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Augustine’s Victory over Fruitless Joys August 23, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes, Random Musings.
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As I prepare this week for a message for Sunday morning on the fear of man, I am surprised to find myself devoting much time to contemplating Saint Augustine’s dramatic conversion and the way in which he found victory in his battle against the lusts of the world. I don’t think this reflection will make it explicitly into Sunday’s message (although there is hope that it will find its way into part 2 on Sept. 3rd), so I thought I would post it here. In his autobiographical Confessions, he describes the day of his conversion; at the time he was entrenched in a violent battle against the lusts of his flesh and he seemingly could find no freedom:

“I flung myself down beneath a fig tree and gave way to the tears which now streamed from my eyes . . . In my misery I kept crying, “How long shall I go on saying ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?” . . . All at once I heard the singsong voice of a child in a nearby house. Whether it was the voice of a boy or a girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain ‘Take it and read, take it and read.’ At this I looked up, thinking hard whether there was any kind of game in which children used to chant words like these, but I could not remember ever hearing them before. I stemmed my flood of tears and stood up, telling myself that this could only be a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall.

So I hurried back to the place where Alypius was sitting . . . seized [the book of Paul’s epistles] and opened it, and in silence I read the first passage on which my eyes fell: “Not in reveling in drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and nature’s appetites” (Romans 13:13-14). I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.”

Looking back on this glorious triumph of grace, he wrote,

“How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose . . ! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honor, though not in the eyes of men who see all honor in themselves. . . . O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.”

Victory over the fleeting pleasures of sin comes from a taste of the superior pleasure that is found only at God’s right hand. Whether it is the fear of man, sexual purity, anger, greed, or any other sin under the sun, this is what we need: a sight of Jesus Christ in the fullness of His glory that is so breathtaking that it drives away every fruitless joy. Grace replaces pleasure in sin with the far greater pleasure of enjoying all that God is for us in Christ.

What an astounding gift we have in the Bible, the written word of God through which we see the eternal Word who alone can free us from every lesser pleasure. Lord, make us to exercise violence in putting to death inferior, fleeting joys by falling in love all the more with Your matchless worth!

Larry

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