“Of Whom I am the Worst”, John Newton and Amazing Grace

John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace” was written from personal experience, for Newton himself was among the worst of sinners. At the age of eleven, he took to the sea, where he had many adventures: he was press-ganged into the navy; he was captured and flogged for desertion; he despaired almost to the point of suicide. Eventually, Newton became a slave-trader, a hard and wretched man. But he was shown mercy. As he feared for his life in stormy seas, he threw himself on the grace of God, which he found in abundance. Later he testified, “How wonderful is the love of God in giving his Son to die for such wretches!”

Even after he was saved, Newton continued to confess his need of God’s amazing grace. He wrote in one of his letters, “In defiance of my best judgment and best wishes, I find something within me which cherishes and cleaves to those evils, from which I ought to start and flee, as I should if a toad or a serpent was put in my food or in my bed. Ah! how vile must the heart (at least my heart) be.” Newton did not despair, however. Before closing the letter, he quoted Paul’s words to Timothy: “I embrace it as a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

Every Christian knows how to complete Newton’s quotation in the quietness of a believing heart: “of whom I am the worst.”

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you see yourself as the worst of sinners?



This post is an extended quote by Philip Graham Ryken, 1 Timothy, ed. Richard D. Phillips, Daniel M. Doriani, and Philip Graham Ryken, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 29.

Is God a Reality or Concept in Your Life?

This weekend I visited my brother and sister-in-law in Allen, where I attended my nieces baby dedication. On the drive back home, I listen to a sermon by Tim Keller. The sermon was entitled: The Gospel and Your Self. You can access it by clicking here.

In his sermon, Tim Keller asks the question:

Is God a REALITY or a CONCEPT in your life?

Your answer to this question will make all the difference, and it will have eternal consequences. Before I tell you how you can know that God is a reality or concept in your life, I want to define for you the two words at hand.


Reality: Something that exists independently of all other things or ideas concerning it. It is something that exists outside of your mind, and it has the power to influence you.

Concept: A general notion or idea. Meaning it is something that exists in the mind and is not independent of your mind.

How do you know if God is a reality or a concept?

(1) You know God is a reality in your life when you allow Him to change your beliefs and actions.

When you quit saying things like: I like that God is loving and merciful, but I don’t like that God has a wrathful side. I don’t think it is wrong to have pre-marital sex if someone is in love. I don’t believe racism is wrong, even though the Bible condemns it. I believe the Bible is true, but I don’t think God is right about homosexuality, even though the Bible clearly speaks against it.

Unless you allow God to change your beliefs and affect the way you act, then God is a concept to you. He is not real, and He is not your Savior or the Lord of your life. God is just someone who you believe can help you live a better life. Someone you can get something from, but you are not willing to give things up for.

(2) You know God is a reality when you realize you are a sinner.

God is still a concept to you, if you do not realize your own sinfulness and need of a Savior. When God is a reality, you understand how holy He is and how sinful you are. If God is just a concept to you, then you think you are alright, you’re not that sinful, you are not so bad.

Why do you not see your sinfulness when God is a concept to you? Because you have constructed a God that does not push against, or reveal, your sinfulness. He does not challenge your ideas, or actions because you have constructed Him to fit neatly into your world. When you construct a God in your mind, you are not going to construct a God who is going to tell you that you need to change. Rather, you are going to construct a God who tells you that you are alright. However, when your God does not cause you to realize you are a sinner, you do not have a real God; rather, you have a God who is a figment of your imagination.

(3) You know God is a reality when you are willing to go on Mission for God.

God is not a reality for you unless you are willing to tell others about Him and the life He has given you through Jesus Christ. If you have no desire to present the Gospel to others, or even live in a way that reflects God’s work in your life, then God is a concept to you. He has not affected your life, and He is not your Savior or Lord.

Getting Real

I know, pretty weighty and bold words to say that God is not someone’s Savior and Lord, but if God is just a concept, then He is not your Savior and Lord. You have not accepted the reality that God exists, for if you had, then you would allow Him to change your beliefs and actions; you would see yourself for who you really are, a sinner; and you would be willing to tell others about Him. Until these things happen, God is nothing more than a concept for you, someone you have constructed in your own imagination to make yourself feel better. He is someone who fits into your agenda, rather than someone who sets your agenda.


There is hope and it is in the Gospel, the saving power of Jesus Christ, which has the power to change your life. It has the ability to make God a reality in your life. And you don’t have to clean yourself up in order for that to happen. All you have to do is trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and allow Him to control every aspect of your life. When you admit that you need a Savior, God has become a reality to you, rather than a concept, or construct of your imagination.

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