Hanging above my office chair is a drawing entitled, Hands. It was drawn by an artist in Rochester, MI. The hands in the drawing are of many different sizes and shapes; some little representing small children; some big representing adults; some scared representing hard work or accidents; some appear as though they have never been soiled. The hands in the drawing tell the story about how all hands are different, how important they are and what they are used for. The hands of Jesus tell a very important story. angingHe used His hands to hold the tools of a carpenter and turn pieces of wood into useful objects. He used His hands to offer hungry people a piece of bread and fish. He used His hands to hold small children. He used His hands to touch the eyes of the blind and restore their sight. He used His hands to open the ears of the deaf. He used His hands to quiet the raging seas. He used His hands to point people in the direction of the Kingdom of His Father. He never used His hands to make a fist. He never used His hands to grasp things from others. He never used His hands to point people in the wrong direction. He never used His hands to do anything that was evil. He never used His hands to strike others. He never used His hands to push people away from Him. One fateful day those hands were pierced and nailed to a cross. Pierced but not closed. They were on the end of arms that were reaching out to a lost and dying world. The Psalmist wrote, They pierce my hands.
Prayer:Thank You, Father, for loving us, for reaching out to us with hands that were pierced because of our sins. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today:Psalm 22:16c They pierced My hands and My feet;
Come SOW with us: Please forward this message to ten of your best friends, on behalf of Sower Ministries. And if these Seeds have ministered to you, email us and let us know, please. (Note: if you forward this email, remove the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom first or they may unsubscribe you from our mailing list.)
The Bible says, ” The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.” Psalm 121:6. Our post today says our Lord God is both a Sun and Shield. When you think abut our earthly sun…the sun that shines so brightly in the summer and tans our skin is far more than an entertainment center. Everything we eat, drink, wear or ride has its ultimate root in the sun. God, in His marvelous creation, has carefully measured out the rays of the sun to perfectly minister to His earth creatures (man and animal). Life, as earth people know it, could not and would not exist with out our earthly sun. Look at the plant life, the vegetation, the trees, the vines…can only survive with the sun doing her perfect, created work. Seed time and harvest requires the sun. The verse says, ” The sun shall not smite thee by day…” Here He does not at all mean you will not have all of the benefits of the great sun, rather the horrors of too much unprotected sun…the ravages of the sun as on a cruel desert with out water and shade will not smite God’s people. Jesus is our Water and if need be His Moses has a rod to strike the rock from which will flow life giving water to sustain us on our journey. Has it not been so thus far on your pilgrimage? As God led the Children of Israel through the wilderness…He was their shield in the daytime. No enemy, no bandits, no kingdoms dared come up against them. The verse continues, “…nor the moon by night.” The Blessed Psalm Writer encourages us with the promise that God protects us in the daylight, the sunlight… and He protects us at night…in the moonlight. God is ever our Protector. Did you not notice He says in our post below…that God “will give grace and glory”.? The “grace” part surely has a spiritual ring to it as if to say you have my salvation full and free having to do with our internal peace and joy. And the “glory” part an earthly protection and blessing to it…God’s constant peace. Christians see God’s Glory in a hundred ways and this speaks to our external worship and praise of Him. To take away any possible doubt of the matter He ends that verse by saying, “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” You may not have every luxury you crave, you may not have a dozen expensive suits and multiple pairs of shoes and a pantry filled with every delicacy, but He is not withholding those good things you need, things you require to be an effective witness for Him. Remember, this world is not Home…we are just passing through…Our Heavenly Home is yet to come where the abundance is bountiful. Remember that the children of Israel did not have a second pair of shoes, but the ones they were wearing never wore out. For 40 years He sustained them with manna, long lasting clothes and 24-7 protection. Count your blessings today. See what God has already done for you. Look what you have in Him. Rejoice and praise His holy Name. Now I quote the eminent Puritan preacher of yesteryear (1600s) Thomas Brooks. ”
“Grace and glory differ very little. One is the seed, the other is the flower. Grace is glory militant, glory is grace triumphant. The sun, which among all inanimate creatures is the most excellent, notes all manner of excellency, provision, and prosperity; and the shield, which among all artificial creatures is the chiefest, notes all manner of protection whatsoever. Under the name of grace, all spiritual good is wrapped up; and under the name of glory, all eternal good is wrapped up; and under the last clause, No good thing will he withhold, is wrapped up all temporal good: all put together speaks out God to be an all sufficient portion.” Thomas Brooks.
