Mere Christianity, Book Four, Chapter 9: “Counting the Cost”

Some people are bothered by the words, “Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Some think that maybe it means that if we’re not perfect, we fail as Christians. On the contrary, Lewis points out Jesus is working in us to make us perfect — and will accept nothing less, even though we would.

Example of the child’s toothache:

  • the child only wants something now to make the pain go away now
  • if he goes to his mother he will get that but…
  • he will also go to the dentist the next morning…
  • then the dentist will go messing with every other tooth that has problems
  • and all the child really wanted was for that one tooth to stop hurting

(An ‘ell’ is about 45 inches, “It was derived from the length of the arm from the shoulder (or the elbow) to the wrist.”

Jesus is the same way:

  • We are driven to him with help for some sin that’s eating our lives
  • He will happily help us with those sins, but….
  • He will NOT stop there
  • He intends to set us right, all the way around. “…if once you call Him in, he will give you the full treatment.”

This is why he warns us to count the cost before becoming a disciple.

  • He wants to make us perfect
  • He will accept nothing less
  • We do have free will and can push Him away
  • Whatever the cost, He wants to make us perfect…. like our heavenly Father is perfect

The other side:

  • Even though his desire is our perfection, He is thrilled with our first, feeble attempts at perfect, even though they all fail!
  • Just as every parent is thrilled with their child’s first, fumbling steps, and yet are not satisfied until they have mastered a healthy, strong walk
  • God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.’ – George MacDonald
  • We do not need to be discouraged by our failures. God will keep picking us up every time we try and fail
  • We are also the only power in the universe that can stop God from the transformational work
  • We imagine ourselves as humble when we say, “Oh, I’m no saint.”
  • It is a fatal mistake to think that God is through with us before we reach perfection (which we won’t in this life, but He will continue working on us through out this life)
  • We would always be content to stop where we are, but God has much greater plans for us
  • “To shrink back from that plan is not humility; it is laziness and cowardice. To submit to it is not conceit or megalomania; it is obedience.”
  • Our own efforts will never get us anywhere
  • Without His help we are hopeless
  • No holiness or heroism ever witnessed is greater than what He desires to see fulfilled in our lives
  • “The job will not be completed in this life; but He means to get us as far as possible before death.”

We should not be surprised if it’s hard… a path of trouble:

  • After turning to Christ, about the time Jesus has conquered in us the sins we thought were the real problem, trouble comes
  • “illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation…”
  • “Because God is forcing [us] on, or up, to a higher level; putting [us] into situations where [we] will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than [we] ever dreamed of being before.” (Our troubles come from God! Say it ain’t so!)
  • It seems unnecessary to us, or that God is punishing us for some sin to others
  • This is just the fire and hammer of the forge forming us into something wonderful — something we can not dream of

Illustration of the house:

  • minor fixes
  • then major renovations!
  • “You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. he intends to come and live in it Himself.”

“The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas

  • nor is it impossible
  • He is transforming us into creatures that can do it
  • He says that we are ‘gods,’ then He sets out to make us ‘gods.’

If we let Him – for we can prevent Him, if we choose – He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.

[[ Next: Mere Christianity, Book Four, Chapter 10: “Nice People or New Men” ]]

Parent: Mere Christianity: Leaders’ Notes Series

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