Not long ago I watched a documentary on the transformation that takes place inside a cocoon. With less than scientific language, let me explain it: a caterpillar is enveloped by a cocoon. While in that state the caterpillar literally dissolves into a pile of goo, then miraculously is rebuilt into a lifeform utterly different from what it was. It goes in as an ugly little worm and comes out a beautiful flying butterfly. The scientist’s explanation was longer, but not clearer. Quite simply, they don’t know how the transformation takes place.
When a person comes to saving faith in Christ a similar transformation takes place. We enter Christ as an ugly, self-centered sinner, and come out as a loving, sacrificial servant to God. This is not mere theory. In Christ we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Our text is Romans 12:1-2, 9-18, and Paul is appealing to that reality to encourage the church to live as a new creation.
As a butterfly emerges from its cocoon, it is natural for it to spread its wings and fly. Likewise, believers can now experience a whole new way of life. In order for a believer to live out of their new nature in Christ, however, they must learn to present their life to God as a sacrificial offering (v. 1). This means that they can now reorient their life around Christ. In our fallen state, a sinner is like a caterpillar. It may look to the sky and dream of flying, but as long as it stays a little worm, it will never happen. Once a person is saved, however, they are no longer that little worm. Living for God is now not only within their reach, but since they have experienced the transforming power of Christ, it is expected that they spread their wings and fly.
Paul lists several areas of life where transformation should be seen. Because of our new nature we can now think differently (v. 2). As a result, we can now learn and live out of the will of God. Because salvation conforms us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), we can love as God loves, without hypocrisy and self-serving (v. 9). We are now enabled to care for and honor others because we have died to self (v. 10). We can energetically, joyfully, and enthusiastically serve God, because in our new nature serving God is our greatest joy (v. 11). We can endure suffering and persecution, because eternal life is our lot (v. 12). We can pray without ceasing, because we now know God as our Farther (v. 12). We can help those in need, because Christ has helped us with our greatest need (13). And we can even bless those who injure us, because that is how Christ responded to His enemies (v. 14). There is more. Much more.
The life transformed by the power of Christ through the gospel is utterly different than it was before Christ. We are transformed from a little worm into a beautiful flying wonder. All we have to do is spread our wings. Our new nature will take over and the rest will come naturally. Sure, we will stumble and do things imperfectly at first. But one day our flying will come as effortlessly as walking does today (cf. Phil. 1:6).
Dear believer, God has given you wings. Put them to good use, and let’s show the world the beauty of a life transformed by Christ.