Augustine has finally submitted fully to God and now, in Confessions Book 9, we see the impact of that decision. Christianity and faith in Christ are not inconsequential. When they truly take hold in a person’s life, they’re like a stone thrown into a pond – ripples follow that disrupt any still water. And so, Augustine’s life is shaken by his conversion.
As you read Confessions Book 9, reflect on how faith has shaped your own life. What decisions have been different because of your faith? What paths have you refused to walk down? Is your faith merely something you say you ‘believe’? Or does it form the whole of your life?
These are the questions Augustine calls us to ask ourselves as we read Confessions Book 9.
Confessions Book 9: Salvation’s Ripples
Augustine opens Confessions Book 9 up by recognizing just how much work God did in his life. He asks, “Is there any evil I have not committed in my deeds, or if not in deeds, then in my words, or if not in words, at least by willing it?” And though he sees his sinfulness, he notes even more the power of God. For he goes on to write, “But you, Lord, are good and merciful, and your right hand plumbed the depths of my death, draining the cesspit of corruption in my heart, so that I ceased to will all that I had been wont to will, and now willed what you willed.”
Forsaking All Things…
Notice again what he writes,”I…now willed what you willed.”
And these aren’t empty words. Augustine’s intention to follow God down to the smallest letter is on full display in this chapter. Barely two pages go by before Augustine renounces the career that he had spent over ten years building.
“I believed it to be pleasing in your sight that I should withdraw the service of my tongue from the market of speechifying.” Augustine’s career of teaching rhetoric comes to a swift end. And why? Because now he’s a Christian. And the things that used to be acceptable no longer are.
What a lesson this event in Augustine’s life continues to teach us! Are we this committed in our walk before God?
Have we allowed God’s will to so shape our lives? Are we willing to give up our careers so that we can more fully follow the call God has placed on us?
Has salvation rippled out into the rest of your life or have you held it back to certain borders? Too many people act as though Christianity only pertains to a certain segment of life called ‘spirituality.’ But this is not a scriptural idea! The Christian faith can not be cordoned off to any one part of life. As Paul said, “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). Christ “is our life” (Colossians 3:4). He isn’t one part. He’s the substance of it all.
When we deny the effects that salvation brings, we deny salvation itself. If Christ is not lord, he isn’t savior either. The two necessarily go together.
The Value of the Psalms
After leaving his old life behind, Augustine presses forward into his new life of faith. It is in this new life that Augustine discovers – and becomes enamored with – the Psalms. “How loudly I began to cry out to you in those psalms, how I was inflamed by them with love for you and fired to recite them to the whole world, were I able, as a remedy against human pride!”
The Psalms become Augustine’s constant companion. They give voice to his prayers – his thanksgivings, his praise, his petitions – just as they had for generations before and have continued for generations since.
The Psalms are a treasure trove of spiritual value!
I’m a firm believer in the value of the Psalms for the modern Church. We ought to return to our roots and, once again, sing and pray the Psalms. Though that’s a subject for another time.
After completing the process of conversion, Augustine is finally baptized and becomes an official member of the Church. “During the days that followed I could not get enough of the wonderful sweetness that filled me as I meditated upon your deep design for the salvation of the human race.”
Remembering a Loving Mother
Augustine fills the latter half of Confessions Book 9 with a remembrance of his mother who passed away shortly after he was saved. Monica, Augustine’s mother, had prayed earnestly throughout his life that he would be saved. Once that was accomplished, she was ready to pass from this world. And she did – though not before having an intriguing conversation with her son about eternity.
As I read Augustine’s description of his grief at the loss of his mother, I couldn’t help but let a tear fall from my eye. His love for his mother was great. Hers for him was greater still. I pray that I will have the same love for my children that she had for him. The kind of love that prays at every opportunity and that experiences its greatest joy in seeing a child walk in truth.
You see, salvation isn’t just about us. It’s about the whole world.
And as parents, we aren’t just called to be ‘good Christians’, we’re called to lead our children into the same faith that we have been born into.
May we lead well.
As always, there’s a lot more I wish I could touch on. If you had a favorite quote or thought as you read, comment below and let us know what it was.
I can’t wait to hear what all of you are thinking about Confessions Book 9!
Oh, and by the way, there’s currently a digital, modern language edition of Augustine’s Confessions available from Amazon for only $3.99!
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