I'd like to start off by reading a well, a fairly well known passage, it's in Luke, chapter twenty three ... dealing with the part of the crucifixion of Jesus ... Luke, chapter twenty three.
 I'm gonna read from ... verse thirty two.
 Luke, chapter twenty three, and reading from verse thirty two.
 It's a , during the course of the time of the crucifixion, Jesus is on the cross, and it says there [reading] there were two others also who were criminals were being led away to be put to death with Jesus ... and they came to place called the skull, there they crucified him ... and the criminals, one on the right, and the other on the left.
 But Jesus was saying, father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.
 And they cast lots, dividing up his garments among themselves.
 And the people stood by looking on ... and even the rulers were sneering at him [clears throat] Excuse me.
 And even the rulers were sneering at him saying, he saved others, let him save himself ... if this is the Christ of God!
 His chosen one.
 The soldiers also mocked him.
 Coming up to him offering him sour wine ... and saying ... if you're the King of the Jews save yourself.
 Now, there was also an inscription above him, this is the King of the Jews.
 And one of the criminals who was hanged there was hurling abuse at him saying, you are not the Christ!
 Save yourself and us.
 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, do you not even fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
 And we indeed, justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.
 And he was saying, and er he was saying, Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.
 Jesus said to him, truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.
 I wonder if you have ever been in that ... awful position of ... facing what you thought was certain death.
 Perhaps you were seriously ill ... and er, there seemed little hope of your recovery.
 Perhaps you were facing some danger, some, some risk ... and it seemed almost certain that short of a miracle you were gonna die.
 And I wonder what sort of thoughts would have been going through your mind.
 Maybe we , it may well be that you were with other people, I wonder what sort of things if you were in a condition of [laughing] speaking  , what sort of things you would have been saying to them.
 Now, I suppose for most of us,bu bu because of the very fact we're here this morning ... they have been few and far [laughing] between  , such experiences.
 Perhaps, what is more common is that, we may have spent time with someone who was dying, their last few hours, their few minutes.
 If they were not unconscious, I wonder what sort of conversation would be going on between us and them.
 What sort of things would we, would we have been saying?
 What would we be asking them?
 Well, in this passage that we've been reading, we have just such a conversation, two men who are on the verge of death.
 Death, it can only be hours away for both of them ... and here they have this conversation.
 It was in that sense one of the strangest interviews that anybody ever had with Jesus.
 Not only is the a sto , the account here of a, a death bed conversion, but the one who is saving is also in the process of dying.
 Jesus had had many interviews with people, we've looked at some of them over these past few weeks.
 The time when he met with Nicodemus the religious leader, the time he went out of his way to meet with a woman of Somaria in her dire need.
 The other occasion that we looked that, er a week or so back when he called down Zaccheus, from that tree in which he was hiding ... last week his judge, Pilate ... but of all of those interviews and th the many others that we haven't looked at, this surely must one of the strangest, as Jesus himself is in the process of dying ... and as he is dying he is confronted with another person who has a need.
 But Jesus, you're need is as great as anybody else's, your pain, your suffering, your physical suffering was every bit as great as those around you, why have you bothered with others?
 Isn't that so often our story?
 When we are in need we can forget all about other people.
 It doesn't matter their need ... it's poor me!
 What about me?
 What about my need?
 What about my requirements?
 What about my suffering?
 But we see here how Jesus, apart from anything else, deals with his own suffering, he deals with it by ministering to the needs of other people.
 And this surely then, must be one of the most strange ... and one of the most wonderful interviews that our Lord ever had when he was here on earth ... with this dying thief.
 But he was more than a thief, he was a, he was a re , he was a rebel, he was a terrorist ... or a freedom fighter, depending which way you wanted to look at it, and he was dying for his crimes ... but he wasn't alone, because there there was this man that we have been talking, there was Jesus, and there was another one, another criminal on the other side.
 And we find that, this is all in keeping with what God had promised.
 All there in, in line with his prophecy, way back in Isaiah chapter fifty three, it tells us that he was numbered with the transgressors, that he died with sinful men, with with law breakers, and here it is, it's happening right in front of th the very eyes of the Jewish leaders and the Jewish authorities.
 Our Lord's intention in coming into the world was to ... save men and women, to seek out and to save sinners.
 Remember, thirty odd years previous to this event, the word had come ... to Mary, his mother, to Joseph ... you will call his name Jesus ... because he will save his people from their sins.
 And later on writing to Timothy, the apostle Paul in the first chapter of the first book in verse fifteen, he says, [reading] it is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance that Christ Jesus came in to the world to save sinners  .
