The Butterfly Garden is one of the feature attractions at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. The glass enclosed exhibit is home to scores of exotic species of these beautiful, free-flying insects. This time of the year one of the showcased creatures is the Latin American Blue Morpho butterfly. This particular flittering beauty sports iridescent blue wings that can stretch up to seven inches across. When the sunlight bounces off their out-stretched wings, it’s almost as if they glow!
However, when we visited recently, we found it very difficult to take a picture of them. They would only light for brief moments, and when they did, the wings would quickly snap shut, hiding their glorious color. At rest the appearance of the Blue Morpho was plain and uninteresting and which obviously helped them blend into their background.
As I skulked around in the shadows of this artificial tropical menagerie in a largely fruitless effort to snap an elusive shot, it occurred to me that these simple creatures bear some striking similarities to many believers in the world today.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
When we’re saved by Christ, we leave our cocoon of death and are instantly transformed into new creations. Scripture declares emphatically that believers are alive in Jesus, given a restored spirit, a new hope and a brand new life. But too many of God’s people don’t have an accurate understanding of what happened to them and consequently, allow the shroud of their old lives to cloak their new beauty. Old attitudes and ingrained ways of thinking and behaving shade our inner radiance, and the memory of those things that scripture describes as “passed away” holds us back from the experiencing the reality of what is “new”.
But God calls us to shed our disguise, open our wings and show others and the world the difference that Christ has made in us.
If you’re thinking that you’ve tried to change the way you’re living only to end up in frustration and defeat, this isn’t a post about trying harder, or being more committed. Most of us know that true spiritual reformation doesn’t stick through shear willpower alone. Real change in living begins with a change of thinking that is centered on truth. It’s a life-long pursuit aided by the Holy Spirit that draws us nearer to God as we daily walk with Him. Colossians 3:1-8 gives us an outline of how we can cooperate in the process.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, (vs 1) -Transformation is a work of the Spirit that begins with an encounter with Jesus. Without a changed heart as the starting point, our best efforts become only a flawed self-improvement plan that will never result in a real and lasting inner change.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (vs 2)– Since we have the “mind of Christ,” we no longer have to be slaves to random feelings and ideas. We need to realize that allowing our thoughts to dwell on anything that’s prohibited by scripture is dangerous. However, most of us have to admit that in this area we are prone to indulging in. Too often we invite and even enjoy evil or unrestrained thoughts rather than exercising the power given to us through the Holy Spirit to take “every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (vs 3)– This is a very theological concept here that could take volumes to explain, but as simply as possible this means that when you became a Christian, you died to sin. Because of your relationship to and with Jesus, your life is now intertwined with Him! And since sin has no power over Him, it, likewise, has no power over you!
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature… (vs 5-9) - Paul goes on to challenge us to very practically begin to avail ourselves of the power that we have through our relationship with Christ. That is, we need to draw on the His Spirit that now dwells within us and begin to say “no” to sins such as “immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed” (vs 7) also, “anger, rage, malice, filthy language, and lies” (vs 8), and then replace them with the righteous behavior that’s consistent with the alteration that He’s done in us.
…Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. “ – vs 10 - Finally, Paul reminds us that our new lives are continually being altered through our understanding of who our God truly is. In Romans 8:29, the apostle referred to this as “conformed to the image of Christ.” This should be our ultimate goal… to become more and more like His Son until the day that we can finally and completely shed the world’s camouflage and let others see the glory of the Lord in us!