John Newton was born in 1725 in London, England. At age eleven, John quit school and went to sea with his father, a stern shipmaster. When he turned seventeen, his ready-to-retire father arranged for his son to work in Jamaica on a sugarcane plantation. But Newton refused to go to Jamaica. Instead of listening to his father, he joined the crew of a different ship.
But things didn’t go so well on the new ship. A few months later, Newton was forced to join the British navy. He tried to desert from the navy, but was caught. His punishment? He was flogged several dozen times in the presence of 350 sailors, and then demoted. Can you imagine the public humiliation? Newton later said that he had serious thoughts about murdering the captain who supervised his flogging, and also of throwing himself overboard.
Newton asked for a transfer to a slave trader ship. He got his wish. But as he toiled underneath the vicious whims of a merciless slave trader, his life went from bad to worse. And fifteen months later, when Newton became the captain of his own slave trading ship, nothing changed. When Newton looked at himself, he saw a starving, godless, angry man. He was crushed by constant guilt. His life was an endless stream of attacking others and being attacked by others. Would this vicious cycle ever end?
At age twenty-three, Newton’s ship was in a terrible storm and was sinking fast. But he survived, and afterwards he began to read his Bible. Slowly but surely, the comforting Word of God soaked into his soul. Newton realized that God wasn’t an angry judge or supervisor looking to hunt him down in order to attack him. Rather, he was a gracious God looking to hunt him down in order to save him. Newton rested in God’s promises of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Reflecting on it all, Newton wrote these well-loved words: “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.”
When our souls are re-centered on God’s grace instead of personal shame, everything changes for the better. The Bible is the only place we can find such truth about grace, and it’s in abundant supply. So many Bible verses teach about God’s grace! The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, is one of them – as well as verse 17 that comes right after it. (Jesus said), “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son; whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17).”
God’s grace is the only thing that can offer a real, lasting solution for sin. God’s grace describes one-sided activity – it’s not a tag-team effort of God-plus-humans. God’s grace is a gift from heaven. God’s grace is perfect forgiveness. God’s grace is non-negotiable. God’s grace never ends. God’s grace helps us to soak much more in “look what God has done” instead of “look how I don’t deserve this.”
Don’t live in your sins and remain in lies. Instead, live in the truth of God’s amazing grace.
Prayer: O Holy Spirit, thank you for leading me to trust in your amazing grace alone. Preserve me from assuming that there is still something I must do to activate your favor. Prevent me from thinking that I am capable of earning my own salvation. Silence the side of me that refuses to listen to your grace, and lead me to love you above all things, that I simply learn to say, “Thank you, Jesus.” Amen.