There is very strong evidence for believing in a God who cares about the world He has created.
What if, after looking at all this evidence, we are convinced about the truth of the gospel message? What then?
From Caterpillars to Butterflies
Some years ago, our eldest daughter was given a butterfly kit for her birthday. The transformation that a caterpillar undergoes to become a butterfly is truly remarkable. Caterpillars are beautiful creatures in their own way, but compared to the beauty, elegance and grace of a butterfly, they pale into insignificance!
The apostle Paul uses this analogy to describe believers in Jesus:
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).
The New Testament was originally written in Greek and the word transformed here in Greek is metamorphoo from where we get our English word metamorphosis, meaning a fundamental, visible and relatively quick change. Paul is effectively saying we should be changing from caterpillars to butterflies! We should not just be copying what everyone else is doing (what Paul describes as ‘the world’) but rather transforming our minds to follow the example of Jesus, who followed God’s will perfectly.
From Slavery to Freedom
Let’s look at another analogy that Paul uses in Romans:
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:16).
Paul describes us as ‘slaves’ to sin. The Bible defines sin as choosing to follow our own desires, rather God’s values. Our human nature can get the better of us and we do things that are against God’s ways and are hurtful to others. When we allow this to happen, sin becomes our master. Paul is very clear about the outcome of making sin our master – it leads to death.
This seems pretty bleak! Yet he continues:
God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you become slaves of righteousness (v17–18).
Belief in God can transform us and set us free from sin. The verse above sounds as like swapping one form of slavery for another!
But Paul concludes:
Now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life (v22).
This ‘slavery’ will lead to everlasting life in God’s kingdom (dealt with regularly in Glad Tidings). It’s actually a slavery that leads to freedom! So how do we make this change?
Baptism is a Fresh Start
Jesus gives us the answer:
He who believes and is baptized will be saved… (Mark 16:16).
Baptism is a simple act with a powerful meaning. When an adult is convinced of the gospel message, they willingly choose to be baptised, as Jesus commanded. This involves being fully immersed in water and then rising immediately up again, symbolising three things:
The washing away of their sins
Their belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus – going down into the water and rising again to a new life
A willingness to humbly follow God’s will and commit to a new way of life
Once a person has been baptised, they start this new life. Paul phrases it beautifully for us in another of his letters:
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
It’s Not Easy!
So, through baptism, we can transform from caterpillars to butterflies, from slaves of sin to willing servants of God.
Becoming a follower of Jesus does not happen overnight. Although baptism is an essential step, it’s only the beginning. The act of baptism has no mystical or spiritual power.
Sin will keep trying to regain control over us and we must constantly battle against it. Paul describes this for us from his own personal experience: Glad Tidings | 15
For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice (Romans 7:19).
However hard we try, we will always struggle with our natural sinful, selfish tendencies.
God understands this and will forgive us when we ask Him to. We have to keep going – even if we have a bad day – and try better the next day.
A New Mind – Growing Fruit!
What does this new life look like? How can we become more like Jesus?
One of our favourite Bible passages is found in Galatians 5, and we have personally found this very helpful. Paul lists qualities that God’s servants try to develop.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).
Jesus showed true self-sacrificing love by dying for our sins. We should respond to this amazing act by showing love to others.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34).
Jesus looked to the future joy of God’s kingdom to keep him going through the darkest hours of his life. This should inspire us to do the same.
[Jesus] for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
Belief in Jesus can help us stay calm in difficult situations and be at peace with whatever God has in store for us. Jesus said:
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).
Otherwise known as patience! We should not be known for our quick tempers or for speaking without thinking but rather for our patience with others as well as in our waiting for Jesus to return.
When you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God (1 Peter 2:20).
Our kindness should be motivated by a desire to show to others the kindness Jesus has shown to us.
Even when he was in mortal pain on the cross, he was thinking of others and asked that his mother was looked after by one of his disciples, John.
Kindness also involves sincerely forgiving those who have wronged us.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).
We should be known for our goodness towards others, motivated by our love for God and not by a desire for thanks or praise. It is important in our speech too:
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good (Ephesians 4:29).
This means being faithful to the promises we have made to God and to others. Our decisions in life should reflect our belief that God exists, He is in control and can bring us to His kingdom.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5–6).
This is not about physical gentleness, which goes without saying. The word carries the idea of humility.
We should not be proud or boastful, nor should we look for revenge but always trying to see the best in people.
A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all (2 Timothy 2:24).
This begins in the mind. Sin will always be there and we must try to control it. This is especially true in difficult situations when our resolve is severely tested, and we may say or do things we later regret.
When Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4), he overcame each temptation with a Bible truth.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5).
The Final Transformation
We began by looking at the dramatic change from caterpillar to butterfly. Our change, through baptism, is even more remarkable. Starting a new life and becoming like Jesus takes time and effort.
Paul calls the 9 characteristics we looked at ‘the fruit of the Spirit’, in other words, these are things that should be growing and developing in our lives.
Yes, it will be hard but one day our natures will be truly transformed in God’s kingdom and we will be free of sin forever!
We also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body (Philippians 3:20–21)
Ben and Becky Collard