Augustine on Sin and Counterfeit Glory.
Devotional thought of the day:
Well, no wonder! Even Satan can disguise himself to look like an angel of light! 15 So it is no great thing if his servants disguise themselves to look like servants of righteousness. In the end they will get exactly what their actions deserve. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 (TEV)
Thus all pervertedly imitate Thee, who remove far from Thee, and lift themselves up against Thee. But even by thus imitating Thee, they imply Thee to be the Creator of all nature; whence there is no place whither altogether to retire from Thee. What then did I love in that theft? and wherein did I even corruptly and pervertedly imitate my Lord? Did I wish even by stealth to do contrary to Thy law, because by power I could not, so that being a prisoner, I might mimic a maimed liberty by doing with impunity things unpermitted me, a darkened likeness of Thy Omnipotency? Behold, Thy servant, fleeing from his Lord, and obtaining a shadow.
I am not sure why I added Augustine’s Confessions to my devotional reading for this year. It may be because of the major role his work played in Luther’s life, or in my desire to understand the divisions between the Roman Catholic Church and my own Lutheran church. But a month in, I am glad. There is deep simplicity in the words, as we observe his reflection on his life, including a life attracted to sin that ensnares us. It’s brutal, honest, uncomfortable, revealing and liberating.
In today’s reading, he brings up something incredible, the idea that all of the sins we choose are a simple counterfeit, and imitation of that which is of God. And in analyzing what we pursue, the very perversion reveals both our idol (the self) and the true life we would have, in Christ.
It is brutal because it reveals to us our idolatry, our desire to do that which Adam and Eve fell prey to, the desire to be God, to judge things as righteous or not. It is uncomfortable because it reveals how poor an imitation these things are. Here are some of examples which precede the quote,
“Luxury affects to be called plenty and abundance; but Thou art the fulness and never-failing plenteousness of incorruptible pleasures. Prodigality presents a shadow of liberality: but Thou art the most overflowing Giver of all good. Covetousness would possess many things; and Thou possessest all things. Envy disputes for excellency: what more excellent than Thou?”
Is it no wonder the emptiness that haunts us, the depression that we seek to ignore,to laugh off, to overwhelm and even self-medicate ourselves against?
Is it no wonder that the upcoming generation attempts to throw off the modernistic search for a scientific, tangible reality, yet can’t create one either? At least not where they are Lord of Lord and King of Kings?
Truly King David is correct in his similar diagnosis,
1 Why this uproar among the nations, this impotent muttering of the peoples? 2 Kings of the earth take up position, princes plot together against Yahweh and his anointed, 3 ‘Now let us break their fetters! Now let us throw off their bonds!’ Psalm 2:1-3 (NJB)
So what hope is there? What can we offer to those burnt out on their idolatry, on their struggle to find a suitable, comfortable imitation of God?
We hold out the hope, not of an imitation of God, but of being in a relationship where we are transformed and imitate Him. His love, His mercy, His grace. King David speaks of this as well in that same Psalm,
11 Worship GOD in adoring embrace, Celebrate in trembling awe. 12 Kiss Messiah! Your very lives are in danger, you know; His anger is about to explode, But if you make a run for God—you won’t regret it! Psalm 2:11-12 (MSG)
Walk with Him, ask for His mercy, ask Him to reveal His love. He Shall, for He is no shadow, He is our Reality.
Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. (Chapter VII)