"The Bible mentions three men dying on crosses," says Kent Crocket, "and they all have a story tell":
Cross #1—a thief DYING IN SIN.“And one of the criminals who hanged there was hurling abuse at Him saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save yourself and us” (Luke 24:39). This thief called out to be saved, but he wasn’t sorry for his sins. He wanted to be saved from punishment for his crimes but his heart had not changed. This man died IN his sins. …
Cross #2—a thief DYING TO SIN. The second thief said, “We are receiving what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong…Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 24:41-43). … This thief represents those who see Jesus dying for their sins, have a change of heart and are willing to die to their sinful ways.
Cross #3—a Savior DYING FOR SIN. Jesus went to the cross for one purpose—the die for the sins of the world. Isaiah 53:6 says, “The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). That means salvation from sin is only found in Jesus Christ. Matthew 1:21 says, “He will save His people from their sins.”
Kent Crockett graduated from Texas A&M University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is the senior pastor of the Church of Living Water in Prattville, Alabama. He is the author of The 911 Handbook, Making Today Count for Eternity, and I Once Was Blind but Now I Squint, and has been published in a number of Christian magazines.
"Both thieves called out to be saved," he says, "but only one was saved. What was the difference? The first thief wasn’t sincere and had no change of heart. If Jesus had set him free, he would have returned to his life of crime. The second thief wanted to be saved from his sins. If Jesus had set him free, he would have turned from his sinful life and would have followed Him. Which one of these thieves represents you?"
""The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15).