[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 experience an emergence, though not from a physical cocoon, of course, but from a deeply introspect time of personal confession before God. In those precious moments, we acknowledge to God that we have personal need of Christ Jesus as Savior, confessing 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 then 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. Like the Flood, it too will be otherwise inescapable by anyone not trusting God or believing His words.
Only those who have taken a stand of faith in God’s Living Word (Jesus) and are henceforth positioned in Christ Jesus by God’s grace alone, receive the promise of hope that salvation gives to all who receive Jesus—God’s One and Only Begotten Son—as their personal Savior.
In Jesus alone do we receive the everlasting forgiveness of God that is necessary for each one of us to be righteously reconciled to God forever. To assure us of the permanency of God’s forgiveness and our reconciliations to God, God gives Holy Spirit in unlimited amount to dwell (live, abide, remain) in us from then on. For the Holy Spirit of God is the fulltime Helper who is much needed by us all in this world. His presence and power constantly remind us that God in us means God is for us.
When we begin to grasp the enormity of God’s love for us that He has revealed to the world in Jesus on the Cross, the unparalleled love of God then wraps—cocoons—us within a previously unrealized acceptance. In that realization, our hearts are warmed and made malleable by the promise of everlasting life with God that is ours in the eternal life of Christ Jesus. The perfection of Jesus that initiates the life-transformations that we then begin to undergo also completely sustain those changes within us forever.
Emerging over time from each individual who has given his or her life to Jesus is “Fruit of the Spirit.” This fruit is good spiritual fruit that we were not capable of consistently producing on our own before Holy Spirit empowered the process of transformation within us. But as the Truth of God is revealed to us in Jesus, our thinking is changed to bring our beliefs and understanding into greater alignment with the Truth. As a result, our words and actions used in interacting with others also change in a positive manner. Our lives are not transformed because of our efforts to be “better” people. But rather we speak and act in ways that are for the better of the world as a whole because of the transformative work that God is accomplishing in us, rebuilding us from the inside out.
As God then continues to work out our personal transformations in various ways of His choosing, our awareness of our new identity in Christ Jesus is also being edified by God. The right knowledge of God that we gain concerning not only who Jesus is, but also who we are in Him changes not only our view of ourselves, but also how we view others.
These accomplishments of God are often so profound that the transformations themselves become irrefutable evidence of the reality of the power of God that is producing new life in us. The changes themselves are testimony, given to us by God for the wellbeing of all. It is not we who change, but God who changes us, and He gets all of the credit.
In that regard, caterpillars aren’t any different than we are, for neither can a caterpillar transform itself. So until the time comes for a caterpillar to enter into its cocoon, it simply lives out its life the only way it knows how. Day after day of its short existence, a caterpillar merely crawls along in its own strength, eating whatever edible provision that it happens upon along its way. For the caterpillar, life itself is a gamble at best. It is always eating its way forward, while instinctively trying not to be devoured by any of the world’s other equally hungry critters that might just happen upon it.
But a time does come in the life of each caterpillar when the minimalistic lifestyle of its youth is behind it, and the caterpillar must then prepare to move on into a theretofore unknown maturity. This state of the caterpillar’s existence requires self-sacrifice of the caterpillar. Before a butterfly can take the caterpillar’s place in the world, the caterpillar must literally lay itself down in its cocoon and die.
Since the caterpillar is unable to change itself, all that it can do, in that regard, is to prepare to be changed. The caterpillar does this 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 part of the caterpillar. This act of giving up its former life in order to be properly positioned to be given new life is purposeful. For until the caterpillar is positioned correctly in its cocoon, the transformation process cannot begin. 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 the caterpillar’s 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 when God begins to prepare us to be positioned into our new lives in Christ Jesus. Before we can even think of receiving our gift of salvation from God, God first begins drawing us to Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. In getting us to come closer to Him, God removes the limitations of our wrong thinking that previously kept us from accepting the gift of salvation that God has offered to us all in Jesus.
God does this by feeding us continually with the Truth of His loving-kindness. Apart from God doing so, we have no way of ever being truly right in our thoughts about God, let alone even knowing what being right truly means. Only through the giving and receiving of right knowledge, though, is the transformation of our lives even possible. We must be willing to give up our old ways of thinking and acting 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, not for its own good, but for the good of the world in which it has been living. The caterpillar’s death is a butterfly’s passage into a future far beyond the caterpillar’s imaginings (if a caterpillar can indeed imagine). In setting the caterpillar apart from the world around it, the cocoon isolates the caterpillar, cutting it off from its former life and necessitating that the caterpillar fast. Fasting leads to starvation which then leads to death, every time without exception.
Christians too are set apart by God from the world at large for the wellbeing of all. When we receive salvation in Christ Jesus, Jesus Himself is our “Cocoon” of sorts (respectfully said). In freely choosing to abide in Christ, we are immediately cut off from the power and penalty of sin in this world. Fasting from our former sinful ways of living, we become dead to sin, enabling us to be raised to new life in Jesus.
