John Newton started out as a slave trader, commanding an English slave ship at the age of 25. When his ship nearly sank during a violent storm that battered his vessel, he looked toward heaven and cried out to Jesus.
Throughout his life wrote hundreds of hymns, the most famous, of course, being “Amazing Grace.” Written from personal experience, John Newton lived out the Gospel truth that forgiveness and redemption are always possible, regardless of the depths of one’s sin-filled life.
Physically blind at the age of 82, his memory and his health fading, Newton told a friend, “My memory is nearly gone. But I remember two things:
That I am a great sinner
Christ is a great Savior.”
On his tombstone are these words, “John Newton . . . once an infidel was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.”
Wow! John Newton got it! He knew what he was and he knew what God in Christ had done for him. Make no mistake; there was no hyperbole in his claim to have lived a less-than-holy life. He knew he was a great sinner, by nature and by habit, and he understood that only a great Savior could redeem him from his wretched, wicked ways. Newton found that redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible makes it clear that we are all in the same desperate straits as John Newton. Folks, without Jesus, the ship is sinking! There is no exception: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There is no one who is righteous by virtue of his or her own good deeds, no not one of us (Romans 3:10). And because of these immutable truths, we need something outside of us to change what is going on inside of us. We need a Savior to take away our sin!
So . . . are John Newton’s two things to remember etched upon your heart? If you’re unsure, your answer can be found in understanding what your heart beats for. Does it beat for yourself or your Savior? Does it beat to expand the cause of your kingdom or the Kingdom of God? When we remember what great sinners we really are . . . AND how great a Savior Jesus Christ is, we have all the motivation we need to live for nothing smaller than Jesus.
Let me close out this meditation with those wonderful words from Newton’s great hymn:
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.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!