Have you heard the one about the man who died and went to heaven? As he approached the pearly white gates of glory, Saint Peter welcomed him to heaven and asked him where he was from. "Marco Island," the man replied.
"Oh," said Saint Peter, "You might not like it here."
I have the pleasure of officiating at many weddings because of Marco’s idyllic beaches. Several years ago I received a telephone call from a gentleman named John who had been the groom at one of those weddings. John told me that he had just been diagnosed with kidney cancer and that his prognosis was not good. He was calling me because he said that he knew I had “a connection with the Man upstairs.” We sat an appointment to meet. At that meeting we discussed his past and his future. John was a successful business man. He had a wonderful, beautiful wife. He was living his dream on Marco. None of those things could bring peace in the midst of his health crisis. John needed God, and God was there.
I explained that everybody needs to make a conscious decision to open up to a personal relationship to God, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Being a member of any particular church isn’t enough. Living a moral life and being a good person isn’t enough. Being baptized isn’t enough. Everyone old enough to understand right and wrong is old enough to determine their own eternal destiny, and that capability brings with it the responsibility of choosing the right savior.
I went on to tell John that the Bible explains about Jesus. In the Scriptures we find important truths about this matter: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.¹
Sometimes people ask, “Are there other ways to find peace with God, apart from through Jesus Christ?” According to His own testimony, Jesus offers the only path to Heaven when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”²
That day I asked John if he wanted a relationship with Jesus. He said yes, and then we prayed the following prayer together. “Dear God, I know that I need your help and forgiveness. I believe that Jesus died for me and paid the penalty for all of my sin. I am willing to turn from my own way and follow your way. Please forgive me, put your Spirit in my life and save a place in Heaven for me. With your help I will follow and obey you as the master of my life. I pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.”
John asked me to continue meeting with him to “coach” him on this new walk with Jesus. That day marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Two years later I stood and told this story at John’s funeral. The good news is that his story is not over. I know I will see my friend John again in heaven and even though we were from Marco Island – we will like it there!
¹Romans 3:23, 5:8, 6:23 10:9