Lewis was helped in his ability to grasp and accept this all-encompassing vision of discipleship by what he had been exposed to in his reading of the Greek and Latin classics—the idea of the absolute right of God to expect complete obedience.
Long since, through the gods of Asgard, and later through the Absolute, He [i.e., God] had taught me how a thing can be revered not for what it can do to us but for what it is in itself. That is why, though it was a terror, it was no surprise to learn that God is to be obeyed because of what He is in Himself… To know God is to know that our obedience is due to Him. In his nature His sovereignty de jure [by right] is revealed.7
What had previously been viewed as the great terror and an unwelcome intrusion in his life, he now accepted as God’s right. The suddenness of this change Lewis attributed to the fact that he came to accept the right of divine sovereignty before the power of divine sovereignty: the right before the might. Looking back, he recognized this as a great good because it settled for him once and for all where the true good of humanity lay. Union with God and obedience to his commands, he stated, is “bliss and separation from it horror.” Ironically, what had once been his deepest desire and only comfort—to be his own—was now the horror, and what was once the horror had become his ultimate comfort. Reflecting on this, he counseled that it would be good for us to remind ourselves that “God is such that if (per impossible) his power could vanish and His other attributes remain, so that the supreme right were forever robbed of the supreme might, we should still owe Him precisely the same kind and degree of allegiance as we now do.”8
True Christian discipleship, Lewis would have us understand, is first a matter of the heart—the inner life: the recognition, acceptance, and surrender to God’s absolute authority over all the affairs of one’s life in a way that leaves no place to which one may call one’s own. But the surrendered heart, Lewis taught, must also express itself in active obedience to the claims placed upon the believer by the New Covenant. The heart and will of a disciple are, in fact, inextricably bound together. Lewis’s most poignant commentary on these matters, particularly the purpose of discipleship and the demands it presupposes, are found near the end of Book 4 of Mere Christianity.
Here Lewis made unavoidably clear that the ultimate purpose or aim of discipleship is to become perfectly Christlike. The Bible uses such phrases as “putting on Christ,” “becoming a partaker of the divine nature,” and “becoming a son or daughter of God,” to flesh out this idea. It is also embodied, Lewis pointed out, in the call to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” a command he took quite literally. In fact he stated that it “is the whole of Christianity” and that “God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful… whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.”9 God is not about the business of making nice people but rather new men and women perfected in the likeness of Christ. Consequently, Lewis went on to say, that the only help we can expect from the Lord is help in becoming perfect. We may want something less, but the Lord is committed to nothing less. Lewis was convinced that this was the very heart of the gospel and, therefore, was also the heart of the call to discipleship. It was the primary reason for which the Son of God came and suffered and died and rose from the grave. This he made unavoidably clear in the chapter “Counting the Cost.”
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