To be saved, like the thief on the cross, you must see yourself as destitute of any goodness worthy of heaven and, like this thief, by faith receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Vance Havner tells of a lady who came forward during the invitation in one of his meetings to be saved. She was very sophisticated and refined. She had an advanced graduates degree, and was very articulate and intelligent.
When she got to the front, Dr. Havner asked her, "Why have you come forward, ma'am?"
She said, "I want to go to heaven."
Havner says he sensed pride in her achievements and her goodness, so he asked an unusual question. He said, "Ma'am, do you realize that you are a hell-bound sinner worthy only of God's judgment."
She looked at him, shocked, and said, "Oh, no, I've been good all my life."
He said, "Well, in that case ma'am, you cannot go to heaven. Why don't you have a seat over there, because you can't be saved."
Bewildered, she went to one of the front row seats. On the next verse of the invitation, she came up again and said, "Sir, I would like to be saved."
He said, "To be saved, you have to have something to be saved FROM. To be saved is to be saved from SIN. Until you recognize that you are a lost, helpless sinner whose works are not good enough for God to accept, you cannot be saved. Jesus said, '...They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'"
Suddenly it seemed to dawn on her. He said, "Ma'am, do you realize that you are a poor, lost, wicked sinner in need of God's grace and unable to add to his work on Calvary through any works or goodness of your own?"
Tears began to course down her cheeks as the shame for her sin overcame her soul. "Yes! I do."
"Then ma'am, now you can be saved."
You see, it was only when she realized her inability to get to God by her works that she was in a place where God could save her.
That's where the sinner on the cross was. He prayed a prayer for Jesus to save him; a prayer based on faith in Jesus as God.
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