July 18, 2008

The Chrysalis Window

Sometimes as Christians the sense of wonder may start to fade. We can feel like our lives are in a rut. We can begin to grow calloused or think we know so much. We can also lose the sense of freshness in our lives that we had known as new believers. But it helps to understand our spiritual lives begin with revelation and continue with progressive revelation until we "know all things" in our final and ultimate metamorphosis, as shown in 1 Corinthians 15.52.

The Importance of Awe

Psalm 111.10 shows awe for God is the beginning of wisdom. It's also important keeping our sense of awe for God and one reason is that this is one of our best defenses against sin: “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.”[1] And as the world grows darker, how much more important this is becoming! Worshiping God and keeping a fresh sense of awe is important for so many reasons. It’s also a defense against any sense of self pity we may feel in trials: “Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word.[2] As God and His word are magnified in our eyes, the effects of negative influences on us are diminished.

In our fast paced word, how difficult it is to simply find time to meditate on God and consider the great “I Am” the wonder of who He is and the wonders of what He has done. God’s word is truly a source of awe because God’s glory is revealed supernaturally through his word. Until you’ve experienced it, it’s hard to describe. It’s not just about information; it’s about experiencing God Himself. Gimel, another Psalmist prayed: “Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”[3] The most important revelation of the Bible is the person of Jesus Christ. This revelation is the foundation of all other revelations.[4] There is a sense of awe as we meditate on His word and take time to worship Him.

Another place for awe may be God’s historical works of revival. David wrote: “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.”[5] In the United States and in England in particular, two prominent great awakenings occurred, which, when studied, can bring faith, knowledge and inspiration to us today. Personally, I believe spiritual revival is the only answer for Ukraine where I live. The political “Orange Revolution” has fizzled out and the corruption and problems otherwise seem unsolvable.

Another place for wonder and awe may be nature and that is the main focus of this article. Einstein once offered: “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” We Christians of course believe the second is true, but do we live with the awe of this reality? I was reading a biography of Lilias Trotter and was impressed how she retained time as an artist to stop and paint or sketch nature and people in the midst of her busy and demanding lifestyle. We may think of these types of things as unproductive spiritually, but in terms of keeping a sense of awe they can be valuable. The acts of contemplating nature, drawing or writing fresh verses require a type of creative concentration that can help us keep our sense of wonder fresh. Nature and art can also be good resources for sensing awe towards God.

Seeing the Invisible

Romans 1.20 states: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” When it comes to observing nature, believers have a distinct advantage in that we know what to look for. We are more able to see the fingerprints of the artist, “the invisible things of him” in nature simply because our hearts are open to these things. Likewise, these wonders in nature are able to teach us and help us better understand spiritual realities.

Jesus often used nature to teach us spiritual principles. Jesus said “Consider the lilies how they grow…”[6] And He went on to compare the glory of the simple lily as superior to anything the richest, wisest man, Solomon could ever create. Jesus, who is the creator of the vast and intricate technologies of nature, usually chose very simple examples to bring home his point. Why did He do this? Perhaps He wanted to show that the simplest thing God does is greater than the most magnificent thing mankind can do.[7] “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty… that no flesh should glory in his presence.”[8]

In the course of the twentieth century, we humans have become pretty impressed with ourselves. But it’s interesting to compare the advances in technology materially with the set-backs in society spiritually and morally. In 1961, the first man traveled into space. In 1962 we began to outlaw the Bible and prayer in public schools. The internet developed from 1969 to1992 when it finally went public. Gay rights developed from the Stonewall Riots and the Gay Liberation Front in 1969 to the first legal gay marriage in the world in Denmark 1989. The grooms included a high school teacher, a Lutheran minister and a school psychologist.

The more impressed we humans have become with ourselves, the less impressed we have become with God. The Bible defines this anti-God attitude as the “spirit of Babylon” and the “spirit of antichrist.” The Bible predicted this continuing antichrist trend until ultimately the Antichrist himself takes the political reigns of the world system:

“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”[9]

Regeneration or Degeneration

One of the clearest examples of God in nature is the miracle of new life in spring. We have become so desensitized by our evolutionary educations that it has become difficult to see it for what it really is, a glorious miracle and a sign of God’s redemption. We go to watch fireworks in the sky and “ooh” and “ahh” while God’s silent display of his wisdom and glory in spring often leaves us unimpressed. Brother Laurence, the famous monk, became a believer when he saw a bare tree in winter and had a stark revelation that only God could cause this barren tree to grow leaves and begin to bear flowers and fruit in the spring. As a society, more and more we are becoming fascinated with death and unimpressed with life. This is seen visually with the “Goth” movement, the skull and bones designs, etc. and in music as well. The rock group “Bullet for my Valentine” had a popular video where the audience is dancing and a red liquid which looks like blood comes spraying out of the overhead sprinkler system. What is the reaction? The people enjoy the dancing all the more.

