Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Amazing Grace

Freedom day is coming up on Sunday 25th.

I was reading about it when I collided with one of my favourite quotes. The collision takes place in the person of John Newton. Newton, famous for penning 'Amazing Grace', seems something of a dichotomous character. Perhaps a Bono of the 18th century!

He was a slaveship master making his fortune off the coast of Sierra Leone. After a storm one night he converted to Christianity and gave up swearing, drinking and gambling but continued to trade slaves. Let's not be too hard on him. It was very normal in his day to support the slave trade. There's plenty of Christians about now who don't drink or curse but aren't too concerned about the poor either!

Anyway later in his life he realised his folly and fell into deep regret. He joined William Wilberforce in the abolitionist movement. Wilberforce was his protege. When he was going to leave parliament to become a missionary Newton told him that he should, "serve God where he was". Wilberforce heeded his advice and spent the next five decades successfully working for the abolition of slavery.

Newton said this:
I am not what I ought to be.
I am not what I want to be.
I am not what I hope to be.
But still, I am not what I used to be.
And by the grace of God,
I am what I am.
Love it!

35 comments:

dave wiggins said...

i like that

catherine said...

That's such a great quote,
and he's some looker that Newton boy.

Thanks for the beautiful words you left.

indya said...

That's an interesting piece of history, and a beautiful quote. You also get extra points because I learnt a new word (dichotomous)! Good job.

Ivonne said...

Good post,J-Mac. It really reinforced the cyclic view of history whereby,in as much as we would like to think we are different from our ancestors,we are all tied together by a common humanity. It's bizarre how we so easily feel we have the right to point our finger at people who made mistakes in the past and, conversely,liberally condone our own selfishness and greed. In all this it is remarkable to see how it is Grace that can only be revealed in all of its immensurate glory in the acknowlegment of human error.

PS: Hadn't heard the word 'dichotomus' being used in quite some time..nice one!(Is the English teacher in you screaming to come out?!)

MT said...

So are you saying if you drink and swear as a Christian it's pretty much ok, as long as you care about the poor?

Is it a pick-n-mix where you select several good deeds and then those other things (like abstaining from alcohol) are OK to indulge in?

I am just confused by your reference to Christians who don't drink or curse, that they don't care either about the poor... - what has their attitude to the former vices got to do with NOT caring about the poor?

From how I read it, it appears you are comparing Newton's time in history where something was acceptable which now is not (slave trading) - to today's society, where some promote social drinking in Christian circles as a fast becoming acceptable behaviour.

Interested in your thoughts - beyond commenting on how we should spent more time worrying about the poor than barging those who like a pint or 4. - For some particularly those who have had a history of drink problems, the issue of social drinking as a Christian may be as important to them as poverty is to those who So are you saying if you drink and swear as a Christian it's pretty much ok, as long as you care about the poor?

Is it a pick-n-mix where you select several good deeds and then those other things (like abstaining from alcohol) are OK to indulge in?

I am just confused by your reference to Christians who don't drink or curse, that they don't care either about the poor... - what has their attitude to the former vices got to do with NOT caring about the poor?

From how I read it, it appears you are comparing Newton's time in history where something was acceptable which now is not (slave trading) - to today's society, where some promote social drinking in Christian circles as a fast becoming acceptable behaviour.

Interested in your thoughts - beyond commenting on how we should spent more time worrying about the poor than barging those who like a pint or 4. - For some particularly those who have had a history of drink problems, the issue of social drinking as a Christian may be as important to them as poverty is to those who have a heart for the world's poverty.

M said...

So are you saying if you drink and swear as a Christian it's pretty much ok, as long as you care about the poor?

Is it a pick-n-mix where you select several good deeds and then those other things (like abstaining from alcohol) are OK to indulge in?

I am just confused by your reference to Christians who don't drink or curse, that they don't care either about the poor... - what has their attitude to the former vices got to do with NOT caring about the poor?

From how I read it, it appears you are comparing Newton's time in history where something was acceptable which now is not (slave trading) - to today's society, where some promote social drinking in Christian circles as a fast becoming acceptable behaviour.

Interested in your thoughts - beyond commenting on how we should spent more time worrying about the poor than barging those who like a pint or 4. - For some particularly those who have had a history of drink problems, the issue of social drinking as a Christian may be as important to them as poverty is to those who have a heart for the world's poverty.

