At Manna Church, our mission is to glorify God by equipping His people to change their world and by planting churches with the same world-changing vision.
“Today you will be with me in paradise…”
Theme - “We’re not home yet”
Luke 23:39-43 NLT “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.’”
It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day; wake up, get ready, go to work or to school, come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed, repeat. It’s also easy to get caught up in our goals, our plans, and our ambitions; going after that promotion, looking forward to that vacation, saving up for that new car. On the one hand, we’re stuck staring at a never-ending cycle of the right now. On the other hand, we’re fixed on what we want tomorrow to look like. Neither is where our focus is meant to stay.
There is a lot to unpack in today’s scripture reading, but let’s focus on “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” As believers in Jesus, we need to remember that this earth is not our forever home. The day-to-day minutiae will fade, but God’s Kingdom remains. The vacation ends, and the new car becomes worthless, but Paradise is forever.
Let us remember to fix our eyes on Jesus - on the never-ending, overwhelming love of the Savior who died and rose so that we could be with Him forever. As the daily struggle wears on us and our worldly hopes and dreams fail to satisfy, recognize that we are not home yet and that our forever home will be better than we can ever imagine.
Going Deeper Questions:
Is there anything in your life that is keeping you from fixing your eyes on Jesus? How can you remove those distractions?
Try and think about eternity for a moment - what do you think you will look back on and wish you had spent less time worrying about? What would you do differently? What would you do more of?
Pray: God, help me to understand that this world is not my forever home. Let me fix my eyes on you and remember that in everything, my goal is to love You, love others, and love the world. Remove anything from me that is not pleasing to you, and let me live my life in a way that draws me closer to You.
Theme - “We cannot earn what we don’t deserve”
Romans 6:23 ESV “For the wages of sin is death…”
Have you ever tried to win a prize from one of those claw machines at an arcade or amusement park? With a little bit of skill and a LOT of luck, you might just get that 50¢ stuffed animal that you dropped about $11.00 in quarters on. It can be incredibly frustrating to put so much effort into getting that prize, only to be disappointed that you ran out of coins or that the machine just didn’t do what you asked it to. Living a life without Jesus is sort of like that. You can put in as many quarters (good deeds) as you want, spend all the time in the world perfecting your skill attempting to attain that prize (salvation), but the reality is: you’ll never be good enough to get what you want.
Thankfully, we have a Savior who, in spite of knowing that we have ALL fallen short with our good deeds and that we ALL deserve death because of it, chose to sacrifice Himself for our sake on the cross and be the payment for our sins. Salvation isn’t a game of chance - it’s something we can be assured of by placing our faith in the saving power of Jesus. Thank the Lord that it’s not based on what we can do but on what Jesus has done for us!
Going Deeper Questions:
Are you both sure of and secure in your salvation? Do you recognize that there is nothing you can do to earn salvation aside from trusting in Jesus?
In what areas of your life do you need to remember that assurance? How will this make your walk with God better?
Pray: Heavenly Father, remind me each day that there is nothing I can do to earn Your love because You have already given it to me! Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I understand that I will be with You both now and in eternity. Let this thought permeate all that I say and do each day.
Theme - “Who do you say that I am?”
Matthew 16:13-17 NLT “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 14 ‘Well,’ they replied, ‘some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.’ 15 Then he asked them, ‘But who do you say I am?’ 16 Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 17 Jesus replied, ‘You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.’”
C.S. Lewis lays out in his book “Mere Christianity” that Jesus was either a liar who manipulated those around him, a lunatic who had delusions of grandeur, or the Lord of Heaven and Earth like he claimed to be. There is no other option. A person cannot claim to be the son of God and be a “good moral teacher” or “just a nice guy.” No matter what doubts you may have about your faith or about who Jesus really was, all of Christianity boils down to this question: “Who do YOU say Jesus is?”
The answer to that question is the beginning of faith. Once we acknowledge that Jesus is, in fact, the Lord of all and the King of our lives, the next step is obeying what he says. Are you ready to take the next step?
Going Deeper Questions:
What is your next step in your walk with Jesus? Read the Bible, pray, and ask God and mature believers around you to help you discern this next step.
How would you respond to someone who said “Jesus was a good man and a good teacher, but he’s not God?”
Pray: Lord, I trust that You are who You say You are - that You are Lord of heaven and earth. Help me to trust You in what you say in the Scriptures in all aspects of my life and to obey what you have commanded me to do. Help me to discern my next step in my walk with You and to daily be drawing myself closer to Your presence.
Theme - “Grace, and grace alone”
Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
When you were a child, did you ever accidentally break something that belonged to someone else? How did you feel in that moment? Anguish, fear, unknowing? Did the phrase “you break it, you buy it” come to mind? A $500 television damaged by an errant toy flying through the air or a family heirloom knocked off of the shelf during a vigorous game of “tag” can cause a lot of consternation, both for the one who damaged the item and for the one to whom it belonged. Thankfully, a good parent won’t force a child to take out a loan to pay for a broken television or a damaged heirloom. Sure, there are lessons to be learned, but the price is absorbed by the one who loves their child.
Likewise, our Father in Heaven does not force us to pay what our sin and transgression cost. Like a good Father, He teaches us to be better, but He Himself took on our iniquity through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. It is by God’s grace that we are set free, and by His mercy that we do not pay the price for our sins, which is death. Praise to the Father for being a good parent!
Going Deeper Questions:
Have you ever had to pay back something that you knew you couldn’t afford? How did it make you feel?
Pray: Thank you, Father, for removing the debt that I owe - my life! Let me feel the joy and peace that comes from knowing that I am secure in Your promises through faith in Jesus Christ and by Your grace. Thank you for Your mercy, love, and grace, and let me live a life confident in my standing with You.
Theme - “Always and never”
Romans 10:9-13 NLT “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’ 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
As a child, I was taught not to use two words: “always” and “never.” To be fair, phrases like “you always tell me what to do!” and “you never let me do anything fun” still came out of my mouth on a regular basis at that point in life, but my parents maintained that those two words were off limits. The problem, though, is that while there are many things in life that will never be absolute, the repetition of this rule hindered me from really being able to understand where absolute terms will always apply. God will always love us and He will always desire that we come to salvation. He will always be good. His love will never fail us.
Isaiah 28:16b - ...Whoever believes need never be shaken.
Psalm 73:23 - Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand
While human emotions can be fleeting and human commitments can fail, God’s love will ALWAYS be the same. He will NEVER leave you or forsake you, and we can ALWAYS trust that His promises are true. Praise the Lord that we have a wonderful Savior in Jesus Christ!
Going Deeper Questions:
Do you believe that no matter what, God will always love you? What keeps you from fully hanging on to this truth?
Romans 10:9 says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Have you done that? If not, are you ready? If so - pray this prayer below (or use your own words)
Pray: Lord, I admit I am a sinner. I need and want Your forgiveness. I accept Your death as the penalty for my sin, and recognize that Your mercy and grace is a gift You offer to me because of Your great love, not based on anything I have done. Cleanse me and make me Your child. By faith I receive You into my heart as the Son of God and as Savior and Lord of my life. From now on, help me live for You, with You in control.