Butterflies Aren’t In the Bible. Wait . . .

They aren’t named in the Bible. I wonder why. They’re so beautiful and graceful.  It seems like Jesus would have pointed during one of His outdoor teaching sessions and said, “Behold, the butterfly . . .” and used it to illustrate some profound truth.  But butterflies aren’t in the Bible.

But wait!  Think with me for a minute. Consider the Monarch butterfly.  A tiny, cream-colored egg the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen is attached to the underside of a milkweed leaf.  After a few days, an unbelievably small yellow, black, and white striped caterpillar emerges from the egg.

It eats the milkweed leaves and grows to about two inches long.  Then it hangs from a stem or branch by its hindmost feet, head downward, and firmly attaches itself with thread.  The skin splits and falls off, and the pale green naked blob soon hardens into a porcelain-like case with black and gold jewels circling the edge.

A couple of weeks later, the case (“chrysalis”) cracks open and a wet droopy form pushes its way out, an unsightly mass of black and orange crumpled wings and groping, gangly legs.  Soon the wings become velvety smooth, looking freshly painted in dusky orange and deep black with little white accents, its body perfectly designed for a new way of life.

Monarch on our Butterfly Bush  10.5.14
Monarch on our Butterfly Bush 10.5.14

The unsightly caterpillar, its range of movement restricted to a few square feet, becomes a Monarch butterfly that will spend the rest of its life as a living miracle, flying above the earth, venturing as far as Mexico on its migratory path.

The name for this radical change is metamorphosis.  This creature’s life cycle is a picture of the biblical concept of transformation.  In fact, the Greek word metamorphoo (-phoo is pronounced fa-o) is used twice in the Bible.  In these two verses, it is translated with the word, “transformed.”

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:2)

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.       (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Both these verses are talking about the change that takes place in us when we believe in Jesus Christ and grow to be like Him.

An immediate transformation happens when we are saved.  This is the new birth (John 3:1-17) when we become new creatures in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).  A full and final transformation will occur when believers are raised from the dead and God gives us the capacity to experience and enjoy His presence forever (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Philippians 3:20-21).

But Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18, the ones that use the word metamorphoo, are talking about ongoing transformation, the growth and change we experience in this life after we are saved and before we go to heaven.  If you are a Christian, you have the capacity to be an entirely new person at every level, including your deepest motivations and passions, your thoughts, your attitudes, and your behavior.

The caterpillar, or “pupa” as it is called at that stage, spends about two weeks in the chrysalis.  During that time the cells from the homely, earthbound caterpillar are being reformulated to produce the body, legs, wings, antennae, and other components of the butterfly.

In the same way, you spend the years of your life after you are saved being “transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).  God is at work in you, changing you into a reflection of His own image, something glorious.  It happens over time, through circumstances, as you respond to His Word and His work in you.

Paul says in Romans 12:2 to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  This means you have a part in this process, by allowing your thoughts and motives and attitudes to be shaped by an outside force, that force being God’s Spirit speaking through His Word rather than the world around you.

And one day the process will be finished, the waiting will be over, and you will leave the dark, confining, yet in some ways beautiful, chrysalis of this life, and you will be fully and finally transformed.

You will have “a body like His glorious body”(Philippians 3:21) and you will “know just as (you are) known” (1 Corinthians 15:12) and “there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying . . . no more pain, for the former things have passed away” because the One who sits on the throne “makes all things new” (Revelation 21:4-5) and you “will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).

I’ve searched, and I can’t find any butterflies in the Bible.  But I’ve found transformation in the Bible!  You can too.

10 Facts about Divine Election

This Sunday morning I’ll preach, God willing, on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5.  Paul had heard of the effects of the gospel in the Thessalonian believers’ lives.  The fruits of their faith, love, and hope confirmed to him “their election of God” (v. 4).  I want to make some statements about the biblical teaching of election as I preach but I don’t intend to spend a major part of the sermon on it.  So I’m placing some thoughts here so those who wish can go over them at their convenience.

These statements are simple, and that is on purpose.  I usually think in pretty simple terms, and I think it helps the average person to see a complicated concept like this presented as clearly as possible.

They are also presented without much in the way of comment, explanation, implications, logical conclusions, etc.  I don’t intend to try to explain or defend the doctrine of election, just state facts.