As we see culture becoming more decadent we can become desensitized to the ugliness of sin and the ugliness of the forming anti-God world system. More and more this system represses what is Godly and celebrates what is an affront to both God and nature. In 2002 the Satanic rocker Ozzy Osbourne became an official star. He was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame by another Satanic pied piper, Marilyn Manson who has dubbed himself “Antichrist Superstar.” Manson said of Ozzy "This star right here proves that it's quite obvious that Ozzy has managed to succeed…despite his various crimes against God and nature."[10]

Once in a while God will snatch a “brand from the fire” such as Saul. One who was once an enemy of God leading people astray is completely transformed and used as an instrument for His glory. The “brand” is hot malleable iron rod which can be formed into any type of instrument. God takes instruments being used for evil and they are transformed into instruments for good. Such is the case of Brian “Head” Welch of the hard rock band Korn who became a believer in 2004. His drug based lifestyle was destructive to the point of suicide but God had other plans for him. God saved him and transformed him giving him a ministry of reconciliation. Zechariah 3.2-5 states:

“…is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord stood by.”

From Maggots to Monarchs

One of the greatest examples of regeneration and grace in nature is the butterfly. It shows the incredible transformation from a creeping caterpillar to a majestic monarch. We use the word “creep” and “creepy” to describe someone who is frightening or untrustworthy and these are good terms to describe the sin nature. Sometimes it’s difficult for those who consider themselves to be “good people” to realize their own creepiness no matter how subtle it may be. On the outside they may present a good picture, a good facade, but God knows what’s going on in the recesses of the heart. The Bible reveals throughout its pages the corruption of human nature with honest clarity. The Bible unveils the mistakes of people in history, even the “heroes of faith,” to show that sin has been an all pervasive disease. Before regeneration we are all basically spiritual maggots. This may be offensive to some, especially non-believers, but this is what the Bible teaches. Without Christ we are much worse than we believe, but the opposite is also true, with Christ we are much better than we believe. With Christ we are all spiritual monarchs, spiritual royalty.

A student asked recently how God could have wanted Aaron as a priest anticipating the golden calf incident. The details in Exodus 32 are pretty shocking, especially for a priest. Aaron, whom God had chosen, basically led a seriously idolatrous party. God forgave the basest behavior and yet offered the most blessed position. God’s grace is amazing, it’s extreme. The fact is that He never changes and His grace is and always will be extreme. Revelation 1.6 shows God has “…made us kings and priests unto God and his Father…” None of us of course are worthy to be priests unto God. On our best day own righteousness is like filthy rags compared to God’s standard of perfection.[11] Our righteousness is based solely on the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ.[12] When Jesus was crucified the veil separating the holy of holies in the temple was torn in two.[13] We as priests now have constant access to God’s presence. The idea is not that some of us are especially “called” to be priests as believers, but that each one of us has actually become a priest. Our highest privilege is to spend time with God and minister to Him.

Even as we have become priests, we have been adopted into God’s royal family. God has made us monarchs. I Peter 2.9 says “…ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood…” Again, this is not something that some of us are “called” to become in the future but rather this is something which God has already made each one of us. As in Zechariah 3, God takes us as we are, removes our filthy rags, clothes us with His righteousness, and crowns us with His royal diadem.

What is perhaps most radical of all is that in order for us to become monarchs, Jesus Himself was willing to become a maggot. II Corinthians 5.21 shows “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” This was prophesied thousands of years before by David in Psalms 22.6: “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” There is no sugar coating here, it’s pretty clear that Jesus took on all the ugliness of all the most vile sin in the world when he was crucified on the cross. It wasn’t just about some wood and some nails, His pure love and holiness took on pure filth. Because of this, He was separated from the Father, the first person of the Trinity, which was the most painful aspect of the crucifixion. Jesus at this time cried out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?..."[14]

The thought of squirming maggots is enough to get grossed out. But our sins are much worse than thoughts about maggots. Before a person can become a believer, he or she first has to face up to the true ugliness of sin. One has to become sick of sin and willing to admit that there needs to be a change. Finally, one must admit that the radical transformation which is required is available only through Jesus Christ.

