Discipleship to Christ cannot be described in merely negative terms. “Do not be conformed to this world” is a necessary component of discipleship, but not a complete description. Paul also says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds” in his letter to the Romans. The movement away from the world and its distractions must be matched by a corresponding move toward Christ and his way of living. C. S. Lewis describes this movement well in this excerpt from Mere Christianity. Moving away from a life that is impossible—a sort of compromise with our old life and the new one—we find we can live a life powered by grace. We turn from our usual mechanisms for dealing with life to find that the kingdom of God is close at hand, utterly available to us. As Lewis says, “We can only do it for moments at first. But from these moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our systems.” Also he describes so well that such transformation often comes where we least expect it: “the very moment you wake up.”
The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes, and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is remain what we call “ourselves,” to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be “good.” We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly.
And that is what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and resown.
That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through.
He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When He said, “Be perfect,” He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder – in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
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Excerpts taken from Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups (Richard J. Foster & James Bryan Smith, Editors. HarperCollins, 1993.).