This is the “chief of sinners,” Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the Gospel Light Minute X Podcast #399 titled, “If This Wicked Man Can Go To Heaven, So Can You.” I’m here to remind you of what the Bible says, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” like you and me.
Amazing. It’s the only way to describe the incredible transformation that took place in the life of John Newton. Newton was born in London in 1725. His mother died when he was seven. His father sent him to sea at age eleven. Working first as a cabin boy and then a deckhand, John was exposed to a life of drunkenness, profanity and immorality — and he embraced it. Soon, John surpassed his peers in outrageous behavior. Sharp-witted and sarcastic, he wrote offensive songs mocking the ship’s officers and expressing his contempt for their authority. He amused himself by inventing new swear words and leading his peers on reckless and dangerous escapades. He frequently deserted his post. Still in his teens, John was briefly enslaved on an African plantation and nearly died. But instead of sobering him, the experience only served to strengthen his rebellious spirit.
After Newton regained his freedom, he served time in the British Navy and eventually became captain of his own slave ship. As a slave trader, Newton’s heart grew even harder. He earned a reputation for being a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered man, despised by his subordinates and superiors alike. He cared for no one but himself and sought nothing but his own pleasure.
Then one night, John Newton hit rock bottom. He had been punished for misbehavior by being publicly humiliated, beaten, and stripped of his rank. His attempts to regain his position had failed. No one cared to take up his cause. Now caught in a fierce storm, he came face to face with a gripping fear of death. As the waves pounded the ship and filled his cabin with water, terror filled Newton’s heart. He fought desperately to save the ship, bailing water and plugging holes in the hull with the ship’s sails, burlap bags, even his own clothing. As an experienced sailor, John knew he had little chance of survival. And he was not ready to face eternity.
Memories of his childhood came flooding back — the Bible verses and hymns his God-fearing mother had taught him, her prayers on his behalf. John tried to cry out to God for mercy, but he was stopped abruptly by the thought of how little he deserved it. How could he turn to God for help, when he had ignored Him for so long? John spent a harrowing night in deep soul-searching.
The following day, the storm subsided. Miraculously, the battered ship found safe harbor. It was then, Newton said, that he became convinced that “there is a God that hears and answers prayers.” He discovered anew the love of God expressed in Scripture:
The Bible says in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved”.
In the midst of the storm, Newton’s eyes had been opened. He realized that he was a sinner, in need of a Savior. For the first time, he understood the meaning of God’s grace. Repenting of the sins of his past, he surrendered his life to God completely. In an instant, he became a new man.
Years later, as he reflected on his experience, Newton penned the 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.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; ’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
At the age of 39, the former slave trader became a pastor. He dedicated the rest of his life to sharing with others the good news of the Gospel: that Jesus Christ had come to ‘seek and save the lost.’ Newton led the abolitionist movement in Great Britain, exposing the evils of slavery and fighting to outlaw the vile trade he had once engaged in. In his epitaph, he summed up his life this way:
John Newton, Clerk,
Once an infidel and libertine,
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
Preserved, restored, pardoned,
And appointed to preach the faith he
Had long laboured to destroy…
Like Newton, you, too, can experience God’s amazing grace — no matter who you are or how much you have sinned. You can begin your own life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead and you are willing to trust Jesus Christ with all of your heart so you can go to Heaven, please pray with me what is called the sinner’s prayer: Holy Father God, I acknowledge that I am a sinner and I admit that I have sinned against You and that I have broken Your Ten Commandments. I have lied before. I have stolen things before. I have lusted after people and things before. I have dishonored and disobeyed my parents. I have taken Your holy Name in vain. For Jesus Christ’s sake, please have mercy and grace upon my soul and forgive me of all of my sins, my failures, and my faults. As I now believe in Your Holy Son the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that He suffered, bled, and died on the cross for my sins, was buried and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and help me to repent of my sins past. Help me to turn from my old, evil life and follow You in the new life. For it is in Your Name I pray. Amen.
Thank you for listening to this Gospel presentation. If you have decided to trust Jesus Christ as your Saviour after listening to this podcast, please email us at [email protected] and let us know. To find out more about what you need to do after trusting Christ as Savior, visit GospelLightSociety.com and read “What to Do After You Enter Through the Door”.
The tract this podcast is based on is written by Christin Ditchfield and published by Crossway, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to spread God’s Word to the world through the printed page and other media. You can order copies of this tract online at Crossway.org.