By Rick McKinley, art by Becca Blevins
In the summer of AD 386, a thirty-two-year-old teacher from North Africa living in Milan, Italy, sat weeping in his garden. He was a brilliant intellectual despairing over the meaning of life. He had spent years diving into the deep end of pleasure through sex, drinking and all that Roman culture offered. He was empty, broken and hopeless.
He was weeping because he was too weak to change. He couldn't walk away from the things he once loved but had grown to despise. He picked up a scroll his friend had been reading and landed on the words of Romans 13:13-14: "Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts."
He would later write in his Confessions, “I neither wished nor needed to read further. At once, with the last words of this sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled.’
This teacher’s name was Aurelius Augustine, and he would go on to become the Bishop of Hippo, and arguably the greatest theologian the Christian Church has ever known.
The book of Romans has been called the “Gospel of God” and “the Cathedral of the Christian Faith.” If the Apostle Paul wrote one book that communicated the full scope of how God is restoring His very broken creation, Romans is it. It is the clearest explanation of how faith in Jesus Christ takes us from spiritual death to a new life of absolute freedom as sons and daughters of God.
For hundreds of years, the transforming power of this book has radically shaped the history of the Church. It brought Martin Luther to faith, and the Reformation of the Church began in his heart. Along with Luther, countless men and women have come to faith through Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome.
Over the next several weeks, we will explore the book of Romans. It’s my conviction that just as God used this book to bring revolution through Augustine and Luther, that same power exists for us. We are going to encounter the power of God in this book.
I believe that through this series, many of us will be liberated from shame and trust in a fresh, new way that Christ has made us the Father’s beloved. I pray that God will start a revolution again, that perhaps the next Augustine or Luther will rise up in our midst. That we might become Women and Men who are set free and set on fire by the powerful love of God poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. May it be so.
- Pastor Rick
Romans: The Gospel of God begins Sunday, April 15th at both Imago Dei campuses. For service times and more info, visit idcpdx.com.