 This was his purpose, this was his reason for coming into the world, not to be a good man, not to be a, er a great leader, not to give us some model that we can, you know, plan our life out and try and lie up to his standards, he says I have come to give my life as a ransom, I have come to save and to seek that which was lost.
 And here, in this incident, as he himself is dying and in his physical pain and torment, is carrying out this very work of seeking out and saving those who will turn to him, those who will put their trust in him ... he is saving the lost.
 And we see in a wonderful way how great the compassion of Jesus was, and is ... in reaching out and rescuing those who are lost.
 Here we see our Lord suffering the most terrible agony, and yet in the midst of his own sorrow and pain and and torment, he thinks of this dying thief and extends his grace and his mercy to him.
 ... Perhaps the book Lamentations is not the book you normally turn to to find words of encouragement, but they're a tremendous encouragements to be found in it.
 Listen what the prophet says there in the third chapter, he says, [reading] this I recall to my mind  , and he's talking about the time of his own affliction, the time when he is going through it, the time when nobody loves him, the time when everybody's against him, when he's suffering and he's in pain, the time when life is full of bitterness for him, he says [reading] this I recall to my mind therefore I have hope.
 The Lord's loving kindness indeed never cease for his compassions never fail  .
 And here Jesus is demonstrating that.
 His compassions never fail.
 His loving kindnesses, they never cease.
 Here in his dying hour Jesus is showing that in reaching out to this man.
 But as we said the other week th the deepest, the most important significance of what Jesus did then, of what Jesus said then ... is not just of the historical account, but that he is able and willing to say and to do exactly the same today in your experience and in mine.
 What he did for that man on the cross, he's ready and willing to do for every one of us.
 The incident may have happened nineteen hundred years ago ... there's the old hymn, the verse reminds us, picks out that very story and it says, [reading] the dying thief rejoice to see that fountain in his day, and there may I, though [...] he wash all my sins away  .
 And that verse from William Cooper's hymn, it takes up that great historical event.
 That tremendous happening in that man's life, and it links it with he present and it applies to you and to me and says, this can be our experience as well.
 So let's just, as we hurry along this morning notice several things about this interview that this man had with Jesus.
 I'm never quite surely really, to be honest, whether these individuals had an interview with Jesus, or Jesus had an interview with them.
 Because, whether they sought out Jesus or whether they thought they were doing the ... the probing and the questioning, really it was Jesus who was in charge of the interview.
 You may have watched er, certain chat shows on the, on the television, or heard them on the radio, and er depending who the person being interviewed is, very often it actually changes, and it's the interviewer who is really being put through it ... it's the, it's the person being interviewed who is in charge of the situation and that was the case here with Jesus.
 But let's just notice two or three things i in this particular interview.
 The first thing that we see, and it's so obvious, is that the way of salvation is so wondrously simple!
 It couldn't be easier!
 You know there are so many people who think it is hard to get saved, who think it is hard to come to Christ, and to become a Christian.
 Well the problem is, you see, the devil has blinded their eyes, he had blinded the eyes of men and women so that they think ... that they can't do this, but what has actual happened, Paul tells us,i i in, in Corinthians in the first er, in Two Corinthians in chapter four, and verse four, he says, [reading] the God of this world has blinded the eyes of the unbelieving that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God  .
 And there is this shroud, this covering, but the thing is, God takes that away so that we can see.
 And so it's not difficult to become a Christian, it is not hard to get saved.
 Sometimes, as Christians, we are guilty of making it difficult for people to become Christians.
 We put all sorts of rules in, we we make them undergo various periods of er,o of probation before we're wor , we've we're, we're willing to call them Christians.
 Remember the Philippine jailer, he cried out there to the apostle Paul who was, er in jail there with Silas they, they'd been that tremendous earthquake, and they were released, all their fetters was was were broken, and the prisoners were all, could all have escaped!
 And the Je , the Philippine jailer, he cries out a question which, I'm sure he doesn't even know what he means when he calls it out, he's not thinking of heaven, he's not thinking of the future life, he's not thinking of having his sins dealt with, but he just cries out, what must I do to be saved?
 And the apostle Paul he gets open the scrolls and he starts in Genesis and he explains the plan of salvation, and he tells him what he's gotta do, and he explains all the requirements, and about three or four hours later the man's mind is completely blurred, he doesn't understand a word of it, it's gone way beyond him, course Paul doesn't do that, he shoots back the answer straight away, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
 And when we introduce anything more than that ... we are actually setting up obstacles to people becoming Christians.
