A TALE OF TWO THIEVES

A TALE OF TWO THIEVES.

Luke 23:

 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.

40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?

41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Every time this incident has come up in sermon or bible discussion, we’ve always been hung up on what Jesus was referring to when He said “Today”.

According to scripture, He descended into hell, the third day He rose and ultimately ascended into heaven. So, why did he say “Today” to the thief?

We Christians often seek to understand His word from a “breaking into secret knowledge” perspective. May the Lord continue to reveal to us the extreme pride in that. However, when we come to Him as we are meant to – Sinners in need of a Savior -, He “Opens their minds that they might understand the scripture”.

Who are the thieves being crucified next to Christ? They are us. Mankind. And the attitudes of each thief mirrors the true attitude of man where he answers Christ’s question of “Who do you say I am?”

The mocking thief did not believe in the Christ. He’d heard of the miracle worker. Probably even seen him do his work. So he said what he said with the malcontent of the Enemy that was speaking through him. Mocking and tempting Christ yet again to prove Himself outside of the will of the Father.

Do we see ourselves in this thief?

We should.

It is precisely what many of us do. Coming to Christ, not in repentance, but in entitlement. “If you are God, do this and that for me!” Demanding that He prove Himself to us for our benefit. Though we hang on our respective crosses for transgressions that we DID commit, we demand He save us without an ounce of acknowledgement of those transgressions or remorse for those transgressions.

Then here’s the other thief. Head bowed low on the cross. In reverence, saying “Do you not fear God”?

In acknowledgement and remorse “for we receive due reward for our deeds”.

Then came the faith. Not in “save me from the punishment” but “remember me when you come into Your Kingdom”. Up until then, not even the disciples had acknowledged Christ with respect to His Heavenly Kingdom. But here was this thief on the cross! To believe Jesus had a Kingdom meant that the thief also knew that he could also save him. But he didn’t plead for his physical life. Instead, he asked for the Kingdom. He pled for his eternal life.

What faith. What humility.

We believers have moments like this. During prayer, in revival moments, when ‘all is well’. But most of us would clearly be lying to ourselves and to God if we said this was our disposition in trial, tribulation or even during well-deserved punishment.

What Jesus said to the thief had very little to do with that thief hanging on that cross. Instead, it was an illustration meant for US. The thieves of today. Who after living a sin and self-dominated life, finally end up nailed to our cross of condemnation, face to face with Jesus. Nailed to the cross of Salvation.

Which thief are we in that moment?

The sneering, carnal thief. Full of pride and arrogance. Making demands of Christ?

Or are we the thief who acknowledges our wretchedness and acknowledges His majesty?

What Jesus is saying in the statement is that when we finally come to Him. Acknowledging our sinfulness and seeking the ‘Kingdom of God’ that is in Christ Jesus, “Today – On that day; in that moment; in that instant – He will receive us unto Himself.

Right then and there, He will save us.

He, in that day, will start to take us on our journey Home – Paradise.

“For where I am, there will my servant be also”.

We are with Him. He is in us. He is in the Father. He is with The Father. The Father is in Him. The Father is with Him.

Jesus doesn’t want us to focus on the things that He can give us on this earth.

He wants us to focus on His Kingdom and for us to allow HIM to lead us there.

While He’s leading us there, He assures us that He will make provision for ALL of our needs on this earth.

But our focus; our gaze must be on The Kingdom.

“In that day…” The day that we enter into His death and arise into New Life in Him”, That day (Today) we will no longer be of the world.

But of the Heavenly Kingdom.

In the life of the Kingdom of Heaven that lives in us.

In the life of our Christ. Who Himself is Paradise.

 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep us from falling away and will bring us with great joy into His glorious presence without a single fault.

 All glory to Him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time!

Amen

In Christ,

THE STORY OF BAR (INSERT NAME HERE)

Mark 10:46-52 tells the story of Jesus healing a blind beggar known as Bartimaeus. It is a well known account of Jesus’ healing ministry. The problem with “well known stories of the bible” is that we have a tendency to flip through them very quickly. Primarily because ‘we already know what happens’.

