‘No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty.’ So said C S Lewis and this is no truer than for the imaginative works that he wrote himself. Often I return to the Chronicles of Narnia and journey with those four delightful Pevensie children, Lucy, Susan, Edmund and Peter to the mystical land of Narnia. It is impossible to decide which is my favorite story. Perhaps though it is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader which introduces the children’s cousin, Eustace Scrubb.
Proverbs 30:12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
Eustace is not nice. He is proud and boastful, and constantly disparages his cousins. I find it intriguing that C S Lewis uses such a miserable character to drive home a deep spiritual truth. Children at the age of ten may miss it entirely, but not so an adult who is seeking to discover the deeper meaning in this story.
Eustace, finds himself in a shocking state where he has turned into a huge, ugly fire-breathing dragon. (You’ll have to read the book to find out why!) In this appalling condition, which has brought him to a state of despair and total misery, Eustace comes face to face with the awesome Aslan, the lion who rules and reigns over Narnia. Aslan, of course, is a representation of Jesus, our great Savior and Redeemer.
Aslan stands before a large bubbling pool and invites the wretched Eustace to wash himself in the clear waters. But first he tells Eustace to take off his scaly dragon skin. Yet, every time Eustace the dragon manages to peel off a layer of scales, another layer grows back. The skin lay beside him and it felt lovely to be free of it, but that feeling didn’t last for long, before the same suffocating dragon scales grew back again.
Aslan encouraged Eustace. “You will have to let me undress you.” So Eustace submitted, despite his fear and lay perfectly still while the lion peeled away the layers of constricting skin. It hurt Eustace badly, but Aslan was gentle and did a thorough job.
1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
Aslan invited Eustace into the cleansing waters of the pool. Giving him a new set of clothes only came after Eustace had been made clean. The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier. Holiness is not found in ourselves, so we must be made holy. He is the one who works to make us holy, conforming us to the image of Christ.
After submerging Eustace in the soothing, cool water of the pool, Aslan dresses him in a set of new clothes and Eustace is a new boy. Eustace has been sanctified, justified and given a right standing before Aslan.
Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.
Every human attempt to shed or do away with our sinful nature is in vain. Eustace tried desperately to remove his sinful state by himself. Where did that get him? Nowhere. It was a pointless exercise, that only brought him frustration and weariness. It takes the work of the Spirit of God to cleanse us from our sin and free us from our desperate and corruptible state. In Christ, we become a new creation. We leave behind our filthy garments and Christ dresses us in a robe of righteousness. Our condition has changed and these new clothes symbolize that we are new people, born again unto salvation by the Spirit of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Eustace was a new boy. He had been ‘undragoned’. His old corruptible identity was completely gone. And when he was reunited with his friends, they began to notice that his new nature resulted in altered behavior. So too our old identity has completely gone. Like Eustace’s scaly skin which was tossed aside and forgotten, we have a completely new nature and identity in Christ. The Holy Spirit does a work in our hearts and as we yield to Him, others will see it too. We will become more like Christ himself. That is the great mystery. God’s Spirit gives us the desire to want to become more like our Savior and as we yield and trust Him, we are transformed.
Holy Spirit, dwell with me!
I myself would holy be;
Separate from sin, I would
Choose and cherish all things good,
And, whatever I can be,
Give to Him who gave me Thee.
(T Lynch, 1818-1871).