Having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.
John Newton was born in London in 1725. Although his mother attempted to impart her Christian faith to him, Newton became a profane and unrepentant sinner. He spent the majority of his young life aboard ships, where he seemed to seek out trouble. At age twenty, he transferred to the employ of a slave trader in West Africa who promised him untold riches. Instead, Newton suffered brutal abuse. Shackled and starved, he languished in captivity for a year until another trader offered to take him on. Newton then became a slave trader himself. Prospering in his new role, he fornicated and dabbled in witchcraft.
A friend of Newton’s father eventually convinced the young man to return to England. During the journey, they encountered a violent storm. As the sailors made a last-ditch effort to save the ship, Newton said, “The Lord have mercy on us.” It was the first time in years he had spoken God’s name with reverence instead of blasphemy. The storm passed, and from then on, Newton observed that day, March 10, 1748, as the day when God’s grace began to work in his life.
His transformation was a rocky one. Though he stopped swearing and blaspheming, he fell back into other bad behaviors. He returned to the slave trade and subjected the slaves to the same abuses he had once endured. But over time, Newton cleaned up his act. He eventually became the pastor of a church in Olney, England, and joined William Wilberforce’s campaign against slavery. It was during his years of ministry in Olney that Newton wrote some of the most beloved lyrics of all time: “Amazing grace–how sweet the sound–that saved a wretch like me!”
Some years ago, I visited that church in Olney, and I read the epitaph Newton had designed for himself: “Once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa 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.” The slave trader became a slave to Jesus Christ. Grace freed John Newton to serve a new master.
Now, you might think you do not have a dramatic conversion story like Newton’s. But it does not matter whether you came to faith in Christ on the open seas in a violent storm or at church as a seven-year-old: if you are a Christian, then a dramatic change has occurred in your life. Thanks to God’s amazing gift of grace, you are under new management.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Under New Management” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2020.
Jonathan Aitken, “John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace” (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007).
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org