Dying to the World

How does the caterpillar become a butterfly? How does a rotten sinner become a king and priest unto God? Interestingly, in both cases there is death before there is life. The caterpillar becomes mummified in a tomb before it finally flies. The first thing that happens in the transformation of the caterpillar is the preparation of the chrysalis. This may represent dying to the old sin nature and being crucified to the world. Though we still have our flesh nature, we are no longer under its control; we are under the control of the Holy Spirit. When a believer repents, he or she is baptized to identify with Christ’s death on the cross. “The crucified life” is a life lived in the awareness that our “old nature” died together with Christ on the cross and that we live together with Him now spiritually.[15] In this realization, nothing else is really of much value or importance. Jesus becomes everything. Gal.614 shows “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

The Chrysalis Life

Spiritual regeneration is instant but the process of sanctification is slow. As we live in this state we can lose sight of the big picture. It’s easy to forget our destiny as we live our daily lives. There is a stage in the life of the butterfly where it is no longer just a plain old worm and it still is not a glorious butterfly. On the outside the chrysalis may seem kind of plain, an odd shape simply hanging on by a thread but inside a lot has been slowly happening and a lot more is about to happen. This is in many ways relevant to our condition as believers. As we live our daily, perhaps seemingly humdrum lives, perhaps we have forgotten the hidden inner miracle of regeneration or the slow and steady work of God’s sanctification in our lives. It’s all by grace, it’s all His work, and He has promised to complete what He has begun.[16]

Maybe we have forgotten just how dependant on God we really are and how the thread of our connection with Him and support from Him is so vital. Paul wrote: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”[17] In this life Jesus is enough for me. He’s the main purpose of my life and He is with me always.[18] As we live our lives each day we are encased in the cocoon of our flesh waiting for the ultimate final redemption and transformation of our bodies.

Anticipation and Hope

I Corinthians 2.9 says: "… Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

Compared to what we will know and experience, our lives are like a butterfly in a chrysalis waiting in suspended animation. We simply can’t comprehend what’s waiting on the other side. And if there is a sense of “plainness,” difficulty or even suffering in our lives we know it is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. Even as an onlooker may wait patiently to see a colorful butterfly emerge from a chrysalis, there is an earnest anticipation for the manifestation of His glory in the children of God.[19]

Though we have the indwelling Spirit, we still have not known the full culmination of the resurrected life which is to put on our new spiritual bodies and to take flight.[20] Even as the butterfly develops incredible abilities to see with new eyes, to sense with new antennae and to experience the taste of sweet nectar, so we as believers have much to look forward to in our future spiritual bodies.

New Eyes

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”[21]

Paul showed how our knowledge is like a dim window. One interesting fact is that the butterflies’ chrysalis becomes increasingly transparent like a window until the point the butterfly breaks free. The caterpillar enters the chrysalis stage with no vision at all. Its previous head with its six lenses has been jettisoned. It begins to develop new eyes but at first it only has the ability to see light. Though we believers do comprehend what is spiritual light and darkness, we don’t fully understand all the details of the big picture and so we need to live by faith and not by sight.[22] As the eyes develop, six thousand lenses are formed and the ability to see a wide range of colors, actually all the spectrum plus ultra-violet light. It will also have the ability to see incredible details as minute as a pinhead.

Along with the incredible ability to see comes the incredible ability to process information. The developing butterfly receives a brain which can translate 72,000 nerve impulses from its two eyes into a meaningful visual image. The fact that educated people attribute all this to chance experience and natural selection is good proof that there is such a thing as spiritual blindness.

Once a person understands that there is a spiritual reality, only then can the importance of prayer really be understood. Only then can we understand the need for intercession in prayer for souls as II Corinthians 4.4 and Ephesians 6 point out. May the “eyes of our understanding” be enlightened as Paul prayed.[23]

Basking in God

Jude1.21 admonishes: “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

Interestingly, within the chrysalis, the appetite and the means of eating for the creature are radically changed. Originally, the caterpillar had a desire to munch on the flesh of green leaves. But this “head” which once munched on leaves, is transformed into the “tail.” The new head, at the other end, develops special antennae which can “smell” flowers as the body develops legs which can “taste” flower nectar. The new creature gradually develops a new appetite for this new type of food while it also develops various new senses to seek and find it.Though we Christians are “reborn” spiritually as Jesus described it,[24] “the flesh nature” of our bodies will be with us until these cocoons are jettisoned. We don’t really have a choice in this, but we do have a choice as to what we will consume. Will we satisfy the old cravings of our flesh or the new appetite of the spirit? For all eternity we will be able to bask in God’s love but are we developing a taste for His love in the here and now? Revelation 4.8 talks about creatures who bask in God’s presence in heaven: “And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” It seems these creatures have an incredible capacity to experience God being “full of eyes within.”

