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. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. Luke 23: 32-34.

"They Know Not What They Do"

Since I came to know the Lord, I have never read the story of the Crucifixion without it affecting me. No matter how deep you have seen others go in sin, it is still not the whole story of what destruction sin can bring to your life. I want to focus on verse 34, where Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." When Jesus made this prayer, no doubt He was considering the depths to which those people had fallen; for believe me, the depth of sin to which they had fallen when they crucified the Son of God is beyond description. Portrayed in these words is the saddest condition to which sin can take any person.

Not many people have tried to fathom what was really done when they crucified our Lord and Savior. You see, the Bible tells us He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, yet they crucified Him. Pilate examined Him and reexamined Him, and he came back with the verdict, "I find no fault in Him"; yet they crucified Him. Dear one, I know we dismiss the thought with the idea, "Well, it had to be so, because He came to die for us." That is true, but have you ever stopped to think about the depth to which those individuals had fallen to allow themselves to be used to bring about the cruel experience of crucifying the Son of God?

There is a Scripture in the Bible that speaks of crucifying Him afresh. We need to stop and think about that, for it is speaking of carrying the Son of God through the same agony, the same pain, and the same sorrows that He went through when He hung on the Cross. To what depth have you fallen in sin to make you so careless, to cause you to become so hardened and so unaffected by that which Jesus did? What is keeping you from facing your condition as God points it out to you?

The depth of sin is unknown. It is no wonder that in the midst of Jesus' suffering and agony that He found time to pray for those who were crucifying Him. The burden of His prayer was, "Father, forgive them." Why was He asking God's forgiveness for them? It could well be that God was at the point of doing what they least expected. Jesus knew what was motivating them in their acts of crucifying Him; therefore, He was saying, "Father, don't send Your wrath down on them; forgive them, Lord." For what reason? "They know not what they do." Friend, are you any more aware of what you are doing than those people were? Is Christ praying the same prayer for you as He prayed for those who crucified Him? Have you ever thought about what mercy has been extended to you and about the working of God's Spirit upon your heart despite your pronounced rebellion?

The people of whom Jesus was speaking deserved to be destroyed. They deserved God's wrath, but Jesus asked the Father to stay His hand. Their trouble was, they did not know what they were doing. Friend, you do not know any more than they did what you are doing in your rebellion against the idea of yielding to God. Little did those people know or realize to what depth sin had taken them. Many, because they still go to church, fail to realize what is happening to them. To what depth have you gone? Oh, you like to think that you are much better off than what you really are, but whenever God speaks, it is symbolic of the shape and the condition in which He sees you.

Many people in our world start in the sin career without thinking about what they are dealing with. Sin is no plaything, because sin is no one's friend. You can take it into your bosom, cherish it, and tolerate it; but it is going to turn around and slay you and destroy you.

The Deceitfulness of Sin

The Bible shows sin to be very deceptive. Paul, when he wrote to the Hebrew church, said in Hebrews 3:12, "Take heed, brethren, [If the righteous can scarcely be saved, where will the sinner and the ungodly appear? He was talking to brethren. What about the sinner? He does not even enter this picture now. Take heed.] lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." In other words, Paul said to watch yourself, lest there be in you an evil heart. An evil heart of unbelief causes people to go away from Christ instead of coming to Him.

Paul went on to say in verse 13, "But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." Sin will fool you. It has the capability of making you feel better than what you are. You may say, "I believe I am all right," but what is God saying about you? You need to get closer to Him. You need to rise higher and go deeper in His grace. It is not enough just to align yourself with others with a mere profession.

God has provided a means by which we can have the most intimate relationship with Him. I never want to get to the place where I settle for less than my privilege to obtain. I have been saved for a long time, and God has done wonderful things for me, but I am given to anxiety often as much as I ever was because I want to get closer to God. I do not believe that I can get too close to God. I do not believe that I can reach the place in this life where I do not need the Lord. How about you?

You may say, "I know that I'm saved, and I'm living for God." Jesus, in His very first message, said in Matthew 5:48, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Are you there yet? Someone may say, "Wait a minute. I don't believe in that kind of preaching." That is what I am talking about. You need to be careful that this is not a reflection of the depth to which you have gone in wrong, in tolerating wrong, and in permitting wrong to deceive you.

