Further Up and Further In

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C.S. Lewis died the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Now, fifty years after his death, Lewis is as popular as ever. His Chronicles of Narnia series has been made into major motion pictures and books like Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Abolition of Man continue to be widely read across the globe.

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of his passing, Westminster Abbey in London added a memorial stone in his honor to Poet’s Corner, placing him among the likes of Shakespeare, Milton, Keats and Chaucer. I’ve read and been influenced by much of what C.S. Lewis wrote.  But I can only quote one phrase of Lewis’s from memory: “Further up and further in!”

In The Last Battle, the final book of the Narnia series, Lewis draws his readers and his characters into his vision of what the fulfilled Kingdom of God might look like. Aslan, the lion and God-figure in the series, races through the open fields of a transformed Narnia encouraging everyone to explore this new world more fully by shouting, “Further up and further in!” As the characters venture further into the new world, they discover that everything they see is continually being transformed and renewed into a markedly better version of itself. And the farther they’re willing to go, the better it gets.

It takes courage to be a Christian. We like to tell people that following Christ is easy.  It’s not. Surrendering your will to someone else is never easy.

Accepting God’s forgiveness and grace might be easy for some. Responding to an initial experience of the living God is natural. But becoming a disciple, a real follower, is neither natural nor easy. Becoming a Christian is easy; being a Christian is hard.

Anyone can give their life to Jesus. All of us need salvation. Salvation is for those who understand their faults and embrace the mystery of God’s grace. I’m saved. I get it. But following Christ is a different story.

Further up and further in. 

We are changed forever by the experience of salvation. But changed for what? How do we use our experience of God’s grace? These are questions of discipleship. Salvation is the courage to say you’re not good enough; discipleship is the courage to discover that you are.

Further up and further in.

Discipleship requires the courage to say I am good enough. I have a message worth sharing. I know a better way. I have found in Christ a different way to live, an alternative way to see the world.

Further up and further in.

It’s the courage to say to an unbelieving world, I know something you don’t. In Christ I have new vision for my life. What the world says is important is not important. Conventional wisdom is wrong. What everyone accepts as true is not true.  What everyone thinks is past it’s prime hasn’t even begun to flourish yet.

Further up and further in.

Discipleship requires the courage to say I am powerful. I have tapped into the source of energy and wisdom and knowledge and creativity and hope that powers the universe. I know and am known by the One who was before the foundations of the universe and who will endure beyond the end of time. The God who created me knows me personally and loves me. He counts the grains of sand on the beaches and knows the number of hairs on my head.

Further up and further in.

I know what the future looks like. I know that no one is good enough to be worthy of God’s honor and praise. But he loves us anyway. And I know that no one is so bad or lost or broken or dirty or sinful or hateful to be beyond God’s ability to save. No one.

Further up and further in.

Discipleship is the courage to say I am, I have, I do, I know, I’ve found. It’s the courage to claim knowledge and power and truth and strength and energy and wisdom and victory. It’s the courage to say I have all of those things, but it’s no longer me; it’s Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20).

Further up and further in.

Discipleship is ultimately about letting God live more fully in you. And the further you’re willing to go the better it gets. Discipleship is the courage to give thanks to God in every thought and action, in every word and deed. This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for C.S. Lewis. I’m thankful for life restored and hope renewed. I’m thankful for the call to follow further up and further into the mystery and miracle of God’s kingdom.

2 thoughts on “Further Up and Further In

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