There is one clarifying point I’d like to make.  There are three categories of election in the Bible.  God elected the nation of Israel for His special favor and blessing.  God elected people to offices or positions, the supreme example of which is Jesus’ election to be the Messiah.  And God elected individual lost sinners to be saved.  It is mainly this third category of election that I am writing about here.

1.  Election is in the Bible.

I count 19 occurrences of words in the vocabulary group associated with election (elect, election, chosen) that clearly refer to individual salvation.

Key verses include Romans 8:33; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:10.

2.  Election is an act of God.

God is the subject.  If God does it, it is good and should be accepted and revered.

3.  Election is a choice.

There’s no way around this.  The word “elect” in Greek is eklegomai and means to choose or select.

4.  Election favors some and not others.

Using the other categories of election as examples, God chose Israel and not other nations.  God chose Jesus and not an angel or another man.  And in the category of salvation, God chose “the elect” and not everyone.

5.  Election is based on God’s sovereign will and pleasure, not on anything we do.

Ephesians 1:4-5 says of God’s election of believers, . . . He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will . . .

1 Peter 1:2 says we are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.  God’s foreknowledge in the Bible is not merely His awareness of what will happen in the future.  It is a knowledge that views something or someone in the future in a positive way.  See Acts 2:23.  God did not only know ahead of time that Jesus would die, He ordained it. His plan for Jesus to die was not conditioned on what someone else would do. Regarding our individual salvation, God did not merely know ahead of time that we would believe and base His election on that.  His foreknowledge is not merely cognitive.  It is determinitive.

6.  Election does not preclude human responsibility.

It is the responsibility of Christians to preach the gospel to every creature.  It is the responsibility of sinners to repent and believe.

7.  Election is a source of assurance.

See Romans 8:28-39.  Verse 33 says, Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?  The implied response is, No one, and the stated reason is that the ones God has elected, He justifies.

8.  Election is not Calvinism, it is Biblicism.

Whether you embrace or eschew the label of Calvinist, believing in election does not make you one.  If you are a Biblicist you will accept and embrace the truth of God’s election.

9.  Election forces us to accept things about God that are uncomfortable to us and don’t make sense to us.

People struggle to understand how God could elect to save some and not others.  If we attempt to shape God’s character, decrees, and acts in ways that fit our finite logic and feelings, we will be frustrated or will redefine the terms to our satisfaction.  To do so is to diminish the nature of God.  We must be willing to accept who God is and what He does as the Bible presents Him.

10.  Election glorifies God.

Ephesians 1:6 states that our election and predestination is to the praise of the glory of his grace.

It is not our place to dispute election, nor to make it any greater or any less than what it is.  It is not necessary for us to grasp it or to make sense of it.  God is eternal and sovereign, and what He does is right and just.  He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).  You must give diligence to make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).  All are true.  Our place is to say what Paul did in Romans 11:33 after he expounded the truth of God’s election of the nation of Israel, Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

Practical Ways to Pursue Knowing God

The theme of my summer Sunday morning messages at Calvary is Pursue Knowing God. Hosea the prophet called on the people of Israel to “pursue the knowledge of the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). The book of Hosea is the focus of our study. 

Last Sunday morning near the end of my message I shared some practical ways to pursue knowing God. I thought it would be helpful to provide them here. 

  • Accept what He has promised and provided through His Son, Jesus Christ. (John 17:2-3)
    Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in Him, and eternal life is knowing God.
  • Intentionally (re)focus your heart on knowing God. (Philippians 3:10)
    The downward pull of our flesh and the busyness of life distract us from knowing God. We need to regularly choose to make knowing God the passionate pursuit of our lives. 
  • Pray specifically for a growing knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)
    Paul prayed for the Christians in Colossae to increase in their knowledge of God. This is a scriptural prayer, one that God will surely answer. Pray the words of this verse for yourself.
  • Read the Bible with purpose, looking for attributes and acts of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)
    Good places to start doing this are the Psalms, the Gospels, and Genesis through Exodus.  Relate these to the circumstances of your life, thinking, “What do I know about my God?”  Journal these. Write them down – “God is ______” or “God is my ______”. Then pray them back to God. Write down how these encourage and help you in your daily life.
  • Anticipate knowing Him fully forever.  (1 Corinthians 13:12)
    Our understanding of God is so very limited. There are many hindrances. But don’t be discouraged. Look forward to seeing Him face to face.  
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