We all like choices. The freedom to choose is why catalogs are sent in the mail, why houses are painted different colors, why politicians beg for votes, and why kids hate dress codes. The freedom to choose is very important to us. We would feel a violation of liberty if we did not have the freedom to choose-even the ability to make poor decisions!

In no arena of life is the freedom of choice more critical than that of spirituality. One self-evident right is the right to choose what you believe spiritually, because each of us should have the freedom of will in worship and spirituality.

Luke 23:32-43 paints the picture of the freedom to choose at Calvary: three crosses occupied by two sinners centered around a Savior. Calvary is the premiere picture of the freedom and responsibility given by God for us to choose what we will do with the spiritual realities He demonstrates to us. Both sinners were guilty of crimes serious enough to warrant crucifixion by the Roman legal system, but neither were out of reach of God's forgiveness and redemption. The first sinner joined the angry crowd in their ridicule and mockery of the Savior on the cross; although in agonizing pain, he deflected the shame from the crowd toward the Man in the middle. This criminal cast doubt and scorn onto Jesus' claims of deity as his voice blended with the mob, "If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!" (Luke 23:39). He would have accepted a miraculous rescue from his cross, but he rejected the conditions for an eternal pardon.

The second sinner's initial response to the Savior in the center was also to ridicule, but even through his torment he saw on Jesus' cross the sign 'King of the Jews (vs. 38),' heard His prayer to His Father, "Forgive them, they know not what they do" (vs. 34), and with his last breaths admitted his own guilt but the innocence, royalty, and deity of Jesus the Christ.

"We receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong," he called out. As he summed up the last of his strength, he gasped, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." (Luke 23:41,42)

Jesus the Savior answered that convict with a promise: "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." This certainty is the very purpose for which Jesus hung on that cross - that the righteous Son of God could absorb the sin penalty of death on behalf of those

He created and loved. Only His blood can redeem the wicked and direct them to holiness and eternal life, but no one is forced to bend the knee to the Savior. God has given each of us the responsibility to choose: How will you respond to the Savior on the cross? Will you ignore His gift of forgiveness? Will you join those who ridicule Jesus? Or will you throw yourself to His mercy and grace and receive His forgiveness?

The two sinners had the same view, they heard and saw the same things, yet one died and went to Jesus, and the other perished and went to hell, and God has allowed you to choose which path you will follow.