John Newton and Victory Over Sexual Sin 2

(The story of John Newton and his victory over sexual sin is continued from the previous blog.)

SEXUAL STRUGGLES CONTINUE  John apologized to his father and stepped up his courtship of Polly.  His whole life changed and he reveled in his new-found forgiveness and peace.  Spiritually he was on fire and grew as a Christian.  He got a job as first mate of a slave ship, though, and a few weeks after sailing found he was as bad as ever before.  He stopped reading his Bible and praying and had no Christian fellowship.  He was unable to resist the sexual temptations and sunk right into sexual sin again.  “I was almost as bad as before.  The enemy prepared a train of temptations and I became his easy prey.  For about a month, he lulled me asleep in a course of evil, of which a few months before I could not have supposed myself any longer capable.”  Although he tried resisting, he was helpless to have any victory.  “I was fast bound in chains; I had little desire and no power to free myself.”  He had first choice of the women on the slave ship.  Today we would say he was addicted to sex.  “If I attempted to struggle, it was in vain.”  How many men can identify with that bondage and misery!

GOD’S GRACE BRINGS DELIVERANCE  Again John got so sick he almost died.  He had no hope of mercy or forgiveness.  He realized he could not change and was helpless in his sin.  He stopped making promises or commitments about “next time” and “never again.”  He threw himself upon God’s mercy, a broken and totally defeated man.  “I made no more resolves, but cast myself upon the Lord to do with me as He should please.”  With that came forgiveness, and peace returned.  In fact, he never sunk to those same depths again.  “Though I have often grieved His Spirit and foolishly wandered from him since (when, alas, shall I be more wise?), His powerful grace has preserved me from such black declensions as this I have last recorded.”

Eventually he got out of the slave trade entirely and entered the ministry.  God used him in a small town to faithfully spread His message.  As John’s own testimony spread, so did his influence.  Many found hope and deliverance through John’s message of grace.

LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF JOHN NEWTON  What lessons can we learn from John?  First and foremost, victory over any sin only comes by God’s grace.  Sometimes He removes the temptation at salvation, but often it just seems to get worse.  Dormant for periods of time, it again and again raises its ugly head to bring sing, guilt and misery.  It was only when John realized that he couldn’t defeat it, no matter how hard he tried, that he was able to see God’s victory in his life.  There is no program, no strategy, no magic formula to bring victory — it is only by God’s grace.  Any pride in ourselves or our ability to change (Prov. 16:18).  God did discipline him when he sinned to get his attention: twice he was so sick he almost died.  By his own admission, a fine wife to honor and be worthy of was also a help to keep him from slipping back into sexual sin.  On a later voyage he wrote to Polly: “I was once no less eager after their pleasures than  they (the crew members) are now.  But you have so refined my taste since, that nothing short of yourself can thoroughly please me.”  That should be our prayer, too.

It’s all by grace, nothing we can do or deserve.  Falling on God’s mercy is our only recourse.  Promises of change, punishing ourselves for past failures, trying our hardest, all these fail for the flesh (sin nature) cannot control the flesh.  Only the Spirit can control the flesh, and only when we 100% come to the end of our rope and throw ourselves upon His mercy.  Have you don that, or are you still struggling on your own?  Learn from John Newton.  It’s only by God’s grace and mercy that victory comes.  That’s no excuse to sin, but it does give us hope no matter how bad things are.  It also shows us our total need of Him — which is something we all, like John Newton, need to learn.

What lessons is God teaching you from the life of John Newton?

(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at or download it from  My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available for free.)

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