Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
When Jesus told the thief next to him on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise,” we often miss the point of his statement. We focus too much on the “paradise” part, and we miss the “with me” part.
Being with Jesus is paradise. The location is irrelevant. We can actually be with Jesus in paradise today--even while we’re driving in a dirty car with french fries in between the seats. Jesus wants to be with us all the time. He’s not just the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end; he’s with us through everything in between.
Jesus calls himself “our exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). Eternity could look like anything in terms of the locale, but being with Jesus is the main focus. Our present paradise and future reward is the continual unfolding of the character of Jesus--a constant unveiling.
There is the eternal aspect of “Jesus always” that you are going to get to know him forever. There is also a mysterious aspect of Jesus always, and it has everything to do with how beautiful he is.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 8:38-39
Jesus will love you eternally. Oftentimes we have difficulty accepting the love and grace of God because we have so little to do with it. We have trouble receiving things when we feel like we do not deserve them. God’s grace has nothing to do with your merit.
When it comes to receiving, there are different types of spirits. There is a spirit of entitlement, which demands to receive. There’s a spirit of pride, which refuses to receive. There’s also a spirit of gratitude, which is grateful to receive.
We need to have the spirit of gratitude in receiving the love of Jesus. You didn’t do anything to earn it. It is because of his goodness and mercy.
There is something deep inside of us that wants to fulfill our purpose and be in the will of God. It’s important to live in the ways of God which allows us to live in the will of God.
If you want to be in God’s will, get into his ways. See him in everything that you do. When you live that kind of life, seeing Jesus in all that you do, it frees you and empowers you to enjoy your life.
You get to live in paradise today, because every step you take is blessed when you live by “Jesus first, Jesus always.”
Discussion/ Reflection Questions:
How would you describe your idea of “paradise”?
What do you think of the idea of Jesus as your eternal reward?
Are you living a life with “Jesus always” in mind?
Are you living in the will of God? How can you step further into alignment with the ways of God?