I happened to be listening to Mark 10 yesterday, and when it came to the story of Blind Bartimaeus, something in the passage caught my attention that had not in the many times I’d read this scripture in the past.

As a side note, I’m not a fan of advocating one bible version over another. The lovers of the KJV sometimes instruct everyone to read KJV as they believe it’s the original English translation, and therefore, the most accurate. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with that claim here. I, personally, study by comparing several translations side by side. (It helps me to do it that way), but the version of the bible that I was listening to, when I heard what I heard was the KJV. Then, when I compared it to other translations, it read differently. So, since the Spirit of God caught my attention with the KJV, I will refer you to the KJV for this discussion.

Mark 10:

46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.

47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.

48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.

49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.

50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.

51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.

52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

So, let’s walk thought it together, shall we?

46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.

1. Of all the accounts in the bible where Jesus healed a beggars (even this story as portrayed in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke), the account in Mark’s gospel is the only account where the beggar was referred to by name. The literal translation of the name Bartimaeus is said to be (Bar Timaeus) which translates to (son of Timaeus).

Therefore, the name here is really an identifier of who this person is.

He’s not just “A blind beggar”, of which I’m certain there were many in that region, in those days. He was a blind man who begged on the side of the highway and he was the son of Timaeus. The identification of Bartimaeus makes this account somewhat personal. Somewhat specific. “This is not a story of a blind beggar whom Jesus healed, this is a story of a SPECIFIC blind beggar whom Jesus healed. I believe the specification is made here because there is something different; something unique about Jesus’ healing of this particular man.

47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.

48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.

2. I’m certain we’ve all heard this story preached in a sermon at least once in our Christian lives. We’ve heard that Bartimaeus, upon hearing that it was Jesus who was passing by, ‘cried out’ to get his attention. Upon being reprimanded to be quiet, he cried out all the louder still. We’ve been taught to consider the act when we are seeking something from God. ‘Cry out to Him” this has taught us. Then when your circumstances or your adversaries attempt to silence you or to discourage you, ‘cry out even louder’. It is an excellent and accurate lesson! When seeking the Lord for deliverance from our circumstances, we are indeed to boldly and loudly cry out to Him. The loudness does not indicate that we need to shout because Christ is hard of hearing, but that our voice of faith needs to be louder than the voice of our opposition and the voices that are looking to silence and discourage us. But there’s an additional point that I want to highlight in this passage.

The other amazing feature in this story is not simply that Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus, it is WHAT he cried out to Jesus.

The passage tells us “when He heard it was Jesus of Nazareth” he cried out; not just Jesus, not Rabboni, not master, not miracle worker, not prophet; though Jesus was all of those thing.

Bartimaeus did not simply cry out his name, or reference Him concerning what Jesus could do, Bartimaeus cried out WHO JESUS WAS!

“Jesus, thou Son of David”!

Bartimaeus addressed Jesus as the Messiah!

For one reason:

He BELIEVED that the Jesus of Nazareth, whom he had heard about, was indeed the one whom the scripture had foretold was The Son of David. The Messiah!

Even when he was charged to be silent, he cried out even louder “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me”!

Remember that this was a time when even the 12 disciples weren’t fully convinced if Jesus was the Christ or not. Enter this blind beggar. Positioned at the side of the road leading to Jericho. As he sat there, he was told of who was passing. It is what was that revelation stirred in him that makes all the difference in this story.

Bartimaeus wasn’t simply stirred by the fact that the man whom he’s heard had performed all of these miracles was now in front of him and now, he could get a miracle of his own. No! His spirit was stirred with the knowledge of “It’s Him! The one whom the scriptures foretold! It’s Him! He’s here!”

Bartimaeus’ faith was confident of not only what Christ could do, but of who He was. He believed on the Holy One of Isreal. He believed Jesus of Nazareth who was there in that moment was He.

