Day 21: Hearing from Brother Augustine
1. Center Down
Before we begin today’s spiritual excursion, please take a few moments to breathe! Take three slow, deep breaths, expanding from your abdomen; try not to raise your shoulders. As you inhale, whisper, “Lord, Your grace…” As you exhale whisper, “…is at work in the world.”
2. Slowly read aloud the following Scripture
(Feel free to pause at any time during your reading to reflect on, thank, praise, or acknowledge God’s stirring in your thoughts and emotions.)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV)
For further exploration:
3. Kingdom Prayer
Father, we praise You as our God and King. We bless Your Name forever and ever. Everyday we will bless You and praise Your name forever. You are great and most worthy of praise. Your greatness is beyond discovery. Father, we thank You for teaching us how to pray. We are grateful for the freedom to worship You, our God. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, for the redemption of all humankind. We thank You for touching the believers from all nations of the world to pray. Thank You, Father, for giving us Your Spirit and unifying us. We praise You for hearing our petitions and answering them. You are wonderful and we bless Your Name!
Father, You so loved the world that You gave Your one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. We stand amazed at the fullness of Your love. We declare that all the earth will be filled with an awesome awareness of Your glory like the waters cover the sea. You have spoken this and we believe it will come to pass. Your Word tells us that there will be a vast crowd too great to count from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing in front of Your throne and in front of the Lamb. And they will shout, “Salvation comes from our God on the throne and from the Lamb!” We confess that every person, tribe, nation, people and language will acknowledge that You are God of the nations and Your Son, Jesus Christ, is the liberator for all people. We confess people will be saved throughout the world.
Father, empower us by Your Holy Spirit so that we might fulfill the passion of Your Son. Unite, the Church of Jesus Christ in all nations, so that the world will know the full measure of Your love. Holy Spirit, turn our attention to the task at hand so that we might make disciples of all nations. We ask You to call out and send forth a great multitude of workers to bring Your message of salvation to every nation, especially those nations that have yet to hear the message of Your great salvation and delivering power. Fill us with Your unconditional love so that we can see each person as a new creation in Christ, destined to bring You glory.
List a few changes that need to occur in our world and begin to pray about them:
Father, forgive the Body of Christ for pride, competition, division, isolation, arrogance and selfish ambition that destroy Your witness to our communities and to the nations of the earth. As the Body of Christ, Holy Spirit, we admit that we may grieve You from time to time and limit Your great power through our carnality and our selfishness. We confess that we have not loved the world as You love the world. We ask You to help us. Forgive us for disobeying Your command to compel people to come to You. Forgive us for diluting the Gospel and denying Your power. Remind all of us to forgive and help us to forgive.
Holy Spirit, help us all not to yield to temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
Lord, You are the King of glory. You are the Lord Almighty. You are worthy to receive glory, honor and power, for You created everything. It is for Your pleasure that they exist and were created. Holy, holy, holy are You, the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is filled with Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture References for the Written Text: Psalm 145:1-3, John 3:16,
Habakkuk 2:14, Revelation 7:9-10, Matthew 28:19, Matthew 9:38, John
17:23, Matthew 6:13, Psalm 24:10, Revelation 4:11, Isaiah 6:3
4. Concepts to Consider
As we round out our time together exploring some of the Saints of the early Church from Africa, Brother Augustine [aw-GUS-tin] from Thagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria) is a good way to end… and begin, for that matter. The life of Augustine bridges the earliest Christian fathers and mothers with the Church as it begins to emerge from the twilight of the Roman Empire, when people groups and nations become more fragmented. Augustine sums up and solidifies many of the Church teachings that came before him, especially around the doctrines of “original sin,” and the compelling nature of the grace of God.
Augustine experienced the miraculous work of God’s grace and love for himself. Prior to his conversion, this wealthy, well-educated philosophy student and teacher was a rascal and reveled in a life of excess and sinful indulgence.
Little by little, the grace of God drew Augustine away from his sinful life and he began to seek the Truth, but unfortunately, he turned aside from the Way of Christ for a time and fell into a false belief system known as Manichaeism ([man-ih-KEY-izm] video: http://bit.ly/Manichaeism). But through patient Christian mentorship and teaching, Augustine finally understood the error of his ways, and returned to the “narrow way” that leads to Life. He became an unswerving follower of Jesus and a staunch defender of the Christian faith from that point on.
