“Let us behave properly as in the day, not in partying 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)
In the 4th century, young Augustine partied hard. He left little to the imagination and yielded to every temptation. Finally, in a moment of spiritual contrition and desperation, he cried out to God, “How long?”
As he wept tears of grief, fear, and frustration he heard the voice of a little child next door chanting “Take up and read! Take up and read!” Augustine realized how unlikely it was that a child would chant such a strange thing, so he took this to be the voice of God. He went and found the book of Romans which he had been reading earlier and resolved to read the first chapter that he opened.
As it happened, Augustine — arguably the most influential Church father of all time — opened the book to Romans 13:13-14. Later, he would write: “No further would I read, nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.”
The young prodigal found his way home. Christ took hold of his heart. Augustine was converted, and his life turned upside down.
Occasionally the Lord has dramatically used a specific text to alter church history and human history. For Augustine it was Romans 13:13-14. A thousand years later, for Martin Luther, it was Romans 1:16-17. Later still, John Wesley had a conversion experience through this same epistle.
In Romans 13:13-14, the Apostle Paul pulls no punches.
We used to live one way. It’s time to quit. We are no longer people of darkness but people of light. Let’s put on Christ, and refuse to go back to the destructive and hurtful practices of our past. Godlessness, immorality, and divisiveness have no place within us. If we harbor and nurture them, they will envelope and consume us. Christ guides us to a new way, if we’ll follow.
Augustine experienced a dramatic conversion. So can we. Through him, Christ formed a centuries-long legacy, right down to our own day. Who knows what legacy Christ may form through you, for decades or centuries to come, if you “put on Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regards to its lusts“?