(Younger brother of Dr. John R. Rice, and founder of the Bill Rice Ranch in Murfreesboro, Tennessee)
“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”-John 5:40
The Lord Jesus plainly tells us that the one real reason for anyone’s being unsaved is that he is not willing to be saved. He is deliberately “Hell-bent.” He simply WILL NOT be saved.
In revival work, one hears many excuses as to why various people are unsaved. One will say, “There are too many hypocrites in the church”; another, “I’m afraid I cannot hold out” or “I don’t feel like it,” and so on. But the fact is, there is only one honest-to-goodness reason for anyone’s being unsaved. That one reason is given in our text in the words of Jesus Christ who said, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”
People are unsaved because they are not willing to come to Christ. They are deliberately unsaved, purposely away from Christ and Hell-bent!
I. SALVATION IS FOR ALL
A. God Predestines No One to Be Damned
Some time ago I spoke one Sunday morning in a Baptist church near Charleston, Illinois. The power of the Holy Spirit was felt in the entire service. It was a time of heart-searching, of repentance, of salvation. When the invitation was given to come forward publicly and claim Christ, seven came. It was a happy occasion, and we rejoiced over those who had been saved.
But when the service was dismissed and I was about to step down from the platform, a man with a Bible under his arm barred my way. “Look here,” he said to me sternly, “don’t you know you will be held accountable to God for the invitation you gave this morning? At the invitation, you invited all the lost to come forward and be saved, and seven came. Now, what if some of them are predestined to go to Hell? Think how surprised they will be if they die and go to Hell when you have made them believe that they are now saved because they accepted Christ! You surely know that some people are predestined to be saved and some are predestined to be lost and cannot be saved no matter what they do!”
Now I know that there is a doctrine of predestination, but I also know it does not contradict the clear teaching of the Bible that anyone may be saved who is willing to be saved.
John 3:16, the best-known verse in the Bible, plainly says “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
In John 6:37 Jesus said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
Hebrews 2:9 tells us that Jesus tasted death for “every man.”
Second Peter 3:9 tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
It certainly is clear, then, that anyone can be saved who is willing to be saved. No individual or special group of individuals has a corner on salvation. God loved the whole world so much that He provided a way of salvation for every single man and woman and boy and girl, and any person who is willing to be saved can be saved.
Of course, God knew there would be some who would reject Christ and others who would accept Christ. He even knew ahead of time the decision each one would make; and in His goodness and mercy, God determined that everyone who would accept Christ should one day be like Christ.
This is plainly stated in Romans 8:29: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Every person who accepts Christ is predestined to become like Christ. But whether or not you accept Christ is a matter of your own deliberate choice. God does not predestinate anyone to be lost.
B. Even the Vilest May Be Saved
Nor are people unsaved because they have sinned so much that God will not save them.
I spoke with a man in Fort Worth, Texas who had killed another man and who was certain God would never forgive one whose sin had been so great.
I spoke with a man in Brainerd, Minnesota who told me of a great sin in his life that he felt would make it impossible for him to be saved.
Many girls have gone into the scarlet sin and feel there is no hope for their souls. But the fact is: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Tim. 1:15).
Christ died to save sinners! Jesus Himself said that well people had no need of a physician, but rather those who were sick. He came, He said, to call the wicked people to repentance.
In Isaiah 1:18 we read, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
In Hebrews 7:25 we read that regardless of one’s degree of sinfulness, Christ is able to save to the uttermost all who will come to Him.
I spoke one morning in the South Dakota State Penitentiary, and thirteen convicts openly claimed Christ as their Saviour. After the service, I drove to a nearby city where I was engaged in a revival campaign, arriving in time to preach in the morning service. During the message, I told of the thirteen convicts and how they had so gladly turned to Christ.
At the close of the service, an elderly couple came to me and timidly asked if they might see me in private. Of course I was glad to speak with them. After everyone else had left, we sat down on the last pew in the church auditorium. I had supposed that the couple were husband and wife, but found instead that he was her son and was prematurely old.
When I asked what they wanted to see me about, the man said, “Mr. Rice, this morning you told of thirteen convicts who were saved in the penitentiary. What I want to know is this: Do you honestly believe they really and truly were saved? Will God save a convict?”