Thomas Brooks (1608–1680) was an English non-conformist Puritan preacher and author. Much of what is known about Thomas Brooks has been ascertained from his writings. Born, likely to well-to-do parents, in 1608, Brooks entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1625, where he was preceded by such men as Thomas Hooker, John Cotton, and Thomas Shepard. He was licensed as a preacher of the Gospel by 1640. Before that date, he appears to have spent a number of years at sea, probably as a chaplain with the fleet.After the conclusion of the First English Civil War, Thomas Brooks became minister at Thomas Apostle’s, London, and was sufficiently renowned to be chosen as preacher before the House of Commons on December 26, 1648. His sermon was afterwards published under the title, ‘God’s Delight in the Progress of the Upright’, the text being Psalm 44:18: ‘Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from Thy way’. Three or four years afterwards, he transferred to St. Margaret’s, Fish-street Hill, London. In 1662, he fell victim to the notorious Act of Uniformity, but he appears to have remained in his parish and to have preached as opportunity arose. [More via Wikipedia] The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks:
The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1. (558 pages) [pdfmobiepubweb via Internet Archive]
Containing the following: A Memoir; Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices; Apples of Gold for Young Men and Women; The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod; and A String of Pearls.
The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 2. (552 pages) [pdfmobiepubweb via Internet Archive]
Containing the following: An Ark for all Noahs, The Privy Key of Heaven; and Heaven on Earth (or, Well-Grounded Assurance).
The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 3. (520 pages) [pdfmobiepubweb via Internet Archive]
Containing the following: The Unsearchable Riches of Christ and A Cabinet of Jewels.
The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 4. (464 pages) [pdfmobiepubweb via Internet Archive]
Containing the following: The Crown and Glory of Christianity.
The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 5. (614 pages) [pdfmobiepubweb via Internet Archive]
Containing the following: The Golden Key to Open Hidden Treasures; Paradise Opened; and A Word in Season.
The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 6. (520 pages) [pdfmobiepubweb via Internet Archive]
Containing the following: London’s Lamentations on the Late Fiery Dispensation; The Glorious Day of the Saints’ Appearance; God’s Delight in the Progress of the Upright; Hypocrites Detected; A Believer’s Last Day is His Best Day; A Heavenly Cordial; The Legacy of a Dying Mother and Mrs. Bell’s Experiences; and Indices.
Promises are like pie crusts, begins an old proverb. They are made to be broken. Not so Gods promises.
Read this amazing statement: The Maker of heaven and earth, the seas and everything in them, the Lord…remains faithful forever.
Behind Gods promises are His past performances. He is a God of truth and will not forget or forfeit His Word. Whatever He said He would do, He did. Whatever promise He made, He has kept. If He said it, He meant it and He will do it! Behind His promises is His passionate love. He is the very definition of the word, love. Whenever we doubt the fact that God loves us, look at Christ on His cross. Unfortunately, we tend to only look at an empty cross. But, never forget that Jesus, our Savior, at one time hung on that cross for three painful, lonely, humiliating hours. How can we ever doubt Gods love? Behind every promise is His power. As the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, all of the laws that govern it are under His control. No one or no thing can stand in the way of the fulfillment of the laws that govern His universe – His creation. And if that is not enough, look once again into the empty tomb. He has the power to do whatever He said He will do. On a very special occasion, Alexander the Great gave one of his loyal supporters a generous gift. Said the recipient, This is too much for me to receive. Said the giver, But it is not too much for me to give.
Prayer: Forgive us, Father, for those times when we have doubted Your promises, passionate love or power. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 146:6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them he remains faithful forever.
In a cell of the Philippian dungeon, dark, damp, chill, unilluminated save by the torch Of some official who comes to see whether they are yet alive, are two Ministers of Jesus Christ; their feet fast in instruments of torture, their shoulders dripping from the strokes of leather thongs, their mouths hot with inflammation of thirst, their heads faint because they may not lie down. In another room of the same building is a man asleep on a comfortable couch. He is a supervisor, a paid officer of the government to look after that prison. I take him to have been a moral and an honorable man from the trust reposed in him. It is twelve o’clock at night. No sound in all the corridors and wards in that prison, save as some culprit turns over in his chains or there is the cough of a slow consumptive or some wanderer, far away from her father’s house, cries out in her dream: “Mother! mother!”