The testimony of Paul to the Roman church in Romans 7:11 states, "For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me." What was he talking about? He was saying that the commandments of God were made for your good, but if you are not careful, sin can deceive you and let the commandment that was made for your good destroy you.

The Game That Sin Has Played With Every Man

Revivals are meant to help people get closer to God and to revive their love and passion for God. However, in too many cases, people weather out the revivals without the least inclination toward becoming more impassioned for God and the things of God. This has been the game that sin has played with every man from Adam down to our day. It is the game of sin to fool people and destroy them.

How beautifully Adam and Eve lived in the garden before sin entered. Look at the deceitful way in which sin appealed to our foreparents. In Genesis 3:1 the devil said to the woman, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" God did not say that. God told them, "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:1617). It appears that Adam was satisfied to abide by that commandment, but the woman began to talk with the devil. The devil is no one for you to listen to. Whenever something holds you back and contends against your advancing in the things of God, that is the devil. You need to know when he is talking. Eve allowed the devil to gain her attention.

Look at the way the devil is working today. In general, people do not seem to have to go out of the church services until the message starts. People can sit at the edge of their seats while the singing is going on; but when the message of God begins, in their minds they reach out to flip the switch, pull up the covers, and go to sleep. Friend, that is the devil. You cannot afford to sleep when God is speaking. That is the game that sin has played with every man, and only a few ever recover from its snares. Out of the whole world of antediluvians, only eight people were saved. Think about it! If you really boil it down, seven were saved through one man. One person was found righteous out of a whole world's inhabitants. Can you imagine that? No doubt, that almost seemed to be a dream, but it was reality. "Only thee," God said to Noah, "have I found righteous."

Had God given way for others to voice their opinions, it probably would have been different. Suppose someone had said, "Lord, I think Brother So-and-So is doing his best," and maybe he was. "I think Sister So-and-So is a good Christian." From people's point of view, maybe she was. However, when God began to evaluate conditions, He said, "Noah, only thee have I found righteous in this generation." In the whole generation, God found only one man righteous. Now, people would not believe that today for anything in the world. How could only one person be found right? Well, you do not want to believe that only one church is right. Many people are getting strangled on that. They say, "Only one church is right? Come on, out of all the churches, only one?" According to the Bible, only one man was righteous. You see, the Bible has already told us that man sees differently than God sees, for man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.

During those unguarded hours when you are swayed and influenced by your surroundings, God is still looking on the heart. You might have your own way of rationalizing, but if it is not God's way, it is still wrong. If God would never intervene on man's behalf, no people could be saved; it is as serious as that. In Matthew 24:24, when prophesying of these last days, Jesus said, "If it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." You may feel that is a little too tight, but I would to God I could tighten it as tight as it really is. The devil has no mercy. Do you think he is going to leave you undisturbed?

Dear one, sin not only deceives but also binds, degrades, and destroys. Yes, that "little thing," as you might refer to it, will fool you and bind you. You can become so accustomed to not responding to the call of God that you get beyond the place where you can respond. In times past when the Gospel was preached, often saints would move to an altar of prayer for fear they might overlook something.

Read David's prayer back in the days of types and shadows. He prayed, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me [in other words, he wanted God to put the test to him]. . . . And see if there be any wicked way in me" (Psalm 139:2324). Have you ever been motivated to pray that kind of prayer? You may say, "No, because I don't believe that I have any sinful way." David probably did not have any either, but the only way he was to know was if God put the test to him.

All of us would like to get rid of the devil and have him bound in hell, but he is a necessity. We must have a devil to try us. You could never know how you would feel if someone should do you harm unless the devil moved on someone to harm you. Nowadays many people do not even seem to be bothered by the devil. They are getting the feeling that he has passed them up.

Crying for Pardon Before It Is Too Late

Returning to our Scripture lesson, our Lord was crying out for God to intervene for those who were crucifying Him, otherwise destruction would overtake them. Had the rich man cried for mercy while he was living, as he did after he opened his eyes in hell, he would not have landed in hell. Crying for mercy in hell was not wrong. The only trouble was that it was too late. Friend, you need to cry for pardon before it is too late for you. When you appear before the Judgment bar, if God should sentence you to everlasting fire, you may be planning to say, "O Lord, have mercy upon me," but it will be too late. Now is the time to cry for pardon. Too often people wait too long to do what is right.