I assured him at once that if these men had sincerely trusted the Saviour, there was no doubt but that they were actually saved. Putting his hand on my knee, he looked long and earnestly into my face; then, with a trembling voice and eyes filled with tears, he said:
I have spent most of my life in the Leavenworth Penitentiary; and I deserved to be there. My life has been a wicked one. As I look back, I do not have one thing to be proud of.
I have not long to live, and so they turned me loose so I could come home and see my mother again before I die.
Please tell me the truth, Mr. Rice; don’t lie to me-please tell me the truth-would God forgive even me for my sins? Could I be saved? Please don’t lie to me-tell me the truth-is there any hope for me?
It stirred my heart. I took him by the hand and said, “Upon my word of honor and with all the sincerity of my heart, I tell you, God loves you. Christ died for you. He is willing to save you and save you right now even before you leave this building.”
His mother nudged him for all the world as though he were only a little boy and said to him, “That’s right! That’s right! Listen to the preacher, Sonny; listen to the preacher!”
Oh, how he listened as I opened my Bible and showed him Scripture after Scripture promising everlasting life for everyone who will trust the Saviour! I told him of Saul who became Paul, the mighty apostle. I told him of Rahab, the harlot, who became Rahab, the pure. I told him of Zacchaeus, the thief; of Peter who swore; of the woman taken in adultery, and of many other vile sinners whom Jesus saved.
I will never forget how he prayed, confessing his sin and asking God to save him, nor how happy he was when he left the building a saved man.
One of the most blessed things about preaching the Gospel is that I can honestly say to any man or woman or boy or girl with whom I come in contact, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou [no matter who you are, what your name is, where you come from, or what your past has been] shalt be saved.” If you are not a Christian, it is because you are not willing to be saved; it is not because God is not willing to save you.
II. WHY MEN ARE UNWILLING TO BE SAVED
The only reason any person is unsaved is that he is unwilling to be saved. There may be, however, any number of reasons as to why he is unwilling; always, the reason is a sinful one. If you are unsaved, it is because of sin.
A. Sinful Habits
Many a man is unsaved because of some habit that he feels he must give up in order to be saved, but God would have us give up only the habits that are harmful to us. Some habits are good, and some are bad. It is only those that are detrimental mentally or physically or morally that God would have you break.
A short time ago in a revival campaign, I spoke to a young man about being saved. He told me quite frankly that he was not willing to be saved because he liked a “stiff drink of whiskey and a big black cigar now and then.” He went on to say that he felt God would want him to give up these things if he were going to be a Christian.
Immediately, I asked, “For whose sake does God want you to quit smoking and drinking? Does God want you to stop drinking because He is afraid you will run over Him in your car? Does God want you to stop smoking because the cigar smoke nauseates Him?
“Think, man, think! For whose sake does God want you to stop drinking and smoking? Is God selfish in the matter? or is it because He loves you and your wife and the baby sleeping in your arms? Be honest. For whose sake does God want you to live a clean, sober life?”
He did think! The next night he and his wife came forward to claim Christ publicly.
Good neighbor, do not allow some silly, cheap, filthy habit to keep you from Christ. It is not only wicked; it is foolish. It is doubly foolish, for it will not only send your soul to Hell forever but will keep you from getting the most out of this life.
B. Sinful Pleasure
Some people are forever complaining about how much they must “give up” to become a Christian. If it is not some sinful habit, it may be a sinful pleasure. It may be movies; it may be dancing; it may be necking or cards or gambling. To hear some people talk, one would think that being a Christian is little better than being in prison or being hog-tied and hobbled. The fact is, Jesus came ‘that ye might have life and have it more abundantly.’ Real pleasure, real joy, comes only through Christ.
It used to thrill my heart to hear Bill Stroh sing:
Time may tarnish earthly treasures,
Take what I have loved before-
Jesus gives abiding pleasures;
Having Him, I want no more.
The things that are good, decent, wholesome, uplifting-things that go to make for real joy-the Lord nowhere so much as hints that He would have us give them up. Anything that is vile, unhealthy, unclean, degrading, will not make for joy, but for sorrow. Any person with a lick of common sense would give them up for his own betterment, even if the Bible did not have a word to say about them.
Some time ago Mrs. Rice and I were in a revival campaign in Kansas. One night three young schoolteachers came to Cathy and asked her if I would be willing to remain after church for a discussion with them. She assured them I would be more than happy to talk with them, and made the arrangements.
