Interesting Facts About the Thief on the Cross

Posted by Mark Lindley on 30 April 2013

While Jesus was suffering the dreadful death of crucifixion, two thieves also were nailed to crosses beside the Lord. According to the Biblical record, one of the thieves repented. This penitent thief has been the subject for countless Bible classes and sermons. Perhaps, he is the world’s most famous thief. Consider some interesting facts about this crook who was converted to Christ.
    First, the thief who repented was saved from his past sins. The Lord said, “Today, shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus, who was deity in flesh, had the power on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10). When Jesus promised the thief a place in paradise, this implied that the robber had been forgiven. Therefore, there is no doubt—the thief died in a saved condition. This teaches us that regardless of the sin we have committed, the gracious Lord is willing to forgive (II Peter 3:9).
    Second, the thief was saved personally by Jesus, before the New Testament of Christ was implemented and effective. The full gospel of the New Testament was not preached until Jesus arose from the dead and ascended back to heaven. Just before his ascension, Jesus stated that “repentance and remission of sins” would be preached in his name among all nations, “beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Several days later, on the day of Pentecost, the apostles of Christ preached the full Gospel in Jerusalem just as the Lord had predicted (Acts 2:1-47). It was then that the New Testament was implemented and became effective. Keep in mind that Jesus said these things would “begin” at Jerusalem. This teaches that today we cannot be saved in the same manner as the thief on the cross was saved. He was saved personally and directly by Jesus, before the Gospel “began” to be preached in Jerusalem. Paul wrote, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). Of course, the thief could not have believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead because the thief was saved “before” Jesus died. Therefore, the thief could not have been saved by following the teachings of Romans 10:9.
    Third, the thief was saved before Jesus commanded that sinners be baptized in his name for the forgiveness of sins. It was after the thief had already been saved that Jesus stated, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16), and before Peter preached “Repent, and be baptized…for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). This shows that we must be saved under the conditions of the New Testament. Jesus forgave the thief by speaking to him personally. Now Jesus speaks to us through his written will, the New Testament.

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"The Bible Does Not Forbid It"

Posted by Mark Lindley on 2 April 2013

Most people professing to be Christians would agree that we should do what the Bible says. When a religious discussion takes place at work among those who declare they are Christians, inevitably, the Bible is mentioned. The fact that the Bible is mentioned in the context of such conversations indicates that most people who affirm they are Christians understand that the Bible is the religious standard to be followed in all our beliefs and practices. In fact, every person I know who says, “I am a Christian,” would agree that we should do what the Bible says.
    However, not all agree that we should refrain from doing what the Bible does “not” say. To the contrary, those who insist they are Christians often allege that if the Bible does not specifically condemn a belief or practice then that belief or practice is acceptable to God. In other words, if “the Bible does not forbid it,” then we can engage in that practice with assurance that God is pleased.
    But is this doctrine true? All evidence from Scripture indicates that this doctrine is false. Do you remember the account of Nadab and Abihu, recorded in Leviticus 10:1-2? “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” Please observe from this passage that Nabad and Abihu offered a type of fire that God had “not” commanded. They could have argued, “God’s law does not forbid it,” but that reasoning would not have been acceptable to God. The Lord expected these men to offer the type of fire that “was” commanded.
    When God commands us to do something, He does not have to rule out all the things we are not to do. This is a common-sense principle we live by every day. If a teacher says, “Do the homework assignment on page 34,” does she then have to say, “Not the assignment on page 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, etc.? Would it be necessary for the teacher to rule out all other possible homework assignments? No, of course not. By this same logic, when God commands us to do something, He means what He says and does not have to specifically exclude all things we are not to do. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17). Let us respect what God says and does “not” say.

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Does Absolute Truth Exist?

Posted by Mark Lindley on 19 March 2013

I remember years ago watching an old game show on television called, “To Tell the Truth.” I suppose the name of that show would be distasteful to our culture because many have little appreciation for the term “truth.” In fact, many deny that there is such a thing as absolute truth.
The idea that absolute truth does not exist is associated with the philosophy of relativism. Relativism is defined as “the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.” According to this philosophy, what was true fifty years ago concerning morals, ethics, marriage, rearing children and other things may not be true today. This is because truth is “relative.” It changes with time, culture, and historical context.
This doctrine is dangerous because it leaves the younger generation with no solid foundation for morality and ethics, and when there is no absolute standard to guide our lives, moral chaos is the result. The Bible teaches that in the days of the judges, there was no king in Israel and “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). This is precisely what is happening in our culture: many people have embraced the doctrine of relativism and they are doing what is right “in their own eyes.”
The problem with this situation is that relativism is a false doctrine. Truth does not originate with man, but with God. I do not have the right to develop my own standard of morality and do what is right in my own eyes; no one does. Rather, we are to submit to God’s standards.
Is there really a universal standard to which all are to submit? Does absolute truth really exist? Consider the words of Jesus: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Did you notice that twice in that one verse Jesus affirmed that there is a body of knowledge identified as “truth”? Not only did Jesus teach that truth exist, but He also taught that we can “know” the truth, and that the truth “makes us free.”
The truth of God’s Word is unchanging. By following it, we can have rich, fulfilling lives here and in the hereafter. “For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD” (Psalm 117:2).

