[Note: For simplicity’s sake, the word caterpillar refers in this discussion to the larvae stage of both moths and butterflies, and the word butterfly includes moths.]
While enclosed within the relative safety of its cocoon, a caterpillar undergoes reconstruction–a process that amazingly transforms the caterpillar in both its appearance and nature. Crucial to the success of this process are specific cells in the caterpillar’s body that, in essence, “melt-down” to become undifferentiated cells that bear no semblance to the original cells that they once were. Then, like human stem cells, these cells are capable of differentiating once again during cell division to form specialized cells that become building blocks of new life. The moth or butterfly that emerges from the cocoon in rebirth is not a caterpillar that has been given wings, but an altogether new creation that has the gift of flight. The old is gone; only the new exists.
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Such, also, is a Christian’s life in the Hand of God. For much like the moth or butterfly, we too emerge, though not from a physical cocoon, of course, but from a deeply personal introspect time of personal confession before God. During that time, we acknowledge our personal need of Christ Jesus as our Savior, confessing to God in those precious moments that we cannot save ourselves from sin. At that moment, we are spiritually reborn, each given a new spirit and a new heart that are from God. We become—are made by God—new spiritual beings in Christ Jesus.
As Noah once entered into the Ark to be saved from the flood of God’s righteous judgment that was about to cover the earth, so too do we similarly now enter into the Body of Christ to be saved from the final fiery judgment that, like the Flood, is otherwise inescapable by anyone. Only those who have taken a stand by faith in God’s Living Word (Jesus) and, henceforth, from then on are positioned in Christ by God’s grace alone, receive the promise of hope that God has made available to all the world in His One and Only Begotten Son: Jesus Christ, our eternally living One and Only Savior.
In Jesus alone do we have God-given hope—hope that is an assurance of the everlasting life that we have received in having rightly chosen to live in Christ Jesus with God the Father forever. When God enables us to grasp the magnitude of His love for us that is revealed to us in Jesus’ Self-sacrifice upon the Cross, the unparalleled love of God wraps—cocoons—us within a previously unrealized acceptance that promises everlasting life with God in the eternal life of Christ Jesus. There, in Him, the totality of the perfection of Jesus that initiates the life-transformation that we undergo also completely sustains it forever. Emerging from each individual who gives his or her life to Christ is Fruit of the Spirit—-a likeness to Christ that is unlike any of the “fruit” that we were ever able to produce on our own. As God then continues to work out the total transformation that He alone has the ability to accomplish in us, our awareness of our new identity in Christ Jesus is likewise edified. Our right knowledge of not only who Jesus is, but also who we are in Him changes lives for the betterment of the world as a whole.
The changes that occur in us and in our lives are often so profound that the transformation itself becomes its own irrefutable evidence of the reality of our new life in Christ Jesus. The changes themselves are the testimony given to us by God of the life-changing transformative power of God the Holy Spirit living in us. It is not we who change, but God who changes us.
Consider now the similarities between our salvation in Christ Jesus and the life of a caterpillar-turned-butterfly. Until a caterpillar begins to cocoon, it merely lives its life to the best of its ability, doing life the only way that it knows how to do it. The caterpillar crawls along in its own strength day after day of its short existence in this world, eating whatever edible provision it happens upon along its way. For the caterpillar, life itself is a gamble at best. It is always eating its way forward, instinctively trying not to be devoured itself by any of the world’s many other hungry critters.
But then there comes a time in the life of a caterpillar when the minimalistic lifestyle of its youth is behind it, and the caterpillar must then prepare to move on into a heretofore unknown maturity. This state of the caterpillar’s existence at that time requires the caterpillar to be re-created in order for the caterpillar to experience the new life that awaits, not the caterpillar, but the butterfly that will take the caterpillar’s place in this world, in the exact way that God so designed it to be.
