Recently I heard Vernon Ray share some thoughts. He used an illustration that I want to expand and share.

If you are familiar with the caterpillar that loves to eat tomato vines, hold up your hand. I doubt there is a caterpillar actually named, "tomato caterpillar," but that is what we called it when I was a boy because it loved to eat tomato plants. And it had an enormous appetite. When you went to the tomato row and saw a tomato vine with a lot of its leaves eaten off, you immediately looked for the caterpillar. He was hard to find because he was the same color green of the tomato vine.

tomato hornworm

This caterpillar is about as big around as my little finger. He is soft and flexible on the outside, and very gooey on the inside. Vernon said that if you do it just right, that you can step on a caterpillar and slide your foot and stretch the goo for about four feet.

This is the amazing fact. That ugly, soft, gooey caterpillar will turn into a butterfly. Have you ever stepped on a butterfly? If you do, all you will leave is a splotch of color. Inside, the butterfly is very different to the caterpillar.

The incredible change from caterpillar to butterfly is strikingly obvious from outward appearances. By outward appearance, never would you think that a caterpillar and a butterfly have anything in common.

Never forget this: the striking outward change that produces the beauty of a butterfly happens because there was a more incredible change on the inside.

  1. Our God is the creator God who brought all things into existence.
    1. Everything had its origin in God, and everything was good when God created it.
      1. Evil totally corrupted everything God made.
        1. By corrupting it, evil distorted everything God made, including us.
        2. Because of evil, the physical world that God created was no longer good.
      2. If you have not considered how totally evil corrupted everything God made, focus on an illustration you will easily comprehend.
        1. Before sin, Adam and Eve lived naked.
        2. Until they rebelled against God, they wore no clothing.
        3. And that was not vulgar.
        4. And that was not lurid.
        5. And that was not crude.
        6. And that was not dirty.
        7. And that was not impure.
        8. And it produced no shame, no guilt, and no embarrassment.
      3. Be honest. In that single consideration, can you grasp that?
        1. Can you imagine public nakedness as the common reality without evil?
        2. No vulgar words, or thoughts, or actions.
        3. No lurid words, or thoughts, or actions.
        4. No crude words, or thoughts, or actions.
        5. No dirty words, or thoughts, or actions.
        6. No impure words, or thoughts, or actions.
        7. No shame, no guilt, no embarrassment, no danger.
        8. Does that give you just a hint of what evil did to us?
      4. God created, evil destroyed, and in Christ God recreates.
        1. What God does in the act of recreating is just as real as what God did when He created.
        2. What God does in the act of recreating is just as much the work and power of God, is just as much a miracle as God's original creation.
    2. "David, is it really important that a Christian understand this?"
      1. No, it goes beyond being "really important."
      2. It is essential that a Christian understand this.
      3. It is essential that you understand this.
    3. Paul stressed the importance of this understanding in two letters to Christians.
      1. He stressed it to the Ephesians when he wrote Ephesians 4:17-24.
        So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Because you are Christians, you do not live and act like people who do not know the living God.
        2. They do not understand; they do not know; and their hearts are hard.
        3. The calluses on their hearts allow physical appetites and greed to control their lives.
        4. That is not what you learned when you were taught Christ.
        5. You learned the you were to no longer live like people who do not believe in the living God.
        6. You learned an entirely new way to see the world, and an entirely new way to think.
        7. You learned that you must put off the old existence and put on the new existence.
        8. This new existence was created by God Himself in the righteousness and holiness of truth.
      2. Paul emphasized the same understanding to the congregation at Colossae in Colossians 3:5-10.
        Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Do not use your bodies for immoral sexual purposes, or evil desires, or greed.
        2. You responded to God's love; these things invite God's wrath.
        3. That is the kind of life you used to live, but you don't live that life anymore.
        4. Nor do you let anger, wrath, malice, abusive talking, or lying be a part of your new existence.
        5. Those things were part of the old self that died.
        6. You put on the new self fashioned in the image of Christ who has created you again.
    4. I want you to notice something plainly emphasized in each of these scriptures.
      1. We do not use our bodies for ungodly purposes, and we do not live our lives in ungodly ways because we have been recreated on the inside.
      2. Both scriptures stress the fact that Christians are a spiritual creation of God.
      3. This creation makes us a new self.
      4. We behave differently and live a different life because we changed on the inside.
      5. God recreated the inside, and the outside makes that new creation obvious.

  2. As Christians, we have long stressed the way things look.
    1. We place an enormous emphasis on what we do with our bodies.
      1. We stressed restrictions on how we dress.
      2. We stressed restrictions on where we go.
      3. We stressed activities that Christians should avoid.
      4. One of our big questions is, "How will this look to other people?"
    2. It is legitimate to emphasize that a Christian must be concerned about how he or she uses the body.
      1. Both the Ephesians' scripture and the Colossians' scripture stressed that our bodies and our lives are not to be used for evil purposes.
      2. Paul urged Christians to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1).
      3. Paul also urged Christians to realize that their bodies must not be used for sexual sin because the Christian's body is God's temple (1 Corinthians 6:19,20).
    3. But our outward appearance is meaningless if the outside does not reflect the inside.
      1. When we brought our sins to God for forgiveness and allowed God to place us in Christ, we allowed God to use His creative power in us.
      2. God created us all over again on the inside.
      3. We will spend the rest of our lives learning how to let our outside reflect what God did inside.
    4. What happens when God recreates me on the inside?
      1. A lot of things!
      2. One thing that it brings into existence is a godly conscience.
      3. My conscience constantly monitors my outside to see if it matches my inside.
      4. Will my conscience be your conscience and your conscience be my conscience? No, each conscience reflects that Christian's heart.
      5. Romans 14 deals powerfully with the truth that each conscience is the voice of a Christian heart that belongs to God.
        1. The converted idol worshipper is convinced that he must be a vegetarian (14:2).
        2. The converted Jew is convinced that he must continue to observe Jewish holy days (14:5,6).
        3. Paul said don't judge each other or hold each other in contempt (14:3).
        4. Paul said don't judge the Lord's servant (14:4)
        5. Christ sees the heart and conscience behind every Christian action done to honor God.
    5. Last Sunday morning I shared with you from Ephesians that God destroyed the wall that separated people.
      1. Last Sunday evening at the close of worship Lloyd Summers invited everyone to come stand as a group in this area and sing the last two songs together.
      2. A large group came to stand together, and a large group remained in the pews.
        1. Did God see the hearts and consciences of those who came and stood as a group? Yes.
        2. Did God see the hearts and consciences of those who stayed at the pews? Yes.
        3. Those who sang from the heart to honor God in the group praised God, and those who sang from the heart to honor God at the pew praised God.
        4. Could a godly heart and conscience be in the group and honor God? Yes.
        5. Could a godly heart and conscience stay in the pew and honor God? Yes.
        6. Would a godly heart and conscience pass judgment on "those who did not do what I did?" No.
    6. May I ask a question: when Christians do things to show and express their love for God that are different from the way I do them, do I build walls, or do I reflect God's new creation?

[Prayer: God, help us not resist your inner recreation of us. Help us be new inside out. Help us be yours inside out.]

Caterpillars give me the creeps. Butterflies are beautiful. The primary difference between a caterpillar and butterfly is not what you see, but what you can't see. The incredible change that you see on the outside is the result of the incredible change on the inside.

Carolina Sphinx Moth

Christ died for us to change us on the inside. When God recreates us on the inside, the outside must change.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 8 August 1999

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