“Two…men, both criminals, were…led out with [Jesus] to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots…
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’
“But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
“Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
“Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’” (Luke 23:32-34; 39-43)
We’ve all done things that, thinking back upon them, we feel ashamed of having done. You have. I have. All God’s children have. The devil’s offspring too. It’s one of the hazards of living in a fallen world. Sin overtakes us often. We fall. We try to cover up what we’ve done, but know we can’t do it. Not really. And so we all live fearfully. What if someone finds out? What if my shame is exposed? I’ll be judged.
I’ve thought those exact thoughts about some of the things I’ve done. Anyone identify with me? We’re all alike. Sinners scared spitless by the thought of being shown to be sinners. Doesn’t matter that we’re already exposed by God’s word. Doesn’t matter if the Bible says, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23, NIV) We don’t want anyone to know we’re wrongdoers. It’s silly, but it’s true. You know it is.
Even sillier, we all try to hide stuff from God. I don’t know what we’re thinking. Maybe he was watching someone else. Maybe he was busy when I did that. He has to be distracted every once in awhile.
But then we read Hebrews 4:13 and cringe. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight,” it says. “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (NIV)
Yikes! He did see that! He wasn’t busy or distracted! What am I going to do? And the fear returns. The shame increases. God knows!
Can I share with you some good news? God sees more than just your trips and stumbles. Nothing is hidden from him. He sees your victories too. When you turn to him for help and overcome the temptation that always gets you, he notices. When you say or do the right thing even when it’s difficult, he smiles. God sees your growth and isn’t troubled, at least not overly so, by your faltering ways.
He loved Paul despite Paul’s propensity to do the evil he didn’t want to do. He loved Paul and made him into someone he could use for his glory. He loves you in the same ways and sees your potential even when you can’t.
I am reminded of a verse that caught me off guard a few years back. It is so encouraging. 1 Corinthians 4:5, “…judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (NIV)
If you are a believer, God sees your heart’s deepest desires. He knows you want to follow him and obey. He loves that in you and he will reward your good motives in eternity. Forever you will receive praise from God. That, my friends, is the highest praise!
So what do you and I have to fear? We can “know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:16-18, NIV)
If the thief on the cross next to our Savior could receive a clean slate by faith in his last moments, you can too. Let God take away your sense of shame. Let him assuage your fears. Let him give you peace.
“…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, NIV)
“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned…” (John 3:17-18, NIV)
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