At a young age, John Newton was involved in the slave trade. He didn’t have many skills, but he was skilled in the depravity of selling created beings for monetary gain. In 1745, at the age of 20, his life changed. Aboard a slave ship, he was captured, and, in one of life’s unexpected turns, the slave trader became enslaved. Subsequently, he would be rescued, but not before he got a taste for the life he had perpetuated through his transgressions. Yet, after his rescue, he returned to the atrocity of the slave trade. However, not so soon afterward, his life would change forever. In 1748, as they journeyed from Africa to Liverpool, the slave ship came upon a ferocious storm off the coast of Ireland. Though he was a skilled seaman, a professed atheist cried out to God for mercy and survived to live another day. Perhaps this wretch was given a second chance from a life lived in the brutality of slavery. If he had not been at sea during this violent storm, John Newton might never have become known for his most famous feat. Years later, inspired by this violent storm, he would pen the lyrics to the most popular hymn in most church hymnals. The lyrics went like this:
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see.”
It is hard to imagine such beautiful lyrics could come from the heart of a “wretch” who took part in such atrocious acts at sea. Yet, that is the beauty of God’s grace. Though we might live in a season of rebellion, the grace of God can teach all hearts the fear of God. The grace of God, which brings salvation, has appeared unto all men, despite the failures of our wretched past (c.f., Titus 2:11). For a moment, I want to discuss the words of Paul to Titus, a preacher, in Titus 2:11-13. In the previous verses, Paul had charged Titus to teach things that are proper for sound doctrine (c.f., Titus 2:1). The older men were to be sober-minded; the older women were to reflect on godliness, the younger women were to love their husbands, and the young men were to be models of good works in their conduct and speech. These verses teach us many lessons, perhaps most importantly: If we want grace to lead us home, we must accept responsibility and accountability.
- Learning. Paul exhorts Titus that God’s grace “teaches us” (Titus 2:12). God’s grace teaches us through dangers, toils, and snares. It is in our darkest moments that we gain our most insightful wisdom. The instructional value of God’s grace is unmatched.
- Leaving. We must “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts” (c.f., Titus 2:12). The brightness of God’s grace is only dimmed by the abuse and misunderstanding of God’s most beautiful gift. God’s grace does not conform but transforms our wretched souls.
- Living. We must “live sober, righteously, and godly in this present world” (c.f., Titus 2:12). One cannot live in eternity unless one lives godly. God’s grace demands that we live in a holy existence, leaving behind ungodliness and cleaving unto godliness.
- Looking. We must “look for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” God’s grace does not bring our focus to the failures of our past. God’s grace brings our focus to our future with God and His second coming.
God’s amazing grace involves learning, leaving, living, and looking. If we allow grace to transform our souls, we will have all eternity to sing God’s praise. Your chains will be gone, and you will be set free from the failures of your past.