Lewis is one of my favorite authors. He had some quirks and issues, but his use of literature to paint pictures of Biblical truths is unparalleled. In the Voyage of the Dawntreader, Lewis tackled one of the most difficult topics: self righteousness. He painted the picture of a young boy, Eustice, who had turned into a dragon. He needed to bathe a hurt leg, but Aslan, the lion (the wise one), told him that he must first undress of the dragon skin before he could bathe and be healed. Three times he peeled the top layer of skin off, only to see that there were more layers of scales and rough, wrinkly skin below. He realized that he himself was incapable of digging deep enough to remove all of the dragon skin.
“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .”
The picture is clear. If we are snakes, we can shed our skin but that only gives us room to grow and reveals a deeper level of snakeliness. We cannot fundamentally change who we are. It takes God changing who we are by the very nature of our being.
This is the picture of that change God outlines for us:
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
– Ez 36.26-27
When Nicodemus, one of the priests, asked Jesus how to be saved, Jesus told him that we must be born again. We must go from our old nature – our sinful nature – to our new nature. That transformation, we are completely incapable of preforming on our own. God has to take out our heart of stone which is rebellious towards Him, an enemy of Him, wicked in nature – and give us a new heart, a heart of flesh, one that is soft and pliable and on which His Law is written, and in which the Holy Spirit resides to give us the ability to obey the Law.
If we obey aspects of the Law in our own strength, we still remain a snake or dragon, and we are removing the first layer of our skin, only to reveal more scales. The root of the scales cannot be removed because the motivation to obedience is sinful, in that it is not unto the glory and honor of God, but self-justification and self-righteousness. We want to prove ourselves, rather than obeying and serving out of love and thankfulness – and letting God prove our new nature by working through us.
Are you still trying to peel off the layers of scales? Are you looking for smooth, soft skin beneath your wickedness? Or have you turned to the only one who can – albeit painfully – remove the scales completely and transform you by taking away your sinful heart and giving you a new one? Have you been reborn?
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
– 2 Cor 5.17