One interesting aspect about the butterfly is that it is cold blooded and must bask in the sun in order to be able to fly. But before it ever feels the sun directly it experiences the sun gradually through the ever more transparent chrysalis. In a similar way, we as believers learn to “walk in the light” learning to fellowship with Jesus Christ, the “Light of the World” and the “Sun of Righteousness.” He is our warmth and strength for the day. Only as we learn to receive the warmth of his light and love can we live in victory. Only then do we have anything to offer others. Many who have had “near death experiences” have said heaven is like a constant experience of “liquid love” or being “bathed in love” and they didn’t want to return to their previous lives. This is understandable. Would a butterfly want to return to its chrysalis after basking in the warmth of the direct sunlight? As we look forward to the full experience God’s love in heaven, may we learn to savor the time we can have alone in His presence today.

Between Heaven and Earth

As the new creature forms it is in tension between two different worlds. It doesn’t sit on the ground, nor does it fly in the heavens. It simply hangs suspended by a thread. The scriptures declare “Be still and know that I am God.”[25] As the butterfly develops, the tension between the two different worlds increases within the creature and it begins to struggle to fly with its new wings. A person seeing this struggle may try and cut the shell and set the creature free but its would be stunted, it would have a large body and tiny wings. It would be unable to fly. The struggle for freedom actually projects the necessary fluids from the body into the wings allowing them to develop. If it weren't for the struggle the butterfly wouldn't be able to fly at all. What a great picture of our life here on earth as a mere preparation for heaven!

As believers we know deep inside we have become “spoiled for this world.” There really isn’t anything here that can really satisfy our Spirits as God can. We have families whom we love and friends but deep down we know it is Jesus who really is the highest desire of our souls. As we bide our time as pilgrims on this earth we want to help others know the wonder of God and His salvation but at the same time we are also torn by our desire to finally be at our spiritual home with our Savior.

Romans 8.21-22 declare “… the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”Many people in history have experimented with psychedelic drugs in order to try and fill a sense of emptiness inside or seeking to find spiritual enlightenment. These have not just been hippy drop outs but also highly educated people. Drugs, however, just produce destructive, counterfeit experiences of the real things which we seek. Interestingly, one of the LSD forms is called “window pane” alluding to mind expansion. The word of God is the true window pane; it’s the true mind expander. It gives true revelation, not just information but also a true sense of awe with no bad trips or scary flash backs. The light of God’s glory shines through the pages. The spirit within says “wow!” the glory of God, the “chabad” so intense, so heavy, and weighty! The glory of His word is intense, considered greater than the glory of His own name.[26] This is what we all crave most deep inside, simply to experience the revelation of God’s glory and love. The word of God is our “chrysalis window.” It’s both a window into heaven and a window on the world. We experience God through it and we interpret the world through the lens of scripture as we live in the expectation of what’s around the corner. In 1948 the fig tree ( Israel) was reborn, spring has come and summer is at hand.[27] “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”[28]

As the butterfly is peering out waiting anxiously for the next level of experience may we also be living in anticipation. May we be in this world but not of this world watching and waiting for our blessed hope. Only the Father in heaven knows the day or the hour when the time of the next dispensation will begin.[29] But one thing is absolutely certain, for believers it will be a kick! “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”[30] Hebrews 10.25 says to encourage each other “and so much the more as we see the day approaching.” May we as believers encourage and build each other up in Christ as we live in anticipation of that coming day.

[1] Psalms 4.4
[2] Psalms 119.161
[3] Psalms 119.18
[4] I Corinthians 3.11
[5] Psalms 111.2
[6] Luke 12.27
[7] I Corinthians 1.25
[8] I Corinthians 1.27-29
[9] I John 4.3
[10] Ozzy Osbourne Joins The Hollywood Walk Of Fame, 04/12/2002, Yahoo! Music by Brett Anderson
[11] Isaiah 64.6
[12] I John 1.7
[13] Matthew 27.51
[14] Psalms 22.1, Matthew 27.46
[15] Galatians 5.20
[16] Philippians 1.6
[17] Philippians 1.21
[18] Matthew 28.20
[19] Romans 8.18-19
[20] I Corinthians 15.44
[21] I Corinthians 13.12
[22] II Corinthians 5.7
[23] Ephesians 1.18
[24] John 3.3
[25] Psalms 46.10
[26] Psalms 138.2
[27] Luke 21.29,30
[28] Luke 21.31
[29] Mark 13.32
[30] I Thessalonians 4.17

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