Consider Pilate. When Jesus was before him for judgment, the people cried, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Though Pilate found no fault in Him, he said, "I will chastise Him and release Him." However, the people said, "If you release Him, you are not Caesar's friend," so he delivered Him to be crucified. Later, when the chief priests read what Pilate had put over the Cross, "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews," the Jews did not like it. They went to Pilate and said, in essence, "Don't write, The King of the Jews, but put, 'He said I am King of the Jews.' " Pilate put his foot down and said, "What I have written I have written." Where was all that firmness when he should have stood up and said, "Now, listen, this Man is innocent. I have found no fault in Him; release Him"? Pilate could have done that!

Pilate told Jesus, "Don't You know that I have power to release You or to bind You?" Jesus said, "You could not do it unless you had received it from My Father." In other words, Jesus was letting him know, "You know that I am innocent, but you don't have enough manhood in you to stand as you should." It is surprising that he stood against the high priests and said, "What I have written I have written." Pilate waited until it was too late to stand against the Jews. That has been men's condition down through the centuries of time. Often people wait until it is too late. It was too late for Pilate to become decisive in his actions. Christ had already been bound over to be crucified, and then Pilate found the courage to face his foes. He knew that for enmity they had delivered Him; but holding with the crowd, he did not respect his own conviction.

Friend, how many times have you seen your needs and trembled as Felix did under the power of the Word, but like Felix, you said, "Go away for this time. At a more convenient time, I will call for You." Or perhaps you are like Agrippa, who said, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." In essence, Paul said, "I would to God you were altogether persuaded." Agrippa perished. Is that what you are going to do? Are you going to go on being almost persuaded, but refuse? Consider Jesus' cry for intervention when He said, "Father, forgive them." He was, in substance, crying for God to intervene for those people's behalf. They deserved the wrath of God and merited destruction, yet Jesus said, "Forgive them, for they known not what they do."

Heed the Call of God

Without the forgiveness of God, we are left to the mercy of sin, but sin has no mercy. Look at what it did to Sodom and Gomorrah. Sin brought fire and brimstone from heaven down upon those people. Look at what sin did to the antediluvian world. No one thought sin would take people that far, but it did. It is doing the same deceptive work today. Sin is keeping you from measuring to the call of God. No doubt, Sodom and Gomorrah and the antediluvian world said what many say today, "Well, everyone else is doing it." Undoubtedly, in Noah's day rejecting his preaching was the most popular thing to do, but sin was working their damnation. The same is true today.

No one can do wrong and get by. Now, you can do wrong and hold onto the wrong, but you are not going to get by. A writer penned these words: "Out in the dark you alone may go, And seed for the wicked one sow; But there is an eye that is watching from the throne on high. You can't do wrong and get by." Often what begins small can become too big to handle. That is how people have become so pronounced in their rejection of God. They started with little things that did not stay little; then those things got out of control. No one plans to be ruined or destroyed by sin, but they just keep at it until it gets out of hand and they are lost. My friend, this is your time to cry out to God. Only He can stop sin from destroying you. Though you might not realize it, you never know how soon it will be too late.

We have many examples set before us in the Scriptures, and we need to take heed. As Jesus prayed back then, no doubt He is praying today, "Father, they should be responding better than they are, and You would be just and righteous to send Your wrath down; but forgive them, for they know not what they do." You need to check yourself. Are you aware of where rebellion against God will lead you and where you are going to end?

You may say, "If I know my heart, I mean to do right." Well, you do not know it. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it? Only the Lord can. He said, "I know it because I try the heart to know the thoughts." Before sin causes your destruction, won't you yield to God? Why put it off any longer? You know in your heart the moves you ought to make. Won't you do what God has been telling you to do? Are you going to go on and perish or are you going to heed the call of God and be delivered and make Heaven your home? It is my prayer that you will heed His call. God bless you. [ The End ]

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