Unable to transform itself, the caterpillar can only prepare to be changed by responding to a leading that was placed within it by God before it was ever born. So the caterpillar does what it is led to do: it sticks itself to the underneath side of a leaf or structure, where it feels secure. There it releases (sheds) its outer protective covering (its skin) to reveal a chrysalis (“cocoon”) that was already a part of the caterpillar. This act of giving up its former life in order to be properly positioned to then be given new life is purposeful. Until the caterpillar does so, it cannot be transformed. Surprising in one way, but not in another, is the additional fact that this act only takes place with the caterpillar hanging upside down, thereby making its head the last part of its body to be encased (given up for transformation).
Similarly, our lives can only fully mature as God has designed them to do if we allow Him to begin preparing us to be positioned into our new lives in Christ Jesus. This is what God is doing when He begins to draw us to Himself by the power of the Holy Spirit before we ever receive salvation. God removes the limitations of our wrong thinking by giving us His Truth. Apart from Christ, we have no way of ever being fully right, let alone even knowing what right is. Without right knowledge, though, the transformation of our lives would not be possible. We must be willing to give up our old ways of living in order to make room for new God-given ones that enable us to live beyond our natural limitations in this world.
When the caterpillar submits to its instinct to cocoon, it does so for its own good, creating a passage into a future far beyond its imaginings (if a caterpillar can indeed imagine). The cocoon sets the caterpillar apart from the world around it, insulating the caterpillar from the natural world and necessitating that the caterpillar fasts. No longer able to eat, the caterpillar must surely die and die it does, every time, without exception.
A similar statement can be said of Christians (we who are set apart by God from the world at large in order to serve God His way.) We are insulated by our salvation in Jesus from the power and penalty of the world’s sin (the way of life in which we had previously tried to live without success). We, too, fast, sometimes by choice from food, but more necessarily from the wrong thinking that is detrimental to all of life in keeping us separated in various ways from God and from one another.
The means that God provides to enable us to fast from our past is His enabling of us to feast in our present. The butterfly—the caterpillar reborn—no longer thinks of eating the limited diet of leaves that previously were its mainstay, for it is far too busy enjoying the sweet nectar of one fragrant flower after another by its new God-given ability to do so. The flowers and their nectar are not new. They were present in the caterpillar’s life, as well as in the butterfly’s. But what is new are the butterfly’s wings that empower it to feast at will upon the abundance of flowers that God has made available to the butterfly for its daily feasting.
Similarly, Christians, those living “in Christ,” also have access to a new and tastier diet in this world. It is one that has always been available to us but was never within our own capability of attaining on our own. That diet is composed of the Truth and grace of God that are contained in Jesus’ right thinking about God and mankind. Only in Christ Jesus, empowered with and by the Holy Spirit, does our understanding of God and ourselves increase to begin lifting our decision making to new, higher levels that more closely align with the perfect will of God. Thereby, both our lives and the lives of those whom we affect are changed for the better.
The more that we choose to feast upon the Truth of God’s abundant grace in Jesus, the less we continue to live restrained in previous wrong thinking that confined us in the past. The more of Jesus—the Word of God—that we take in (digest and assimilate), the higher we are then able to soar in right possibility thinking by the transformation that God accomplishes within us. By means of God’s transforming work, we are given the privilege of experiencing with God ever-increasing degrees of His higher ways of living.
We, then, who are living the Christian life, as we each have been designed by God since before our births to do, cannot and do not produce the changes that occur within us. Rather, in our awareness of our need for change, all that we can do is to rest in our Cocoon (Jesus: the One who encapsulates our lives in His) as the caterpillar similarly rests in the cocoon that God made for it. Both the caterpillar and we must trust (one by instinct and the other by choice) that the work of transformation will be done for us. The more that we who are Christians remain conscious of Jesus’ Presence—the reality of Jesus being in us and in our lives, the more that the Truth of God then produces greater changes within us by Holy Spirit revelation.
