In the Cementerio de la Soledad in Huelva, Spain, there is a gravestone that reads, “William Martin, born 29 March 1907, died 24 April 1943, beloved son of John Glyndwyr Martin and the late Antonia Martin of Cardiff, Wales.”

Major Martin, of the British Royal Marines, was buried there with full military honors in May of 1943. His story is both noble and heartbreaking.

Major Martin had just recently become engaged to a lovely young lady named Pam. As was common during the fevered pitch of World War II, they sent love letters back and forth quite often. In one, she wrote to him, “I do think dearest that seeing people like you off at railway stations is one of the poorer forms of sport. A train going out can leave a howling great gap in one’s life and one has to try madly – and quite in vain – to fill it with all the things one used to enjoy a whole five weeks ago. That lovely golden day we spent together – Oh! I know it has been said before, but if only time could sometimes stand still just for a minute – but that line of thought is too pointless...”

Major Martin was a trusted young officer. So much so that, when a top secret communication needed to be hand delivered from Lord Louis Montbatten, Chief of Combined Operations, to Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, Martin was entrusted to carry that letter.

But Major William Martin never arrived with that letter. His plane went down off the coast of Spain on April 24th, 1943. A fisherman discovered his body floating just offshore some time later, and Major Martin was pulled from the water. That tragic accident ended the life of a son, a fiancé, a Royal Marine.

Except for one small detail; Major William Martin never actually existed. Oh, there is a body in that grave, and the tombstone does read exactly the way I said it does. But the person laying in that grave is actually one Michael Glyndwr, a man who in his lifetime did little of note. He was not a Royal Marine, he was not engaged to lovely Pam, and he did not sacrifice his life for his country.

Confused yet?

Early in 1943 it was obvious to anyone with eyeballs that the allies next German held area to target in the Mediterranean was the Island of Sicily. Since that was utterly, painfully obvious, the Germans strengthened and fortified the area; the allies would be wading into a hornet’s nest when the battle began. But nestled away in an intelligence building in Britain was a group of people working on the most unlikely of ruses. Could they find some way to convince the Germans that the obvious target was, in fact, not where they were going?

Enter Major William Martin. Procuring the corpse of another man, the intelligence officers created Martin out of thin air. They made a uniform for him, got him proper I.D., created a family history, gave him a fiancé, and even put theater stubs in his pocket. They then put that “secret letter” from Mountbatten to Cunningham in a briefcase, chained it to Martin, and set his body afloat off the coast of Spain.

As they suspected, the Spaniards turned the information over to German agents. The German high command checked everything thoroughly and came to the conclusion that “The genuineness of the documents is above suspicion.” Thus, when the allies invaded Sicily on July 10 of that year, they faced only light resistance; a great deal of the German forces had been sent elsewhere waiting for the “real attack.”

And while the history lover and mischief maker in me revels in all of this, the Bible student in me cannot help but notice a frightening parallel.

It is increasingly popular for people to call themselves Christians these days. And yet, upon examination, they are oftentimes no more “real” than Major Martin. They look the part, they fool lots of people, but their spiritual DNA would give them away.

A Christian is one who, in the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17 has become a “new creature in Christ.” “Old things have passed away,” that verse goes on to say, “all things have become new.” Thus, if a person is still the old sinful person they were, it is evidence that there is no genuine salvation.

Jesus spoke of sin in Luke 13, and then twice said, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” The believers in Thessalonica got saved when they “turned to God, from idols.” To. From. Genuine salvation always includes both. Simply put, if a person is living a lifestyle that the Bible calls sinful, they have no reason to think that they are truly saved. Grace does not teach us to sin; it teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, Titus 2:14.

We will never fool God, so it makes no sense to try and fool ourselves, either.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Mooresboro, N.C. He is a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books. Email him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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