A wasted life that wasn't

Depiction of the thief on the cross. Image from WikiMedia Commons.
Depiction of the thief on the cross. Image from WikiMedia Commons.

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. Luke 23:39-43

Don't waste your life! Have you heard this warning? It is a good exhortation and a needful warning. We ought to live our lives for the glory of God. But there is this constant danger and temptation to be like the prodigal son who wasted his life with riotous living. There is a deep sadness in that, for you cannot get back a life wasted and squandered on the husks of this world.

But here was a man who had truly wasted his life. The thief on the cross was just that - a thief, a robber, a criminal. He wasn't being crucified merely because the Romans were cruel. He was being crucified because his life was evil and foul. He himself admits as much, that what he was enduring on his own cross was "the due reward of our deeds."

The only part of his life that he could live for the glory of God were the final hours of it. And it was lived out entirely as he was dying, nailed to a Roman cross alongside the Lord of glory.

And yet... those final hours and moments weren't wasted. In fact, if you think about it, those final moments were more significant for the cause of God and truth than are the years and decades of many saints. How many millions have been touched and moved and instructed and admonished and comforted and strengthened by his simple testimony at the end of his life? "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." What faith! What humility! What evidence of a changed life! If this is not radical conversion to Christ, I don't know what is.

Here was a wasted life that wasn't. God redeemed those final moments in his life. He may have lived a life against God for most of his life, but the last hours of it speak with a volume that drown out all the noise of the previous years.

How can this be? Because God is a God of grace. Because we don't enter the kingdom on the basis of our good works but because of what Jesus has done for us. The thief on the cross did not purge his own sins, even as he suffered on a literal cross. But the God-Man on the cross next to his was purging away all the sins of the thief as he hung on his cross, to present him to the Father "holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight" (Col. 1:22).

My friend, I don't know where you stand. Maybe you are crippled by a deep sadness of a wasted life. If that is the case, my advice to you is this: don't let your past paralyze you from living in the future for the glory of God. Repent of your sins and turn in faith to Jesus and put your confidence in him alone as Lord and Savior. Like the thief on the cross, you will find that God is able to redeem your past and magnify your future however short it may be. God is able to "restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten" (Joel 2:25). More than that: he is able to give eternal life to you. Those who turn to Jesus and embrace him by faith will find the same grace found by the thief: "Truly I say to you . . . you shall be with me in Paradise."

By: Jeremiah Bass