Happy 1660th Birthday: Augustine’s Enduring Appeal Is His Personal Passion for the Living Lord

Of the hundreds of thousands of published Christian writers over the centuries since the Scripture books were completed, none have had a level of influence like Augustine

“At the time of his new birth in Christ, Augustine had already become convinced of the truth of the Gospel for months. In Milan where Augustine was living at the time, the local Bishop Ambrose convinced Augustine that the arguments against the Gospel were weak, and that the Gospel in fact answered all the crucial questions. Augustine became convinced of the Gospel in his mind, but even his redeemed mind was not strong enough to liberate Augustine from the powerful attractions of his celebrated pagan life-style.”

 

If the hundreds of thousands of published Christian writers over the centuries since the Scripture books were completed, none have had a level of influence to compare to Augustine. Even now in 2014, he remains a #1 favorite for huge numbers of both Evangelical leaders and Roman Catholic leaders. He was a scholar and an evangelist; he was a faithful senior leader of the church universal and a charismatic healer who made house calls. Now he is 1660 years old. Happy Birthday, Augustine!

How does this ancient, African, Christian writer sustain such a broad and faithful following throughout the centuries, and around the world? In this brief article, let me suggest what I think is the main reason for Augustine’s continued profound influence.

I was first introduced to Augustine’s ideas by my 5th grade Sunday School teacher “Uncle Floyd Clemmons” – who was both my spiritual uncle and one of my biological uncles. For my birthday he gave me a book that included a chapter on Augustine. For the first time in my life I learned about a scholar who was passionate for Jesus. At that time the senior pastor of our large Baptist church was fond of saying that he would “rather be a fool on fire than a scholar on ice.” Now in Uncle Floyd’s gift book I read about a scholar on fire for Jesus, exposing the tragic false dichotomy of our pastor. The testimony of Augustine was for me a liberating, unsettling, transforming fact.

Augustine (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430) came to Jesus about the time of his 32rd birthday, after already earning his reputation as a world-class pagan scholar. At the time of his new birth in Christ, Augustine had already become convinced of the truth of the Gospel for months. In Milan where Augustine was living at the time, the local Bishop Ambrose convinced Augustine that the arguments against the Gospel were weak, and that the Gospel in fact answered all the crucial questions. Augustine became convinced of the Gospel in his mind, but even his redeemed mind was not strong enough to liberate Augustine from the powerful attractions of his celebrated pagan life-style.

The needed personal encounter with Jesus came through a tearful reading of the end of Romans 13:  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, NASB] It was not just the timely moral instruction and behavioral change taught in this text. Much more than that, Augustine was invited by the Romans text intimately to “put on” the Living Lord Jesus Christ as his spiritual armor, his personal covering. He had embraced the Gospel, now he embraced God the Son. And the Living Lord Jesus made all the difference.

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