“There is a line by human eyes unseen that crosses every path.
It is the invisible boundary between God’s mercy and God’s wrath.”

Mr. B., my patient, had experienced multiple heart attacks leading to episodes of congestive heart failure.  During one hospitalization, I learned of his concern about dying so I sat down in the coronary care unit and reviewed the gospel with him. He expressed a great fear of dying and admitted he was not a Christian. In fact, Mr. B. told me that he had listened to J. Harold Smith, a well-known evangelist, on the radio every morning for over 40 years.  Nevertheless, he had never made a personal commitment to Christ. He also was well acquainted with the eternal consequences of dying without resolving the sin issue in his life. I urged him to pray with me, to confess his sins, to repent of his former lifestyle, and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as his only Savior.  To my surprise, he stated that he would really like to do that, but he could not.

Two days later, as I entered the coronary care unit to discharge him, I met none other than J. Harold Smith and his associates.  Someone told him about my patient, so Reverend Smith came to visit him.  As Reverend Smith left the unit, he shook my hand, stared into my eyes, and inquired about my spiritual well being.  Impressed with his forthright manner, I assured him I had been born again. He quickly blessed me and disappeared down the hallway.  I then spoke to Mr. B., who appeared to be in a blue funk.  I thought he would be exceptionally pleased Reverend Smith had visited. “Well,” I asked, “did you ask Christ to pardon your sins and be Lord of your life?” Mr. B. sorrowfully nodded in acquiescence. Perceiving what had happened, I then asked him, “Did you really mean it?”  With tears streaming down his face, Mr. B. admitted that he prayed the prayer only to please the famous evangelist. “I couldn’t say ‘no’ to the man,” was all he could say. He began to sob uncontrollably. I beseeched him to pray with me a sinner’s prayer asking Christ to be the Lord of his life.  He simply said, “I know I need to, but I just can’t.”

Two months later, Mr. B. presented to the emergency room in fulminant heart failure, but despite heroic efforts by the emergency room staff, his life waned away.  The entire scene was described to me in great detail by one of the ER nurses since I was not there.  Whenever Mr. B. awakened, a hospital chaplain talked to him about his spiritual life.  The chaplain discerned Mr. B.’s lostness and urged him to pray a sinner’s prayer.  Over and over again, my patient said that he wanted to, but he simply could not.  In consternation, the chaplain begged him to pray to receive Christ as his Savior, and each time Mr. B. politely declined.  He then lapsed into unconsciousness while the doctors performed CPR and gave medications.  The nurse  told me that everyone in the ER prayed for Mr. B., and each time he awakened, other people encouraged him to receive Christ.  Ultimately, he was placed on a ventilator and could no longer speak. When he occasionally awakened, he only nodded and squeezed the chaplain’s hand.  With many tears and loud urging over the confusion and medical efforts in the emergency room, the chaplain implored Mr. B. to receive the Lord Jesus Christ, but all he could do was shake his head.

Finally, the doctors discontinued all life-support measures, and Mr. B. slipped away never having received the free gift of eternal life.  My friend reported there was great weeping in the emergency room from those who witnessed this soul wrenching drama.  That has been 31 years ago. I still weep for Mr. B.

What happened that day? I believe my friend had casually listened to Mr. Smith present the Gospel on the radio every day for forty years without ever responding to a gospel invitation.  Over time he had hardened his heart to the Holy Spirit calling out to him.  He developed what the Scripture calls a “seared conscience” or a heart that is calloused to the subtle prompting of the Holy Ghost.  Sometime during those 40 years he crossed the dividing line between God’s mercy and God’s wrath; even though he wanted to repent at the end of his days, he could not.

My friends, be careful to not cross that line.