At midnight, Crash! Go the prison walls, and the two Ministers of religion, Paul and Silas, are free. The supervisor of the jail, although he had been accustomed to the shadows hovering around the dungeon, is startled beyond all bounds; and flambeau in hand he rushes through between the falling walls, and throws himself down at the feet of his Apostolic prisoners, crying out in the memorable words of my text: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
There are hundreds and thousands with more or less earnestness asking the same question, and in this severe crisis of your soul I meet you with a message from the throne of God. There may be some who could surpass me in skillfulness of argument, there may be many who could drink from deeper fountains of knowledge and science, there may be many before whom, in some respects, I would be willing to bow as the inferior to the superior; but I yield to no one in this presence in a wish to have all the people saved; and with an all conquering desire that sometimes well nigh overcomes my utterance, I beg you to accept the eternal life of the Gospel. Lord, help us! Lord, help us now!
I proceed to characterize this question of the jail warden, and I characterize it in the first place as a courteous question. He did not come up to these men and say: “You outragers of the law, you miscreants, you vagabonds against society, you have upturned the whole city with excitement, and now you are trying to break down the walls of our prison, destroying government property; let me put on you these handcuffs and hopples, or else get out beyond the confines of the city.” He said no such thing. He addresses them with that one word, “Sirs,” a synonym for lords – as much as to say: “I acknowledge the dignity of your mission. I acknowledge the honor of your manhood, and I am here to see what you can do for my soul.” It was a courteous question.
But it is often the case when people begin to inquire about religion they become impertinent, and they denounce all Christians as hypocrites, and the Church of God as a cheat, and they criticize this and they denounce that and they complain of something else. Is that fair? Is that right? Is that courteous? Suppose I should come into an audience of lawyers and denounce them all as pettifoggers, or an audience of physicians and denounce them all as quacks? “Oh,” you say, “that would not be fair.” It would be just as fair as for you to denounce all Christians as hypocrites. There are pettifoggers among lawyers, and there are quacks among physicians, and there are hypocrites among Christians; but that is not the character of all lawyers or all physicians or all Christians. It was a courteous question, it was a gentlemanly question, it was a polite question, it was a deferential question. “Sirs! Sirs!”
I go further, and I characterize the question of the jail supervisor as a practical question. He did not ask why God let sin come into the world – he did not ask how the Christ about whom they were preaching could be God and man at the same time; he did not ask who Cain married; he did not ask who was Melchizedek; he did not ask the proportionate number of the finally saved and the finally lost. No; his question involved his present and his everlasting welfare. Was not that a practical question? Yet a great many people, when they begin to seek after religion, begin to find fault with the Bible, and they say, “If this is so, how can that be so?” And they complain of this and they complain of that and they go fishing after snapping turtles instead of fishing after the truth. They do not seem to be satisfied with the plain Gospel of the Son of God. Now, the question for you is not whether John Calvin or Arminius was right, not what will be the proportion of the finally saved and the finally lost, not who was Melchizedek, not who Cain married; the question for you is, “Where will I spend eternity?” It is a practical question.
I go further and I characterize this question of the jail supervisor as a question personal to himself. He may have had hundreds of friends; he is not asking about them. In that catastrophe of the failing prison some or those friends may have perished. He is not asking about them. He throws all the emphasis of his question upon the pronoun of the first person: “What shall I do to be saved?” When a man becomes a Christian, of course he is anxious to have everybody else saved. You are not a Christian if you are not anxious to have all the world saved; but until your own sins are pardoned, my brother, you must look at home. The difficulty is, we are so anxious about the lack of culture in our neighbor’s yard that we let our own garden go to weeds – we are so anxious to get the people into the lifeboat of the Gospel that we ourselves drown in the wave. We cry, “Fire! fire!” because our neighbor’s house is consuming; while ours is in a blaze. Now, let us blot out everything, let us obliterate all other considerations, let it be as though you were the only person present, the rest of the audience all gone. Your sin – is it pardoned? Your Heaven – is it secure?
