Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord,remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” - Luke 23: 39-43 (NKJV) Good Friday. The day our Lord and Savior allowed Himself to be killed for our sins. The day He willingly accepted the crown of thorns so that one day we could receive a crown of glory. The modern church loves the crown of glory. They preach on the crown of glory. They offer it to all who enter their buildings. The crown of thorns? Eh...not so much. Because the crown of thorns is bloody and no one in the world wants a bloody Christianity. The crown of thorns is painful but no one in the world wants a painful Christianity. So much so that contemporary purpose driven teaching instructs pastors to avoid preaching about the Gospel on Resurrection Weekend. They are taught to start a series on how to improve your marriage or how to feel more significant. The carnal logic being that people will come back if they hear what tickles their ears but probably will not if they hear the real Gospel. How truly sad. The truth is real simple today. When Jesus was hung on that cross they crucified two criminals with Him; one on His left and one on His right. Which criminal are you today? Because there is no third option. We are all one of these criminals. When it comes right down to it there are the sheep and the goats. There are the saved and the unsaved. There are the criminals on the left and the criminals on the right. Make no mistake about it beloved - we are all criminals before the Lord. The Gospel of Matthew refers to these criminals as revolutionaries and maybe that gives us a better view of ourselves. We are all revolting against God. We are born in rebellion against God. We also must realize that the charges against us are very serious. They warrant our death. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. The Roman Empire didn't crucify everyone. It was saved for the most heinous of crimes. It was one of the most brutal forms of execution ever devised by man. The world likes to convince us that we are not that bad but the reality is that we are. We deserve the death penalty for our rebellion against the one who created us. The only question that remains is whether we will be on the left of Jesus or the right. Which criminal are we? Let's look at the first criminal. This revolutionary has several striking qualities. First of all, they think nothing of blaspheming God. They have no respect therefore of God. Now a lot of people in church may be reflexively thinking this must apply to unbelievers. Be careful to dismiss so quickly! Remember the last day: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ - Matthew 7: 21-23 (NKJV) The Bible cannot be clearer. Those that will say "Lord Lord" are not from the world - they are from the church. Beloved, this is not the doctrine of Anthony. It is what we have been instructed to do as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling: Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. - 2Corinthians 13: 5 (NLT) This criminal wants what they do not deserve. They want Jesus to not only save Himself, but the criminals too! This is essentially how the carnal heart thinks. They doubt God exists, blaspheme the notion of God, are completely guilty - yet think that God should save them anyway. They assume it. They even demand it. Former NYC Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, displayed this brilliantly this past week. He stated that "If" there was a God, he should have no problem getting into heaven because he has "earned it." The same carnal spirit is alive in the church too. People who think they have earned their salvation through works. People who use their church experience to assume their salvation. Remember the Matthew 7 verses! These people will have prophesied in Jesus name and cast out demons! Signs and wonders are not enough to be assured of salvation. There needs to be a relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Note also from the key verses that this criminal doubts God. "If" you are the Christ, save Yourself and us. I have seen Christians doubt God's provision, protection and even the authority of His Word. If you make your living twisting the Word of God to suit your own ends instead of working to bring souls into the kingdom than you are nothing more than a blasphemer! The defense I always hear is sincerity. We need to realize today that sincerity alone does not get you on the right side of Jesus. It is only through penitent faith in Christ do we end up as the other criminal. Who is this other criminal? Is he any better than the mocker? No. They both deserved their death sentence. First of all - this criminal now fears God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and rapidly disappearing from the church today. This criminal now understands the gravity of his situation and the realness of his sin. He recognizes that he is fully guilty and deserving of the impending death. This is such a vital point that unbelievers must reach in order to be saved. A manipulated altar call and a three sentence prayer does not save anyone. People must come to grips, as this criminal did here, that they are guilty. They must come to grips with their own sin and then turn to the only one who can take those sins away - Jesus Christ. Besides realizing who they are - this criminal must realize who Jesus is. We see in the key verses that he refers to Jesus as "Lord." there is a lot of poor and wacky theology out there today. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is simply not preached anymore. Hear me very clearly beloved. God is not your friend unless He is first your Lord and Savior. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. - Romans 5: 10 (NKJV) Jesus cannot be Lord if we are unwilling to let Him lead our lives. Every area of our lives. He cannot be our Savior unless we recognize the weight of our own sin and realize that we need to be saved. These are not optional for salvation. In fact, there is no salvation without these elements. Thankfully for this criminal, he realized who he was and who God was just in time. No one is beyond the redemptive work of the cross. No one. So Good Friday will come and go again this year. Followed by Resurrection Sunday and a great big meal with family. There was so much to write about when it comes to this most important of weekends for our faith. Yet this is the Word the Lord gave me. We are supposed to test ourselves. We are to work out our salvation. There should be evident fruit of a converted heart. I do not say this to make anyone doubt but to speak to those who have that nagging sense of uncertainty and those who flat out know they are on the wrong side of Jesus. God loves you. God wants none to perish but all to come to repentance and eternal life. The time however is running out. We do not get in based on anything we did. We only get in based upon believing in what He did. Penitent faith in the work performed on Good Friday. God is watching us today and is asking - which criminal are you? No matter where this writing finds you remember it is never too late, while there is breath in our bodies, to come over to the right side and one day be with Jesus in paradise. Rev. Anthony.