There are many stories of people who have turned their lives around. There have been world leaders, ex-convicts, famous singers, well-known actors, and actresses, ordinary people, saints, martyrs and of course the Good Thief on the cross who have all left a lasting Christian impact. The question now is: what impact will we leave? I invite you to read more.
All of us have made mistakes in our lives. It is likely that at some point we have said or done things that have hurt others. Lord knows, I have made plenty of mistakes. The question we must all ponder is this: what message will we leave behind when we are gone? Will we be remembered as someone who loved Jesus, and as one who brought His message to the world by word and deed?
The thief on the cross has been remembered, not for all he did wrong, but rather for his death time proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus responded to him with this glorious assurance, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
How will you and I be remembered when we are gone? Will we be remembered by a litany of missteps and sinfulness, or will we be remembered as someone who loved Jesus Christ and tried our best to walk in His footsteps? Life can be a battle for a Christian. Paul made this abundantly clear in Romans 7:23 when he says, “but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” Every day we must pick up our cross in this battle to live a Christ-like life.
Trials inevitably come. The temptation to pursue wealth, fame, power, and pleasure lurk around every corner. We must remain vigilant against the evil one who is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
When Jesus is our reason for living, when He is the guiding star of our life’s journey, we can’t help but leave a lasting impact of Christianity in this broken world. But we must choose to do so. The thief’s story reminds us that it is never too late to change.
In 2002, country music singer Randy Travis sang the song “Three Wooden Crosses.” The song describes four passengers traveling on a midnight bus ride from the United States to Mexico. There was a farmer on vacation, a teacher seeking higher education, a hooker and a preacher, both of whom were “searching for lost souls.” The bus missed a stop sign and was involved in a fatal accident. It was hit by an 18-wheeler. Three of the four passengers were killed. The lyrics question why there are only three crosses and not four.
The song tells us that the farmer left a harvest and a son to follow in his footsteps. The teacher left knowledge for her students. It says the preacher left his bloodstained Bible in the hands of the hooker. Before dying he asks her if she can “see the Promised Land.”
The songs concluding lyrics reveal that this story was being told by a preacher during his Sunday homily. There is a twist, however. We discover that the preacher is the son of the hooker who survived the accident, and he is holding the bloodstained Bible given to his mother by the dying preacher. In time, she read that Bible and her son became a man of God.
“Three Wooden Crosses” was named Song of the Year by the Country Music Association in 2003 and won an award from the Gospel Music Association as Country Song of the Year in 2004. Ironically the song became Travis’ 16th and final number one single.
Randy Travis is one of country music’s most successful artists but just a few years after this final number one hit, his seemingly charmed life seemed to spin out of control. In 2009, his marriage dissolved and he discovered he had huge financial problems. Then in 2012 he made the headlines with his struggles with alcohol abuse, anger, and with his scandalous arrest for driving intoxicated and naked. Finally in 2013, just as he seemed to be getting his life back on track, he suffered a massive stroke that almost claimed his life.
In his book, Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life he details the highs and lows of his life. He tells a story of, “unfathomable success, great joy, deep pain, and redemption that can come only from above.” He says in his book, “I understand that whatever I have done for myself will pass with me; but, whatever I do for mankind will remain… Forever and Ever, Amen.”
Like Randy Travis, my own life has undergone a dramatic change. As many of you know, just over 10 years ago God spoke to my heart while on retreat. As a result, my life has never been the same. Since then, I have tried to live a life that brings others closer to Christ. My recently published book, Blessed Broken & Scared, tells the story of my own transformation and gives guidance to others to help them find their own healing. I know I can’t save myself. Jesus did that by dying on the cross to redeem my sins. In response to His love and saving grace, I hope my life, my writings, and my love for my wife, family and others will leave a positive Christian impact in this world when I am gone.
We must all remember, it’s not what we take when we leave this world behind us, it’s what we leave behind us when we go that makes all the difference!
Jesus left behind the story of His Death and Resurrection, along with His words in the Holy Bible as a road map for our life. We must make a choice. Will we put our faith in Him and follow His road map? What story will you leave behind when you’re gone?
Heavenly Father, grant me the courage to live a life that is both pleasing to you and one that leaves a positive and lasting Christian impact on those I leave behind when I am gone. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!
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