“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, July 24, 2009

Saint Paul and C. S. Lewis: Death to Self and Life in Christ

…Christ calls us to follow him, to lose all we have in this world, even ourselves, or who we thought we were, in exchange for the priceless treasure of being a beloved child of God, embraced in his arms, written in his book. But we must lose all – all worldly possessions, all success, accomplishment, ability, all relationships, even ownership of ourselves and direction of our own lives. C. S. Lewis puts it this way:

“Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it…Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’…[We] must be ploughed up and re-sown.” – Mere Christianity, pp. 167-168
We must indeed be plowed up and resown; in Jesus’ words, we can bear no fruit unless we fall into the ground and die like a seed. We are to follow him, and to follow him is to walk his path, a path of suffering and persecution, a path to death.* It does not end there, though. Mysteriously, it is death that gives birth to life in its fullest. From the ashes the phoenix rises; from the ground where the seed fell the fruit-bearing tree grows; made perfect by suffering, we know and see his glory more fully (see “The Victory of God”). Satan’s greatest weapon, death, is turned into a blessing – we die spiritually to ourselves, and are therefore, paradoxically, given a new life in Christ (see “Death and Resurrection, Part IV”):
“One who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” – Romans 6:7-8

“…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” – 2 Corinthians 4:10-12

“If we have died with him, we will also live with him.” – 2 Timothy 2:11

“I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” – Galatians 2:20
*Paul sets a worthy example for us in his costly commitment to Christ. He describes it simply but powerfully: “I die every day!” (1 Corinthians 15:31). And yet we know from his letters that he had found life to the fullest in Christ.

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