 Reduce down it's glorious simplicity.
 It is a case of believing on Jesus Christ.
 There's a whole load more that follows after that, but the, but the follows doesn't get us saved!
 The thing that gets us saved, the thing that makes us a new creation in Christ, the thing that makes us a Christian is putting our trust in Jesus Christ, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
 So it is not difficult to become a Christian, it is so very simple!
 God has made the way so plain and so easy understand.
 Way back in Isaiah in thirty fifth chapter, the er, the prophet there gives a little picture, and he uses the illustration, he says [reading] this way is so plain, it's so simple, he said that even the wayfaring man, the traveller, though he is a fool, he doesn't need to make any mistakes in it, he doesn't need to err in the way, it is so simple, it is so easily understood  .
 See exactly how the Lord saved this man.
 He was simply saved by asking the Lord to save him, that's all he had to do.
 Lord remember me when you come in your kingdom!
 I don't suppose for one moment that man fully understood the import of what he was saying.
 He didn't know, he couldn't give you a theological explanation of what the kingdom of God was.
 I don't suppose he ever, ever understood it.
 He didn't live long enough to understand it.
 But he just calls out, it's a cry of help!
 Lord help me!
 Lord save me!
 Lord rescue me!
 And the answer comes, you'll be with me today in paradise from Jesus.
 Paul again when he's writing to Romans in chapter ten ... verse twelve and thirteen, he says, [reading] there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is over all.
 Abounding in riches to for all who call upon him.
 For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved  .
 And that's all it is.
 Calling out and being rescued.
 Now, the important thing that we see there in being rescued, is that you are totally dependent on the rescuer.
 I remember, when I was doing my lifesaving certificates, that one of the very first things that we learnt, was ... that you have to, as the life sa , the life saver, you had to be in charge of the situation.
 Don't expect them to help you, because all their help will be a hindrance.
 Don't let them help you.
 And so if you swam up to somebody who was in difficulty, and you approach them from the front their automatic reaction is to throw their arms around you, don't let them do it!
 Because they'll drown [laughing] themself and bring you down  with them.
 And some, as it meant, if that, if they had done that you actually have to put your foot in their sto , chest, or their stomach and push them away from you, and swim around and come at them from the back.
 Because you had to do the rescuing.
 Once they started doing anything there was trouble.
 And this is it, this plan of salvation that is so simple.
 He has got to do the rescuing.
 The minute we try to do anything we're in trouble!
 We make a mess of it!
 It is all of him.
 Lord, you remember me, I can't do anything for myself, will you remember me?
 And Jesus says, yes, you'll be with me in paradise.
 So what happened?
 He felt and confessed his need of salvation.
 He believed the Lord could and would save him, and he committed himself to the Lord and trusted him to save him.
 And that is what salvation is.
 That is what it is.
 Our need, believing in the Lord and committing our way to him.
 And that's the only way we can be saved.
 There is no other way.
 It is as simple, as glorious and as wonderful as that!
 As we've already read, whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
 Have we called on him?
 Have we trusted him?
 Have we put our confidence in him.
 Then we see again, that, no matter how great the need, it didn't make any difference.
 The vilest sin, or the worst offender, the worst person could be saved.
 I was speaking to somebody about this er, a few days ago, and you know they said erm ... I said, in a way that doesn't really apply today, because none of us like to think we're bad.
 We all like to think we're good.
 But it doesn't matter whether we're good, or whether we're bad ... we all need salvation, and we all can be saved.
 This man, he was a criminal, he was one of the worst, he had broken the laws of the land and he was being crucified for that reason ... but the measure of his sin, the gravity of his sin, did not alter his chance of sa being saved.
 Didn't make one bit of difference to it.
 There are some folk who think that they are too bad to be saved, there are other folk who don't think they're bad enough to need saving, both are equally wrong!
 We all need it!
 Whether we're bad or not so bad, whether we think we have gone beyond the pale or whether we think we're better than the other person, we all need a saviour because we're all sinners.
 In Matthew chapter nine, in verse thirteen Jesus said [reading] I did not come to call the righteous but sinners  .
 They're the only people that Jesus can rescue.
 They're the only ones he needs to rescue.
 But the thing is, we're all sinners, for all have sinned and come short of his standard.
 The good, the bad, the criminal, the religious Nicodemus that we saw a few weeks ago, all are sinners.
 Eddie Stride in one of his books he makes this statement, he says, [reading] my jealousy, your envy, someone else's pride, needs the pardon bought with the blood of Christ at Calvary, as much as someone else's promiscuity, or perversion  .
