The thing that triggered a second blog on this subject [cf. older blog, ‘Christ Is Enough’] was my re-reading of Augustine’s conversion story. As a young man Augustine’s life (354-430 AD) was characterised by loose living yet also deep searching. While teaching rhetoric in Milan he heard Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, preach. It provoked a new understanding of the Bible and its message. In 386 Augustine, while outdoors in Milan, heard the voice of a child chant ‘Tolle, lege!’… ‘Take up and read!’ He thought at first it was some kind of children’s game, then, realizing that it might just be God speaking to him he found a Bible, opened it and read the first passage his eyes fell on. It was Rom. 13:13-14 (where Paul exhorts the believers in Rome to love their neighbour ‘for the day is near’): ‘Not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.’ In Augustine’s own words, ‘No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly, at the end of the sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.’ He turned from his licentious life to Christ, and was baptized by Ambrose at Easter of 387. Augustine exploded on to the world stage of theology and spirituality, influencing countless people to this day.
For the individual in his/her search for God and purpose, ‘Christ is more than enough!’ It was true for me when as an impressionable teen, suffering conviction of sin and a profound hunger for God, the Spirit directed me to Christ and his grace. And it’s been true for multitudes over the centuries. In Rom. 13:13-14, Paul is exhorting his believing readers to ‘put on’ Christ in the sense of manifesting outwardly what they had already experienced inwardly (F.F. Bruce). Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 5:14-15 also come to mind, ‘we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for us for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died and was raised again.’
Note that Paul, in exhorting his readers to godly living, does not refer them to some human philosophy, man-made god, religious system, or esoteric experience but to a Person, Jesus Christ, God come in the flesh. He has in Romans already expounded the person and work of Christ as the answer to the total human predicament: see chap.’s 1-11. We could refer to it as the ‘gospel,’ but this term has been rendered almost meaningless by contemporary fundamentalists and evangelicals alike. The ‘Good News’ of Christ, as I have explained often before, is the whole story of God from Genesis to Revelation, drawn to a climax in Christ in the four Gospels, and beautifully summarised by Paul himself in 1 Cor. 15. It is totally mind-blowing and life-transforming, it is the story of God setting the whole of creation right with himself through the coming of his Son. It affects not only my individual salvation through faith in Christ, but that of the world at large (2 Cor. 5:16-6:2).
Thus Christ is ‘more than enough,’ not only for the individual seeking after God but for a world estranged from the Creator!
What are we up against in 2015? Perhaps it is not so very different from the 1st century if we read our history carefully. I’ve sourced a few news items, at a global level and local level (South Africa for me and many of my readers).
- There is the recent tragedy of a white supremacist, 21, visiting the historic African-American church in the south-eastern USA city of Charleston, gunning down nine believers and injuring others after attending their prayer gathering for an hour. Ironically he sported the old South African and Rhodesian flags. While many, including government leaders, immediately called for Christians to start carrying arms (we know about that in South Africa, the bloodshed and the heartache), many of the immediate family members of the deceased (who somewhere along the line must have read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount) declared publicly, ‘We forgive him… we want to focus on moving on in a positive way’ (the teenage children of one of the victims). Son of slain Sharonda Singleton said ‘No matter how much hate there is in the world, it’s no match for love. Love is always stronger than hate.’ The daughter of Ethel Lance addressed the killer directly in court, ‘I will never talk to her again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you.’ [on a personal note, fourteen years ago, here in our own city, our eldest daughter and friend were hi-jacked at knife-point and brutally gang-raped by three young men out on bail for another serious crime, stoned with bricks and left for dead. It took her a few months to work through the initial trauma, but not long afterward she declared her forgiveness of these criminals. Today she serves the Lord, together with her young family, one of the most radiant believers I know]
- NEWS 24 of 20/06/15 declared, ‘Blanket of Hopelessness’ Hangs Over Bredasdorp. This beautiful little W. Cape town has in the last two years witnessed the rape and disembowelling of a seventeen year old girl, the rape and murder of a five year old, and the body of a fifteen year old girl found under the bed of her 29 year old boyfriend. Community MEC Dan Plato has been meeting with young people and NGO’s in the town on ways to counter this terrible gender-based violence. Social workers, churches and other stakeholders are working hard to address the core needs of this community, including education and parenting. Social worker Patricia Esau concluded, ‘While there is a lot going wrong in Bredasdorp, there is still hope. But help is needed to fix what is happening.’
- On Friday, on my way to Motherwell township and a little Youth Centre empowering young people in basic education and discipleship, I passed through protests in Markman Township with people dancing and shouting their grievances. I had to dodge burning tyres in the road, and drive through thick smoke hanging everywhere. Some privileged South Africans might not understand the anger of folk so chronically in need of the most basic necessities of life we take for granted, e.g. regular refuse-collection, food, driveable roads and rampant unemployment. It drives them to the only way they know to get the attention of local nepotistic government. I am not justifying their behaviour, but I can comprehend it. We run a soup-kitchen in that area, and our house church leader Mimie shares the Good News with the locals, fills their tummies, and is highly involved with NGO’s addressing the addiction problems of the area. One small candle perhaps, but many more will make a difference.
Here is a hymn we used to sing (written by teacher John B. Gardener for local Methodist missionaries):
“We believe God is our Saviour:
Christ enough to heal our land.
He will use the Church, his servants:
We on earth his outstretched hand.
May his Church in loving service,
Shown to all whose path is rough,
Give a clear, united witness,
And proclaim: ‘Christ is enough!’
Christ enough to break all barriers
Christ enough in peace, in strife;
Christ enough to build our nation;
Christ enough for death, for life;
Christ enough for old and lonely;
Christ enough for those who fall;
Christ enough to save the sin-sick;
Christ enough for one; for all!”
Last night I read these words from John Bunyan: ‘We seldom sit down to meat but we eat and leave: so there is in Jesus Christ more merit and righteousness than the whole world has need of.’
American blogger Keith Giles (Subversive1) is so right when he says that the only thing that will really make a difference in our world is The Gospel. Only Jesus can transform us from the inside out. And what should you and I do? We should pray, we should love, we should tell others that there’s only one hope for our nation. His name is Jesus.