My little girls screamed with delight as we walked into what was billed as “The South Bay’s Biggest Midway!” We rushed in expecting huge crowds, shoulder shoving show-offs and long lines at the scary rides…but we were pleasantly disappointed. Though there were no dancing clowns, fire-breathing midgets or Shriners in mini-cars, there were also no people. Well, very few people. And Frank the carnival barker…
He sat on the corner ledge of his booth with head in hands. Stuffed animals drooped sadly, hanging on walls in the back and to the side of him. The goldfish-dunkin’ or coin-toss-loss or balloon-poppin’ con was a dud. There he was: a barker with no bite. Or customers. Nobody.
“How’s it going?” I asked cheerfully, knowing all too well how it was going.
“All right,” Frank answered glumly.
“Here. Take this.” I handed him a million dollar bill. He examined it carefully turning it over in his hands. I detected a tiny smile at the edges of his mouth. He looked up at me and said thanks.
“You’re welcome. Now you have to answer the million dollar question…”
“What’s that?” he asked curiously.
“You sure you want to know?” He nodded. “If you were to die today, would you go to heaven or hell?”
“I’d go to heaven.”
“Why is that? Why would God let you in?”
“Because I’m a good person,” Frank declared proudly.
“I’ll bet you are, but let me ask you a few more questions, okay? Have you ever lied?”
“Ever stolen anything from anybody, even when you were a little kid?”
“When I was a little kid…”
“Have you ever looked at a girl and thought, ‘Hoo boy!’ ?”
“Yeah. Of course. Everyone has.”
“You’re probably right. But Jesus said that if you look upon a woman lustfully you’ve committed adultery with her in your heart. Ever used God’s name in vain? Have you ever said ‘Oh God!’, or ‘Jesus Christ!’ ?”
“Well Frank, you have just admitted to me that you are a liar, a thief, an adulterer and a blasphemer. You’ve broken four of God’s commandments. Doesn’t sound like you are a very good person to me.” He thought about it and didn’t look too happy. He wasn’t mad at me, but he was thinking about his “nice person” defense and realizing he wasn’t.
“Frank. God is a God of justice and he must punish sin. If you have sinned just once, you will have to pay for that sin for all eternity in hell. It’s a horrible place. If you died today, you would go to hell forever. The Bible says that it is appointed for a man to die once and then the judgement. That’s pretty sad, isn’t it?”
At this point Frank looked crest-fallen. The Ferris-wheel didn’t turn. The roller-coaster stopped. The Fun House wasn’t. Silence.
“But you know what, Frank? Someone else paid the price for you. Jesus died on a cross for your sins so you wouldn’t have to. He was buried and on the third day rose again. If you believe that and repent – turn away from your sins – and follow God, He will forgive you. Would you like to be forgiven right now?”
“Yes,” he said, “I would.”
“Right now?” He said yes again.
“Let me tell you something first. If you become a Christian you will have your sins forgiven and a living relationship with God, but I have to tell you it will be a hard life. People will hate you, mock you, beat you up…they will persecute you. It isn’t easy at all. Do you still want to have your sins forgiven?”
He thought about it a little more and said, “I think I”ll wait til later.”
“Okay,” I reminded, “But if you were to die today, you’d go to hell.” We walked away and left Frank with these truths and a million dollars.
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