One of the blessings of this first week of sabbatical has been reading Tony Reinke’s book “Newton on the Christian Life”.
The book isn’t so much a biography of John Newton, although it contains some fascinating biographical details, rather the book is an overview of his letters and teaching on how to live as a Christian. There’s lots in there worth sharing but here are his two governing principles:
1. Do everything only for God’s glory
This is the great purpose of all that we should do and the ultimate purpose of everything in the universe. All things will one day and we should today show the greatness and majesty of God in all we do. This isn’t to mean we should all become pioneer church planters in Afghanistan (although that’s not a bad idea if you’re considering it) but rather means that all we do should be done with singleminded concern to make God look great and not ourselves.
Here’s how he puts it:
we are devoted to the Lord, and have by grace been enabled to choose him, and to yield ourselves to him, so as to place our happiness in his favour, and to make his glory and will the ultimate scope of all our actions.
The more you ponder on it the more simple it makes life. Liberated from the perpetual desire to justify my existence and to feed my pride on the praise of men my only concern is: does this action make God look great? If it does brilliant, if it doesn’t, if it’s design is something else, I won’t do it.
2. Do everything trusting only in God’s sovereignty
This shifts our focus from the “why” to the “how”. How will I live? How will I face the future? How will I know that all will be well? Answer: only by trusting in God’s sovereignty!
Newton (and Reinke) brilliantly bring out the consequences of NOT doing this:
The lack of such dependence leads to a host of complications and problems. We are quick to look to the world to provide our comforts and our hopes, especially when life grows dark. We seek to serve false saviours that promise comfort and hope, instead of living on the promises of God. Spiritual insincerity emerges in our hearts… and some may eventually shipwreck their own souls by the complexity of self-wisdom and indecision. An inability to fully trust God creates a toxic “duplicity of conduct” that poisons the Christian life.
Again the more you ponder this the better news it is. Trusting in God alone brings a joy and a liberty that otherwise would be unknown to me. As Newton puts it:
Every rain drop hits its appointed target, and every dust particle is carried on the wind to its appointed resting place. If we could but grasp this in the depth of our being, our souls would be liberated to depend fully on God’s governance over our lives and learn to count trials “all joy” (James 1:2)