“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
It’s easy to become jaded about the Gospel’s transformative power. You look at your average sampling of churchgoers, and still find gossip, hypocrisy, irreverence, and the same self-centered priorities you would expect to see anywhere else.
And then – you may turn and take a look at yourself. You realize – I do those things too. My priorities aren’t what they should be. Oftentimes, I don’t practice what I preach. I make self-centered choices. Why do I still struggle with these things, and seem to make so little progress? What should my life actually look like?
How is the Gospel, how is being a Christian, actually transformative?
In his treatise, On The Incarnation Of The Word Of God, St. Athanasius famously wrote, “God became man so that we might become God” (Chp 8, Par. 54). According to C. S. Lewis, “the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them into little Christs. […] God became Man for no other purpose.” (Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chp. 9) God took up our natural, fallen humanity, so that He could bring us into His own divine life.
But what is this change actually supposed to look like?
In order to understand this, we must first have some idea of what these two things are, in relation to each other – the natural life we have as human beings, and the life of God, which He calls us to through His Son.
In the first chapter of Book Four in Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis calls these two different kinds of life Bios and Zoe. The first, Bios, is biological life; it is naturally self-centered, naturally competitive. It relies upon physical conditions in order to be sustained, but will inevitably decay over time, as all biological things do. The other, Zoe, is spiritual, supernatural, divine life. It is eternal, and it is creative. This is the kind of life found in the Holy Trinity – and the greatest thing we know about it is that it is Love (1 Jn 4:8). In the face of naturally selfish Bios, Zoe is naturally self-giving.
Man naturally has the life of Bios. However, as Lewis goes on to say, “what man, in his natural condition, has not got, is Spiritual life – the higher and different sort that exists in God. […] Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoe, but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or a statue and a man. A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man.” (Book 4, Chp.1)
Now, this may all sound a little floatey – a little too theoretical, and not sufficiently practical. But let’s bring it back to our common experience. It’s easy enough to identify the Bios in ourselves – that greedy, selfish, competitive tendency within us. However, what Jesus calls us to is to give it up. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25) If we are to truly follow Christ, we must allow Him, at every moment, in every choice, to take down that greedy natural voice – and replace it with His voice of self-giving love.
This is a very difficult thing to do! No wonder so many of us have such a long way to go. In fact, in the words of Christ Himself – “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). We can’t overcome Bios and enter into Zoe on our own! We must allow God to do it in us. Bit by bit, the more we allow God in to transform our natural, fallen selves into His risen, redeemed self, the more He will work in us to make us into the people He created us to be – into His own sons and daughters.
So, if you’re frustrated with the slow going, hang in there. It’s going to be a long, hard process – but God will get us there. Everything He’s placed in your life is ordered to that purpose! Your one job is to say yes, and to keep saying yes, to Him using all those events and opportunities in your life for that good purpose. Keep at it! May God bless you.
If publishing article online please attribute source Serviam Ministries with link to original article.