A Change of Heart
By Dianne Neal Matthews
Bob wondered how two people could see the same thing and respond in such drastically different ways. He and his sister had been in their early teens when their mom became a Christian and began attending church services and Bible studies. They’d both listened to her “Jesus talks”; they’d witnessed the changes in her lifestyle and in the way she treated others. But it wasn’t until their mom faced terminal cancer with such grace and peace that Bob understood the reason for her transformation. He finally embraced the gospel message just before his mother’s death. His sister, on the other hand, reacted with even more hostility than before.
The two criminals who were crucified on each side of Jesus may not have seen how he lived his life, but they saw how he conducted himself as he died on the cross. Matthew 27:44 and Mark 15:32 record that in the beginning of the six-hour ordeal, both of the thieves ridiculed and insulted Jesus, as did the Jewish leaders and the people passing by the cross. According to Luke 23:39, one of the thieves mocked,
“So you're really the Messiah, are you? Well, save yourself and us!”
At some point a change had taken place in the other thief’s heart. He rebuked the first one and reminded him that the two of them deserved what was happening while Jesus did not.
“Our punishment is fair,” he acknowledged. “We're getting what we deserve. But this man hasn't done anything wrong.” Then he made a request of Jesus: “Remember me when you enter your kingdom.” Jesus promised the second criminal that he would join him in Paradise that very day (Luke 23:33-43 GW).
People can respond in drastically different ways when they hear the gospel message. We would hope for an outcome where they understand their need for a Savior, accept Jesus’ sacrificial death that paid for their sins, and enter into a joyful relationship with God through his Son. But there is always the possibility that the person we’re talking to may become defensive, mocking, or even angry at us.
If we start to worry too much about how people might react, we can become intimidated and hesitant to share our faith. There’s no way of knowing what to expect when we talk to people about Jesus. Fortunately, we are only accountable to share God’s truth as he leads us—to warn others about punishment for sin and to tell them about a loving God’s offer of forgiveness and eternal life. The other person bears the responsibility for how they choose to respond. Even if their initial reaction is hostility or ridicule, it’s possible that their heart can change at a later point, just like the criminal who followed Jesus from a cross to Paradise.
So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. Colossians 1:28 (NLT)
Ask yourself: Do I use my God-given opportunities to share the gospel without being hindered by intimidation or worry about how the other person might respond?
This Devotion is adapted from Drawing Closer to God: 365 Daily Meditations on Questions from Scripture with permission. (Baker Books) © 2010 Dianne Neal Matthews
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Dianne Neal Matthews is a freelance writer and the author of four daily devotional books. Her newest release is Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation (Baker Books). Visit her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
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