Read: Luke 23
The thief said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43, NLT)
Two thieves hung on the cross, with Jesus between them. One of them joined the mocking crowd in hurling insults at the Lord, but the other hurled himself upon the mercy of God. And, according to Jesus’ own words, he was thoroughly saved that day, even if it was just barely.
The penitent thief had done no good works, had no track record of righteousness, had no opportunity to make right all the wrongs he had done. Yet Jesus assured him that within hours, he would be at the Lord’s side in eternity.
So what was it that made him worthy of salvation—even if it was at the very last minute of his life? The same thing that makes you and me worthy of our salvation: Absolutely nothing.
All the man could do was recognize his own guilt (“Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes…”), believe in the redemptive righteousness of Jesus (“but this man hasn’t done anything wrong….”), and entrust his eternity to the mercy and grace of God (“Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”)
By the way, that is all anyone can do to be saved. The thief was thoroughly saved that day; as saved as you, me, or those who have faithfully served the Lord their entire lives. And that is the whole basis for the Gospel. That is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion: Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Every other religious effort to attain eternal life is based on what we do. But what we do, no matter how much we do and how well we do it, can never be enough to satisfy a perfect and holy God.
Christianity is based on what Jesus did for us on the cross. Only by acknowledging our sinfulness, believing in his atoning work, and receiving him by faith can we appropriate the grace of God that thoroughly saves us for all eternity.
And that’s the Good News.
“This is the mystery of the riches of divine grace for sinners, for by a wonderful exchange our sins are now not ours but Christ’s, and Christ’s righteousness is not Christ’s, but ours.” ~Martin Luther
What If God Took Over?
Take a moment before you do anything else and offer this prayer: Lord, if my salvation was based on what I could do, I would never make it. Thank you, Lord, that it is based solely on what you did! I will be eternally indebted to your grace and mercy. Praise you, Lord, for I am thoroughly saved for all eternity!