Following is an excerpt of commentary on A.W. Tozer’s classic book The Pursuit of God (chapter 3: “Removing the Veil”).
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of the books in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series, begins with these words: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”
He was a nasty little guy. Later in the story he wakes up to find that he’s become a dragon. The nasty nature inside of him soon manifests itself onto his external body. He now looks to be on the outside what he is on the inside.
Eventually, the lion in the story, who represents Christ, asks him if he wants to become a boy again. Of course he does. And so the lad, now in dragon skin, tries to remove the dragon nature using his own talons to cut it off.
As he cuts, he finds that it is very painful. Eventually, he succeeds in tearing it off. But he soon finds that there is another dragon beneath. So, he cuts that skin off as well. Still he finds that there is another one, and another one under that. Finally, the lion says, in essence, “You will not be able to do it yourself. I will have to do it for you.”1 So, Eustace Clarence Scrubb grudgingly gives permission for the lion to cut away the dragon skin and return him to being a boy again.
Using his claw, the lion cuts so deeply that the dragon-boy feels he will surely die. It is so painful, so agonizing. When the lion is finished, the boy looks down and sees a very thick dragon skin lying on the ground. The lion tells him to go wash in a pool of water. When he comes out of the water, he’s a boy once again.
Rooting Out the False Self
The prospect of losing our false self, even though it has been nothing but trouble for us, is terrifying to us. Yet it must be cut away in order to make room for our truest self, the one that God has treasured in His heart from all eternity.
The imagery is powerful. What we need done, we are unable to do ourselves. But God, being unwilling to violate our free will, will not do what only He can do without first receiving our permission. But when we agree to let Him do His work, He immediately proceeds with the transformation process. Make no mistake; it is a bloody and painful process. Yet when it is over, He cleans up our lives and gives us our humanity back. We are transformed into precious children, beloved by their Father.
In similar fashion, A.W. Tozer, in the “Removing the Veil” chapter of his classic The Pursuit of God, reminds us that it is not our job to remove that which separates us from God. The doctrine of self-crucifixion, so widely practiced by most every religion in order to gain salvation, is never successful before God. But neither is it effective for Christians who hope to have intimate fellowship with their heavenly Father.
Having removed the barrier of sin that separates us, He is also the one who is able to remove the barrier of self that separates us. The surgery required is something only God himself can be trusted to do right. Whenever we try to do it ourselves we only increase our pain and suffering, but never our spiritual health.
Here is our problem. Our heart’s desire has been too closely enmeshed with the aspirations of this fallen world. Letting go of that is no easy task. The prospect of losing our false self, even though it has been nothing but trouble for us, is terrifying to us. Yet it must be cut away in order to make room for our truest self, the one that God has treasured in His heart from all eternity.
God has pardoned you from sin’s prison. The doors not only stand wide open, they have been torn down, from top to bottom. You are now free to walk out of your life as a slave to sin and free to run and embrace your Savior and Lord. Let this prayer of Tozer’s be your own prayer of liberation:
Lord, how excellent are Thy ways, and how devious and dark are the ways of man. Show us how to die, that we may rise again to newness of life. Rend the veil of our self-life from the top down as thou didst rend the veil of the Temple. We would draw near in full assurance of faith. We would dwell with Thee in daily experience here on this earth so that we may be accustomed to the glory when we enter Thy heaven to dwell with Thee there. In Jesus’ name, Amen.2