Summary: How would the thief answer God’s question of, "Why should I allow you into my heaven?"
What Would The Thief Say To God?
It has been said that there are no atheist in fox holes. Many stories and accounts have been written about those coming to Christ in the very last moments of their earthly existence. Anyone who has been in the ministry for any length of time has probably witnessed what some might term "death bed conversions." Some of these accounts and experiences may seem dubious, but others may seem very real and genuine. Even though surviving relatives and friends are given great hope and encouragement by such a profession, only eternity will determine the truth of the matter.
In any case, in this passage we have a clear example of what might be termed a "death bed conversion." We do not need to speculate about the genuineness of it. Our Savior makes it clear that this thief hanging on the cross beside Him was truly saved by the grace of God at the very last moment of his earthly existence. What stronger evidence could one ask or what greater assurance could one receive than to be told by the Savior Who was dying for his sins, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."?
In this passage also we have a clear and concise account of the theology (belief about God) that is necessary for a person to come to God and be saved. This thief, because of his desperate condition and position, illustrates that salvation is entirely by grace through faith; plus nothing and minus nothing.
Just what was his simple theology? He believed in God. He believed in the deity of Christ. He believed in the sinlessness of Christ. He believed in the wages of sin - judgment for sin. He obviously believed in hell. He believed in the sacrifice of Christ for his sins. He believed in the resurrection. He believed in heaven. He believed if he called upon the name of the Lord in simple childlike faith he would be saved. He believed in the Kingdom of God and the second coming of Christ.
But today I want to view this scene a bit differently. Those of us who go out sharing Christ often are confronted with the dilemma of just how to approach the matter of soul winning. What is the best way to seamlessly get into a soul winning conversation?
There are many ways to do so. I have found one of the best is by asking a series of lead in questions and then asking, "If you were to die today and stood before God and God asked you, ’Why should I allow you into my heaven. What would you say.’" The answers to this question can often greatly aid in understanding a person’s position and understanding of spiritual matters and then provide a point of contact for beginning a soul winning dialogue.
Today let us just imagine that after this thief died on the cross he stood before God and God asked him, "Why should I allow you into my heaven?" Of course, this did not happen. Nor would such ever occur. But for the sake of understanding what will and will not get a person into heaven, let us consider how might the thief justify his presence at the gates of heaven and what could he say that would gain him entrance.
First of all he could tell God about some things he was not depending upon to open those gates.
He could say, "I am not here because I am a good person at all. I lived the life of a terrible criminal. I had no regard for God or man. My crimes were many and many were hurt because of my heartless conduct. I pursued my chosen cruel criminal profession until the day I was arrested and tried and sentenced to die on the cross. The whole countryside was terrorized because of my activity. I had no change of heart. I did nothing to try to bring about a reformation. I was altogether unable to change.
When I was on the cross I came under terrible conviction for my sin. But it was too late to turn over a new leaf. I could do nothing to make up for my terrible past. I could not repay one penny to anyone I had hurt. I had no power to reform. Only God has such power. I CANNOT ASK YOU TO LET ME IN BECAUSE I REFORMED MY LIFE."
"But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousness [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isa. 64:6)
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" (Titus 3:5)