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Awakened by Mere Christianity: Part 2

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In part 1, I explained how coming to faith in Christ, unfortunately, didn’t make me a servant of God overnight. Rather, it made me extremely self-righteous and difficult to live with. To shake me out of this pathetic state, as a senior at Kosciusko High School God in his providence had me read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. It was given as a gift to me by Rev. Tim Muse, my friend who had at the time was pastoring a Mississippi Valley Presbytery congregation in Rankin County.

Lewis' chapter titled “The Great Sin” was all about pride, particularly as it was demonstrated among Christians. Here is a segment from the book that made me cry when I first read it, as I was astounded by how much it pertained to me and my heart:

In God, you come against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that, and therefore know yourself to be nothing in comparison, you do not know God at all. A proud man is always looking down on things and people, and of course as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you…….

How is that there are people who are quite obviously eaten up with pride who say they believe in God and appear to themselves to be very religious. I’m afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary god. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom god, while they all they while imagine that he approves of them far more than ordinary humans. In other words, they pay a penny’s worth of imaginary humility in exchange for a pound’s worth of pride. I suppose it was these people Christ was thinking of when he said that some would perform miracles and cast out demons in his name, only to be told at the end of the world that he never knew them. And any of us may at any time be in this death trap. Luckily, we have a test.

Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good, above all, that we are better than someone else, we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It’s better to forget about yourself altogether…..The point is, {God} wants you to know him: wants to give you himself. And he and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with him you will, in fact, be humble—delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got ride of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life.

He is trying to make you humble in order to make that moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are. I wish I had got a bit further with humility myself: if I had, I could probably tell you more about the relief, the comfort of taking off the fancy-dress—getting rid of the false self with all its, ‘Look at me’ and ‘Aren’t I a good boy?’ and all its posing and posturing. To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.

I wanted to get to that place, that place of knowing God in such a way that it made me forget about myself altogether. I wanted the comfort, the relief, of taking off my “false self” with all its posing, posturing, and desiring to be the “perfect Christian” in my peers’ eyes. In light of what Lewis said, I realized just how much of my “devotional” life up to that point had been imaginary and theoretical and real.

I liked to say with my mouth that I was nothing, all the while believing in my heart that God must be quite impressed with me. It was painful for me to admit that God was “in every respect, immeasurably superior” to me and my ways of thinking. It was hard for me to know myself to be nothing compared to God. I’d spent my life looking down on people and had therefore been unable to see anything above me, namely God. C.S. Lewis had exposed me.

Through C.S. Lewis’ book, I came to realize that more importantly than whether I’m a pre-millenialist, a-millenialist or post-millenialist or whether I’m Calvinistic or Arminian, whether I’m Catholic or Protestant is the issue of whether or not I love God and whether or not I’m showing that in my life on a daily basis.

The hardworking dad, who never takes time in his life to read any medieval doctrinal treatises, but provides for his family and loves his kids, that man is more a spiritual giant than I was as an arrogant 14-year-old. I was intellectually sharp with my theology, but it never warmed my heart. As C.S. Lewis warned against, we must never think that being a good theologian means being a good Christian. Hopefully the two should go hand in hand, but sadly they don’t always.

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