My personal opinion is probably obvious, but I am trying to be fair and open minded.

Sam said...

Story of Newton and Wilberforce is awesome - thanks for this reminder John.
m/mt - I think what John is getting at and is merely pointing out that Newton himself discovered is that faith in Jesus affects every area and corner of our lives. As the former Dutch Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper said - there is not one inch of life over which Christ does not say 'mine'!. Jesus following in the tradition of the prophets railed against God's people who claimed to follow him but didn't share the values and character of God. Luke 11.37-54 is hard to read but Jesus is saying that it can be easy to do the little things and forget about justice and the love of God. We can worry about sorting out the actions and not deal with the attitudes underlying - with the sinfulness of our hearts - which is what Newton's quote is getting at - the amazing transforming influence God's grace can have.

J-Mac said...

Nice one Sam!

M/MT I really don't want another debate started here about Christian's drinking. If you look back in my archives for august/september you'll find over 100 comments without any consensus being reached.

I agree with you that Christians (wrongly) often have a 'pick and mix' approach. We all have to make lifestyle choices according to our understanding of scripture and the spirit's whisper.

What is not ambiguous however is that Jesus commands us to look after the poor.

To be a follower of Jesus is to be a servant.

dave wiggins said...

m and mt ... if you're serious, maybe you should read this post again and think of the 'heart' of it, if you are joking, them you're funny.

Anonymous said...

I think to put Bono in the same catergory as Newton is insane.
We all know Bono on his zoo tour has used hard drugs and NEVER HAS MADE HIS POSITION CLEAR WHAT HE BELIEVES IN REGARDS TO THE GOSPEL AND NEVER PREACHES IT WHEN HE HAS MANY CHANCES TO DO IT.

He is as all religous people a man of works not understanding Grace as Cain was AND WAS NOT ACCEPTED BY GOD.
He has just recently been caught in adultry need i say more.

May be Newton had faults as we all do But he really understood GRACE bono does not.
This will upset i'm sure but John get real mate.
I agree with M our Christian values are now no better than the world WHY? because it.s about trying to please God with WORKS SAVE THE PLANET GIVE MONEY TO THE POOR DO DO DOD DO DO. What about the Gospel first and if people refuse then they are enemies of God, Cast not your pearls before swine, Pray for people and preach the gospel do good onto people, BUT forget about geldolf Bono and the like they are all reprobate in need of repentence.

J-Mac said...

I get lots of anonymous comments like the one above but usually don't publish them.

This one angered me. I don't need to defend Bono (he has made his faith clear on many occasions, and the stuff about hard drugs and adultery you have fabricated from nothing. Get your facts right).

but

What in the wide world gives you the right to make judgements on another man's salvation?...and then accuse him of not understanding grace!

Go and spew your self-righteous drivel somewhere else please.

Ivonne said...

YOu go tell him,J-Mac! Nice work!

Anonymous said...

Why are you angry John because i practiced Matthew 7 15-16 Ephes 5 11,and John 7 24 JUDGE WITH RIGHTEOUS JUDGEMENT.

Question. have you not judged me with your accustions that i have no evidence on Bono. Being a fan of U2 for over 20 years i should know if he preached the gospel good works YES GRACE and gospel NO?

Question Lets take Adolf hitler would it be fair to say whilst he was killing thousands of children in gas chambers and using their skin as lamp shades that HE WAS NOT SAVED.
If your answer is yes then your postion has just crumbled, if it is No WHAT SHOULD WE DO LET HIM IN THE CHURCH AND SAY IT'S ALRIGHT.
According to you we can't judge him, do you see the madness of your position.

BY THE WAY i HAVE PERSONALLY WITNESSED BONO ON DRUGS AND DRUNK.
Go and burn incense with the monks. I thought we were heading away from tradition you seem to want to bring it back to the church
along with your Idol Bono.
Those who think they have no tradition are the ones who are most enslaved to them as you are.

LEARN WHAT GRACE MEANS BEFORE YOU TALK OF GREAT SERVENTS LIKE NEWTON.

J-Mac said...

...which brings me back to the original point. Newton kept trading slaves after being saved.

It is through screw-ups like him, and Bono, and the disciples that I'm learning what grace means.

Thanks Mr anonymous.

