I handed a Million-dollar bill Gospel tract to an elderly man who was fishing on the Redondo Pier and asked him, “If you were to die today, would you go to Heaven or Hell?”
Smiling, he said, “I would be going to Heaven.” I asked him why and he said he believed in Jesus. As I always do when I get this response, I asked him what happened the day he came to faith. He hesitated for a moment, looking a little bewildered, then replied, “I have received Jesus and believe in him.”
I pressed on by asking him, “Have you repented of your sins, and have you placed all your faith and trust in the Lord?” He again gave a bewildered look and the same statement of belief, but did not mention that he had repented of his sins. I explained what repentance is and its absolute necessity in salvation, and that he must turn away from his old life and turn towards Jesus. While speaking to him, I noticed a woman sitting on a bucket directly behind this fisherman. She had been peeking around him to get a look at me a couple of times during my conversation. She had a very worried look on her face, but said nothing.
I finished my message to the man, encouraging him to make sure he had repented of his sins, to read the Bible daily, and pray to the Lord for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in his life. As I turned to leave, he reached out and grabbed my arm to stop me. “May I ask you a question?”
“Sure. What’s on your mind?”
“Do I need to join a secret Christian group to ensure my salvation?” I thought that he was pulling my leg, but looking into his eyes I could see he was serious. “Jesus walked among all men,” I replied, “and publicly preached his message of repentance and salvation to all who would listen. The gift of salvation is by grace alone, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t earn it, we can’t buy it, and we don’t deserve it. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
“Are you sure that I don’t need to join a secret Christian group to ensure my salvation?”
He then told me he had received a letter soliciting his membership in a secret Christian group. The letter guaranteed him that if he would join this group of fellow Christians, his salvation would certainly be assured. At this point the lady sitting on the bucket spoke up, “Will you pray for my husband? My husband decided to pay a substantial amount of money to gain membership in this secret group; I advised him against it but he wouldn’t listen.” She again pleaded with me to pray with her husband which I agreed to do. I reached out and placed my hand on his shoulder and began to pray. Almost immediately his shoulders began heaving, and he broke into tears. I continued to pray, lifting him up to the Lord for emotional healing, and asking for the Holy Spirit to protect this man from evil.
“Thank you for stopping to talk to me,” the man said, clutching my hand.
I looked over at his wife and saw that she was wiping tears from her eyes. “Thank you for saving my husband from a grievous error in judgment.”
I bent down to take her hand, and she just about pulled me off my feet to give me a hug.