Augustine’s Conversion

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What did you learn about Augustine’s conversion?

Augustine played a huge role in the advancement of Christianity and was commonly referred to as the “Architect of the Middle Ages.” As Everett Ferguson points out, “Augustine has continued to be a major influence in theology for both Catholics [in their view of sacraments] and Protestants [in their views regarding grace and salvation.]”

Due to his extensive writings and the biography written by his disciple Possidius, we know more about Augustine’s life and the development of his understanding and teaching of scripture than any other person in the ancient world. Upon examination of all the resources available pertaining to Augustine’s life and conversion, the overwhelming requirement to overcome one’s need for significance and appetites of the flesh are the resounding themes. It was true for Augustine and it remains true today. God is continually trying to speak to everyone and while Augustine’s conversion experience seems miraculous, it is no more of a miracle than simply obeying God’s command to read His Word and then by our actions, if we truly love Him, we will obey what it commands. In Augustine’s City of God, he portrays there being two cities: one just and one wicked and as Fergusson illustrates, “Through their love, human beings adhere to either the one or the other: to God or to self… [Ultimately,] God’s judgment consists in giving people what they love most, [everlasting] life with Him or [eternal] separation for Him.”

In Augustine’s conversion, he came to understand the mercy and grace of God. As a result, he wanted his life to be a living sacrifice that was pleasing to the Lord. He allowed God to transform his life through the renewing of his mind, which came from a deeper understanding of God’s word. Augustine recognized the work of the Holy Spirit and allowed the Spirit to work not only in him, but also through him. He recognized the errors of his ways and then sought to help people avoid making the same mistakes while also helping those currently struggling with the same issues. He took on the humility of Christ in his walk and continually rejoiced in the salvation of his soul and in the God he served. His method of showing teachers must continually be learning and that mentors must always be disciples is the model the church should still strive for because as Christians, we must always be learning and growing in our faith.

Who witnessed to him?

Augustine was born in Tagaste, North Africa to a Christian mother, now named Saint Monica. His father, Patricius was a pagan, but would convert to Christianity and be baptized before his death. While his parents were split on religious views, they both wanted their son to receive the best education and as a result, he would become one of the most renowned professors of rhetoric due to his gifting in communication. Despite this gift, he was unsatisfied by his current teaching in Africa and would ultimately become engrossed by the radical dualistic teaching of Manichaeism because it presented itself as the Christianity for intellectuals. Over time, Augustine began to have doubts and when Faustus was unable to answer his questions, Augustine turned his attention to magic and astrology. Soon after this, Augustine and his mother moved to Rome where his skepticism led him to Neoplatonism where he learned from Plotinus that all beings are good and that there are spiritual realities.

In 384, Augustine became the professor of rhetoric in Milan and during his time there, he went to hear a famous public speaker named bishop Ambrose. It was under Ambrose that Augustine first heard a much more intellectually respectable interpretation of the Bible. Shortly after this, the presbyter Simplicianus would take on Augustine as a personal project and during this time Augustine began to wrestle more with action versus belief. While it was apparent Augustine had undergone an intellectual conversion, his spiritual and moral conversion were not yet complete.

What other factors led to his coming to faith in Christ?

Above all else, it was Augustine’s understanding of philosophy that would lead him not only to faith, but would also make his contributions to academia and literature timeless. His official conversion experience took place in 386 after he heard a little girl singing, “Pick up and read.” When he walked over to where the voice was coming from, he found a book on the letters of Paul, which read, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” Augustine believed this encounter to be divine and that the Lord was speaking directly to him because of his own personal struggle with sexual self-control. After contemplating this encounter with God and its significance in his life, he enrolled for baptism, which he received from Ambrose on Easter Sunday the following year. Fergusson illustrates how, “He had found his way back to the faith of his childhood and turned his back on his oratorical career.”

Augustine also recognized the burdens and baggage of this world were weighing him down; on his own, he was powerless to do anything, but when he surrendered them to Christ, he was set free. His conviction to the truth of God was the lamp unto his path and the redemptive work God did in his life led him in his service to the church. His devotion and dedication to God is much Paul’s model, as he encouraged believers to follow him as he followed Christ.

Bibliography

Ferguson, Everett. Church History: Volume One From Christ to the Pre-Reformation 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Cast Your Burdens on the Lord

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Whatever we are going through, God knows. That statement itself should give us peace and strength to endure anything, yet we often find ourselves fighting to survive the daily circumstances and conflicts that surround us.

While we are gasping and choking for air, we should be resting at the Master’s feet breathing in His daily peace and calmness. While we are treading water with no sight of land, we should be sheltered and safe under the Lord’s outstretched arms of protection – so why aren’t we?

God promises each of us a supernatural peace in the midst of turmoil, if we seek Him first. In turn, despite what is going on, we will know He is in complete control. To cast your cares upon the Lord also means to give God control in your circumstance. You can’t have one without the other! Carrying life’s burdens leads to anxiety, which causes us to worry, and which ultimately takes our eyes off God and focuses them on our problems and ourselves.