Jules said...

Don't you think Satan is rubbing his hands in glee - the world is going to hell while Christians are too busy tearing strips off each other to notice... Wise up with all this 'I'm right and that's the end of it' thing - I for one would not like to be passing judgement on any other soul, its more than enough to keep my own heart right with my Maker...

Jules said...

Don't you think Satan is rubbing his hands in glee - the world is going to hell while Christians are too busy tearing strips off each other to notice... Wise up with all this 'I'm right and that's the end of it' thing - I for one would not like to be passing judgement on any other soul, its more than enough to keep my own heart right with my Maker...

Jules said...

PS - for what its worth, I thought your comments about the Benedictine monks were inspiring (how snarly were the anonymous comments about going to burn incense... Made me sad)

marty said...

Good work John. I enjoy your blog and find myself challenged by your words. Bless you.
I only became a fan of U2 after experiencing Gods grace in my own life and like John don't feel a need to defend Bono.I just wanted to show some of Bonos lyrics on Grace:


"Grace finds beauty in everything"

"What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things"

Gods grace is truly amazing and I believe that Bono knows the depth of grace. I can see Bono receiving the "well done good and faithful servant" from our Lord, and this inspires me to strive for the same welcome into heaven.

Why is it that brothers try to knock each other down as opposed to building each other up. Lets not be stumbling blocks to each other but do as we are commanded and love each other.

Bless you brother anon and praise and glory to the most high.

P.S
I am looking forward to hearing Nebo @ Cafe reverb.
Keep er lit John

Glenbo said...

i'm just glad all these non-sensical anonymous bloggers are the same as me in that they have never sinned! I mean you must be a sinner if you've taken drugs right? right?

what a load of old plum!

Soapy, good post as usual, glad the handlebars have gone. Will log on in another six years for some craic!

Anonymous said...

Hi John

Good stuff, you seem to court controversy!! Bit like Jesus really.

One thing that really disturbs me about the people who leave comments on this site is their inability to spell correctly.

What state is the education system in if we struggle over simple words like 'position' and 'adultery.'

Do not get me started on basic grammar and punctuation.

Longtime love,

P to the i to the P

Anonymous said...

Does anybody actually address scripture on this blog, or do you all stick together and give each other a slap on the back, it would be very easy for me to get people onto this blog to back me does that resolve the issue no it does not.
Your point was newton kept trading slaves and then seen the error of it, it;s called sanctification but Bono has not seen any error of what he has done and has not publicly expressed any such repentenece.
As far as Satan rubing his hands i agree rubing his hands at the lovely job he has done infiltrating the church with rubish and people like Bono who are supposed to be some kind of prophet. This along with American money preachers and so forth have made born again a joke and an insult to God.
Notice my comments on Bono's quotes where not mentioned we don;t want his name blackend John now do we, very sad you people at emmanuel can't come out and call a spade a spade.
The very fact the people of your church agree with your topic on the monks shows me that you are very much in agreement that all roads lead to God, which includes burning incense which was never practiced by the church only cults and especially romen cathloic tradition.

J-Mac said...

PIP...what do you think of the romen cathloic!?

William said...

Hi J-Mac,
been too busy recently to stir the pot a bit on your blog, but I was finally able to read the comment trail on this one this moorniing (joking!). Anyway, I just wanted to comment on the "serve God where he was" bit - did you you mean where God was or where Wilberforce was? I guess it was the latter. Anyway (and because you highlighted it), in general, do you not think that it would be better to be led by the Spirit? Jesus himself said that he only did what he saw the Father doing. If we want to be more "missional" we all need to pull back from "que sera sera" and look to our walk in the Spirit - "what do you want me to do today, Lord" (Christian version of Microsoft strapline). [Note: not a criticism, just a point - and no scripture to annoy you].
Peace.

J-Mac said...

Good point William (I think). Believe me scripture does not annoy me, it's my lifeline.

Ivonne said...

Just thought I'd add another comment to make your comment count go even higher! For all the criticism, I think you are doing a great job, not settling for stereotypes and cultural compromises and constraints, but pushing higher and deeper..a bit like Jesus,really. Keep it up, we'll keep on arguing! ;-)

indya said...

