One of the greatest preachers who ever lived, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, called the "prince of preachers," loved to tell this story:
It seems there was a duke who once boarded a galley ship and went below to talk to the convicts manning the oars. When he asked several of them what their crimes were, almost every man claimed that he was innocent, blaming someone else, or even accused the judge of taking a bribe.
There was one young man whose reply was different. He said. "I deserve to be here, sir. I stole some money. No one is at fault but me. I am guilty."
When the duke heard this he shouted, "You scoundrel, you! What are you doing here among all these honest men? Get out of their company at once!" The duke ordered the young prisoner to be released.
So, the young man was set free, while the rest of the prisoners were left to continue to tug at the oars. The key to his freedom was his admission of guilt.
This is a picture of salvation. Until one is willing to admit, "I am a sinner in need of salvation," one cannot experience freedom from guilt and condemnation.
"God, have mercy on me, a sinner." (Luke 18:13)
"Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3)