A Sinner Saved by Grace
“Lord save me!” (Matthew 14.30) was the text of first sermon that really affected me. I’d been brought up in a Christian home, attended chapel all my life, and heard many many sermons, but none like this!
At that point in my life, around 2004, I was utterly engrossed in my career and was doing many things I knew were wrong. Disgusting vices of every sort had become ingrained into my life, which I’m simply too ashamed to talk about. You only have to ask old friends and relatives what I used to do. I’d sunk into things that I never thought I could or would do, and I naively thought I had them under control.
So when I heard “Lord save me!” from the pulpit, it caught my attention. I don’t really remember the sermon, only the text and being able to relate to the cry of Peter sinking in the waves, it's just what I felt like sinking deeper and deeper; I was sinking lower and lower in sin. I’d never really prayed before and, during the sermon I really prayed that the Lord might save me and stop me sinning. I thought something spectacular would immediately happen to me, but nothing did. Looking back I realise that I couldn't have expected anything because I wasn't willing to forsake my sins, to yield my life to God or to really seek God with my whole heart. I just wanted to be 'zapped' and saved.
Over the next couple of years, to my shame I carried on in sin, and became quite disillusioned with spiritual and religious things. I was able to 'switch-off' in sermons and not hear a single word! I wasn’t really taking anything seriously, I was skipping Chapel on Sunday and was rapidly approaching 30.
During this time, I went home to Sussex for a weekend to hear an old family friend, Tim Hemmington, preach for the first time. I went out of curiosity I guess, not really having much concern about spiritual things, just feeling quite miserable and sorry for myself. He preached from Hebrews 2 v3 “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation.” His message shocked me, in it’s simplicity and clarity. I knew the way of salvation, I’d been taught it from a kid, but I was totally neglecting and ignoring it. I knew that I wouldn’t escape punishment if I were to die. I was lost.
I started to pray, not much admittedly, that the Lord would draw me to himself. I wanted salvation, but didn't want to give up my sins.
I’d been sporadically attending the Metropolitan Tabernacle for a few months, but I kept under the radar, not really wanting to chat to anyone. The preaching was so simple to comprehend, yet it challenged my lifestyle so much, that I couldn’t get away from the fact I was such a hypocrite, acting self righteously on Sunday but doing the opposite in the week. I didn’t like being challenged, it really cut me to the core, but at the same time I knew I needed it! I knew I needed help but my pride kept suppressing it.
Again, I travelled back to Sussex for another weekend, this time to hear the same preacher (Graham Chewter) who’d preached “Lord save me” a few years before. He preached from 2 Kings 5 v13 “Wash and be clean”. I wept at the back of the chapel as I heard the message unfold about sin and how much we need a Saviour. I was left begging the answer to, “how do I come to be clean and have my sins washed away?” My question was answered immediately, “Come just as you are”. I’d not heard that before and I knew that’s all I could do, there’s no way I could have done anything else, I couldn't make myself better, I had nothing to offer! After the sermon, we sung that hymn of Charlotte Elliots;
Just as I am, without one plea,
but that Thy blood was shed for me,
and that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
I was so grateful for that hymn because it expressed everything I needed, and I prayed it with my whole being!
My life really started to change. I couldn’t find any joy in the things I'd loved and invested my life in, music, film, socialising and networking, they’d lost all their charm and I wasn’t expecting that! My prayers became far more intense and frequent.
Over the next couple of weeks, my thoughts were all about the possibility of forgiveness. If only I could believe more intensely that it was possible for all my sin to be taken away. If only I had stronger feelings or felt more sorry then I’d be forgiven. Sermons I was hearing and reading encouraged me to continue seeking and not look to feelings or experiences for salvation, but to simply look to Christ. I understood everything in my head but I still didn’t know forgiveness for myself. I couldn’t get away from the fact I was still a lost sinner.
Early one Sunday morning I awoke thinking, if only I could believe and have greater faith that it was possible that I could be forgiven. I didn't know where to read, so I started to read the Gospel of Mark and got to chapter 9, containing the story of the father who brought his child to Jesus that He might heal him. As I read verses 22 to 24 it came straight to my situation, when the father cried out, ‘if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!’ It was the last phrase in verse 24 "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!", that was my prayer and exact response too! I believed that all things are possible with God, but I felt my faith so feeble. I continued reading into chapter 10 and got to the story of blind Bartimaus. As I read that mans cry "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me" I prayed the same. But it was the words of Jesus in verse 52 that gave me such peace that I can't explain it, "Thy faith hath made thee whole." The relief of that small sentence! I knew it was Jesus saying this to me. I was lost in wonder and so surprised at the power and simplicity of it all. I realised it was faith (trust) in Jesus as the only way and what He has done on the cross in taking my punishment due to me! It was the most profound thing I've ever experienced. I realised that it was only ever by trusting and obeying Christ, that I would ever optain peace and forgiveness. I knew I was saved!
Since that point, my testimony has been put to the test. I naively thought that was it, I'll never sin again or I don't have to repent anymore. How wrong I was. The awareness of sin in my life has only become more intense, so that all I can say for the rest of my life is:
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
Many scriptures, sermons and hymns have been made very special to me over the past year, and I've learnt a lot, both about my own sinful heart but also about my gracious and loving Saviour Jesus Christ. I can no longer hide my witness. I wish to follow my Lord and be identified with him in baptism. I pray He will keep me in the narrow way for the rest of my life, and help me to serve him.
Written August 2008