Thomas Cosmades





In his earnest search for God Vahram decided to attend a different church every Sunday. He strove to comply with every ritual and performance.  He lit candles, burned incense, said prayers, fasted and bowed to the saints.  He longed to live a pure life like theirs.  And he gave alms to the poor.  One Sunday while fasting he decided to visit a church in the village of Alemdagi way out on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus.  He took another seeker with him.  After trekking for five hours from the ferry boat stop in Uskudar, they arrived only to find that the church door was locked.  Nearby they found a woman washing clothes.  She was in charge of the church key so she the opened the door, and she also gave them fire to burn their incense.  So, all by themselves, they prayed and attended to their religious rituals.

Vahram had hoped that this performance would bring him peace and relief. But sadly, the burden still weighed like a heavy stone on his heart.  "What more can I do?" he asked himself.  "I've prayed earnestly to every saint I know and supplicated for my deep need.  Why hasn’t this brought peace to my heart? Why doesn't the Holy Spirit come to me?"  The weight of his sin increased from day to day.  Finally he asked himself, "If a godly life full of peace is so difficult to obtain, how can God require it of me?  Is God mocking with man?  Why doesn't He lift this heavy burden?"

The first glimmer of freedom shone upon him one day when he came across a Bible.  He started reading it in earnest.  He followed with interest the lives of the Old Testament prophets.  All of them had sinned.  Abraham, Moses, Job, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah — the lives of all of them served as a mirror for Vahram, reflecting his own condition.  The more he read the Bible, the more clearly he saw the extent of his sin.  His mind was carried back to Sungurlu.  "In Anatolia," he mused, "whenever I sensed spirituality in anyone, I would immediately approach him and ask how he had arrived at such genuine peace.  But to this day not a single person has been able to answer my question.  As for me, in my own search for spiritual peace, I'm worn out under the weight of my burden."

Sometimes he would remember a dream in which God had appeared to him as a searing and burning fire about to consume him.  He had cried out, "Have mercy!  Don't swallow me up," and he had awakened from the dream in a cold sweat.  But the memory of that terrible moment would not let him go.  That was the time when he had come to the realisation that man is totally sinful before the holy God, who is a consuming fire.  From then on the most important theological question that occupied his mind was, how can man who is essentially unrighteous attain righteousness?  What could be the significance of God providing a ram the very moment Abraham was about to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice?  At this juncture, let Vahram speak for himself:

"How could I, a sinner, get right with God?  This question wearied me for months.  I continued my religious observances, but still inside me was that old dead-weight!  At length, on the basis of knowledge gleaned from the Bible, I formulated a prayer in my heart quite different from any I had prayed before, 'Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, there is just one thing I need.  What it is and where it will come from I cannot tell.  But you know very well what it is.  Please grant me what I am looking for!' However, I soon forgot this sincere prayer.

"One day I visited one of the many churches I frequented.  Before me I saw Jesus Christ hanging on the cross.  Blood flowed from his brow, hands and feet.  As I stood reverently before Him, I heard His voice: 'Come to me; I will save you.'  I sensed my need more deeply than ever.  Bowing before Him, I said, 'Oh Lord, you have promised not to turn anyone away who comes to you.  Look, I have come; just as I am, sinful, unclean.  I cry to you, save me!'

"Immediately I sensed the response to my cry.  'Your sins are forgiven.  No one can snatch you out of my hand.' Oh, what peace, what certainty, what sweetness!  Could there be a sensation on this planet as sweet as the forgiveness of a person’s sin?  Thinking back, I realised that Abraham's joy on seeing the sacrificial lamb had become my joy.  This profound truth, graphically prefigured in the old patriarch's experience filled my soul with light and delight.  God the Father had sent His only begotten Son, the Messiah, for me!

'Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,

    I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free;

 I rose, went forth, and followed thee.'

The Lord Jesus Christ's assurance of salvation was given to me once for all time.  All my sins were washed away and eternity was assured for me.  That happy day was Sunday, the fourteenth of October, 1928.  My constant fasting, lighting of candles, burning of incense and tramping from church to another had failed to achieve what the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, accomplished through His grace in an instant.  It was done!

"A few days later I seemed to hear an ugly voice saying, 'What lasting significance could just one decision possibly have?  How could the sins of a lifetime be got rid of by just one promise?'  Immediately the Holy Spirit revealed to me the source of this ugly voice.  It belonged to Satan, the one who always resists the cleansing and saving of souls.  There was only one answer, stated in the Word of God, 'He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him' (John 3:36).

"For a while Satan stopped troubling me.  But a few months later, I heard that voice again: 'Don't bother any more; Christ has abandoned you.  From now on you're a lost soul.' Again, with confidence and courage drawn from the Holy Scriptures I replied, 'I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand' (John 10:28).

"I was beginning to learn Satan's tricks.  He would attack again.  And this is how he did it: 'You have set yourself such a difficult life-style; you will never be able to keep it up.'  This time I replied to Satan, 'He who calls you is faithful, and He will do it' (I Thessalonians 5:24).

"Would Satan's inventions and ruses never come to an end?  Now he threw a completely different provocation at me: I should observe Saturday as the Sabbath according to the practice of the people of Israel in the Old Testament.  That is to say, I should not work on that day, etc.  I responded to this temptation with the following word: 'He shall cover me with his pinions and under his wings I will find refuge; his faithfulness is my shield and buckler.  I shall not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday' (Psalm 91:4-6).

“Satan's games and tricks know no bounds.  Next time he put into my mind the need to get married.  Young, handsome, owning a business — I must be the man of many a maiden's dreams!  After that, he brought before me a number of girls who did not believe in Christ, but had only biological birth.  He would suggest, 'This one is just right for you.  This one is the most suitable.  You won't find this one's equal anywhere,' and so on.  My response to this sly temptation was, 'Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity?  Or what fellowship has light with darkness? ‘(II Corinthians 6:14).

"God spoke to me with fatherly love and showed me His plan for my life: my desire for marriage would never be realised.  Giving thanks to the Lord, I submitted to His declared will.  His command must take precedence over my desires."


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