IN CELEBRATION OF THE REFORMATION – part two

In the prior post, we noted that this is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, an event that began when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  The debate that arose out of this action culminated in what is now called the Protestant Reformation.

One of the primary teachings of the Reformation is that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Good works do not constitute any basis for our right standing before God; rather, our good works are the result of and the witness to our faith in Christ.  Ephesians 2:8-10.

Justification is a legal term referencing God’s declaration that we are not guilty, that we are forgiven of our sin, and that we have righteousness  provided through Christ’s sacrifice for our sin.  2 Corinthians 5:21.

In other words, the Reformation’s clarion call is that the just shall live by faith alone, and that faith must be in Christ alone.

Once we are justified, through faith in Christ, we are to live a Christ-centered life in thankfulness for all that He has done for us and for the Holy Spirit’s presence within us.  Paul says we are new creatures when we have yielded our lives to Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17.

Elaborating on this statement, Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24 that we are to:

“put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

What would this look like?   Remember the butterfly? 

USED Butterfly close up (C)
At the Butterfly Farm, Cayman Islands

After the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, it not only can fly into the heavens, it must fly to live a healthy, fulfilled life. They must migrate to other locations, ultimately returning to their place of origin.  But we are not talking going around the block; oh no, we are talking long distances!

The flight of the butterflies is the longest known distance insect migration on Earth – and it’s been occurring for thousands of years. Monarchs sense certain topographical features, avoiding both large bodies of water and tall mountains. Instead, they choose cool valley passes between mountains. 

Several migration routes in central southern Canada lead down through the central U.S. Several others start in western North America and merge with central ones. The majority of Monarchs who survive obstacles and predators manage to thread a geographical needle, hitting a 50-mile wide gap of cool river valleys between Eagle Pass, Texas, and Del Rio, Texas, and then wind their way to a dozen specific high mountain peaks in central Mexico where they roost. After resting there for several months, the same generation returns north to Texas and other parts of the southern United States, where the females lay hundreds of eggs.  …  

Of course the question automatically pops into your head – How does the butterfly know where to go when they migrate such a long distance and end the trip on a mountain top to which they have never been.  Scientists believe that they now have an answer:

[Scientists] felt confident that they could prove that it was a combination of brain signals sent from the Monarch’s complex compound eyes and antennae that allowed them to track the position of the sun and the time of day (“like an internal GPS”) to navigate during their migration.

Monarchs have specialized body parts to help it navigate and migrate long distances. They orient themselves both in longitude and latitude, a unique ability, and can travel up to a mile high.

To conserve energy, Monarchs ride along prevailing winds and catch rising thermal waves, helping them travel great distances in a single day. They hide from the rain and will die if exposed to freezing temperatures and ice storms

[Information from http://www.flightofthebutterflies.com/epic-migrations]

Notice that? The butterfly has been given specialized body part to enable it to migrate such long distances.  And, the butterfly is so strong that it can travel hundreds of miles, even going a mile high, but rain or ice will kill it.

Likewise, once we emerge from the stranglehold of sin through faith in Christ, we too have been given equipment to enable us to walk the pilgrim passageway in strength and confidence.  Read Ephesians 6 to identify all the armor available to us.  We are strong in the Lord, but we are not impervious to peril.  Sin can attack and derail our efforts.  We must persevere and keep looking to our Lord as we live in this world. 

Putting off the old sinful self is hard – it takes struggle and dedication to Christ to accomplish it, even for a moment.  But God’s grace and mercy is always sufficient for our struggle because it is His plan to renew us in the likeness of His Son, our Lord.

Praise God that 500 years ago men were ready to stand up for the Gospel so we would learn that salvation comes through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Thank you, Father, for the provision and protection of your Word and for the work of Martin Luther and other saints of the church who suffered greatly for their proclamation that justification is a matter of faith in Christ alone.  And beautiful butterfly, a daily illustration that difficulties are for a time, and that the end result is worth the struggle as we are growing in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

IN CELEBRATION OF THE REFORMATION – part one

Sometimes important dates come and fly past us and we don’t even recognize that they are gone. You know, the anniversary that passes unnoticed until someone (wife?) looks at the calendar!

I dare say that the anniversary of the Reformation is not something that many in our society think about on a day-to-day basis. 

But whether we think about it or not, this year is an important one in the life of the Christian Church.  It is the 500th anniversary of the day in October, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the church in the German town of Wittenberg.  This act, so small and seemingly insignificant, lit the fuse that turned into the flame of the Protestant Reformation. And, that flame burns even today, 500 years later.

