Crossroads Connection for the Week of December 8
 
 
 
Article #1
 

 Do You Know the Promise of Heaven?

By Skip Heitzig

In Luke 23, we discover a deathbed conversation. While describing Jesus' crucifixion, Luke said two criminals were crucified on either side of Him. Both men started out mocking Jesus (see Matthew 27:44). But suddenly there was a change of heart in one of them.

"The other [criminal], answering, rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.' Then he said to Jesus, 'Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom'" (vv. 40-42).

And Jesus made him a promise: "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (v. 43). No one in Scripture is given more explicit assurance of forgiveness and heaven than this man. But how could Jesus promise instant heaven to this guy? He hadn't been baptized. He hadn't gone to church. He didn't have time to do good works. Even his prayer was pretty self-centered.

This is one of the greatest demonstrations of salvation by grace through faith, not works (see Titus 3:4-5). Here was a criminal on his deathbed who had rebelled against authority, stolen, and pillaged, and he was promised heaven that day.

Let's unpack the path this criminal took. First of all, he confessed his guilt (see v. 40). He feared God and was concerned about what would happen when he died and stood before an almighty, righteous judge.

Second, he trusted Christ: "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom" (v. 42). He recognized Jesus not just as Lord but also as King, because only kings have kingdoms. He also must have believed in a resurrection, because he recognized that though Jesus was going to die, He would live again. And he recognized that Jesus was sinless and he himself was not.

Third, he made it personal: "Remember me" (v. 42, emphasis added). There are no two-for-one specials with salvation. You personally must turn to Christ.

Fourth, he did it publicly. If Jesus could hear him speak, presumably others at the cross could also hear him, because what he said is recorded. That's significant, because everyone else was mocking, and he had enough courage to make it public that he was going to trust Christ.

Now, the fact that Jesus died among criminals was not accidental; it was intentional. Isaiah predicted that He would be "numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). It was always God's plan that Jesus would die among sinners. Why? Because Jesus was the friend of sinners.

And Jesus is the ultimate answer for sinners—including criminals. Only He offers real transformation: a change of heart and a change of life. And that's an offer He continues to make to any one of us, if we turn to Him, acknowledge our guilt, and personally trust in Him.

 

 

 




 


Article 2


A Righteous Man

By John Van Schepen 

Scripture Reading: Genesis 6:5-22

“To me this is like the days of Noah . . . yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken . . .” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:9-10

Many people have heard the story of Noah and the ark. It’s an exciting drama from beginning to end. The Bible tells us that all the wickedness and evil on the earth grieved God, and he was sorry he had made human beings. Human sin was so devastating that it had infected all of God’s good creation.

But there was one person who “found favor” with the Lord. Noah was “a righteous man”; he “walked faithfully with God.” Can you imagine Noah’s patience as he worked for many years, possibly several decades, to build the ark while other people probably mocked him? (See Genesis 5:32; 6:10; 7:6; 11:10; 2 Peter 2:5.)

Of course, the lead actor in this drama is God. God is the one who told Noah to build an ark. God is the one who saved Noah and his family and all the animals on the ark from the flood. Noah was called “righteous,” but he was still infected by sin (Genesis 9). God’s restoration work wasn’t finished.

Many years later, God sent Isaiah to call his people to repent. The situation reminded him of the days of Noah, but God would never stop loving his people. A little earlier, in Isaiah 53, God also promised that his righteous servant would come and take on himself all the people’s sins—and that servant was Jesus. By his love, God has made a way to rescue us and remove our sins forever.

Lord, thank you for sending Jesus to save us. Thank you for forgiving our sins and promising to restore the world. Amen. 

   


    
 

Article 3

Be Careful What You Wish For

By Greg Laurie 

“Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.”

—Romans 1:28–29

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he had two tablets that contained the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments have to do with our relationship with God, and the next six commandments have to do with our relationship with people.

Unrighteousness is the result of sinning against each other, and ungodliness is the result of sinning against God. And when you’re out of fellowship with God, you will have conflict with others, too.

If you want to run from God, He won’t stop you from exercising your free will. The prodigal son went to his father and basically said (loosely paraphrased), “Dad, I’m sick of waiting for you to die. I want my inheritance now. So give it to me.”

We would have understood if the father had said, “No, son, I love you too much. You will make bad decisions and hurt yourself. I won’t give it to you.” But that isn’t what happened. The father gave his son what he asked for.

The boy skipped out of town with his inheritance, and then he blew it all. He messed up his life. And he regretted it, of course. But his father allowed him to exercise his free will.

Be careful what you ask for, because you might get it.

The Bible describes what happens when you push God out of your life: “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip” (Romans 1:28–29 NLT).

God will allow you to pursue what you want to pursue and do what you want to do. But be careful. Because when you reject God, ruin follows. 



 Article 4
  

Labor Alone Will Not Satisfy

"All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied" (Eccl. 6:7 NKJV).

How would you feel about yourself if your job was removed from you tomorrow? Let's imagine that your income wouldn't change, just what you did everyday.

One of the schemes that Satan uses in the life of the Christian worker is to get him/her to view their value solely based on the type of work they do and how well they do it. We call this performance-based acceptance. It says "As long as I have a good job and I do it well, I have self-esteem."

This is a "slippery slope" and can be used by Satan to keep our focus on our performance versus Christ. We are never to find our value in what we do. Instead, our value is solely based on who we are in Christ. The apostle Paul wrestled with this after he came to faith in Christ. He had grown to the top of his field as a Jewish leader.

"If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Phil 3:4-9).

You'll never really know to the degree that your self-esteem is rooted in your work until your work is removed. Unemployment, illness, or a financial crisis can lead to job loss.

Why not evaluate where you are in this area of your life. Affirm with God your desire to be known by Who you know versus what you do.

 


 


 

Article #5 
 

 

 


It Begins With the Mind

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 2:5

It was a nineteenth-century Englishman, Charles Colton, who left us this oft-quoted aphorism: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” While flattery is not a biblical goal, wisdom and success are. And the apostle Paul knew that young Christians could gain wisdom quickly by having good models: the apostles (Philippians 4:9) and Christ Himself (Philippians 2:5).

 


Recommended Reading:
Philippians 2:6-8

What was it that Christians were to imitate? In Christ, it was His humility of mind and heart. In the apostles, it was their minds that were centered on things that were true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Jesus humbled Himself by leaving heaven and coming to earth as a man. So, Paul’s exhortation is obvious: We should humble ourselves and serve one another just as Christ did. But it all begins in the mind. When we consider (think about) what Christ did in order to serve us…such understanding motivates us to imitate Him. Paul exhorted the Roman Christians to renew their minds as a way of discerning the will of God: Christ-likeness (Romans 12:2).

Fill your mind daily with the Word of God in order that your life might become an imitation of His.