Which brings us to a very pivotal moment. Not only in the life of Bartimaeus in that moment, but by application into the life of everyone today who not only believes what Jesus can do for them, but who believes on who Jesus of Nazareth is – The Son of David; The Lamb of God; He who takes away the sins of the world; Our Savior!

49 And Jesus stood still.

3. Jesus, in His Word tells us that He will never cast aside anyone who comes to Him. He also says that anyone who does anything in His name cannot speak evil of Him. The same Jesus also expressed exasperation at times when He addressed the requests of those who sought Him when he said, “How long must I be with you people…” But, when Blind Bartimaeus cried out to Him, He stopped. There was no exasperation. There was no question of “do you believe?” Jesus already knew not only Bartimaeus’ belief, but the type of belief that he had. So, when Jesus commanded that Bartimaeus be brought to Him, He went straight to the point by asking:

“What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?”

Before we talk about Bartimeus’ response, I need to point out a very significant thing that Bartimaeus did when He was called by Jesus.

50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.

4. I am a firm believer of everything in the bible having significance. There is no idle or irrelevant reference.

When I read this line again, yesterday, I asked, “Lord why are you referencing the garment?” Instantly, the answer came.

I said earlier that reading familiar passages routinely can cause us to gloss over some relevant symbolisms. On it’s own, the reference to “the garment” seems very insignificant. However, tie it in to the other significant parts of this story that we have pointed out so far, then the reference to “the garment” becomes huge!

Bartimaeus was a beggar for one reason:He was blind.

It was his blindness, his inability to ‘see’ that put him in the predicament that he was.

It is obvious from the scripture that Bartimaeus knew enough of the scripture to know of the coming of the Messiah.

It is also obvious from this scripture to know that Bartimaeus, before the day their paths crossed, had heard of Jesus of Nazareth.

So, on this day, when Jesus of Nazareth came his way, what Bartimaeus had already believed in his heart now burst forth from his mouth.

“Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.”

I wonder what Bartimaeus’ ponderings were before that day whe Jesus came his way.

I wonder if he prayed that He would come that way. I wonder if he ever said to himself, “If I could just meet him…”

This scripture, however, does tell me that Bartimaeus was well aware of his ‘blindness’ and the conditions that the blindness had subjected him to.

His blindness had made him a beggar. It had subjected him to sitting on the side of the road; with his beggar’s cloak and everything that identified him as a beggar.

Bartimaeus was a slave to his blindness. The cause of the blindness, we do not know. The effects of it are glaringly obvious. Bartimaeus was not content being a beggar, even though he was subject to it as a result of his blindness. I believe that the “cloak of the beggar” that he wore was directly related to a blindness that he desperately wanted taken away, but did not have the power to.

However, once Jesus called him, he cast aside the beggar’s cloak. Because he BELIEVED that Jesus, not only COULD cure his blindness, but WOULD cure his blindness.

Once Jesus, Son of David became a certainty in his life, Bartemeus rejected his beggars cloak. He cast it aside. Bescause rose up to go to Jesus with the ABSOLUTE FAITH that Jesus would open his eyes and his life would be changed forever.

Now, what happened next is really where the specifics of Mark’s account of this event truly make a difference. As I referenced in the beginning, it is also the main reason I chose to use the KJV over the other translations.

52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

6. We’ve already talked about the faith of Bartimaeus. Not just his faith in what Jesus could do, but his faith who Jesus was. It was this faith that Jesus referred to in this verse. It was this faith that made him “whole.”

His belief in who Jesus was healed his blindness and gave him back his sight.

His belief in who Jesus was cast off his cloak of bondage and shame.

Even more important than these 2 signs of deliverance, the biggest was that:

Once Bartimaeus received his sight, he followed Jesus “in THE way.”

Other translations of the bible write this to say that he followed Jesus to where He was going (along the road). I believe it goes deeper than that, and each key point that we have touched on in this passage alludes to that.

