Recently I was talking to some individuals at the funeral of a man who spent his entire adult life resisting the Gospel. He was a very friendly and caring fellow, always willing to help a friend out in any way he could. He would talk your leg off about anything and everything. Except the things of God–that subject was off limits to him. He used to say he could not understand how people could believe the fairy tales of the Bible. He had a surplus of friends, many of whom attended his funeral and beautifully eulogized him.
Some of them were talking afterward about how they hoped that during his dying moments he might have prayed a last gasp sinner’s prayer and made it into heaven by the skin of his teeth. He was such a nice guy, they reasoned; it would be a terrible shame to think he will now spend eternity separated from God. Who can disagree with that?
Apparently God. Think about it: there are many sinners we would allow into heaven that God will not let in. We see the human love people have on the horizontal level and we forget that all the love in the world for other people does not add up to one ounce of love for God. By nature people do not love God. Make no mistake about it, the unregenerate man hates the God of the Bible, lip service to the contrary notwithstanding. In the case of the deceased man mentioned above even the lip service was not present. And for this reason all of his so-called acts of philanthropic love are so much filthy rags in terms of righteous merit.
A person does not love God until God gives him a new heart in regeneration. Salvation is not a matter of repeating some sinner’s prayer or “asking Jesus into your heart.” It is not so much about what we do but what God does–He makes us alive and willing to love Him, to know Him, to want to follow and obey Him. Until God changes our hearts and writes his Law upon them they are cold and lifeless. Read Hebrews Eight and you will see how the writer quotes the prophecy of the New Covenant from the book of Jeremiah. Salvation is God making us willing to believe in him. We cannot teach ourselves to know him. (See John 1:12-13; 6:44; Acts 16:14; Eph. 2:8-9.)
This man’s wife was a believer, and she spent her life trying to preach him and pray him and persuade him into the Kingdom of God. From the looks of it all her effort fell upon rocky soil, although she is now in Glory. I hope against hope that this man did repent and believe. If he did it was only because God graciously opened his heart to receive the truth. If I were a betting man, which I’m not, I would go with Las Vegas odds that this man is in hell right now. A sobering thought.
Dear reader, if you have been resisting the Holy Spirit, if you have persistently rejected the message of the person and work of Christ, please ask God to change your heart before it is too late. “It is appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Do not play the fool; the pride of your heart has deceived you. Beg God to give you a new heart, a heart that loves, trusts, and desires to obey Him.
Let me add one last thing in closing. After all these years as a believer–and I am in my 42nd year–my natural inclination is away from the things of God and to my flesh. Regularly I need to read my little book Fight or Die and look up all the scripture verses cited to get myself on track. The fact that I hate this ingrained bent toward sin shows that the Spirit has regenerated my heart and lives in me. But there is nothing quick, easy, or automatic about sowing to the Spirit. Sanctification takes daily consistent effort. Don’t ever let anyone tell you different because they are deceiving themselves and lying to you.