Accordingly, after the service was dismissed and all others had left the auditorium, they stayed behind to discuss their problems with me. They told me how they taught in rural schools and that the only social outlet for them was the Friday and Saturday night community dances. Very earnestly one of the girls said to me:
Mr. Rice, we are young. We want to have fun; we want to do things and go places. We want to be with boys, and so many of them are in the armed forces that about the only opportunity to be with those who are here is to meet them at the dances. If we become Christians, as you urge us every night to become, of course, we would have to give up these dances.
Now, tell us the truth: Would you become a Christian if you were in our place? Or would you wait until you were married and settled down and then be saved? We have discussed this problem among ourselves ever since the campaign began, and we have decided to ask you personally to advise with us. What would you do?
I neither laughed nor upbraided them. It was a very, very serious matter to them. They were trying to face their problem honestly. Very earnestly I discussed the problem with them. Would these community dances be beneficial to their health? Would it increase respect for them among their pupils? Would it increase their opportunities for better teaching positions? Would dances tend to help them morally-were the men with whom they danced the finest or the trashiest in the community?
“You girls tell me you want to be with the young men, and that is perfectly normal and right,” I told them. “But are these the kind of young men you want to marry? Do these young men respect you, or do they make evil, adulterous suggestions to you?”
The looks on their faces gave me my answer as I continued: “If a man is evil now, do you believe marriage would change him? Don’t you know that if he is wicked now and lusts after you, he would be the same with every other girl even though he were married to you? Is that the type of man you want to marry?”
The upshot of the whole matter was that all three of these schoolteachers publicly accepted the Lord Jesus Christ the following night.
The Devil would have you believe that one loses something worthwhile in order to become a Christian, but nothing could be further from the truth. Romans 8:32 says, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
Instead of losing anything, one gains immeasurably by having a Heavenly Father who loves us so dearly He even gave His own Son for our salvation. Surely, if God loves us so much there is nothing good He would not want us to have. As a matter of fact, the closer one walks with the Lord, the more one has of those things that make for real joy.
Psalm 84:11 has long been a favorite verse of mine: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
Whether you are a Christian or not, it will pay you to live the kind of life a Christian is supposed to live. Benjamin Franklin was right when he said, “Honesty is the best policy,” and the old saying, “Virtue is its own reward,” is a true one. Any pleasure that would keep you from Christ is a sinful pleasure that will doubtless cause you anguish, heartache, tears and remorse.
Speaking to a Rotary Club in Alexandria, Minnesota, I said:
Men, when you come to the sundown of life, and your sun is setting, if you look back over your life and then forward beyond the sunset into the future, you are going to find that values have strangely changed. Many a thing that may mean much to you today will have lost its luster, its attractiveness and its value. You will marvel then that you ever paid so high a price for dishonesty, for drunkenness, for adultery-for all ungodliness. If you look into the future, if it is to be a future without Christ and Heaven, you will marvel that you let anything in the world hinder your becoming a Christian.
Anything in this world is far too expensive if it costs you Christ!
C. Sinful Business
Every so often a man will say to me, “You can’t be a Christian in my business.”
My reply is always, “Then you are a fool to remain in that business.” Whether your job is that of a bartender, a theater operator, or a crooked cattle buyer, you are playing the fool to remain in such a business rather than become a Christian.
Judas Iscariot was not only wicked-he was a wicked fool! He was a lamebrain, a nitwit-just plain stupid! He was “penny-wise and dollar-foolish.” For thirty pieces of silver-approximately eighteen dollars in American money (Jamieson-Fausset & Brown)-he sold out to the Devil. Can you imagine a man spending eternity in Hell for eighteen dollars? or eighteen thousand dollars! What a stupid, wicked fool!
Salvation is a precious gift all the silver and gold in the world cannot buy. Will you forfeit it, then, for a few dollars? or will you turn from dishonest gain to receive the Saviour?
D. Sinful Friends and Loved Ones
Perhaps nothing today keeps so many people from Christ as the fear of what others say or think. Many a boy has felt a tug at his heart and has longed to be saved, but hesitates at the thought of what the “fellows” would say to him about it. Many a girl, convicted of sin, has been hungry for Christ and forgiveness, but puts off salvation lest her friends make catty remarks and she become an object of ridicule.
Many a man would long since have been saved had it not been for the reaction of “the boys” when he refused to drink or gamble with them. This is probably what Proverbs 29:25 means: “The fear of man bringeth a snare.”
