.

The first point I would like to draw from this scene of amazing grace has to do with what the thief didn’t get a chance to do.

For I can’t help but wonder what might have happened if at the last moment this thief might have also received a stay of execution.

He probably would have begun to take the first steps on his new spiritual journey. He would have hooked up with a local church and been baptized. He would have taken advantage of the opportunities to grow in Christ. And as he did so, he would have begun to live a new life, a new life in Christ. Who knows, perhaps he would have become one of the greatest evangelists ever to tell the story of God’s wonderful grace!

But alas, he didn’t get those kinds of opportunities for he was dying, and although in those moments he received the promise of paradise, God would not restore the years that were wasted.

Arthur Berry was a very famous jewel thief who practiced his trade back in the roaring twenties. He was a very unusual thief in that he would only steal from the very rich. He would often pass up many jewels and take only the finest, most precious. He was one thief who was a connoisseur of the art. And since he robbed only the richest and most elite members of society, it became somewhat of a social status to be robbed by him.

One day Arthur was caught in the act and shot by the police. While he was suffering excruciating pain, he promised himself he would never steal again. Now although that was a good beginning, he somehow escaped and spent three more years on the loose.

Then came his downfall when an insanely jealous woman turned on him and tipped police off to his whereabouts. He was recaptured and this time spent the next 18 years in prison. While there he made his mind up that crime didn’t pay.

After he served his time, Arthur settled in a little town in New England. People there did not suspect that he was a famous jewel thief. Due to his hard work and neighborliness, he eventually became one of the town’s most respected citizens. All went well until someone recognized him for who he had been.

As word spread, reporters came from Boston to interview him. One of the reporters asked him, “Arthur, we know that you have taken from some of the wealthiest people in the world. Do you remember who it was you stole the most from?”

Without a moment’s hesitation, he answered, “The person I stole the most from . . . was Arthur Berry. I could have made a contribution to society. I could have been a school teacher . . . or a successful businessman. I could have accomplished so much. But instead, I spent two-thirds of my adult life in prison. I have spent a lifetime robbing myself.” 2

Words that could have been spoken by the thief.

I say all of this because, unlike the thief on the cross who was meeting his maker that very hour, we have time to live a brand new life! Each day, we can start over, we can begin anew, hallelujah!

The thief didn’t get the opportunity to tell others about the gift of God’s grace; how wonderful it is to be forgiven and to know that heaven awaits.

But we do! Thanks be to God, not only for His gift of grace but for the gift of being able to share the meaning of that gift with others!

(Please stop at this point and think about what this means to you. In light of this truth, Is God calling you to make any changes in your life? If so, what would they be? Write them down. Set one or more new goals. Think about it).

The second and more obvious point worth drawing from this story has to do with the amazing grace emanating from the cross as Jesus promises paradise to one whom we would be inclined to say didn’t deserve it.

In saying, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, today you shall be with Me in paradise” Jesus is completely focused upon fulfilling His mission of seeking and saving those who are lost . . . even as He hangs upon a cross!

Anyone else would have been content . . . perhaps even a little glad to see this law-breaker receive his due . . . but not Jesus! This scene reminds us that Jesus will not give up on people who we would tend to give up on.

That’s Jesus . . . who not only refused to give up on the thief who called upon Him, but who also refuses to give up on any one of us, all of whom are standing in the need of grace.

By Rembrandt – www.rijksmuseum.nl : Home : Info : Pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=725015

Rembrandt, the famous Dutch artist, painted his famous “Three Crosses” in 1653. The painting presents a harsh depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus hanging lifeless between two thieves. At the foot of the cross are soldiers and onlookers. As you scan the crowd gathered at the foot of the cross, you notice how some are laughing, some crying, others are bewildered. Most fascinating about the painting is the lone figure standing in the shadows. It is Rembrandt himself . . . he has painted himself into the picture as his way of saying, “I was there, too. My sins helped nail Jesus to the cross too.” 3

Some of us have no problem whatsoever acknowledging that we are wrongdoers and we know it. In fact, some of us are so ashamed and guilt-ridden that we have convinced ourselves that a good God would never consider us worthy to even get close to Him . . . let alone be a friend. But this story tells us if there was room for this thief in God’s paradise maybe there’s room for me too.

Not just maybe . . . there is!

There is because of God’s marvelous grace which cannot nor need be earned by our human efforts. As Paul wrote to the Church at Rome, “When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners” (4:4-5).

I am confident you noticed the link between Paul’s letter, the story of the thief and the parable of the workers in the vineyard:

I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?

So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last” (Matthew 20:14b.16).

Certainly, the thief is an example of one whom we might be inclined to say was ‘last,’ but through grace is awarded ‘first’ place in God’s kingdom.

That may not seem fair to those who, like the workers hired at 6 am, have been following Jesus for many years.

Philip Yancey writes:

Many Christians who study this parable identify with the employees who put in a full day’s work, rather than the add-ons at the end of the day. We like to think of ourselves as responsible workers, and the employer’s strange behavior baffles us as it did the original hearers. We risk missing the stories point: that God dispenses gift not wages. None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God’s requirement for a perfect life. If paid on the basis of fairness, we would all end up in hell.” 4

Grace may not be fair. But it is wonderful!