Worry is fundamentally a willful form of self-centeredness. Instead of praying and seeking God, we can become consumed with trivial circumstances. If you could picture heaven and earth colliding, our minds would be in the epicenter. There is a daily struggle being waged and if we lose the battle over our minds, we lose the war. Staying grounded in the Word and keeping in close communion to God is how we overcome and prevail over the siege warfare being used to wear us down. In the end, God gives beauty for ashes, like a phoenix rising from its own demise. God will do the same for us when we allow Him to use our circumstances for His glory and when we view our trials through His eyes and perspective.

We expend countless energy and resources on problems which are either unimportant or are completely out of our control. However, when we look to God and allow Him to carry our burdens, we allow Him to shine light in the dark areas of our life and we trust Him to do what only He can. In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 Paul said, “all our troubles are light and momentary, compared with the eternal glory being accomplished by them.” These profound words mean we have no idea what or how our trials and circumstances are accomplishing. Some trials may be for us: to strengthen us, to better ourselves, or perhaps to even correct an area of our life; while other times, the trials we walk through may be for the people in our lives. We may be the epitome of a disciple of Christ, but one trial comes on the heel of the next and it’s the people in our lives who are watching how we handle ourselves when there seems to be no hope. True faith is always measured where there seems to be no hope.
TrustGodGod’s Word tells us to lay our requests before Him and to wait in expectation. This is impossible to do if we don’t keep our eyes fixated on God. As we draw near to Him; He draws closer to us and when we are in communion with God, we can hear His still, small voice speaking words of wisdom, love, joy, peace, and life. Worrying accomplishes nothing just as maybe leads us in circles that go nowhere. Jesus answers yes and amen and He empowers us for whatever life may throw our way and He is our song allowing us to have joy despite our circumstances. Today is the day the Lord has made, so let us rejoice and be glad in it. Don’t worry about tomorrow for it will worry about itself. Like manna from heaven, God will give you exactly what you need to make it through this day and tomorrow He will do the same when you seek Him with all your mind, soul, and strength.

The way of the Lord can be narrow and often steep, even perilous at times. That is why we must constantly cast our cares, our anxieties, and our burdens on Him so we are less likely to fall as we traverse the path set before each of us. The less we have to carry the less likely we are to fall. As we give God everything that attempts to hold us back, He takes them and buries them at the cross where the blood of Jesus was poured out so we never have to live in condemnation of our sin and so we can experience closeness with God. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom making a way for each one of us to know and experience God on a deep and personal level. God knows what you need and when you need it, so trust Him and you will never regret it. I’ll end with two of my favorite quotes: “We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.” Charles R. Swindoll & “Fear is the glue that keeps you stuck. Faith is the solvent that sets you free.” Shannon L. Alder

His Grace is Sufficient

Neck Pain
I woke up this morning in excruciating pain; it felt as though a nail had been driven in the back of my neck as I awoke in agony. Many of you know I have undergone multiple surgeries over the course of last year to repair the damage caused when a truck hit me on my bike going 65 mph. Up until now I had been pain free, so you can imagine the thoughts racing through my mind this morning. I felt fear, panic, worry, anger, but the more my mind drifted to all the what-ifs, the more I could sense God’s presence bringing me back to center.

Even though I am in extreme pain as I am writing this; I know God’s grace is sufficient for me. Regardless of how much pain I am in and regardless of how messed up things feel right now, I know God is in complete control and I have absolute faith and trust in Him and His plan.

So, despite what is going on in my body, I want to speak a message of hope in the midst of my suffering. We serve a God who heals not only broken bones and bodies, but also broken hearts, lives, homes and spirits. God is close to the broken hearted and He is waiting to heal us and our wounds when we turn to Him.

The first step to receiving any healing is drawing close to God. Our healing may not be instantaneous, but the longer we remain in His presence, the more we are able to endure our circumstances. The trials we undergo build our faith and trust muscles. Healing is often a process and in some cases it may be on the other side of eternity where we receive our complete healing. The important thing for us to do is remain in the center of God’s will wherever that may be.

For the Apostle Paul, the thorn and affliction in his side was never removed or completely healed, but because it wasn’t, Paul learned God’s grace was more than sufficient for him despite anything he might have endured.

The number of people’s needs is infinite, but we serve an omnipotent God! Many needs go unmet because they simply ask not. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given unto you; seek and you will find.” Even though God knows every thought before we think it and He knows every word before we speak it, He still wants us to be open and honest with Him.

I will never understand why we try to hide our feelings from God, but I can guarantee you it goes back to the fall in the Garden where Adam and Eve hid from God after they ate from the Tree of Knowledge. God desires for us to be open with Him and to share the desires of our heart. The more open we are, the closer He will draw to us.
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When we seek God earnestly, He will share His mind and thoughts with us and He will open our eyes to see from His perspective. In my pain and uncertainty I have just sought God’s presence and allowed Him to overshadow any fear I was feeling. His grace and peace is sufficient for me and it is sufficient for you. Cast your cares and burdens on the Lord and He will give you rest and perfect peace.