Fear of ridicule and loss of friendship have always been Satan’s strongest arguments to persuade men and women to reject Christ. Jesus Himself lost many, many followers because of the “murmur” of the crowd. There were others of whom it was said, “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).
It is a pathetic thing that men will go to Hell because of the opinion of friends. It is doubly pathetic when one realizes that any person who would keep you from Christ is no friend of yours-he is your worst enemy!
Time and time again in revival campaigns, we have known a wife or a husband who refused to accept Christ until the companion would also be saved. Many a woman has felt it would be unwise to be a Christian unless her husband would also become a Christian. This is not wise; it is foolish and wicked!
God has more sense than you. If the Holy Spirit pleads with you to be saved, who are you to say, “God, you don’t understand my case. You are mistaken. It will be better if I wait until my loved one is saved also.”
You are openly rebellious against God. You are saying you know more than He knows, and you are on the road to Hell!
It will not only mean your own salvation, but you will have a much better chance of winning your loved ones if you are a Christian. Time and time again we have seen a wife come to Christ without her husband, sometimes in the face of his scorn and ridicule; and many times we have known the husband to be saved within a few days because of her own changed life and her prayers. Please remember, the salvation of many others may depend up-on your being saved.
An outstanding young farmer in a Western community came to hear me preach night after night. He was a giant of a man, standing six feet four inches tall and weighing close to three hundred pounds. He was extremely wealthy. He and his father seemed to own half the community. He had a beautiful young wife and two little children, a boy and a girl, of whom he was very, very proud.
Although his wife was an earnest Christian who played the piano during the campaign and prayed for him daily, he was unsaved. The love of money, evil habits, lustful pleasures and wicked companions kept him from Christ. He seemed to like me, gave generously of his money, but refused to be saved.
Then one night after church, he invited me to go home with him to see some moving pictures he had taken of his family; and although I was dog-tired from visiting all day, I eagerly accepted.
They put the kiddies to bed, gave me a glass of milk and a sandwich and began showing me pictures. I saw “the wolf we caught on the south forty”; “my brother Tom, who is in the army”; “Pa, on his favorite tractor”; “Jim, Jr., before he could walk,” and so forth.
It was past 1:00 a.m. when the supply was finally exhausted and I left. Jim, bareheaded and in his shirt sleeves, walked to the car with me. Before driving away, I turned to him and said, “God has been good to give you such a wonderful family, such a lovely wife and fine kiddies. I am sorry you do not love them more and are not more concerned about their future.”
“What do you mean?” he boomed. “I love my wife and kids with all my heart! Why, everything I have is for them. I am going to send my girl to the finest finishing school in America, my boy to the best university. They can travel, or I’ll set them up in business or do anything to make them happy. They mean everything to me. I love them better than anything in the world!”
“No, Jim,” I said, “you love your sins more than anything in the world. You say you love your wife, but she is concerned and burdened about your soul’s salvation, and you take it lightly. You say you love your children and will buy them cars and farms and education-but you aren’t willing to help them get to Heaven! You love your sins more than you love them.”
With that I drove out of the yard. As I turned onto the highway, I looked back and saw him-a bareheaded giant in shirt sleeves-standing motionless in the snow.
The next night Jim came to the service with a sober look on his face. He sat with his cronies in the rear of the auditorium. When the time came for the invitation, I asked the people to stand and then said, “Before we sing, who will come forward and tell me you will here and now receive Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Who, for your own sake and for the sake of those you love, will turn from your sins to Jesus?”
For just a moment there was absolute silence. Then a loud “bang” was heard in the rear of the auditorium! It was Jim dropping his songbook on the pew as he turned to the aisle and then came forward to take my hand. “Mr. Rice, ” he said, “I will take Jesus Christ as my Saviour right now.”
His wife bowed her head over the piano keyboard and wept. I invited others to come, and a second “bang” was heard as one of his friends dropped his hymnal and came forward! And in the following service, two more friends came to trust the Saviour. Three of his friends had taken Jesus Christ too.
By receiving Christ, Jim not only was saved himself, but won his friends, gave his wife a Christian husband and his children a Christian dad who will doubtless win them for Christ and Heaven when they are a bit older.
Dear friend, if you are unsaved, it is because you are not willing to come to Christ and let Him save you. Please believe me, you will make the most serious mistake of your life if you will not turn to the Lord Jesus and trust Him for salvation.