Think You Can Win It? You Can’t!

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Luke 23:39–43

[39] One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” [40] But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? [41] And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” [42] And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” [43] And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Have you ever tried to convince somebody of a truth that seemed so simple and self evident that it frustrated you that they just wouldn’t believe you? I remember when my 8 year old son was 5 and he was utterly convinced that red meant go and green meant stop. Every time we stopped at a red light he would shout, “Red light means go!” and of course in a calm, though half annoyed voice I would say, “No buddy, red light means stop.”

You can imagine the back and forth debate that happened after that. Needless to say that he wasn’t convinced.

Now imagine Jesus on the cross. He had lived before these people for three years, had performed miracle after miracle, and had taught with power and authority in a way that confirmed that he was from God. Yet so many people didn’t believe him.

Even on a cross, on the day of his execution, one of the thieves being crucified with Jesus had the nerve to questions Jesus. Instead of just crying out to Jesus for help he says, “Are you really the Christ?” And in so doing it became clear that despite all that Jesus had done, even this dying thief didn’t believe that he was the Son of God. This man rejected Jesus, the Truth, despite all that the evidence he had seen.

Convincing someone of the gospel, the truth of who Jesus is and what he did on the cross, is just like convincing my 5 year old son that red meant stop. It can feel impossible. Why? Because belief in the gospel is a supernatural work of God that he must do in peoples hearts. As Jesus says in John 6:44:

[44] No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

If someone is going to believe in Jesus, no amount of convincing will work unless God is working in their hearts. Does this mean that we shouldn’t talk to people about Jesus? No. As Paul writes in Romans 10:14

[14] …And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

God’s plan to save sinners, through his Son Jesus Christ, involves people like us sharing that truth with them. We must talk to people about Jesus. Yet, God must be working in their hearts if they are ever going to truly believe in him.

So why is this important for us to remember?

Many of us may have people in our lives that we have tried to talk to about Jesus. Maybe you know someone whom you have been praying would come to faith. You might have family or friends who seem so hostile to the truth of Christ that you don’t even know how to begin talking to them about him.

The encouragement for you and for me is to not lose heart. Don’t give up. Why? Because God is the one who has to change hearts. God, the Father, is the one who must and will draw them to himself. If he is working in someones life, he will take your words about Jesus, and he will sink them deep into their hearts so that they would believe in and follow him.

Did most of the people reject Jesus when he was on the cross? Yes! But there was another thief who saw and believed. As Luke 23:42-43 says:

[42] And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” [43] And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

God had opened his eyes and heart to the gospel, and that very day, the day of his death, he was assured by Jesus that he would be with him in heaven…paradise!

So keep talking to those around you about Jesus. Keep sharing the truth of the gospel with them as God grants those opportunities. Will it feel like your trying to convince a 5 year old that red means stop? Probably. But remember that God is the one who must draw them to himself. And if he is working in their hearts, then he will make your words powerful, effective, and life changing. So go, share, and trust him.

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