Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com
It was suppertime, and there were just a few empty seats in the fellowship hall at the church down in Florida where I, along with a few others, was preaching. But one of those empty seats was right beside me. When the seat got taken, though, the pleasant young lady who sat down did not have a plate of food in her hands. What she did have, though, was a request. A really odd request.
“May I please pull your hair?”
I have been pastoring for twenty-five years as of this coming June and have done evangelistic meetings for even longer than that. I have preached in at least fourteen different countries and dozens of states. And yet that was the very first time anyone, anywhere, has ever asked that of me. But if you know me, even just through my weekly columns, you know that odd things, adventures, and unbeaten paths are some of my favorite things in life.
“Help yourself,” I said with a smile.
She reached out and grabbed a handful, carefully gave it a very solid tug, and as soon as she did, young people came from everywhere, crowding around the people sitting beside and across from me.
“It’s real,” she said. As it turns out, I actually helped the young lady earn $100 from the guy who put her up to the hair-pulling stunt. I am okay with that; as a person with enough historical and economic understanding to appreciate capitalism, I admire people who can make $100 in under thirty seconds without doing anything illegal or immoral.
Anyway, as you have doubtless guessed, a question had arisen about my hair and whether it was “Wagner or wig.” It is a good question to have asked about you at my age, I suppose; it means that it is good enough to make people wonder. I am blessed in the tooth department as well, with all original teeth which have never had any cavities or braces.
As I talked about follicles and bicuspids with the younger crowd, though, I shifted the conversation to my grandfather. You see, he kept all of his hair and all of his perfect teeth till the day he died in his mid-80s. My mom, now in her early seventies, is exactly the same. The fact that I have all original hair and perfect teeth has nothing to do with any goodness, effort, or skill on my part; they were handed down to me through genetics, as were my blue eyes and my tan skin. Other people have brushed and flossed teeth and washed and conditioned hair just as well or better than me, and yet have gone bald and struggled with cavities and crooked teeth. There are simply certain things that are gifts and cannot rightly be boasted about.
Things like salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
That is one of the most essential passages and foundational truths in all the Bible. It gets right to the heart of the question, “how can I be saved?” And in this passage, we find both the how and a why of the how. Salvation comes exclusively by grace through faith apart from any works on our part. And one of the whys of that is so that no person can ever boast about it.
There is no deficit of religion in our world. In fact, there is such a surplus of it that a person could shop around a bit and find whatever suits them, no matter how incomprehensible. Would you like to achieve salvation by martyring yourself while killing infidels? That circle is not hard to find. Would you like to do it by self-flagellation till you bleed profusely in the streets? Check, there is that too. Or how about something more mundane, like just keeping the ten commandments and certain cherry-picked Old Testament laws? You have more options than you can count.
What about something a bit odder, say, a satirical religion centered around pasta? Believe it or not, there is even that. Then there is the more mainstream belief system, yet equally as wrong as any of the above, that just being a member of a church, or being baptized, or giving to the poor, or following the Golden Rule, or even just being an American grants a person favor in God’s sight and a mansion in heaven.
The truth is that salvation will bring forth good works, but good works never bring forth salvation. There will never be a person who stands before the Lord and boasts, “Here I am, Lord, because of what I did to earn my salvation!” There will only be people who kneel before the Lord and humbly say, “Here I am, Lord, because of what you did to give me the gift of salvation!” Salvation always and only comes to those who respond to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), agree with God about their lost estate (Luke 18:13), and turn to God from sin (1 Thessalonians 1:9, Luke 13:3) receiving Christ as their Lord and Savior (John 1:12. Romans 10:9-10). Our salvation is a gift that he offers and we receive, not a task that we accomplish.
God does not give everyone the gift of good hair or good teeth or above-average height or even good general health. But he does offer absolutely everyone the gift of salvation (2 Peter 3:9, Romans 10:13, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 1 John 2:2).
You cannot earn it, but you can choose to gladly receive it.
Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and his books and other resources are available by clicking the “Store” link above.
Feature photo by Pastor Bo Wagner
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