"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy." John 10:10a
Many know that in coming to faith in Christ, we must acknowledge who we are: sinners. Yet, I wonder if that admission really brings home the severity of who we are without God. Even in that admission, we may tend to subconsciously believe our sins are not as bad as the sins of others, that we still had some "good" qualities. In this way, being a sinner can almost become whitewashed in our minds because, after all, everyone is a sinner. It becomes no sweat off of our backs to admit because the word can gloss over the reality of what we truly were.
This morning as I pondered God's word, I began to think about how God sees the matter; and it is not in such generalities. It is an image which is crystal clear via the Scriptures, but it may be hard to reconcile if you have not considered it before.
God didn't just see us as sinners. He saw us as a reflection of the very nature of Satan himself. In God's eyes, fallen man had become just like his "Daddy" (John 8:44). Man had become a thief, a murderer, & a destroyer.
Jesus Was Crucified with Thieves
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ
liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the
faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20
We know from the Scriptures that we are crucified with Christ. However, only two individuals were crucified with Christ, and they were both thieves.
"And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there
they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the
other on the left...And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Luke 23:32-33, 39
If we are crucified with Christ - and Christ was crucified with two thieves - then in God's eyes the old man is a thief (Romans 6:6).
Jesus Took the Place of a Murderer
"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we,
being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye
were healed." I Peter 2:24
The Scriptures tell us that we are not only crucified with Christ, but that Christ took our place on the cross. He suffered the penalty that was due to us because of our sin. Yet, the person whom Jesus literally took the place of was Barabbas, a murderer.
"Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.
And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had
made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the
insurrection. And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them.
But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?
For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.
But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.
And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do [unto him] whom ye call the King of the Jews?
And they cried out again, Crucify him.
Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.
And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto
them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified." Mark 15:6-15
If Jesus took our place - yet Jesus literally took Barabbas' place - then God must hold fallen man to be a murderer.
Jesus Died So We Could Overcome the Destroyer
"What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known,
endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to
destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" Romans 9:22-24
Outside of Christ we are no more than vessels of destruction; and this speaks not only to our end, but to our living. Such vessels are fit to be destroyed in the end, but are also fit to be destroyers while they live (Proverbs 24:2; Romans 3:16). Unable to impart life because they are separated from the Spirit of God, they can only impart death to others. By having the blood of the Lamb applied to our lives, we can be saved from the curse of the destroyer.
"Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth
the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will
pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you." Exodus 12:21-23
On the cross, Jesus was crucified as the Passover Lamb, so that those covered by His blood would be redeemed from the destroyer, including being freed from being vessels of destruction (John 5:24; Romans 6:4, 8:6; I Timothy 1:9-10; I John 3:14).
Forgive Me Lord, a Thief, a Murderer, & a Destroyer
Some may say, "I am not a thief. I have never taken anything which doesn't belong to me." Yet, if you have tried to attain to righteousness via any other way than submission to Jesus Christ, then you are a thief.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into
the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." John 10:1
Others may reply, "I am not a murderer for I have never killed anyone." However, if you have ever had hatred in your heart for another, you are guilty of murder.
"Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." I John 3:15
Still, a few may believe, "I have never destroyed anything." But the Scriptures say if we do not honor our parents as we should, then we are akin to a destroyer.
"Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, 'It is no transgression'; the same is the companion of a destroyer." Proverbs 28:24
This is why our goal in this life is not to stop committing acts of sin per se, but to be cleansed of the very nature which make us vessels of God's wrath. The beauty of the cross is that it gives us the ability to live as partakers of the divine
nature versus being naturally vessels of destruction (Ephesians 2:3; II Peter 1:4).
The question is, "Are we the repentant thief or the unrepentant thief?" Remember, both thieves initially reviled Christ and mocked Him (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32). However, one eventually saw the error of his ways and cried out for mercy.
Will we also cry out to God for mercy, or will we choose to stubbornly die in our sin as the unrepentant thief? Will we crucify that old man as a reasonable service for the life Jesus laid down for us, or will we let that murderer live at the expense of the abundant life Jesus paid for us to have in Him? Will we be vessels of destruction or will we yield to God daily to be transformed from darkness to light?
Unless we understand the gravity of the need for the cross, we may not
understand its importance in our lives and why Jesus commands us to take
up the cross daily. Our problem is not that we have just made some mistakes in life. The problem is that apart from Jesus - at our core - we are a thief, a murderer, and a destroyer; we bear the nature of Satan and are God's enemies. If we do not come to the cross - or if we step down from it
after having come - such is how we will remain.