39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:39-43 ESV
So why am I posting the Easter story on Christmas Eve?
Isn’t it funny that before we know who He is, we ridicule Him. We make fun of Him and His followers. Like the thief n Luke 23:39. I know I did. I would make comments and joke with my friends that I’m going to hell for saying this or doing that. If you group up as a follower and have always known Him, then you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. But, if you came to Him later in life, you might identify with me here. Hell is not a joke. I don’t know what hell really is, but I know it is eternal separation from Him. Just the thought of that scares me now. I know some of my unbelieving friends make fun of me now, joking that I am a “holy roller”. People I know and love and trust, friends and family that are close. I can sense a distance in those relationships now. I know exactly what they are saying and how they feel because I was in their shoes when one of my close friends “found” Jesus 10 years before I did.
Like the thief in Luke 23:40, we are changed the minute we truly know who Jesus really is and surrender to Him. He starts changing us right then, at that exact moment we are saved and we are His. The funny thing is that our non-believing friends notice the change. That bothered me at first. That still bothers me now. A coworkers in a meeting will cuss, and then immediately look at me and apologize. That just cracks me up. I started pointing out that I am not the one they are offending.
I was upset at first, because it was about me. I was upset that friends and family treated me different. It was all about me. Now I get upset because those friends and loved ones don’t know Jesus. I don’t want anyone to go to hell, I want everyone to know Him. Especially people I know and love. But, I can’t do anything about it, other than love them, pray over them, and share the truth of the Gospel with them. It is up to God from there. I have to ask, have I really loved them? Have I really shared the the gospel with them? Have the people closest to me that don’t know Jesus heard my testimony? Some of them know the story of the Gospel, but they don’t know the life changing truth of knowing Jesus.
Most of the unbelievers I know will tell me they want no part of a church or religion that judges, excludes, and condemns others. Ironic that it no different outside of the church. See, we also all notice the absence of change. Even the unbelievers know that believers are supposed to be different.
Yes, we do have to change. I used to think I had to change before I could go to God. I didn’t change and He kept calling me. He won’t relent. Once I surrendered to Him, He began changing me. Some change were quick, some took years, some are still in progress. He continues to change us until the end. I was more focused on what I had to give up than on what I gained. I realize now that I traded control for peace.
I realize that most of my unbelieving friends do not know my testimony. I might have asked them if they know the Gospel, and talk about Jesus, but never include the context of the testimony. He has given me that testimony for His good, not mine. Standing on a street corner and shouting “REPENT” is not testifying to the truth of the Gospel. Sharing life and loving others will change the world.
Back to my original question. Christmas is the big holiday in our country. Believers celebrate the birth of our savior. Most, even Christians, just celebrate the commercial holiday. We can’t even call it Christmas anymore. Though the birth of Jesus is a very important part of the story, He already was. Read John 1:1-5. He came to conquer our sins and he did this by dying as the perfect sacrifice forever. So that all of the world can be saved, John 3:16-18. The birth of Christ is important only for the reason that He was born. The real question is, has Christ changed us, or are we the same person except we go to church and pretend to be good?
Am I truly living Matthew 4:19? No, not that I don’t want to. What am I going to do about that? Start, and if I fail, start again. Don’t Quit!