Look anonymous, I understand that you disagree with John and most of those who read his blog and so want to challenge what is said and that's fair enough. But, why do it with such venom and why slander a whole community of people because of it? If we can't show people respect and love, and if we can't have a discussion without resorting to immature and downright bitter verbal abuse and accusations then we should just keep our mouths shut because it's bringing division to the body of Christ.

Romans 13:8 "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law."

Glenbo said...

What a load of old plum!

Sam said...

I'm a big fan of debate but as indya is reminding us let's remember that Christians are supposed to be famous for demonstrating grace and love, not just talking about them.

We can disagree but some of this is crossing the line.

As regards the bono stuff, lets avoid heresay and rumour. Check out Bono on Bono my Michka Assayas to see what Bono actually says.

Anonymous - on the monks thing - I think you are maybe making too much of a jump to say John is advocating all roads lead to God. As regards incense you'll find that incense was burnt in the tabernacle and temple in the Old Testament (and the time of Jesus), its also mentioned in Revelation

Jen said...

Oh my word, why do people respond with such venom to this blog? Sometimes I think words are not enough- it seems to me that the anonymous people who have so vehmently posted on here have no right to try to attack John about what he has said, because they cannot even put across their argument in a coherent way. Please do not blame the education system for the incorrect use of punctuation and grammar. I am an English teacher and I blame society and the many new technologies that are constantly eliminating the need for coherent communication. As to the whole argument being raised- I like U2 but I don't look to Bono or anyone else to set an example of grace, I look to God. But, I certainly don't condemn anyone who appreciates the work people like Bono too or who understands that we can't believe everything we read about celebrities, nor do we have a right to judge their behaviour-only God does, because he is the only one who sees us all the time and has a full understanding of what it means to be without sin.

Anonymous said...

Ok guys the spelling mistakes are really down to my lack of time and bad keyboard skills.
What i think is sad that a youth pastor and a former dupty pastor someone lets say like PIP would make fun of someone's spelling skills.

Sam yea I know incense was burned in the temple old testament, as well as Revelation, but here is the thing it was for the Jews in old and new testament remeber Jesus had not died so really the law still exsisted, also in revelation depending on your view it is also jewish, or if your historic in your theology it;s already happened.

My comment still stands John crossed the line not me, he crossed it by putting Bono in along with Newton and also taking part in a sinful ritual with the monks, remeber Christ died to set us free from such bondage hebrews tells us not to go back to the law.

If you want quotes on Bono see www.fightthegoodfightministries.com and go to U2 Expose and see the other side of Bono, the pastor on that sight is Joe Schimmel.

Dave said...

watched a special preview in Dublin to the new movie 'Amazing Grace' about William Wilberforce.
Wow! An amazing film about the life of an amazing man. So inspiring about how God can use ONE person who grabs hold of His heart for an issue.
John (my brother), in many ways I was thinking of you as I watched. There are some quality lines in it (gonna bring a notepad next time i go!)- listen for the one on Africa.
Check the link for more http://www.amazinggracethemovie.co.uk/

Anyway, i'll not add my voice to the debate cause we'll always have something else to say wont we.

OK, maybe i will add one little extra- an interesting 'sermon' from Bono i saw yesterday. Wow. I'm not a huge fan but I think I can see Jesus' heart here.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENp7c6TtBHk

Bro

Glenbo said...

I guess we are all going to hel cause we can't spel. What a load of old plum!

Anonymous said...

wheres the love?? "love thy neighbor as thyself"....come on now anon.

Great speech and so encouraging...it is obvious to see that bonos heart is moved with christ's love. People are so quick to condemn-the words of eric clapton spring to mind
"before you accuse me take a look at yourself"
seriously now bono has helped so many people and he is trying to encourage christianity and spread the love as well as making poverty history. Im sure he would be touched to see your huge concern for his faith but he appears to be doing fine.
Some advice irish style:
cool the jets and have a cup of tea
Jess

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,

yes, you're right. Out of order for making fun of spelling mistakes - out of order indeed - I ask your forgiveness - was trying to lighten the load.

Pip

J-Mac said...

Got back from weekend to an inbox of emails from my anonymous friend concerned about 'censorship'. My own fault for publishing the first comment. Anyway, I'm going back to not publishing any anonymous comments. If you don't have the balls to put your name beside what you're saying then you shouldn't be taken seriously.

Love one another!