As we rest in the finished work of the Cross, seeing more fully the Truth of God that is further revealed to us in Christ, we willingly begin ro shed more of the remnants of our former lives that may still be clinging to us. Piece by piece, they fall away, each in its own time, as our thinking (belief concerning God) undergoes continual renewal. By us both desiring and allowing God to bring our thoughts into greater alignment with His, our hearts are also then transformed to be made more like His Heart. As a result, we develop greater compassion, giving greater mercy and grace that more accurately reflect the goodness of God that is in Christ Jesus for the betterment of every individual in the world at large.
But the caterpillar-turned-butterfly has yet more to continue teaching us about our life in Christ. In addition to enabling the butterfly to enjoy greater feasting opportunity, its colorful wings also serve to enable greater reproduction. They do so by both attracting other butterflies and allowing each butterfly to cover more ground than any caterpillar ever could.
In a similar manner, each transformed Christian life leads to the further multiplication of God’s Kingdom on Earth. Propelled forward by the power of God to share the more abundant life that they are now living, Christians spread the Good News of Jesus wherever they go. They tell all the world about the goodness of God that is available to everyone in Christ Jesus. As a result, the world is undergoing continual transformation, one life at a time. As God’s Kingdom advances, ever greater awareness and acceptance of the Truth is provided to more individuals, giving each in-turn the opportunity to experience new life in Jesus firsthand.
Continuing, then, in the metaphor, we can also rightly say that all people (every one of us) begin life in this world as “caterpillars.” But the phenomenal Truth of God is that not a one of us need remain that way. At any time and place of our choosing, at our readiness to do so, we can each willingly give our old life to Jesus, making room for a new one in Him. Anyone who wants to live a more full life in Christ’s abundance can, no matter what his or her current status is in this world or with God. By trusting in the secure connection to God that Jesus makes possible for us all, we can leave behind the limitations of our earthly lives to enter into a realm of everlasting feasting on the goodness of God that exists in Christ Jesus alone.
Though living “In Christ” sounds confining to many people who do not know Jesus and are living minimalist lives apart from Him, it is anything but that. Jesus’ “world” is bigger and brighter than anything that people whose vision is blocked by inaccurate belief can fathom. Think of it this way: Who would ever have thought and believed, without having been given personal knowledge that it is so, that a caterpillar’s willingness to be confined within a small cocoon unto its death would lead to a butterfly’s later emergence into a life of complete freedom that God has always had planned for that butterfly to live?
If our view, be we Christian or not, of any part of life is limited to that of ground-level perspective (meaning that we are cautiously looking around while slowly inching our way forward through life), then we need to be lifted higher in Christ to see what He sees: the abundance of His good life that is missing in ours. From His perspective, life has no limits. Every one of us can and should be a “caterpillar-turned-butterfly” in Him, flying high with Jesus in every area of life. We ought to be bold, daring to go with Jezus into unimaginable possibility happenings in our lives, experiencing firsthand the life that God has always had in store for us.
Trusting Jesus to supply us with not only a “better” life but ever more of Jesus’ full one, leads to us receiving new insight from God, enabling us to then be raised up even higher in Christ Jesus. By simply continuing to drink (take in; soak up, absorb) Jesus all the more, feasting on His sweet life in ever greater quantity, the expectancy that Jesus develops within us that He will yet take us to new, glorious heights with Him continues to come to pass.
The reality of life in Christ so far surpasses the world’s wildest imaginings about what is possible in this life and what is not that many individuals wrongly label the Truth of God to be mockingly ludicrous instead of rightly intriguing. These people are not aware that the ludicrously is in their own wrong thinking. In judging Jesus wrongly, they set their own paths forward, and the picture isn’t pretty. in moving along at the speed of a crawling caterpillar, they are easy prey for their enemies to feast upon.
But every “caterpillar” that has willingly died to its former life in the one and only cocoon that it received from God, is now a “butterfly,” that has been set free to fly above worldly concerns, tasting the sweetness of a way of life that will remain unknown forever to “caterpillars” who, by their own will power, will never be able to even get off the ground.
Why then, in that light, would anyone not choose to fly high in Jesus?
I don’t know, for it sure beats crawling.