Visitors in church are always a wonderful thing. And, with my church being right on a major highway, for us, they are a pretty regular occurrence. Most of them are everyday, average, normal Joes and Janes. And then there are the other times...

He sat on the very front row to my left as I stood in the pulpit. It was several years ago, but I will never forget it, or him. To call him disheveled would be an understatement. He looked as if he had been living under a bridge for a while. His hair made Medusa’s look tame by comparison, and he had more ink on his body than was used to print this newspaper. But what really got me was his eyes; as far as I could tell he never blinked the entire service. It was like he had invisible toothpicks propping his eyelids wide open.

As I preached and paced, his eyes followed me with rapt attention. And the longer that went on, the weirder it felt. And yet, as a preacher of the gospel, he is exactly the kind of person I want to see sitting on the front row. Everything in my spirit was telling me that he needed Jesus and that today was the day.

I preached a salvation message that morning and then had everyone stand for the invitation. As is my normal custom, I had everyone bow their heads and close their eyes so that no one would feel embarrassed to respond as I asked for a show of hands. He never bowed his head or closed his eyes; he just kept on staring at me. Almost everyone in the church that morning raised their hands that they were saved – he, still wide-eyed, didn’t. But at the next question, the question of whether anyone knew they were lost and needed to be saved, he did.

The piano started to play, and I gave the invitation. From all across the auditorium, people flooded the altar to kneel and pray, and I knew that most of them were praying for lost friends and loved ones. But for verse after verse, the one person I wanted to see come did not come.

I closed the invitation and had a man lead in a closing prayer while I went to the doors to shake everyone’s hand as they left that day. Mid-way through the crowd came the man with the wild eyes and the need for Jesus. He reached me, shook my hand, and said, “Preacher, I know you saw that I raised my hand that I needed to be saved. I didn’t come, but I don’t want you to take it personally. You see, I can’t be saved.”

I am sure my brow was wrinkled up at that point. Nonetheless, I responded pleasantly, “I have read my Bible through cover to cover more than fifty times. I am not familiar with ‘I can’t be saved.’ Would you mind sticking around for a few minutes to tell me about that?”

He stood off to the side, I greeted everyone coming through the line, and then when they were gone, he and I went to my office. I sat down behind my desk; he sat on the couch directly across from it. And then he told me his story.

He had just recently been released from prison; he had been behind bars for many years, in fact. And the reason he had been in prison is because he was caught red-handed robbing a church. That certainly caught my attention!

He already had an extensive record by that time, and a judge threw the book at him. But now he was back out in the world, and in his words, “I didn’t even want to come to church because I was afraid God would kill me for showing up on his property. But something just told me I needed to be here today, so here I am. And now you know why God would never save someone like me.”

I asked him if I could read something to him, and he said yes. I opened my Bible and read him these verses, a prophecy by Isaiah of what Jesus was going to suffer on Calvary, and why. Isaiah 53:3-5, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

Using these verses and others, I described and explained to him the brutal suffering that Christ underwent on Calvary and that all of it was to pay for what he did. Then I asked him, “Does that sound like enough punishment for what you did?” He said, “It sure does!” A moment or two later, we were kneeling side-by-side over my couch. His eyes were finally closed, and tears were streaming down his cheeks as he asked God to forgive him of his sin and save his soul.

And that is exactly what happened.

And no matter who you are or what you have done, it is exactly what will happen if you repent of your sin and ask Jesus to save you. What he suffered was enough punishment for your sin, too, and mine, and everyone else’s. 1 John 2:2 says, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

He was punished enough for you.

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

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