Some years later, Augustine became a monk, priest and eventually the Bishop of Hippo (a coastal city in modern-day Algeria). He is most remembered for his insightful autobiography, The Confessions and for his doctrinal writings, The City of God and Against Palagius.
Here is an edifying excerpt from Augustine’s City of God, Volume II:
Section 27. That the peace of those who serve God cannot in this mortal life be apprehended in its perfection.
But the peace which is peculiar to ourselves we enjoy now with God by faith, and shall hereafter enjoy eternally with Him by sight. But the peace which we enjoy in this life, whether common to all or peculiar to ourselves, is rather the solace of our misery than the positive enjoyment of felicity. Our very righteousness, too, though true in so far as it has respect to the true good, is yet in this life of such a kind that it consists rather in the remission of sins than in the perfecting of virtues. Witness the prayer of the whole [population of the] city of God in its pilgrim state, for it cries to God by the mouth of all its members, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” And this prayer is efficacious not for those whose faith is “without works and dead,” but for those whose faith “worketh by love.”
For as reason, though subjected to God, is yet “pressed down by the corruptible body,” so long as it is in this mortal condition, it has not perfect authority over vice, and therefore this prayer is needed by the righteous. For though it exercises authority, the vices do not submit without a struggle. For however well one maintains the conflict, and however thoroughly he has subdued these enemies, there steals in some evil thing, which, if it do not find ready expression in act, slips out by the lips, or insinuates itself into the thought; and therefore his peace is not full so long as he is at war with his vices.
For it is a doubtful conflict he wages with those that resist, and his victory over those that are defeated is not secure, but full of anxiety and effort. Amidst these temptations, therefore, of all which it has been summarily said in the divine oracles, “Is not human life upon earth a temptation?” Who but a proud man can presume that he so lives that he has no need to say to God, “Forgive us our debts?” And such a man is not great, but swollen and puffed up with vanity, and is justly resisted by Him who abundantly gives grace to the humble. Whence it is said, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.”
In this, then, consists the righteousness of a man, that he submit himself to God, his body to his soul, and his vices, even when they rebel, to his reason, which either defeats or at least resists them; and also that he beg from God grace to do his duty, and the pardon of his sins, and that he render to God thanks for all the blessings he receives. But, in that final peace to which all our righteousness has reference, and for the sake of which it is maintained, as our nature shall enjoy a sound immortality and incorruption, and shall have no more vices, and as we shall experience no resistance either from
ourselves or from others, it will not be necessary that reason should rule vices which no longer exist, but God shall rule the man, and the soul shall rule the body, with a sweetness and facility suitable to the felicity of a life which is done with bondage. And this condition shall there be eternal, and we shall be assured of its eternity; and thus the peace of this blessedness and the blessedness of this peace shall be the supreme good.
(Note: Many years later, Augustine’s teachings will give rise to the theological distinctive within Christianity known as “Calvanism,” named after John Calvin [1509-1564], and characterized by predestination [God chooses, no/limited human free will], limited atonement, and eternal perseverance of the saints [once saved always saved]
. It is this movement that theologians Jacobus Arminius [1560-1609], and later John and Charles Wesley [mid-1700s through early 1800s] will push back against in their teachings known as “Arminianism” and “Wesleyanism/Methodism,” characterized by a belief in free access to the grace of God by all humans, since all persons are made in God’s image, in unlimited atonement, and free will, activated by God’s grace, as an element in salvation. [videos: http://bit.ly/Witherington; http://bit.ly/
(You are encouraged to tangibly record your reflections based on the Biblical readings, Kingdom prayer, Concepts to consider, etc. Write, sing, create, etc)
- Personal Reflection. As you reflect on the life and teachings of Augustine, how have you seen the grace of God work in your life?
- Kingdom Reflection. God’s grace is alive and active in the world, drawing people to Himself. Where do you see evidence of this grace in the world? How will you pray and work in light of how and where you see God’s grace moving?
Optional Time of Centering/Soaking:
If possible, take some time, perhaps 5 to 15 minutes, to get into a comfortable position and simply allow the Lord to minister to you at a deep level (Psalm 42:7). Turn off or put down all distractions. Close your eyes. Hold in your thoughts a meaningful word, phrase, or image from the Scripture you read today. Release all other thoughts and concerns into the Presence of the Lord. If your thoughts wander, that’s okay, just gently return to your Biblical word, phrase, or image. You may want to set a timer.