I was only 5 when I walked into my mother's bedroom and told her I wanted to give my life to Christ. We got down on our knees beside the bed and I asked Jesus into my heart. After that, I proudly told everyone that Jesus had saved me, but my pride slowly diminished over the years.
As I got older, the more I questioned the efficacy of my salvation prayer because, let's be honest, the 5-year-old motives behind it didn't exactly demonstrate any depth of understanding about what I was doing.
On the one hand, my parents taught me a lot about the Bible, so by that age, I really had developed a childhood affection for the miracle-working Savior who held little kids in His lap and then died to save them.
On the other hand, I wanted to be born again because I would get to take the grape juice and cracker during communion at our Baptist Church — not to mention the most important reason of all: I would avoid going to hell. These reasons didn't seem like very good ones for wanting to commit my eternal life to God, so I eventually began to wonder if perhaps I hadn't actually been saved after all.
My insecurity about my salvation inspired me to repeatedly redo my salvation prayer, but it never seemed like it was enough. I wanted something more official. I needed a prayer that would unquestionably provide my eternal connection to Jesus. But there was a vignette in the Easter story that provided the security that a prayer for salvation never could.
A thief's last words
As Jesus was hanging there and His life was almost over, He had a brief conversation with one of the two thieves hanging on either side of Him. The gospel of Matthew tells us that this thief had actually been mocking Jesus earlier in his crucifixion. But Luke tells us the rest of the story: With the clock ticking down on his life, the thief had a sudden change of heart and made a simple request: "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom."
The man was a low-life, a common criminal attempting a desperate deathbed conversion, and all he could utter was a request that wasn't exactly profound: "Remember me."
Jesus didn't do an inventory of the man's good or bad deeds before He responded. He didn't ignore him or wait until the man said the perfect words. "Remember me" was more than enough. In the final minutes of their lives, Jesus responded, "Truly I say to you, today you'll be with Me in Paradise."
Maybe you won't go to church this Easter — maybe you don't even want to. Maybe you're a believer who's insecure about your salvation. Maybe the idea of praying about something as monumental as your eternal salvation seems intimidating to you — you wouldn't even know where to start. Start here: "Remember me."
It doesn't matter if your motives are self-interested or if you've never shown any desire to follow Jesus. It doesn't matter how many mistakes you've made and how many more you're likely to make. He's there willing and waiting to take you home with Him.
Call out to Him. Trust that He's willing to welcome you into His kingdom. Ask Him to remember you today. His certain response will have nothing to do with your worthiness and everything to do with His unfailing love.
This column was originally published on April 13, 2017.