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For the individual, in Mere Christianity (Book 3) C.S. Lewis addressed what sort of behavior God expects of Christians. He explored the four classic virtues and added the three theological virtues; these seven provide a helpful picture of good character: prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, faith, hope, and love.
Jonathan Edwards, a leader of the First Great Awakening in colonial America, described the character produced by sanctification in his classic Religious Affections. “The strength of a good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behavior and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world.”6
Sanctification is about the process of becoming holy. Holy people are whole, full, complete, valuable, centered, and strong; they bring God’s presence as they bear the image of Christ.
One of my sons is a heroin addict. He has been clean for a number of years, but each day brings new challenges; he never takes his sobriety for granted. He lives in Seattle but recently came back home to Cincinnati for a visit. He was careful about whom he called, as he didn’t want to be exposed to “friends” who might tempt him. He was also cautious about where he went; he even made sure that he went to bed before he became too stressed and tired. His goal is to live a healthy life, free from the power of addiction. He has been down the road of addiction and knows that it is a dead end. He doesn’t want to go that way anymore. His healthy choices and clean life take work; I am proud of him.
Justification and sanctification are the means by which we have been empowered by God to face our sin problem head-on. It’s a battle for us too. Our goal should be to live so that God will be proud of us, and one day in the light of heaven we hear the divine accolade, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).
I have come to believe everything we experience is a vehicle for shaping our character. By every choice we make and in every action we take, we are either formed to be more like God’s Son, Jesus, or we are being deformed to something less than human.
I close with a sobering proposal by C.S. Lewis:
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.7
1. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, 1984.
2. C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950; rprt., Macmillan-Collier, 1970), 160.
3. Martin Luther, An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, trans. R.E. Smith, 1994; Johann K. Irmischer edition of Dr. Martin Luther’s Vermischte Deutsche Schriften, vol. 63 (1854), 124–125.
4. Peter Haile, The Difference God Makes (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1981), 14.
5. John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion III.i.I.
6. Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1986), 278.
7. C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, quoted in C.S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian: 127 Readings (New York: Macmillan, 1977), 197.
Stephen D. Eyre, M.Div., is the Director of the C.S. Lewis Fellows Program Cincinnati. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Stephen is also a consultant for Church Discipleship Services, which provides guidance, coaching and resources for small groups in churches of all different sizes and denominations. He is also Minister of congregational development at Madeira-Silverwood Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has written many books and Bible studies, including five LifeGuide Bible studies.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
In the classic Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explores the common ground upon which all of those of Christian faith stand together. Bringing together Lewis’ legendary broadcast talks during World War Two from his three previous books The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Personality, Mere Christianity provides an unequaled opportunity for believers and nonbelievers alike to hear this powerful apologetic for the Christian faith.