I come up to the door of your soul with a message from the throne of God -about your pardon, your repentance, your enthronement, your exile, your eternal residence. This man of the text knew that there was coming an earthquake mightier than that which shook down the Philippian dungeon. The foundations of the earth shall give way. At one tremor of the world, all the modern cities will fall into the dust. Temples and towers that have stood a thousand years will fall as quickly as a child’s block house. The waves of the sea will roll over the land, and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans will join hands above the Sierra Nevadas and the Alps and the Pyrenees. This man of the text was guarding not more against the falling of the prison than he was against the falling of a world.
I go further, and characterize this question of the jail supervisor as a question of incomparable importance. Perhaps he was anxious to have his salary raised as a supervisor; perhaps he wished to have better apartments; perhaps he was discussing some questions of prison reform, something about warmth, light, ventilation, medical treatment, discipline. Men are wonderfully alike, and I suppose he may have had a hundred questions to discuss; but all earthly questions are submerged, are bushed up, are annihilated by the one question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And what question have you, my brother, comparable with that in importance?
Is it a business question? Do you not realize that you will soon have to go out of that store, that you will soon have to resign that partnership, that soon among all the millions of dollars’ worth of goods that are sold in New York you will not have the handling of a yard of cloth or a pound of sugar or a pennyworth of anything, that soon, if a conflagration should start at Central Park and sweep everything to the Battery, it would not disturb you; that soon if every cashier should abscond, and every bank should suspend payment, and every insurance company should fail, it would not affect you? What are all the questions that stop this side the grave compared with the questions that reach beyond it? Are you making losses that are to be everlasting? Are you making purchases for eternity? Are you retailing for time, when you might be wholesaling for eternity? What question of the store is so broad at the base, and so altitudinous, and so overwhelming as the question, “What must I do to be saved?”
Or is it a domestic question? Is it something about father or mother or companion or son or daughter that you think is comparable with this question in importance? Do you not realize that by universal and inexorable law all these relations will be broken up? Your father will he gone, your mother will be gone, your companion will be gone, your child will be gone, you will be gone; and then this supernal question will begin to harvest its chief gains or deplore its worst losses, roll up into its mightiest magnitude or sweep its vastest circles – a question deciding whether you will live unending ages with God, the Blessed, or go into exile; whether you will take wing and fly, or chain and drop; whether you will forever be built up or pulled down; whether for all the future you will be praising or blaspheming, chanting or groaning, living the life that always lives, or dying the death that always dies. Is there any question comparable with that?
What difference now does it make to Napoleon III whether he triumphed or surrendered at Sedan? Whether he lived at the Tuileries or at Chiselhurst? Whether he was emperor or exile? They laid him out in his coffin in the dress of a field marshal. Did that give him any better chance for the next world than if he had been laid out in a plain shroud? Soon to us what will be the difference whether in this world we rode or walked, were bowed to or maltreated, were applauded or hissed at, were welcomed in or kicked out; while, grasping the great future, and burning in splendor or grief, and over arching and under girding all time and all eternity, is the plain, simple, practical, thrilling, agonizing, overwhelming question: “What must I do to be saved?”
I go further, and I characterize this question of the jail supervisor as one pressed out by crushing misfortune. The penitentiary fallen, his business was gone. It was a financial loss. Besides that, the flight of a prisoner ordinarily in those times meant the death of the jailer. If the prison wars had stood solidly all that night, and the incarcerated had been quiet in the stocks, and the sunlight on the following morning had dropped on the calm pillow of the supervisor, would he have hurled the agitating words of my text into the ears of the Apostles? You know as well as I, it was the earthquake that roused his anxieties. And is it not the shaking of misfortune and trouble, and the crashing down of earthly hopes that has driven many of you to the Gospel? Your dress is not so bright as once. Why have you come to more subdued garb? You like the saffron and the crimson and the bright colors as well as ever; but you say: “Things that were in harmony with my feelings when I was young and bright and prosperous and gay would be a discord now.” And so you have gathered up and plaited the darkness into your apparel.
