As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am now reading the biography of John Newton, the guy who wrote Amazing Grace. It's one of the greatest stories of redemption in church history, and it has been told many times...but it never gets old. Newton was a rough character: so rough even his colleagues in the slave-trading business thought he needed to shape up. He was not only immoral and profane, he was also a confirmed atheist. One night during a storm on the high seas, Newton prayed to the God his devout mother had followed. That was his conversion. Over time, Newton became a much more gentle and principled sailor. Then he grew into a devout layman, then an ordained pastor, a prolific hymnwriter and author, and eventually, a powerful leader in the movement to abolish slavery. Newton reminds us that God's grace and power are big enough to transform anyone who wants to be changed.
But here's the discouraging question: Why don't we see more John Newtons in our churches today? Where are the dramatic conversions? God's word is still true, the good news is still good, the Spirit is still just as powerful, and we all know people are still just as sinful. The only thing that has changed is the church. We've stopped responding to the John Newtons of this world like Jesus did, and started responding to them like religious people. This Sunday, we'll take a look at John 8:1-11, and see the difference.