The enabling that God provides for 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 the mainstay of the caterpillar’s diet. The butterfly 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 life of the butterfly. But what are new are the butterfly’s wings that empower it to do something that the caterpillar had no ability to do: to feast at will on the abundance of flowers that God made available to the butterfly to enjoy in this world.
We who are Christians (those whom God has made alive in Christ Jesus) also have access to a new and tastier diet here and now in this world, as well as a promised feast to come in eternity with Jesus. The diet that God has prepared for us to eat now, consists of the bread and wine of Holy Communion. These two elements when taken together in remembrance of Jesus have a combined sweetness unlike any food or drink that the world has to offer. Though we have always had access to both bread and wine, not until Jesus made them representative of His Body and Blood did they acquire a sweetness of life that only Jesus Himself has in Him to give. It is the most complete meal that can be eaten on Earth.
The butterfly’s sweet diet of nectar is only one of the benefits that it receives in having been given its wings. A butterfly’s wings also enable greater reproduction of the species by making each butterfly more likely to be seen by others and by enabling each butterfly to cover more ground than any caterpillar ever could cover.
Similarly, each transformed Christian life leads to the further multiplication of God’s Kingdom on Earth. Compelled to share the Good News of Christ Jesus wherever we go, Christians tell others of Jesus so that those individuals too may also decide to receive salvation in Jesus. As a result, the world is undergoing continual transformation one changed life at a time. As God’s Kingdom increases, then greater awareness and acceptance of the Truth of God is shared with more people, giving each one in turn the opportunity to experience abundant life in Jesus firsthand. Those who do so will then yet tell others.
But a butterfly’s wings still do even more. Though the wing structures may appear to be so delicately fragile, and they are to a degree, they are actually stronger than they look. Covering the wings are tiny scales that give the wings some protection themselves. But underneath the scales is a system of cells and sensors that monitor and regulate the wings’ movements and temperature. They function collaboratively as a unit to keep the wings from either getting too hot or cooling too quickly, either of which could seriously damage the wings.
Then somewhere in this incredible process, a type of vector (directional arrow of specific length) analysis aids in determining two vital pieces of information. One is the intensity of the light that strikes the butterfly’s wings, and the other is the direction of the source from which the light is shining. In essence, God created butterfly wings in such a way as to enable them to determine the butterfly’s relative position to the sun at all times, and the butterfly doesn’t even use its eyes to help do so.
The light that’s most important to butterflies is sunlight. But to Christians, it is the Light of the Son, Jesus Christ, that is most important.
In the words of Jesus:
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [John 8:12]
I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. [John 12:46]
Full of God’s Truth and grace, Jesus is the enlightenment given to us by God for our salvation.
We all begin life in this world as “caterpillars.” But the phenomenal Truth of God regarding salvation is that not a one of us needs to remain that way. At any time and place of our choosing, we can leave the life of a “caterpillar” behind and begin soaring with Jesus in new lives of right possibility thinking.
Though many people who do not know Jesus and are living minimalist lifestyles apart from Him, think that living “In Christ” sounds confining, the Truth of God is that life in Christ Jesus is totally freeing. Jesus’ “world” is bigger and brighter than anything that people whose vision is blocked by their own wrong beliefs of Jesus can possibly 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 to its death would lead to a butterfly later emerging in complete freedom to live the life that God has always desired 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 Jesus, flying high with Him in every area of life. We ought to be bold, daring to go with Jesus into unimaginable possibilities, experiencing firsthand the life that God has always had in store for each and every one of us personally.
Trusting Jesus to supply us with not just a “better” life, but ever more of Jesus’ full one, leads to us receiving new insights from God that raise us up even higher in Christ. By simply continuing to drink (take in; soak up, absorb) Jesus all the more, feasting on His sweet life in ever increasing quantity, as Holy Spirit enables us, builds new expectations in us of flying to even more glorious heights with Jesus than we have previously experienced.
The reality of life in Christ so far surpasses the world’s wildest imaginings that some individuals label the Truth of God as being mockingly ludicrous instead of rightly amazing. These individuals are not usually aware that the word ludicrous more accurately describes their own wrong ways of thinking about Jesus. For in judging Jesus wrongly, they set their own paths forward, and the picture isn’t pretty. In moving along at a caterpillar pace, they mark themselves as easy prey for their enemies to feast on in this world.
But every “caterpillar” that willingly dies to its former life in its one and only God-given Cocoon, becomes a “butterfly,” able to fly above worldly concerns while tasting the sweet life that remains unknown forever to every “caterpillar.” For try as they might, no caterpillar will ever be of the right design to ever even be able to raise themselves up.
Why then in that light would anyone not choose to fly high in Jesus? I really don’t know. After all, it sure beats crawling.