There have been dark days in your house. It does not seem any more like home. You once wished the house might be quiet. It is too quiet. Others say they would not bring their loved ones back to this trouble some world if they could; but if you had the power, how soon those hushed voices would be back in the home circle; and it would be as it was in the Christmas or the Thanksgiving holiday so long gone by, never to come back with its hilarity’s. Oh! It is the earthquake of domestic trouble that has started one half of you toward God. The grave is so cruel, so relentless, so devouring, that when our loved ones are swallowed up by it, we must have some one to whom we can take our torn and bleeding hearts.
It needs a balsam better than ever exuded from any earthly tree to stop the sharpness of the pang. It is pleasant at such times to have friends come in and try to break up the loneliness; but Jesus only can take the frenzied spirit on His bosom and hush it with the lullaby of Heaven. Alas the heavy grave stone will never be lifted from your heart until Jesus lifts it. Has it not been the loss of your friends, has it not been the crushing down of your estate, has it not been the earthquake of misfortune that led you to ask the question spelled in tears and heart breaks, the impassioned outcry: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
I take one step further, and I characterize this question of the jail supervisor as an urgent, hasty, immediate question that demanded an immediate answer. It was a question put on the run. You can see by the torch the jailer holds in his hand the startled and anxious look. He had no time to prepare himself in especial apparel, no time to comb his hair, no time to fix himself up. He must have that question answered before the earthquake has stopped rocking, or never perhaps have it answered at all. Is that the way you propound the question of your salvation, or do you drawl it out as much as to say: “Any time within fifteen years I would like to have it answered”? Do you know that thousands of souls have been ruined because they did not ask the question in time? If the door of the lost world could be opened, and one word of warning could come forth, and they could utter only one word of warning, that word would come sounding up like the howl of the everlasting storm: “Now!” I open the gate of those there incarcerated. I find some of the young are there. What is their history? Now did they lose their souls? By procrastinating to old age, or to mid-life; but the rail train shot from the track and in an instant they were gone; or they slipped on the icy pavement and the skull was fractured; or the typhoid fever came down and drove them in delirium out of life. There are some of the middle aged who have lost their souls. What was their history? They adjourned religion until they got more time, until they got their worldly affairs arranged, until they made a competency. In the attempt to win the world they lost their soul. All their government securities, all their certificates of stock, all their warehouses, all their bonds, all their daybooks and ledgers, all their worldly accumulations are of no service to them now. There are some of the aged who lost their souls – through what cause? Adjourning religion until their hearts were so hard when they tried to repent they could not repent, and when they tried to pray they could not pray; and they went tottering on leaning heavier and heavier on their staff until it broke, and they fell headlong into outer darkness.
Are you proposing the question of the text with an urgency such as this man of the text employed, or are you adjourning it to the last hour? Adjourning it to the last hour, are you? I suppose that out of the one hundred death bed repentances, ninety nine amount to nothing. Of the large number of people in this Bible who are represented as dying, how many of them are represented as repenting successfully in the last hour? Fifty? No. Thirty? No. Twenty? No. Ten? No. Five? No. Two? No. One? Just one. Only one. As much as to say: “it is possible that a man may repent in the last hour of his life, but it is improbable; it is a hundred chances to one against him.”
Have you ever seen a man after living a life of sin and idleness worrying to repent in the last hour? I have seen that spectacle. If you had ever seen it you would not try to repeat it. Why, it is most inopportune. There is the physician standing with the medicine, and here is the lawyer standing with the half written will; and the bells of eternity are tolling at the passage of the soul from the body; and all the past is surging upon us, and all the future; and angels are flying through the room, and devils are plotting for the overthrow. The man is a fool who adjourns repentance until the death hour.
My text asks the question, but does not answer it. That comes on in the next verse, and strict rules of sermonizing would say that must come in some other sermon. But what are rules of sermonizing to me when I am after souls immortal? Wait until another time! I might be dead before that time, and many of you I confront only once.
