And now we begin to see what it is that the New Testament is always talking about. It talks about Christians ‘being born again’; it talks about them ‘putting on Christ’; about Christ ‘being formed in us’; about our coming to ‘have the mind of Christ’.
Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out—as a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try to carry it out. They mean something much more than that. They mean that a real Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you. It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago. It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has. At first, only for moments. Then for longer periods. Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God; which shares in His power, joy, knowledge and eternity.
The one thing that sets Christianity apart from human religion is our unity with the Object of our worship. That unity is not the product of liturgy or ceremonial mambo-jumbo, but the will of the One whose name we have taken, the very Creator of the universe.
You can’t will yourself into Christ. Neither can you work yourself into him. It’s not a matter of ascending to a higher plain or actualizing the divinity within. It’s not even about conjuring up enough faith to make this oneness thing work.
Unity with Christ is his doing, not yours. It’s listening to his still, small voice and attending to his prompts. It’s wanting his will, not yours, and living for his glory, not yours. It’s changing your priorities to mesh with his. It’s forgetting yourself, your hangups, your failures, your personal dreams and aspirations, and identifying only with him. And it’s impossible, without his Spirit working in and through you.
Sometimes, with some people, Jesus instantly transforms them into little Christs, but you can’t expect that. More likely you’ll be like me, with your self-will battling fang and claw, every step of the way. Yet, such bloody soul-battles aren’t without purpose; a hard-won fight makes a stronger fighter. And when a victory has cost much, it’s worth all the more.
If you want to be one with Christ, it’s not your own idea, as such a desire goes completely against our fallen humanity. Rather, it’s his Holy Spirit nudging you toward himself, awakening your latent need for fellowship with him, infusing just the embryo of living faith into you.
If all this seems like complete rot, and the idea of giving yourself to Christ is a joke, nothing I can say will change your mind. You’ve already manufactured enough excuses and rationalizations to fend off even the strongest of God’s prompts, and you’ll have to discover your fatal fallibility the hard way. I just pray that won’t be too late.