 And we like to tabulate things, and we like to think that who is a bad sinner, who's not such a bad person, we all need saving, we all need rescuing!
 Our nice respectable sins need cleansing as much as the worse possible sins.
 Then again, we see that salvation is instantaneously received.
 Look at the prayer of this man, Jesus remember me when you come in your kingdom.
 Then the response of Jesus, truly I say to you today, you shall be with me in paradise.
 You can't read this incident and not believe in sudden conversion.
 The man didn't have a long time to go through a process, he didn't have a long time to find where he was on on the scale,a and er, you know, from one stage to the next stage, to the next stage, to got through a pre-evangelism and then another stage, and another stage, the man didn't have time he was dying!
 And the moment he called on Jesus, Jesus heard him and rescued him, he was instantly saved, he was instantly received by Christ.
 This man was suddenly brought into the kingdom and given the assurance of salvation.
 Just as we saw a few weeks ago Zaccheus was, er, between him being up the tree and hitting the ground, that man was converted.
 He came to know Jesus Christ.
 And salvation is not a long drawn out affair ... it's not something we have to go through all sorts of processes to to se , to finally achieve it, it's there as God's free gift waiting to be received.
 It's not on an instalment plan.
 Pay so much of it, do so much and then you'll get it.
 But there, the moment we put our in him, we receive.
 At that very second that we call upon the Lord, just as this dying thief called on him, the Lord will hear us and make his answer instantly the same as he did for this man.
 The thief said when?
 And Jesus said, today.
 And as we read through, as we flick over the pages of the bible we find that coming again, and again.
 There back in Joshua, Joshua he issues the challenge to the, the children of Israel, in Joshua chapter twenty four, he says, [reading] and if it is a disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord choose for yourself today whom you will serve, whether the God's which your father served, which are beyond river, or the God's of the Amorites in whose land you are living, but as for my and my husband we will serve the Lord  !
 The wise man in Proverbs twenty seven, he says, [reading] do not boast about tomorrow ... for you do not know what a day may bring forth  .
 And the apostle Paul in Corinthians in chapter six ... he says, [reading] at the acceptable time I listen to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.
 Behold now is the acceptable time!
 Behold now is the day of salvation  !
 Then we see again that salvation does not depend on ceremonies and rights, good deeds or service.
 You know, this man who was hanging on the cross beside Jesus ... he had not been christened, he hadn't been dedicated, he had never been to a confirmation class in his life, he had never been baptized, he had never been received into church membership ... he had never even gathered around the Lord's table!
 Now when we open the scriptures we find clear commands, that th that there are, when we come to Jesus and accept him as our saviour then we are to obey him ... and we are to be baptized!
 Jesus says if you love me you will keep my commandments.
 And so there is that command.
 If we have come to him and received him as our saviour then if we are gonna live na in, if we are not gonna live in a state of disobedience then we have got to be baptized whether we choose to, whether we like to it's a, it's a simple thing, it's not a matter of choice ... it's the straightforward command of the Lord's.
 Repent, believe and be baptized.
 So while there's that clear command to be baptized.
 There is the clear command to join in fellowship with the Lord's people and not to forsake our, the gi the assembling of ourselves together ... er, as some folk do, but to meet together with God's people, to grow in his family.
 There is the command to do, come around the Lord's table.
 The Lord commands, he says this do in remembrance of me.
 And as meet around just now, it is not an optional extra, it's not something we do if we choose to do, it is a command, and he says if you love me you will keep my commands.
 But these things are not necessary to our salvation.
 They don't get us saved.
 They don't get us into God's kingdom.
 Getting into the kingdom ... becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is not dependant on any of these that we do, but rather on what he has already done.
 His sacrifice for us and our receiving and putting our trust in him.
 Now, we do these things after we're saved, they get us saved, we do them after we've saved as a confession that we are trusting Jesus Christ as our saviour.
 When after I became a Christian I obeyed and was baptized, it wasn't to make me a better person ... it wasn't to make me er, someone who was, er more pious or more religious, or of having greater favour with God, it was done because he had commanded it in his word, and I was identifying myself with him.
 I was saying publicly, I belong to Jesus Christ!
 I am his follower.
 I am dying to that old life, to that old self and I am following in this new life, and therefore, I am going through this, this symbolic act of being baptized, of dying to the old and being raised a new life in Jesus Christ.
 When I come round the Lord's table, it's not to make me a better Christian, it's not to make me a better person, a more religious person, a more spiritual person ... it's a confession of faith, apart from being an act of obedience, it is a confession of faith.
