By Pastor Max Solbrekken, D.D.
“For by grace are you saved through faith...not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2: 8,9) - St. Paul
Billy Sunday, renowned evangelist of the 1920’s, observing a drunken man stagger down the street, said, “There, but the grace of God, go I”.
Sunday, a professional baseball player before entering the ministry, was inebriated the night of his conversion. He later testified, “I literally staggered into the kingdom of God”.
Similarly brought to the brink of life’s poisons was William Cowper, who lived in the 1800’s. Hopelessly hooked on booze, he became despondent and suicidal with nothing to live for. He had tried to shoot himself, but did not have the courage to pull the trigger. He then lifted a glass of hemlock to his lips to end it all, but failed in his effort.
Drunk and disgusted, Cowper was about to leap from the bridge into the Thames River in London when God reached out in mercy, sending someone to his rescue. The Devil tried one final time to destroy him as he hung himself, but God again intervened just in time and he survived.
Cowper heard the Gospel, was gloriously converted and wrote the beloved hymn, ‘There is a Fountain Filled with Blood’. In Cowper’s deliverance and transformed life, we again witness the grace of God. The key to deliverance from sin, fear, guilt and bondage is found only in the Blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for us on the 'Old Rugged Cross' outside Jerusalem's city walls on the Hill called Golgotha!
St. Paul hammered the truth home repeatedly. Salvation is by the grace of God, through faith in Christ, alone. It is not a human effort of works, but God’s unmerited favor toward us. The only thing sinful man must do is accept God’s gift of eternal life with gratitude and humility. You cannot purchase or merit a gift. It is given freely and received without price.
While returning from a crusade in Kenya in 1986, I stopped in London for a Gospel rally. While awaiting the train, a young man carrying a pack sack, asked me for money. He was not the usual pan-handler one meets on the street, but a clean-cut farm boy, hitch-hiking his way home because things had not worked out in the city.
I was lunching on some homemade oatmeal cookies and coffee and I asked if he’d like the same. After he had eaten, I bade him farewell with a “God Bless You” and a few dollars. Thirty minutes later, still waiting for my train, I returned to where I had been earlier. A sad feeling came over me and I sensed failure. I had not spoken to him about his spiritual condition.
Thousands of people were coming and going. In vain I searched the crowds for his face. I bowed my head and prayed, “Oh God! Send that young man back to me, so I may tell him about Jesus”.
When I opened my eyes, he was standing beside me. He indicated he was still hungry, so I ordered him a meal and while he dined, I shared the gospel. He gladly accepted both the food and my counsel, and a sense of peace came upon him.
He confessed discouragement, bitterness and an animosity toward God and the church. He had felt the Lord was not answering his prayers until our meeting. Only God’s grace could have brought us together at that busy terminal.
Here are some of the comments I shared with that disconsolate young man:
1) We must acknowledge our sinfulness. St. Paul said, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. (Rom. 3: 23)
2) We must believe the gospel that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, and offered us salvation. Jesus said, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved”. (Mark 16: 15)
3) We must repent our sins. The Bible says, “Let the wicked forsake his ways...and return unto God, and He will have mercy upon him and abundantly pardon”. (Is.55:11)
4) We must receive Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour and Lord! “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life”. (1 John 5:12)
5) We must confess Him before men. The Bible says: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom.10: 9,10)
Dear friend, will you do what William Cowper did, as well as the young farm lad down on his luck that I met in London, England? God bless you, as you make your peace with God today! Amen. W
Note: This column was carried in the Edmonton Sun in 1986. Pastor Max Solbrekken wrote a weekly Sunday column for that Newspaper from 1984 to 1990.