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“I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”[1] This is the sentence that sums up the truth about God’s Grace probably more than any other line and that cuts through the errors of James’ teachings, even his teachings about faith and works. Jesus did not say this to a church elder, a faithful preacher, an apostle or a disciple, but to a man who literally was living his last day on Earth, a thief hanging on a cross next to Him. A man whose hands were no longer free to reach for his wallet to make a big offering and whose feet were nailed so he couldn’t go and preach the Gospel, but still a man who found at least another soul to preach to even though he was so preoccupied, for he said to the other thief, “Don’t you fear God since you are under the same sentence?”[2]

This man was a sinner, a thief, and if you hold to the doctrine that the devil is a thief, then this man was a real son of the devil. He had no time left to make restitution. It was like he was Zacchaeus whom the Lord went to dine with and was so moved by the Lord’s presence that he said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” For to Zacchaeus, Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.”[3] Zacchaeus had time to make restitution, but the one with no name, the thief on the cross, had no time to make restitution, yet Jesus said to him, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” This thief is the living proof that salvation is by the Grace of God through faith and not by works, so no man may boast, for it is a gift of God. The thief on the cross availed himself of the salvation by two things: Firstly, he recognised that he was guilty and getting his just punishment, and secondly, he recognised that Jesus “has done nothing wrong.”[4] Unlike Zacchaeus, he did not address the Lord as the Lord, but said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom (with Your Kingly power).”[5] How did he know Jesus was innocent for he wasn’t one of the disciples? It is because he heard Jesus say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[6] Ordinary people would deny their guilt regardless of their innocence or guilt and some may admit to their guilt, but to hear a man forgive those who crucified Him even though He was innocent, that is beyond human, it is Divine. Without formality, as Zacchaeus had, the thief on the cross saw Jesus as the Man who is truly worthy to be a King and addressed Him as such, calling Him, “Jesus,” not, “Lord”.

So, when James the Younger wrote: You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone and that faith without deeds is useless,[7] you can see how hollow that fine sounding theory really is compared to the glorious reality of God’s mercy that His salvation is through faith by Grace, and not works at all, in the final moments of this thief. The works of this thief got him crucified and there was nothing he could do to save himself, for according to the Law of Moses he was cursed. The only thing he could do was to put his faith on another, just as cursed as he was, who was hanging right next to him on another cross, faith that Jesus was innocent, faith that He does have a Kingdom, faith that what Pilate wrote about Him on the sign hanging over His head was correct: This is Jesus, The King of the Jews.[8] By that faith he confessed, and he confessed a future that extended beyond death, saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom (with Your Kingly power).” The thief had faith that God would find Jesus innocent and wronged, and that Jesus would be given a Kingdom and Kingly power to avenge Himself. Such a faith rewarded him with this incredible promise: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

For the salvation that is by Grace is immediate, it happens the day we confess it, the moment you say it, which is why salvation came to Zacchaeus on the day he confessed that was called ‘today’, and Paradise welcomed the thief the day he died, ‘today’. If salvation needed works to be completed, to be made manifest, then salvation and Paradise would be on some other day rather than today or the day the declaration was made. But Jesus did not say, “Someday you will be in Paradise with Me,” or, “Someday salvation will come to this house.” No, the Grace of God is available now for all who believe, before they do anything else. Before Zacchaeus had actually repaid the money, salvation had already come. Before the thief could do anything, if he was able, Paradise was his without prior good works, just an honest assessment of himself. The thief gained Paradise while the Pharisees and Sadducees, with all their good works, looked on. Of what value was their tithing, long phylacteries and long prayers when they would not even lift their voice to declare Jesus’ innocence? And worse than that, for all their supposed good works, they were the ones who nailed Jesus to the cross and denied Him justice by bringing false witness against Him.

If God’s Grace availed for a thief and a cheat Paradise and salvation today and not tomorrow, then, truly we have no need to worry about tomorrow, which is why Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”[9] That is precisely what the thief did; he saw the righteousness of Jesus and sought His Kingdom, saying, “Remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” Thus, God’s grace is available for those who seek first His righteousness and His Kingdom today, for it was today that salvation came to Zacchaeus’ household and today that the thief was in Paradise with Jesus, not some other day like tomorrow. Likewise, to avail yourself of God’s Grace immediately, today, seek His Kingdom and His righteousness by that same faith that Zacchaeus did and, more importantly, that the thief did. Truly, it is not by our works that God’s Grace gives us salvation, but by our faith that God’s Grace gives us salvation. Today is the day of God’s salvation and God’s reward for all who believe. When you can believe that and confess it without a doubt, the Grace of God manifests to keep you today saved and in Paradise, and if you are already saved and in Paradise, why worry about tomorrow?

