Surprised by Joy is the story of CS Lewis’ life, particularly the story of how he became a follower of Jesus. Towards the end of the book Lewis describes the moment he moved from atheism to theism. He writes, “In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed; perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms.”
This is a remarkable insight into the beauty of God’s grace. Divine humility accepted a dejected and reluctant convert. This same Divine humility is on display throughout the Bible, especially when God refers to himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Consider Exodus 3:1-6:
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
God could have used any number of exalted titles to refer to himself in this passage. He could have referred to himself as the First Cause, the Unmoved Mover, the Supreme Being, or the Almighty Creator. Instead, he humbled himself and identified with sinners, calling himself the God of Abraham (a pagan), Isaac (a coward), and Jacob (a con man).
Hebrews 11:16 offers inspired commentary on this situation, saying, God is not ashamed to be called their God. This is divine humility! This is a miracle of grace! The holy God humbled himself and identified with sinful human beings. More than that, the holy God humbled himself by identifying himself with the names of sinful men. This is the essence of the gospel. Despite our sinfulness and unworthiness, God is not ashamed to be called our God.
It was Divine humility that moved God to save a stubborn people from Egypt, and it was Divine humility that moved God to send his Son knowing he would be rejected by his own people. Despite our sinfulness and stubbornness and foolishness, God is not ashamed to be called our God. He welcomes reluctant converts, and he gladly identifies with sinners.
Excellent thoughts! At the Bible College where I teach, I referenced Lewis’s conversion just this morning. I am always encouraged reflecting anew on God’s graciousness in his testimony.