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Casting Pearls Before Swine

Posted by Mark Lindley on 12 February 2013

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6). Jesus made this statement in His great Sermon on the Mount. But what does this verse mean?
    Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus taught His disciples to be kind, courteous, loving and compassionate to others. However, He also taught that His disciples are to be good stewards of their time and of the Gospel. When Jesus made this statement about casting pearls before swine, He was using language that illustrates the importance of stewardship.
    Think for a moment about one of the most precious possessions you have. It may be a piece of jewelry, an heirloom of the family, or some other treasured item. Now imagine taking that item and tossing it into a pen full of hogs. Would the hogs place the same value on your cherished possession as you do? No, rather than esteeming your treasured item, the hogs would trample it in the mud. Hogs simply do not recognize the high value of precious or sacred things.
    When Jesus spoke of pearls, He was speaking of that which people highly esteem. There is something, however, that is more precious than pearls—that is, the Gospel of Christ. Jesus knew that there would be some people who would be so carnally-minded they would not appreciate the riches of the Gospel. Some have made up their minds that they will not believe and obey Christ. To expend time and resources in offering God’s Word to such people would be like offering “pearls to swine.” There comes a time when proper stewardship demands that we “shake the dust off our feet” and move on to hearts which are more receptive to the Gospel (cf. Acts 13:49-51).
    Christ’s followers must never use the “pearls-and-swine-teaching” as an excuse not to help or to teach others. Jesus instructed His disciples to “preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Nevertheless, this is the same Jesus who also warned about allowing hogs to trample precious pearls. It is not always easy to distinguish between those who truly are interested in doing God’s will and those who are not. Therefore, God’s people should pray for wisdom in making such distinctions.

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The Need for an Objective Standard of Authority

Posted by Mark Lindley on 29 January 2013

A standard is “a rule or principle that is used as a basis for judgment.” We recognize the need for a standard of authority in many areas of life. In playing sports, there are rules which players must honor in order for a game to be organized. Without such rules there would be chaos. In the school system, there are rules which teachers and students must honor in order for students to learn. A school with no standard of authority could not function properly and would cease to be of benefit to society. We can see the need for authority regarding the laws which prohibit criminal activity. Imagine living in a city where there were no laws against robbery, murder, rape, or any other crime. Criminal and immoral activity would abound, and life would be very difficult for those who want a good quality of life. We can all see the need for standards of authority in these areas.
    However, when it comes to spiritual matters, some are not willing to abide by an objective standard of authority. A standard that is “objective” is one that is not influenced by feelings or opinions; rather, an objective standard is based upon facts. The only true objective standard in spiritual things is the Word of God, the Bible (II Timothy 3:16-17; John 12:48; Acts 17:11; Psalm 119:105).
    Nevertheless, when someone asks a religious question, it is common for people to start chiming in with their own personal opinions—“Well I think,” “I heard,” “Someone said,” “My preacher said,” “My parents believe,” “My church teaches,” “I’ve always believed”—these are all common ways that people respond to religious questions.
    The problem with such responses is that they are based upon what people say rather than upon what God has said in His Word. When we are discussing spiritual matters, would it not be best for us to say, “The Bible teaches…,” and then give the book, chapter, and verse showing where the Bible teaches the thing under consideration?
    The only way we can be sure that our religious beliefs are true is by honoring God’s Word as the objective standard of authority.  On the Day of Judgment, our feelings, opinions, traditions, or ideas will not serve as the basis for Judgment. Rather, we will be judged by God’s Word (John 12:48). Let us therefore study and follow His Word, so that we can be saved eternally!

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Three Keys to Happiness for 2013

Posted by Mark Lindley on 15 January 2013

The New Year is now well under way. Hopefully, it has been and will continue to be a happy New Year for you. Our attitudes, however, have a great impact on our happiness. We cannot always change our circumstances, but we can change our attitudes. The following are three keys you can use throughout the year to help you keep a positive attitude.
    The first key is “Accept.” While beginning a new year, we are reminded that another year has passed. The past year may have presented some challenges or changes which have been hard for you to accept. You may have lost a job, experienced financial problems, or lost a loved-one. You may have wasted time worrying about things which never happened, and now you regret that you wasted precious time. You may have failed morally and engaged in sinful behavior that has damaged your reputation, your self-esteem, and has embarrassed you.
    I suppose we could all think of some things we would like to change about the past year, but that simply is not possible. The past is gone forever. Whatever losses, failures, or changes we experienced, we must now learn to accept. Paul wrote, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul did not live in the past; neither should we. Some things we must accept. “The Serenity Prayer” reminds us: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
    The next key is “Adjust.” If within the past year, you did fail, experience losses, or go through a major change, what are some areas in which you need to adjust your life? Do you need to give up a sinful habit? Do you want to be a better spouse? Do you want to learn more about God and His will for your life? Then, why not write down some specific, realistic goals and begin working to achieve them? God desires His people to grow: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18). The New Year has so much potential for growth and positive change.
    The third key is “Appreciate.” Yesterday is gone; tomorrow is not yet here; but we do have today. It will only be “today” for a short time, so let’s make the most of it and appreciate it. Each day is a new beginning with great potential. The psalmist wrote, “Teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90:12). In other words, make the most of each day. Today is the first day of the rest of your life! That makes today special!
    Remember the three keys: Accept, Adjust, and Appreciate!

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Standing The Truth On Its Head

Posted by Mark Lindley on 11 September 2003

There is no jewel more precious to God’s people than the jewel of truth. Jesus defined truth, as God’s Word: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). He also stated that the truth makes men free (John 8:32). These verses show the great value of truth. Therefore, we should “buy the truth and sell it not” (Prov.23:23).

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Why Sinners Need to be Born Again

Posted by Mark Lindley on 23 August 2003

On the occasion of John 3, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again” (verse 7). I am confident that nearly everyone who tries to follow the Bible would agree that being born again is not optional. Jesus said that the new birth is a “must.” But there are different views concerning why sinners need to be born again.

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