The Francis Asbury Society

FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 2/22

Posted on | February 22, 2016 | Comments Off on FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 2/22

Scripture reading: I Timothy 1:12–17

Saint or Sinner?

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. (Mark 2:17)

 

Few people have been more open and transparent about their struggle with temptation and sin than Augustine . . . that’s Saint Augustine! If you think that “sainthood” is reserved only for those who have never stumbled, well, think again. In his Confessions, written over 1,600 years ago, Augustine speaks candidly of his youth when he succumbed over and over to all manner of worldly temptations. This saint of God actually wanted us to know the details of his sordid past.

Clouds of muddy carnal concupiscence filled the air. The bubbling impulses of puberty befogged and obscured my heart so that it could not see the difference between love’s serenity and lust’s darkness. . . . The invisible enemy trampled on me and seduced me because I was in the mood to be seduced. . . .

Augustine tells the story of stealing pears from his neighbor’s orchard. Why? What was his motive for such an act of thievery? Was he hungry? No. Were these pears particularly juicy and good? No. His motivation was much more sinister:

I had no motive for my wickedness except wickedness itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved the self-destruction, I loved my fall, not the object for which I had fallen but my fall itself . . . I picked (the pears) solely with the motive of stealing. I threw away what I had picked. My feasting was only on the wickedness which I took pleasure in enjoying . . .

Moving to the city of Carthage, Augustine found himself surrounded by a “hissing cauldron of illicit loves.” Here, far from the watchful eye of his godly mother, he began to give full throttle to all his passions and lusts.

As yet I had never been in love and I longed to love. . . . I was in love with love . . . I rushed headlong into love, by which I was longing to be captured

. . . I was glad to be in bondage . . . During the celebration of (the Eucharist) within the walls of the Church, I even dared to lust after a girl and to start an affair that would procure the fruit of death . . . From my nineteenth to my twenty-eighth year, (my) life was one of being seduced and seducing, being deceived and deceiving, in a variety of desires. Publicly I was a teacher of liberal arts, privately I professed a false religion—in the former role arrogant, in the latter superstitious, in everything vain. . . .

We don’t often think of “saints” writing so bluntly and candidly. Yet it was Augustine’s willingness to confront his own moral depravity that made it possible for him to receive sanctifying grace. The awareness of sin and the experience of grace go together. They always have and they always will.

Here’s the deal. I’ll never know the liberty of redemption until I come to grips with the bondage of my perversity. I’ll never know the beauty of holiness until I see clearly the ugliness of my depravity. I’ll never know the joy of salvation until I grieve over my sin. I’ll never be what God intends for me to be until I realize what a wretched, messed up, perverted, arrogant, egotistical, dirty, rotten bum I really am! The more we understand the depth of our sin, the more we are able to experience the riches of God’s grace. Hallelujah!

 

And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess:

the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness. —Elizabeth C. Clephane

 

point to ponder The depth of understanding of your sin will determine the height of your experience of God’s grace.

prayer focus Take a look in the mirror and then pray for the worst sinner you know.

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