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“How could anyone love me?”

Have you ever thought something like that? I have.

Growing up, I was far from perfect. I still am. But as a teen, I carried a lot of guilt and shame. People would tell me things like, “God loves you,” or “He’s got good plans for your life.” But it’s hard to believe something like that when you feel so unworthy… so unlovable.

That’s why I love the story of the song “Amazing Grace.”

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.

Whether you’ve spent time in church or not, you probably know this song. As one of the most recorded songs in history, “Amazing Grace” has been covered by Elvis, Aretha Franklin, and Bono. It was sung when Nelson Mandela took leadership and was even featured on The Simpsons!

But what you might not know is that “Amazing Grace” was written by an eighteenth-century slave-ship captain named John Newton.

Newton had a reputation that would make a lot of us look squeaky clean by comparison. You think you’ve made mistakes? Think you’re dirty? Newton’s hands bore the guilt of trading in human lives for profit.

So how could this man write a song celebrating how much God loved him?

The answer is grace.

The Good News of Jesus Christ is not that you and I can clean ourselves up enough to be loved by God. It’s that while knowing the worst about us, God still moved towards us in love to save us from our sins.

Romans 5:8 says it like this, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV)

John Newton spent years mocking God’s grace. He’d heard the same things about God’s love that I grew up hearing. Maybe things you’ve heard too. But he couldn’t believe it…he didn’t want to believe it.

Then one night while steering his slave ship through a violent storm, he cried out to God for mercy. When his ship passed through safely, he finally put his faith in Jesus and received the grace that he’d rejected for so long.

Later, Newton played a role in putting an end to the slave trade in Great Britain. He became a preacher, cared for the poor, and built a reputation as a pastor who brought people from all walks of life together.

God’s grace not only saved Newton, it also changed Newton.

But no matter how much Newton grew in his relationship with God, he never forgot that it was all because of grace. His sin deserved judgment. Ours does too. But God’s love led Him to pour out that judgment on Jesus, who willingly took our place on the cross. This is amazing grace.

Newton said late in life…

“I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!”

So, what about all that guilt and shame? What about your mistakes? What about those things you did or said that you wish you could take back? Are you unlovable? Is your sin too much for God’s grace?

Let’s take a lesson from Newton today and rest in the overwhelming truth that God’s love doesn’t depend on our worth, and His grace is more than enough to save a wretch like me.

Nick Hall

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