Summary: John Newton believed that God’s grace taught him to fear. But we’re not supposed to be afraid of anything are we?
OPEN: Does anybody know what the date was this Last Friday? (Friday the 13th)
Both Fridays and the number 13 have both been considered “unlucky” down thru the ages.
The number 13, for example:
The Turks so disliked that number that they practically removed it from their vocabulary (Brewer, 1894).
Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue.
Many buildings don’t have a 13th floor.
And according to information I had a number of years ago, some airlines refused to have a Flight 13 or even a row of seats with that number.
As for the fear of Friday old wives tales say that you should:
Never change your bed on Friday; it will bring bad dreams.
Never start a trip on Friday or you will have misfortune.
If you cut your nails on Friday, you cut them for sorrow.
Ships that set sail on a Friday will have bad luck
You put those two together - Friday and the number 13 - and you can end up with a whole bunch of people that are actually afraid of that date on the calendar. Dr. Donald Dossey, a psycho-therapist specializing in the treatment of phobias estimates that fully 8% (21 million) of the people in America are frightened of Friday 13th
APPLY: People can become afraid of the strangest things.
But the Bible tells us that God’s people should not be. We should not be a people of fear.
Fully 365 times in Scripture, God tells us “Do not fear” or “Fear not” or something similar.
365 times – that’s one time for every day of the year.
And Psalms 118:6 tells us WHY we should not fear: “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Now, because this is true, many of gotten the mistaken impression that God doesn’t endorse fear. That God would never want us to be afraid of anything. But, that’s not true.
Proverbs 9:10 says "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…”
Ecclesiastes 12:13: “…Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man”
And Jesus taught: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28
This concept of fearing God was very real to John Newton. When he wrote his song “Amazing Grace” he included this verse:
“It was grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.”
ILLUS: For those of you who weren’t here a couple of weeks ago - before he became a preacher John Newton was a wicked man. If there was something evil he could do... and he could figure out a way to do it… he did it.
In fact, his wickedness was so obvious, that when his ship, the Greyhound, was caught in a terrible storm at sea, the captain seriously suggested throwing him overboard like Jonah because he believed Newton’s wickedness was the cause of all their misery.
During the 9 terrifying hours of a storm that had everyone – including Newton – praying.
John Newton said: "I concluded my sins were too great to be forgiven. I waited with fear and impatience to receive my doom."
Newton was afraid.
And he later came to believe that his fear was God’s tool to get his attention.
“It was grace that taught my heart to fear”
John Newton believed God had to bring him to his knees in FEAR before he would ever give his life to Jesus. But once he did do that - give his life to Jesus - he became a fireball.
He was determined, focused, and unstoppable.
According to one author “To London’s ‘smart society,’ John Newton was… an evangelical, but the “worst” kind: a fanatic who denounced all the self-indulgences and pleasures that society loved the most.” Focus On The Family Feb, 07 page 15, Paul McCusker
But Newton didn’t care. He didn’t care what they thought. He wasn’t in love with the world around him, he was in love with Jesus
.But he got that way because “it was grace that taught his heart to fear”
Acts chapter 9 tells us a similar story about a man named Saul (we know him as Paul)
Saul was a very righteous Pharisee who had been responsible for the death of. the first Christian martyr to die for the faith – Stephen.
Saul became fanatical in his opposition to the church. He hated the name of Jesus and he hated anyone who belonged to our Lord. By the time we get to Acts 9, Saul has obtained letters of authority from the Sanhedrin, and he’s on his way to Damascus with an armed guard, determined to arrest any Christian he can find there - and bring them back in chains.