32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. 35 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 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!” 40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” 43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Why when we know that we are loved by God, chosen by Him and valuable to Him do we still struggle with living in the lie instead of living in His love? I think the answer to that question is found in the following story: A stressed out Christian went to try and seek some help because nothing in his life seemed to be working. The more he had, the more he achieved the more frustrated and afraid he felt. He lived with a nagging sense that no matter what he did it was never enough. He met a man who listened closely to him as he talked about his struggles and his disappointments in not successfully living the Christian life. When he was done the man brought out a basin and a picture of water. He said, “watch as I pour the water into the basin…” The water splashed on the bottom and against sides of the basin. The water swirled all around the basin but then it began to slowly settle down. Eventually, the surface became so smooth that the man could see his face reflected in the still water. As he stared at the now visible reflection of himself, the man told him, ‘That is the way it is when you live constantly in the midst of others. You don’t see yourself as you really are because of all the confusion and disturbance. You fail to recognize God’s divine presence in your life and the reality that you are radically and totally loved and valued by God slowly fades. What he was saying is that if you are ever going to define yourself as one radically loved by God. If God’s love for you and his choice of you is going to determine your worth. If you are ever going to be able to truly accept this truth and let it become the most important thing in your life. Then you must on a regular basis pull back and get away from the world and its performance-driven pricing system so that you can clearly hear God’s voice speaking to you. It is only when we pull away from the deafening splashing of the world’s value system that we will hear the voice of God saying I love you. When we linger too long in the world it’s not long before we start listening to the lie of the world that says our worth is found in our work. And we end up working to maintain the mirage of appearance so that we can be accepted. Mike Yaconelli the late cofounder of Youth Specialties tells about the time he was in a spiritual black hole. He was disappointed and discouraged about life, himself and his ministry and so he took off to a retreat center in Toronto Canada. Mike writes, “it took only a few hours of silence before I began to hear my soul speaking. It only took being alone for a short period of time for me to discover I wasn’t alone. God had been trying to shout over the noisiness of my life, and I couldn’t hear Him. But in the stillness and solitude, His whispers shouted from my soul, “Michael, I am here. I have been calling you, but you haven’t been listening. Can you hear me, Michael? I love you. I have always loved you. And I have been waiting for you to hear me say that to you. But you have been so busy trying to prove to yourself that you are loved that you have not heard me.” I heard Him, and my slumbering soul was filled with the joy of the prodigal son. My soul was awakened by a loving Father who had been looking and waiting for me.” 2,000 years ago a thief on a cross had an encounter with Christ the creator of the world and that encounter teaches us that we no longer need to prove ourselves by our performance or our appearance. Instead, we need to define ourselves as one radically beloved and redeemed by God. Only God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. If you try to build and measure your value against any other scale you will set yourself up for a great fall. Have you not only accepted this truth, that you are loved by the Lord, but are you embracing it and letting it become the most important thing in your life?