“One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, ‘So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!’ But the other criminal protested, ‘Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’ And Jesus replied, ‘I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” ~Luke 23:39-43 NLT.
I always have mixed emotions when I read this passage. It makes me think of how much our world has not changed since that day.
This man was given the chance and didn’t take it; there is no turning back from that when your time is up. The other man respectfully requested a place with Jesus. He didn’t demand, understanding that he had no right to ask because he knew his guilt but asked anyway. Jesus sweetly replied that a place will be saved for him, that very day.
The same is true for us now. Some will not take up the offer and think they have all the time in the world. Others, know their place asking in faith for permission to be loved by Him.
Everyday, in my career field, I am faced with this same scenario. As a mental health therapist, I see many patients without hope. They live in their self-pity and despair, often damaging all of the relationships around them. It blows my mind how stubborn they are of their refusal to know Jesus. Ironically, Jesus knows their refusal and still wants them to come to Him. His desire is for all to be saved and not live in despair.
Jesus sees their despair.
I cannot talk to any of my patients about God, without them asking, as it is unethical. During their assessment, we are allowed to ask if they have any religious beliefs they would like us to know about them. About half will say they are Christian without any fruit behind the words. They will claim the title but report in later sessions that they haven’t been to church in years, do not read the Bible, and only pray at meal times.
When asked about their day to day, they report that they don’t seek advice from Christians. Most only pray when they are desperate.
God wants more than desperation.
Patients with mental health issues struggle with the concept of sacrifice. They are consumed with themselves which is why the idea of a man sacrificing Himself for them seems impossible. As it is hard to believe in such a thing, they revert to what appears easier, themselves.
When we are focused on ourselves and not the care and keeping of others, our mental health will fail. I wish I was legally allowed to explain all of that to my patients. There is such a huge difference in my Christian patients and non-Christian patients. Lacking hope and the security of a relationship with Christ has very strong consequences for a person’s overall well-being.
Mental health can be restored, in exchange for sacrifice.
God wants us to sacrifice ourselves, not in death but through our lives. We are to die to flesh, meaning fleshly desires. He requests for us to put Him first in all that we do. When we make a relationship with God our first priority, sacrificing sleep, fun activities, or any other thing that we have loved more than Him, great things will happen.
Change occurs and hope restored.
The sins we are asked to give up might feel like too much of a sacrifice because we love it so much. Please know, greater things come to those who put their hope and faith in God. Once I understood that, as a young adult, my life changed drastically for the better and I have never turned back. I used to be angry, bitter, depressed, anxious, and had an ugly heart. Freedom came when I sacrificed my flesh to His calling.
He wants to meet each one of us in paradise and has given us the way to do just that.
Do not wait until it is too late, like the other person on the cross, be like the second man and ask for a place. Make today, the day of sacrifice and give your life to Christ.