For decades Kathy and I have profited immensely from the pastoral wisdom of the converted slave trader John Newton. As an 18th century Anglican minister, Newton was a good preacher, but it was as a pastor, counselor, and advisor that he excelled. His pastoral letters are a treasure chest. In one of his letters (entitled “Some Blemishes on Christian Character”) Newton points out that while most Christians succeed in avoiding more gross sins, many do not actually experience much in the way of actual spiritual growth.
Newton lays out a very convicting and specific example of the kinds of Christian people who coast on their strengths but do nothing about their weaknesses and so rob themselves and others of joy and God of his glory. These blemishes are often seen by their bearers as mere “foibles.” Newton says they “may not seem to violate any express command of Scripture” and yet, they are “properly sinful” because they are the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit that believers are supposed to exhibit.
These “small faults” mean that large swaths of the Christian population have little influence on others for Christ….