Bartimaeus’ heart was sealed in Christ that day and he went in “The Way, The Truth and The Life.”

He became a true believer of Christ.

Many walked with Jesus for a time. Many followed Him. Many chanted “Hosanna” and greeted him as he entered Jerusalem. But as many that followed Him for the things that they saw Him do, as many turned away from Him for the things that He did not do.

“If you really are the Son of God…”

Bartimaeus, on the otherhand, believed that Jesus was the son of God. No further convincing was needed. For that faith, Jesus not only healed his affliction, but He made him a complete man in Him.

The title of “Bar (Insert Your Name Here) was chosen because of how personal I believe this story is.

We are all the child of someone. Also, Jesus knows who we are. We are specific to Him.

We are all afflicted with some hinderance or another that keeps us under a cloak of bondage.

What is your ‘blindness’? What is your hinderance? What is your brick wall? What is your rut?

Are you sick and tired of the garment or identifier that your “blindness” has subjected/confined you to?

Are you tired of wanting to obey God yet the cycle of disobedience somehow sucks you back in?

Are you tired of tripping over the same stumbling stone, over and over again?

Are you held down by a physical/emotional/mental/behavioral trait that you can’t seem to shake no matter how desperately you try. Yet, you know that this trait is keeping you from walking in the way of Christ?

Are you tired of being unhappy? Depressed? Angry?Confused? Envious of others? Discouraged? Despondent? Resentful? Vindictive? Unforgiving? Unfulfilled? Stagnant? Unfruitful? Anxious? Nervous? Uncertain? Afraid? Insecure? Lost? Out of place?

If you are at a place that you cannot seem to get beyond or keep coming back to after it seems as if you made progress and that, ‘place’ has caused you to a state of helplessness…

Then, my friend, put yourself in the place of Bartimaeus, (Insert your Name here) and behold! Jesus, Son of David is there with you!

Cry out to Him.

He will stop!

When your oppression tries to restrain and stifle you, cry out louder still!

He will stop!

But, don’t just believe that He can change your circumstances?

Believe that He can change your life!

Believe that He cal change your way! So that you walk in The Way. In His Way!

Christ did not come to simply touch our lives, He came to change our lives!

But we have to believe in Him.

It is only in our believing on His Name; truly knowing Him and allowing Him to walk us in His way, that our blindness can be healed, our garments of bondage cast off, and we can be made whole in Him.

So, my friends, “Be of good comfort. Rise. He calleth thee.”

Now to him who is able to keep us from stumbling and to present us blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy. To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ.

The handmaid at His feet.

 

THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH

If someone asked you today what you think is the most urgent message in Christianity?What would your answer be?
Considering the rise in atrocities that currently exist in the world: terrorism, mass shootings, voilence, lawlessness, perversiveness, etc. One can say it is a clear sign that the end times are indeed near. Therefore, the message should be to repent and receive Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior.
Another, in line with the first, would be to prepare for Rapture. Gird one’s loins, so to speak. For the coming of Christ is near.
Both of these messages are relevant, and urgent.
There’s another message that I find to be very urgent at this time.
STRIVE TO BECOME COMPLETELY FOOLISH!
Yes! It is of a great urgency, and a high priority, that we Christians should beg God to make us fools!
Christians/Believers need to come before the Throne of Grace, and ask the Lord to wipe away every shred of wisdom and intelligence that we have acquired about Him that is not from Him, and that is not focused SOLELY on Him! We are to earnestly ask Jesus to rid us, remove from us, totally empty us of any, and all knowledge, wisdom, learnedness, intelligence, savvy, pomp, and absolute certainty of any and everything that we have come to believe/trust/place our faith in. Erase it all. Then, replace it with HIM and ONLY HIM.
Not the knowledge of Christ. Christ Himself. His very nature. His very disposition.
This is a prayer that we should be screaming, whispering, groaning, weeping, pleading, begging, fasting, worshipping 24/7. It is that urgent!
If you question is “What is the difference between the knowldge of Christ, and Christ Himself, the answer can be found in John 5: 39-40
 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.
The Jews, had read the scriptures. They had a knowledge of who their Messiah was, and how he was supposed to come. Based on their interpretation of the scriptures. Yet, here was the Messiah standing in their midst, and they RECOGNIZED him not. They ‘believed’ that they had a knowledge of Christ. However, they were full of their own vision. Their own understanding. Which had nothing to do with Christ Himself or what He represented.
Twenty people can read the same bible passage and have twenty different interpretations. Especially when it comes to the aspect of the Christian. How is that possible if there is only one Christ? Christ did not misrepresent Himself in the bible. That means it is we who are misrepresenting Him. Because we interpret the scripture according to our understanding. Therefore, if we are interested in being Christians, do we not want Christ to be the one revealing Himself to us? Not our belief of Him (which could be influenced), not our understanding of Him (which is subjective), not our knowledge of Him (which could be flawed). But, we want Him. His nature; His Disposition; His Spirit; dwelling in us, and guiding us.
In 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul is reprimanding the Corinthians over the disputes that he has heard were prevalent amonst the people. These disputes were over the teaching of Paul versus the teaching of Apollos. It was causing a huge divide amongst the Christians. This was happening because people were adding to their ‘belief’ elements and interpretations that had nothing to do with Christ, but based on their association with the preaching of one preacher versus the other. So, Paul, quite displeased said:
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Paul was urging the people to stay away from the deviation that carnality causes. What is this carnality? “Our” way. “Our” wisdom, “Our” associations, “Our” preferences, “Our” rationalization, “Our” understanding, “Our” experiences, “Our” creeds, “Our” doctrines…
Everything that is “authoritatively us”, and nothing that is the Spirit of Christ.
The Apostle then goes farther to warn them of the dangers of this “building”, this “adding”. This placing as the “Essence of Redemption” things that are not! The externals, the disciplines, the personal “valuables” of our understanding and misinterpretation of scripture. He says:
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
The foundation is Jesus Christ. The “Essence of Redemption” is Jesus Christ crucified.  The Atonement. The Propitiation. (Romans 10:8-10 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.)
 It is only the Spirit of Christ who can bring us into that Essence. We don’t learn it, we become it. We become one with Christ when His nature replaces our nature.
Paul said if we add anything to this and make that our belief, we should be warned that this belief will be tested! It is this testing that will reveal to the Believers whether we have stayed in line, or where we have erred. I specified “Believers” because verse 15 says “ If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” A true Believer will never be lost ( All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. John 6:37-39) But, we WILL be refined until we are brought into perfect alignment with Jesus Christ.
When the Bible tells us that God will make foolish the wisdom of the wise, we like to think He is talking to the pagans and unbelievers. Though this does apply to them in a general sense, this instance in 1 Corinthians 3 was not being addressed to the unbelievers. Paul was speaking to the Believers. The Christians! Who were now applying carnal wisdom and intelligence to matters of the Redemption.
This is what Satan does. He injects the right amount of deceit, in the right measure, at the right time, under the right circumstances amongst the right set of people, who by the time they are fully entrenched in vain disagreements over every irrelevant thing, will be fully convinced that they are debating matters of Christ. When in reality, they have drifted miles away. The whole time, never even realizing when they strayed from the path.
 He isn’t called the Deceiver for nothing, brethren.
“ Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”;  and again,“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” 1 Cor. 3:18-23.

 

So, if your indignation rose when I said earlier that it was urgent for Christians to strive for foolishness, hopefully you will now climb back down, and lead your brethren to the foot of the cross.
That we may surrender our way for His Way. Our will for His Will.
That we may come, and ask, and receive, His Spirit, that He has promised to give to us.
 If only we would desire it.
 If only we would ask.
Now to Him who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
In Christ.
The handmaid at His feet