Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"You don't have to go to church to get to heaven."

The statement in my title today really bugs me. It hits a nerve because the people who think and say it are usually looking for some rationale for their disobedience. The thief on the cross proves this statement to be true (Luke 23:39-43). But as I listen to God through his word, I am convinced he never intended for these beautiful words, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise," to be used as an excuse to disobey God. I believe Jesus was giving yet another awesome promise that he can and will save a repentant soul at any point in his life, no matter how much sin is involved.

There are five main things the thief of the cross could not do for God:

1. He could never study his Bible.

2. He could never be baptized.

3. He could never join or attend church.

4. He could never tithe.

5. He could never perform any service for God.

Because the thief on the cross died before he could do any of the normal activities of a Christian, does that mean we who are able are off the hook? The thief was physically incapable of accomplishing one thing for God. Did this keep him from being with God eternally in paradise? If it did, then our great God is a liar. Yet there are many religious leaders who convince their listeners that if they do not do certain things, they will not make it to heaven.

I pray that as we listen and learn from the words of our Savior that we would allow him to convince us of the great love and grace he has for us. And when we do the the things Christians do, like tithing and serving God, we would do them with as much gratitude as the thief on the cross would have, if he were cut down from his cross and set free.

Picture courtesy of Saints Peter and Paul Church by The Lone Cypress

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