“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)
Lest we be tempted to believe that one life could make little difference in the fallen world in which we live, we would do well to remember the “insignificant” life of an “old weather-beaten Christian” by the name of John Newton. Newton’s story is well known to many both inside and outside the church because of his most famous hymn, Amazing Grace, which was written as an autobiographical sketch. It is a wonderful story of what the Lord can do with one man thoroughly changed by the grace of God. Who would have ever remembered this humble man born to a sea captain father and devout Christian mother had not God marvelously transformed his life? Newton would not have been a man impressed by the fact that he was world famous for one hymn—instead, he was amazed that he was a poor sinner captured by the grace of God and known by Him. That was the passion and zeal of his life. At the end of one of his works he writes, “A believer in Jesus, however obscure, unnoticed, or oppressed in the present life, is happy; he is a child of God, the charge of angels, an heir of glory; he has meat to eat that the world knows not of; and from the knowledge of his union and relation to his Redeemer, he derives a peace which passes understanding, and a power suited to every service and circumstance of life.” Such is the grace of God to sinners that Newton understood and never forgot—even at the end of his life declaring that no matter how feeble his mind he would never be able to forget “how great a sinner he was and how great a Savior Christ is.”
This week we come to the Lord’s Table together to remember the grace of God that has appeared to all men. As we come with faith in our hearts to feed upon Christ spiritually, we come denying ungodliness and worldly lusts to be reminded how we are to live in this fallen world as redeemed men and women, zealous for good works. We come offering up ourselves once again to Christ to make of us what He desires. We are who we are now and will forever be because of Christ. Prepare your hearts to come to the Table, remembering Him Who died for you to redeem you from every lawless deed and to purify you for Himself. And He has made us, by that same grace, a people who are now zealous for good works—the very same works He has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (cf. Ephesians 2:10).
In Paul’s letter to Titus, who we know to be very important in the life of the Corinthian church as we continue to study Paul’s second letter, we are reminded again of the grace of God that brings salvation in chapter 3: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” How fitting these words are to describe the life of every believer before conversion and then after coming to know that amazing grace of God in Christ! It was certainly the way Newton saw the story of his own life. It is remarkable to me that even in his death, Newton wanted the emphasis to be upon Christ and His amazing grace. Knowing that his death was near and his entrance into heaven secured through the blood of Christ, he ordered the following words for his own gravestone—a lasting testimony of one life that really made a difference in this fallen world:
JOHN NEWTON, Clerk
Once an Infidel and Libertine, a Servant of Slaves in Africa,
was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior,
preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed
to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.
In the Name of Christ, Our Blessed Savior,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar