Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see. (“Amazing Grace” by John Newton)
He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.” (Luke 22:19–20 NLT)
For the first twenty-three years of John Newton’s life, he was brazenly insubordinate, fiercely atheistic, and obscenely foul-mouthed. In a word, John Newton was a wretch – despicable, contemptable, and unhappy. Even amongst his fellow sailors, his actions and his tongue were so grievous that he was at one point forced into servitude in Sierra Leone. It wasn’t until he was on his way back home after being released that he began to earnestly seek after God, and this was only because he nearly drowned when the ship he was on hit a storm off the coast of Ireland. Though he was able to tame his profane tongue, he continued to live the immoral lifestyle previous to his conversion, including working in the African slave trade for a number of years. Yet as Newton began reading the Scriptures and studying theology, his external actions began to mirror the changes that were taking place in his interior life. He would go on to become an Anglican priest and a staunch abolitionist who worked with William Wilberforce to help bring about the beginning of the end of England’s involvement in legal slavery.
John Newton understood well the depths to which the human heart can descend through the chains of sin. He also knew and experienced the amazing grace that can free our hearts from these very same chains. This grace that is so freely given was not altogether free; it cost the body and blood of Jesus, broken and poured out so that we might know the amazing grace of God and achieve a right relationship with Him. Yet, as demonstrated in Newton’s life, Christlikeness is never achieved overnight; even decades later, there are often whole sections of our lives that still do not exhibit evidence of God’s grace broken and poured out in our hearts.
Think back on your life – both before Christ and after – and consider the areas that currently fail to show evidence of God’s grace in your life. Ask Him to guide you in excising those parts that need removed and tending to those parts that need to grow and mature.