July 26, 2010

Take it and Read

Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. Romans 13.13-14

These are some of the most important verses in church history … really in human history. How so? Well, let me take you back about sixteen hundred years to a man called Augustine. He was one of the greatest leaders in church history … most say the greatest between the apostle Paul and the Reformation in the 1500’s A.D. In other words, in the opinion of most historians, there was no more important Christian than Augustine for eleven centuries after his life and death!

Why? Well, among other things because he wrote definitive early theological books on the Trinity, on God’s sovereignty in election and predestination, and on the relation of the church to the world. He helped shape, not only church doctrine, but western culture … because western culture as we know it grew up out of the melding together (for better or for worse) of the Roman empire with the Christian church. And since Augustine was the greatest thinker and writer in the Christian church during those crucial years, his vision for the church and the culture was, in some ways, more influential in shaping the western world than any politician today could ever dream of being.

Augustine was a pastor, a scholar, and a statesman. And no one quite like him came along until Martin Luther and John Calvin arose out of the ashes of medieval Roman Catholicism with the Bible in their hands and the pure gospel on their lips. And even they often quoted and learned doctrine from reading Augustine!

But Augustine wasn’t always a great Christian. In fact, he lived his teenage and early adult years as a profligate, carousing, sexually immoral school teacher. And over time, he came to loathe himself. He read stories of early monks who gave up all their earthly possessions … and he hated himself because he couldn’t even give up his live in girlfriend. In fact, one day the conviction of the Holy Spirit was so deep that he found himself face down in his back garden, pounding his hands on his forehead and pulling out his hair. But over the garden wall, he heard the voice of a child (which proved to be a messenger of God) chanting, as if as part of some childish game: ‘Take it and read, take it and read.’

Augustine decided that this strange chant must be a message from on high … and went immediately to pick up the New Testament that was laying nearby in the garden. And the first words his eyes fell upon were those in Romans 13.13-14: “not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh.” What a word in season for this addict to sexual immorality! Augustine’s eyes were immediately opened and he came to Christ! And what a providence of God it was that the children were playing their game at just the right time, and that the book fell open to just the right passage! No wonder Augustine would later love the truth that God searches us out before we ever think to look for Him!

I hope that this story is a word in season for you! Perhaps it will remind you of how God came looking for you when you were lost and blind in your sin. And perhaps it will also encourage you to love and use the word of God all the more! I don’t know what it is that you need to hear from the Lord in these days. But I’ll just bet that if you’ll ‘take it and read’, the Bible will lead you to exactly the right place. And if you’ll also take every opportunity of hearing God’s word, you’ll be amazed at how many times the sermon or lesson seems tailor made for your need. So ‘take it and read, take it and read!’

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