“Today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 (NIV)
If the thief had lived 30 more years, he’d have lived a new and different life, but he didn’t have that opportunity. The fact that he entered paradise anyway shows us where our salvation lies.
Our salvation in Christ involves three gifts: 1. justification—by which our sins are forgiven, 2. sanctification—by which we grow in the likeness of Christ, and 3. glorification—by which we enter into the everlasting joy of heaven.
Think about what happened to this man: He was justified and glorified on the same day! He completely bypassed sanctification! He missed out on the entire Christian life—no struggles with temptation or prayer; no baptism or communion or church membership!
Here’s what that tells us: Entrance into heaven comes through justification, not through sanctification. You do not enter into heaven by your performance in the Christian life. The New Testament repeats this theme again and again:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
This is the good news; that your acceptance with God does not depend on your performance in the Christian life. Where would you be if Jesus said to you, “I will forgive you, but I’ll be watching very carefully to see how you do going forward.” What kind of love is that?
When you read the words “not by works,” rejoice. This is the love of God for you.
React to the statement: “You do not enter into heaven by your performance in the Christian life.”