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Tag: Red Letter Day

Grace to the Thief

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Someone asked me recently to clarify exactly what grace means. We use the word regularly here at First Trinity, as well as in the greater Lutheran and Christian Church. I told this person that it simply means “undeserved favor”, but it’s helpful to consider GRACE as an acronym for God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. We hold Ephesians 2:8-9 especially dear here. It reads:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

By grace you have been saved. It means that there’s nothing you did to deserve salvation, but rather, it is “undeserved favor”. It means that we are saved not because we do something, but simply because we believe and accept the free gift of God in Jesus (His riches at Christ’s expense).

We hear an excellent example of that grace today. Crucified with Jesus were two criminals on that ultimate Red Letter Day. One had a conversation with Jesus:

And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42-43

It was a simple statement of faith: remember me. This man was at the end of his life. In just a few short hours, like Jesus, he would be hanging dead on that cross. He had no hope of surviving this day. He had no way of “fixing” what he had done to deserve death. Facing the end of his earthly life, he called out to this man that others were mocking: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus heard that cry of faith and responded with grace: Today you will be with me in Paradise. There would be no waiting period in purgatory to pay for his crimes. He didn’t release the man so he would have opportunity to pay for his crimes. Jesus simply demonstrated grace—undeserved favor—to a broken, desperate man who believed.

It is Finished.

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Our Middle School Youth Group does a winter retreat every year in Ohio on the second weekend of March. As an aside, that was this past weekend and the students had a wonderful time learning about running the race and “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” from Hebrews 12.

I love the winter retreat, but it is quite exhausting. I do what I can to get enough rest, but ultimately have to rely on the adrenaline to make it through the weekend. Then, after everyone is picked up and I get home, I crash on the couch, turn on the TV, and rest. Finally, the weekend retreat is finished.

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

Think about this: From the moment of creation, Jesus knew what was coming. He knew Adam and Eve would sin. He knew He would be born of a virgin. He knew He would be whipped and beaten. He knew He would die a painful death on a cross to bring forgiveness to you and me.

What a monumental task! And finally, the moment Jesus has known would come is here. He finishes strong, then cries out, “It is finished.” His task complete, Jesus gives up His spirit and rests from His labor.

I love that first night of sleep after the winter retreat. Back in my own bed, in my own house, with my family. It usually takes another night to recover fully, but that first night is so great. But there’s something else coming. Easter is just around the corner. Then there’s confirmation. Then summer and VBS. There’s always more opportunities to be exhausted in the future.

But not for Jesus. This one moment in time—this one act on the cross—brings forgiveness once and for all to all people. Everyone before this point in time looked forward to the forgiveness that would come. Everyone after looks back and remembers what was done for them. Jesus paid the ultimate price on that Red Letter Day for you and me. It is finished. We stand forgiven in Christ.

It’s Not Ok, But I Forgive You

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“It’s OK.” Or maybe, “It’s fine.” Perhaps you’ve said those words to someone who has hurt you in the past. My personal tendency is to brush off the hurt and make it seem like it’s not a big deal. Sometimes, that’s true. But other times there’s a significant pain that accompanies the hurt.

“It’s OK” and “I forgive you” are completely different statements. “It’s OK” doesn’t even remotely capture the depth of forgiveness. Things aren’t OK, but we forgive anyway. What you did hurt me, but I forgive you anyway.

Jesus showed us the true depth of forgiveness that fateful Friday on the cross:

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34a

Imagine the difference had Jesus chosen a different response:

And Jesus said, “Father, it’s OK, for they know not what they do.” Not Luke 23:34a

Jesus, hanging on the cross between two thieves, chose forgiveness. He had been betrayed by one of His disciples, beaten, whipped, mocked, and made to carry the cross that would kill him—and yet He chose forgiveness.

What the people did to Jesus was not “OK.” The way we continue to choose our own sinful desires and actions over God’s will for our life is not “OK.” Our stubborn refusal to give up the hurts of our past and forgive others because they don’t deserve it is not “OK.”

And yet despite all we do and have done, Jesus brings forgiveness, and the Father grants it—not because we are so great, but because Jesus is so good. He bore the punishment we deserved, allowing us to share in the forgiveness and grace we do not deserve.

So what’s “not OK” in your life today? Give it over to Jesus, and hear again that prayer from the cross: “Father, forgive them.”

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