 As I take the bread and the wine, I am saying, I affirm my trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for me.
 As I take this bread and drink this wine, I am affirming to men, and to angels and to demons, that I believe Jesus Christ died for me, and I identify myself with him ... in his sacrifice for me.
 I believe that his sacrifice is sufficient.
 That's one of the reasons why it is important that we come around the Lord's table.
 It's not an optional extra, it is a case of identifying ourselves with him, and Jesus said if you're ashamed to identified with me, there on that day I will be ashamed to be identified with you.
 But these things don't bring us salvation.
 They don't make us Christians.
 But they are confessions of the faith that we have, the trust that we have in Jesus Christ.
 And so we do them after we are saved as a confession that we are trusting Christ as our saviour and because we love him.
 You notice this man, this dying thief, he was saved without doing one single good deed.
 In fact, his life was a life of crime.
 He had robbed, he had murdered!
 He had created havoc in the land.
 He was guilty of terrorist activities!
 May have been, well have been many people who suffered at his hands.
 He hadn't done anything good, it was on the contrary.
 But it wasn't his deeds that made him a Christian, it was his trust in Jesus Christ.
 ... The song writer, the hymn writer reminds us in those tremendous words of that other old hymn, when he says nothing in my hand I bring, simply to your cross I cling.
 Wash me saviour or I die.
 I said, he said I can't do it, you've got to do it for me!
 Then finally, we can be absolutely sure of our salvation.
 This man was.
 I don't know when he had last closed his eyes with a clear conscience ... but he did that day.
 He had had assurance from Jesus, that although he was dying, although he was in physical torment and pain, going through one of most excruciating, awful deaths imaginable!
 And yet, he had an assurance, he had a peace, he had heard the words of Jesus, today, you will be with me in paradise.
 He was sure that he was saved because he had the words of Christ ... and they had given him assurance.
 What presumption it would have been if the man had assumed this without hearing from Christ.
 But equally, how presumptuous it would have been if he had not believed it after Christ had spoken it.
 He had the word of Christ, the promise of Christ to rest on, just the same as you and I have.
 How do you know you're a Christian?
 It's got nothing to do ... with your feelings.
 It's got nothing to do with the fact that, [laughing] you'll like, or don't like going to church now  .
 That you enjoy reading the bible.
 That you find pleasure in praying.
 It's got nothing to do with that at all.
 How do you know, how do I ... that I am a Christian?
 How do you know that you are a Christian?
 Listen to what it says in John chapter five ... [reading] Truly, truly I say unto you  , this is Jesus speaking  he who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and does not come into judgement but has passed out of death ... into life  .
 The only assurance that you have, and that I have that we are Christians is what God has said in his word.
 It's nothing to do with what the preacher says.
 It's nothing to do with any experience that we have had.
 It's nothing to do with anything that we've heard from others.
 It's nothing to do with our feelings, whatever they may or may not be.
 They will be feelings ... oh a tremendous feeling!
 A sense of relief as the, as the burden of guilt is removed!
 A sense of joy and peace amidst all the problems and difficulties that still are there.
 But that's not the ground of our assurance.
 That's perk, the perks and the bonuses that go with it ... but the contract, that's what really counts isn't it?
 The contract is what he has said in his word.
 God has said it, and that settles it for ever!
 And there is not a feeling that I can have, whether it's produced from my emotion, or whether it comes from hell itself, there is not a feeling that can come my way, there is not a lie of the devil that can alter that truth!
 It can make me feel like doubting, it can bring me to the place where I question it, but it doesn't alter the fact ... we can be totally sured, totally certain of our salvation, because God has said it.
 If you believe in me you shall be saved!
 Have we heard his word?
 Is that what our confidence is based on?
 The authority of his word, and we can be quite sure that we possess eternal life.
 Whatever anybody else says, whatever doubts fi experiences may come our way ... that we will never ever be judged for a for our sins, because Christ has taken that judgement on himself, he has been judged for us, the price has been paid.
 Christ borne that judgement for us and we have passed from death into life life!
 Let me give you one scripture in closing, in two Timothy chapter one ... and verse twelve, [reading] the apostle says, for this reason, he says I suffer these things but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day  .
 How does the apostle know?
 Because he has the word of assurance from God himself!
 God has said it!
 That has settled the whole matter.
 And that's the basis of ... your salvation and my salvation.
 That's what gave this fellow certainty.
 That's why he could end those last few minutes or hours of his life, in pain, but in peace, because he had the word, the assurance, the promise from Christ.
 In response to his cry for help ... today, you will be with me in paradise.