I mean think of this thief. He wasn’t baptized. He didn’t go through a confirmation class. He wasn’t a member of any church. He didn’t participate in Holy Communion. What could he possibly do to merit paradise? Nothing!!!

The only thing that he could have done was to throw himself on the Lord’s mercy. That’s exactly what he did!

Lord, remember me. I am but a poor despicable sinner, and unable to take any lamb to the priest. I cannot obey the commands of the law, but it matters not. O Lord, Thou canst be both lamb and priest. Thou art able to get me into the kingdom.” 5

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin”

Romans 4:7-8

“Jesus remember me.”

“Today you shall be with me in paradise.”

What a marvelous gospel! What a blessed hope? That you and I, like this thief, can come empty-handed to the cross of Christ and hear that precious word of grace.

“Think about it, one second this thief is a beggar nervously squeezing his hat at the castle door wondering if the King might spare him a few crumbs and the next second he’s walking out with the whole pantry.” 6

And so can you . . . if you like him and like the man in this closing story, will confess your sin and ask for forgiveness.

It was five days before Christmas when a stranger approached 10-year-old Chris Carrier, claiming to be a friend of his father. “I want to buy your dad a Christmas gift, and I need your help.”

Eager to do something good for his dad, Chris climbed aboard the guy’s motor home. The driver drove to a deserted dirt road in the Florida Everglades, stabbed Chris with an ice pick, shot him in the left temple, left him for dead. He lay lifeless for six days until a driver found him.

Chris miraculously survived his injuries, though he was blind in his left eye. Three years later, Chris accepted an invitation to a church youth hayride and trusted Christ as his Savior. At age 15, Chris shared his story for the first time. He eventually decided to pursue full-time ministry, helping others find the peace he had discovered in Christ.

In 1996, a detective told Chris over the phone that a David McAllister confessed to the crime that had cost him his left eye and was now living in a nursing home. Chris learned from the detective the why of what had happened years ago. McAllister had been hired by Chris’s father to work caring for an ailing uncle. Chris’s dad had caught McAllister drinking on the job and had fired him. The senseless attack on Chris had been motivated by revenge.

Chris felt God was calling him to visit the man who intended to kill him. When he did, he discovered the strong man he had remembered was now a broken and frail 77-year-old. When Chris first visited, McAllister denied knowing anything about it. But as time went on, the old man finally confessed and apologized. Chris said, “What you meant for evil, God has turned into a wonderful blessing.” And he told his attacker how God had allowed his wounds to become open doors to share the good news of Christ.

During one Sunday afternoon visit, Chris popped the most important question: “Do you want to know the Lord and receive His forgiveness?” McAllister said surely the Lord would never forgive him for what he had done. Chris replied, “Let me tell you a story about a repentant thief.

All that McAllister could do was what the thief did; throw himself on the Lord’s mercy. So he did. And a few days later McAllister died in his sleep.

Chris Carrier says it is not a story of regret, but of redemption. “I saw the Lord give that man back his life, and so much more, I can’t wait to see him again someday in heaven.” 7

I love the way Max Lucado ends chapter four, ‘The Tale of a Crucified Crook’ in his excellent book, No Wonder They Call Him Savior:

It makes me smile to think that there is a grinning ex-con who is walking the golden streets who knows more about grace than a thousand theologians. No one else would have given him a prayer. But in the end, that is all he had. And in the end, that’s all it took. No wonder they call Him Savior!” 8

CLOSING PRAYER

Our gracious and loving Heavenly Father . . .
(I encourage you to pray as you feel led).

CLOSING SONG OF GOD’S LOVE

O Mighty Cross

O mighty cross, love lifted high
The Lord of life, raised there to die
His sacrifice on Calvary,
Has made the mighty cross a tree of life to me

O mighty cross, what throne of grace
He knew no sin, yet took my place
His sacrifice on Calvary
Has made the mighty cross a tree of life to me

O mighty cross, O Christ so pure
Love held Him there, such shame endured
His sacrifice on Calvary
Has made the mighty cross a tree of life to me

O mighty cross, my soul’s release,
The stripes He bore, have brought me peace
His sacrifice on Calvary
Has made the mighty cross a tree of life to me

© 1994 Integrity’s Praise Music (c/o Integrity Music, Inc.)/ Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (c/o Integrity Music, Inc.)
CCLI License No. 1843349

SCRIPTURAL BENEDICTIONS

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to HIM be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Rev. 1:5b-6

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Galatians 6:18

1 Barclay, William. The Daily Bible Study Series, Revised Edition; The Gospel of Luke. [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Westminster Press, © 1975]. Page 287.

2 Rochelle Pennington, The Golden Formula. Pathways Press. Cited in Bits & Pieces, July 2004, p. 5.

3 https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/60570/cross-agony-by-sermoncentral?ref=TextIllustrationSerps

4 Yancey, Philip. What’s So Amazing about Grace? [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, © 1997]. Page 62.

5 Powell, Ivor. Luke’s Thrilling Gospel. [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, © 1965]. Page 481.

6 Lucado, Max. Six Hours One Friday. [Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Press, © 1989] Page 128.

7 Adapted from article by Adam Myrick in the Southwestern News (Fall 2000); submitted by Clark Cothern, Tecumseh, Michigan
https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2000/september/12623.html

8 Lucado, Max. No Wonder They Call Him Savior. [Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Press, © 1986.] Page 37.

Randy K'Meyer

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