What would Paradise be like? It would be a place without sin, without lack, without fear, without sickness and without worries. For to have such a place on Earth, it would take a miracle, which is precisely why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to give us His power so that we might successfully practise His words and do all that He has been doing and greater things than what He has done. Truly, if we can today, on everyday that is called today, change water to good wine, walk on water, multiply the food, heal all the sick, raise the dead, cause the blind to see and drive out every demon, we would be living in Paradise. It is only the practice of the words of Jesus faithfully and successfully that can achieve this, for no amount of abstinence from food sacrificed to idols or from strangled meat or blood can cause food to multiply for the hungry. Neither does avoidance from sexual immorality set free those who are trapped and sold as slaves into prostitution and pornography, for though you may be pious and good, your fellowman is not. Though Abel was righteous and offered a sacrifice pleasing to God, it did not stop Cain from killing him. Thus, burnt offerings and acts of righteousness do not stop an evil man, but acts of the miraculous can.

It was not a burnt offering that blinded the Arameans in the days of Elisha, but a clear demonstration of God’s power that blinded them so that they were led into Jerusalem to be fed when God answered Elisha’s prayer, “Strike these people with blindness.”[10] Because of the demonstration of power, the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory for a while, but where there is no repentance there is no change of heart. The Arameans believed that they could not attack Israel because of Elisha’s power, yet some time later, Ben Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria.[11] You see, if miraculous acts cannot stop an evil person coming back to attack you again unless their hearts are changed, then how much less can ritualistic acts of righteousness?

Then, should we seek this road of the miraculous that few find and even fewer remain on, or should we just abandon it and join the others on the broad road of good works with no power? We must seek it, and having found it, remain on it, for then shall our Lord be proved true in His words: “Anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these.”[12] Unlike others who have tried to establish Heaven on Earth using a strict moral code of avoidance and abstinence, the truth is Heaven on Earth can only be established and maintained by a constant presence and availability of miraculous power from the Holy Spirit, and that power is given only to those who practise the words of Jesus, not to those who practise the philosophy, theory and opinions of men. No Greek philosopher ever opened the eyes of a blind man with a word or raised the dead with a touch. No scientist has ever done it either without some gadget or drug so expensive that the poor cannot afford it. No elected leader of any great democracy has been able to do it either. No, the ways of men have nothing miraculous about them, only the way of Jesus is miraculous.

However, the secret to the miraculous has been waylaid because men did not abide with God’s time schedule. When God said to Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the Garden, but you must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die,”[13] He had already placed the Tree of Life next to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for it is written: In the middle of the Garden were the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.[14] And it is obvious that Adam was permitted to eat of the Tree of Life, the fruit of which would allow him to live forever, for God said this after Adam disobeyed: “The man has now become like One of Us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the Tree of Life and eat, and live forever.”[15] It is evident then that it was on God’s mind to allow Adam to first eat of the Tree of Life and live forever before eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, so that truly Adam could be like God, living forever and coming to know good and evil as God does. However, Adam upset God’s timetable, and in his disobedience, he made his own time, his own schedule and his own calendar. The time schedule and the calendar of man have nothing to do with God’s schedule or calendar. God’s Grace is that Adam would be permitted to eat of the Tree of Life first before he knew what was good or evil in the Garden. Likewise, salvation would come through faith before a single good or evil work was done. Adam would have been able to live forever before he did a single good or evil act. It was after a person could live forever that they would come to know what is good or evil and choose what to love, not before. That was God’s plan and schedule. Likewise, by faith, today a person would receive salvation and be in Paradise before he could do anything, whether good or bad. However, the schedule of man would have you doing good works of piety, charity and morality before you receive your salvation, and even then, it would be sometime in the future, perhaps even spending some unknown quantity of time going through the circle of life or purification in purgatory before salvation and Paradise, much less Heaven, would be yours to enjoy.

If God’s Grace then is to give salvation today to a cheat before he returns his money and Paradise to a thief who cannot make restitution, then how much more His Grace avails to those, both salvation and Paradise, who are able to do good works also after they are saved and are enjoying Paradise?

When we finally understand that God has given us no other day but today to live in, to practise the words of Jesus in, to listen to Jesus in and to follow Jesus in, then will we finally see that which God has planned for the church today. For though the Old Testament spoke of seasons and prophesied of things to come, Jesus fulfilled the prophecies concerning Him, and when He did, He gave us only one day to seek the Kingdom of God in, and that is today, for He said, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” If we believe that, practise it and declare it, then the power of the Holy Spirit, which is available to all who need it and those who need it are those who practise the words of Jesus, will cause Paradise to manifest today. Paradise where the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the Gospel is preached to the poor and every demon is driven out. It is Grace, now, that gives life and salvation, not good works of men that earn it.

So, today is God’s day of Grace, therefore do not worry about tomorrow. AMEN


 

[1] Luke 23:43

[2] Luke 23:40

[3] Luke 19:8-9

[4] Luke 23:41

[5] Luke 23:42

[6] Luke 23:34

[7] James 2:20,24

[8] Matthew 27:37

[9] Matthew 6:34,33

[10] 2 Kings 6:18

[11] 2 Kings 6:23-24

[12] John 14:12

[13] Genesis 2:16-17

[14] Genesis 2:9

[15] Genesis 3:22

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