Paradise | Devotion #3: The Golden Ticket
I grew up in a church that practiced that you needed to be a good person to get to Heaven. Salvation was dependent on how many good things you did and how many prayers you said. Before I came to The River Church, I did not know about salvation. The first time I heard about salvation my aunt said she had gotten saved. When my aunt said she got saved, I thought somebody had literally pushed her away from a bus about to hit her. I had no idea what it meant to have a relationship with Christ. Growing up I never read my Bible, prayed much by myself, or did things to serve my Savior. I always thought that I was a good person and even wanted to grow up to be a priest. However, I knew something was not right. The summer before my 6th-grade year, I came to know Christ as my Savior.
Since this time, many people come to ask me what salvation actually means. Do you have to do something to be “saved?” Is there a certain prayer that you need to pray to be saved? The answer is that there is no magic prayer or a golden ticket to get to the paradise that Jesus tells us about.
Luke 23:39-43 says, “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him [Jesus], saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
Here we see that a man, a thief on the cross, next to Jesus, understands what he has done. He understands that the man next to him was completely innocent. He also recognized that Jesus was who He said he was, that this man was the Son of God. If you notice carefully, the thief says “your kingdom” and that he recognizes Jesus as divine.
To know Jesus, we have to recognize the need for Him in our lives. The thief recognized that he needed Jesus to forgive him for the sins that he had committed. He understood that he had done something wrong and recognized the sacrificial act that Jesus was making. If we want to see paradise, there is no magic prayer or golden ticket but rather recognizing that we need Jesus. We can not get into paradise without Him. We have to recognize the sacrificial gift that He offers us. We also need to recognize that we do deserve death, like the thief, but the only way to paradise is Jesus remembering us before His Father.