If you have been to church on Easter a time or three then you have likely heard the story of the two thieves that were crucified alongside Jesus. One on the left, and one on the right.
One thief, as he hung there dying, ultimately repented of his earthly trespasses and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, Son of The Living God. The other, not so much. One thief went on to join Jesus in His eternal kingdom. The other, well, not so much.
Raised in Rocky Creek Baptist Church I was familiar with the story since childhood, but it took on a new meaning for me in my late 30s. That was when I heard C.S. Lewis reference the repentant thief and his earthly “works”, or lack thereof, in a story.
Lewis was talking with a woman that felt she had not performed enough Christian service in life to earn her salvation. Hadn’t performed enough “good works” for The Kingdom.
Specifically, Lewis asked the woman what “good works” the thief hanging on the cross had done to earn his salvation in the brief time between acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God and his own death? The answer was none.
The thief did nothing, but acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, Son of the Living God, and put his faith in Him as Savior. That’s it.
Lewis’s story intrigued me because I was at a point in my life where the world was beginning to fail me and, ever so slightly, I was beginning to search for deeper meaning to this life. Not just meaning but a real purpose for being here, and everything seemed to point back to Christ.
Hearing in that context, how the thief’s salvation was achieved through faith and not earthly works, hit home. Reality is, at that point in my life….
My ignorance of the deeper meaning in God’s word, the lack of life application of the lessons, beyond just knowing the stories, along with my humanness, often led me to attempt to “earn” God’s grace, favor and forgiveness…. through “works”, which was misguided. (Read that paragraph again, it’s important.)
We are not saved by our “works” but by faith. As the thief’s story proved, it all comes down to Faith.
Fast forward over a decade to my late forties…
I am now a baptized (re-baptized!) believer and Christ follower. I am led, by faith in Christ, to write and share simple short stories about what God has done and is doing in my life. That’s my gift.
The stories I write arrive from everywhere. God often puts themes for stories in my head, or sometimes, just a title. I write them down on note cards as they show up and I store them like they have the earthly value of gold coins, because they do. There are hundreds of them in my office.
Sometimes a title or theme bubbles to the top of my mind, and then stays there. I can’t make it go away and have learned not to try, but instead to act on it.
I have learned to recognize this as God saying, this one Shane…. now is the time to write this one!
Such was the case over the last month or so with the thief on the cross and his buzzer beating, soul saving without “works”, repentance before death. The story would not leave my mind.
Write the story Shane…. write the story. But I did not. I was so busy with my uber and ultra-important life it was always tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.
Then one day I received an email from my church, St. Paul’s Episcopal here in Mobile, asking me if I would participate in the Palm Sunday service, where “The Passion”, the story of Christs crucifixion is read aloud, played out, in the church service.
I had never participated in this event before but gladly accepted and was told I would receive my script in the mail, along with my specific character in the program. The envelope arrived this past Thursday and I opened it right away.
There in black and white was my character. None other than “Criminal #2”, the repentant one. I smiled and teared up at the same time. In other words.…. “Shane, can you hear me now”?
Some people call this a coincidence, I call it an affirmation and these things happen to me often and in varying forms. It is so very cool.
Coming next, as requested of me by The Creator of The Universe, a story of faith and works and the repentant thief on the cross…. and a desperate man named Shane.
Get in the boat. Do your part.
From Nose to Toes!
Shane / #16
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