After a friend in Philadelphia died, his children gave his Church Bible to me, and I read it with much interest. I saw in the margin written in lead pencil; “Mr. Talmage said this morning that the most useless thing in God’s universe is that any sinner should perish.” I did not remember saying it; but it is true, and I say it now, whether I said it then or not – the most useless thing in all God’s universe is that any sinner should perish. Twelve gates wide open. Have you not heard how Christ bore our sorrows, and how sympathetic He is with all our woes? Have you not heard how that with all the sorrows of heart and all the agonies of hell upon him He cried: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do!” By His feet blistered of the mountain way – by His back whipped until the skin came off; by His death couch of your spikes, two for the hands and two for the feet; by His sepulcher, in which for the first time for thirty three years the cruel world let him alone; and by the heavens from which he this morning bends in compassion, offering pardon and peace and life eternal to all your souls. I beg of you put down your all at his feet.
I saw one hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood,
Who put His languid eyes on me,
As near His Cross I stood,
Oh, never till my latest breath,
Will I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.
In the troubled times of Scotland, Sir John Cochrane was condemned to death by the king. The death warrant was on the way. Sir John Cochrane was bidding farewell to his daughter Crizelle at the Prison door, He said: “Farewell, my darling child! I must die.” His daughter said: “No father, you shall not die.” “But,” he said, “the king is against me, and the law is after me, and the death warrant is on its way, and I must die; do not deceive yourself, my dear child.” The daughter said: “Father, you shall not die,” as she left the prison gate. At night, on the moors of Scotland, a disguised wayfarer stood waiting for the horseman carrying the mail bags containing the death warrant. The disguised wayfarer, as the horse came by, clutched the bridle and shouted to the rider – to the man who carried the mail-bags: “Dismount!” He felt for his arms, and was about to shoot, but the wayfarer jerked him from his saddle and he fell flat. The wayfarer picked up the mail bags, put them on his shoulder and vanished in the darkness – and fourteen days were thus gained for the prisoner’s life, during which the father confessor was pleading for the pardon of Sir John Cochrane. The second time the death warrant is on its way. The disguised wayfarer comes along, and asks for a little bread and a little wine, starts on across the moors, and they say: “Poor man, to have to go out such a stormy night – it is dark and you will lose yourself on the moors.” “Oh, no,” he says: “I will not.” He trudged on and stopped amid the brambles and waited for the horseman to come carrying the mail bags containing the death warrant of Sir John Cochrane. The mail carrier spurred on his steed, for he was fearful because of what had occurred on the former journey, spurred on his steed; when suddenly through the storm and through the darkness there was a flash of firearms, and the horse became unmanageable; and as the mail carrier discharged his pistol in response, the horse flung him, and the disguised wayfarer put his foot on the breast of the overthrown rider, and said: “Surrender now!” The mail carrier surrendered his arms, and the disguised wayfarer put upon his shoulders the mail bags, leaped upon the horse, and sped away into the darkness, gaining fourteen more days for the poor prisoner, Sir John Cochrane; and before the fourteen days had expired pardon had come from the king. The door of the prison swung open, and Sir John Cochrane was free. One day when he was standing amid his friends, they congratulating him, the disguised wayfarer appeared at the gate, and he said: “Admit him right away,” The disguised wayfarer came in and said: “Here are two letters; read them, sir, and cast them into the fire.” Sir John Cochrane read them. They were his two death warrants, and he threw them into the fire. Then said Sir John Cochrane: “To whom am I indebted? Who is the poor wayfarer that saved my life? Who is it?” And the wayfarer pulled aside and pulled off the jerkin and the cloak and the hat, and lo! it was Grizelle, the daughter of Sir John Cochrane. “Gracious Heaven!” he cried, “my child, my Savior, my own Grizelle!”
But a more thrilling story. The death warrant had come forth from the King of Heaven and earth. The death warrant read: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The death warrant coming on the black horse of eternal night. We must die! We must die! But breasting the storm and putting out through the darkness was a disguised wayfarer who gripped by the bridle the on coming doom and hung it back, and put His wounded and bleeding foot on the overthrown rider. Mean while pardon flashed from the throne, and, “Go free! Open the gate! Strike off the chain! Go free!” And today your liberated soul stands in the presence of the disguised wayfarer, and as he pulls off the disguise of his earthly humiliation and the disguise of his thorns and the disguise of the seamless robe, you find he is bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh, your Brother, your Christ, your pardon, your eternal life. Let all earth and Heaven break forth in vociferation! Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
(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.
From the book, THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION WHO LOST HIS title (now out of print)