In thinking about transformation and reformation, one cannot help consider the example of the butterfly.  Its change from a caterpillar into the butterfly, a creature more beautiful and powerful, symbolizes the soul, reincarnation, and resurrection.

Beautiful butterfly
Beautiful butterfly found in Butterfly Farm in the Cayman Islands.

Butterflies are a type of insect.  They belong to the order of insects called Lepidoptera, which means “scaly wings”.  The butterfly’s life cycle is made up of four stages, each of which are unique and very different from each other.  This process is called metamorphosis which means “change of form.”  First, the butterfly starts as an egg.  After about a week, the egg hatches and a tiny caterpillar emerges. 

After 2 to 4 weeks, the full-grown caterpillar transforms itself into a chrysalis/ or pupa.  It hangs from a tree or bush, appearing to be doing nothing, but inside the caterpillar’s body becomes the adult structure of the butterfly.  This stage takes 10 to 15 days.

Then, the former caterpillar emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

Butterfly close up (C)
Butterfly having some strawberry lunch

But that emergence did not come easily … the insect has to struggle inside the cocoon, pushing against the sides before ultimately breaking through into the sunlight.  It is the struggle to emerge that strengthens the insect’s wings so that it will fly. 

In other words, it is in the struggle itself that strength is born!

So, think about your life.  When did you have a trial, a struggle?  Have you seen strength come from the struggle?

The writer of Hebrews talks about struggles during persecution of believers:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.

Hebrews 10:32-33 ESV. 

Then there are the struggles that come from sin:

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Hebrews 12:3-4 ESV

In light of what Jesus did for us, we must persevere and not grow weary during our own struggle against sin.  We know that the struggles we have are strengthening us in our Christian life and that we can be strong in the Lord through the Grace that God grants liberally and freely to those who call on His Name.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

2 Corinthians 9:8-9 ESV

Consider the butterfly and the struggle that it had to endure before it could soar over the fields.  Now, thank the Lord for giving you the ability to soar in spirit to your Heavenly Father, now and for all eternity.

Father, thank You for granting us salvation through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  I praise Your Name for putting me under the protection of the Good Shepherd.  Thank You, too, for the struggles that have come which serve to strengthen me and which allow me to grow through Your Grace and Mercy.

 

THE BUTTERFLY AND THE REFORMATION

THE BUTTERFLY AND THE REFORMATION

A number of years ago, we visited the Butterfly Farm on Grand Cayman Island as an excursion from our cruise ship.  I saw the name “Butterfly Farm” and, being the literalist, saw long rows of planted butterflies.  At first I thought it was a joke, but finding out that it was a legitimate, informative place, we decided to go on the tour.

It was a wonderful time and we learned a great deal about these small animals.  Hurricane Ivan had passed across the island, causing severe destruction.  As we learned during our tour, one of the significant casualties was the butterfly population.  Essentially, the butterflies were blown out to sea by the force of the hurricane.  While this might not seem like a big deal at first, it is huge inasmuch as butterflies pollinate plants, just as bees do; therefore, we/humans need butterflies for food propagation.

Beautiful butterfly
Beautiful butterfly

Therefore, a “butterfly farm” was established to repopulate the butterflies on the island.  The “building” was essentially a mesh wall with a mesh roof, into which were planted shrubs, flowers, trees and grasses that would provide the food and shelter.  Butterflies were brought in from other areas of the world and placed in this protected environment.  When they were ready and in sufficient numbers, the roof would come off and they could be released into the area.

Butterflies - getting to know you!
Butterflies – getting to know you!

Of course, the butterflies were more than willing to work toward repopulation.  While we were there we saw these two butterflies doing their part to assist in the growth of the island’s butterfly community.  The pictures in this post were taken by my husband, but most of the scientific information that is included came from the website for The Butterfly Farm on St. Maartin, found at: http://www.thebutterflyfarm.com.

Butterflies are a type of insect.  They belong to the order of insects called Lepidoptera, which means “scaly wings”.  The butterfly’s life cycle is made up of four stages, each of which are unique and very different from each other.  This process is called metamorphosis which means “change of form.”  First, the butterfly starts as an egg.  After about a week, the egg hatches and a tiny caterpillar emerges.  The caterpillar eats and gets bigger and bigger, ultimately shedding its skin 4 to 6 times.   Here is a picture of a leaf at the Butterfly Farm on which a caterpillar has attached itself.

Caterpillar on a leaf
Caterpillar on a leaf

After 2 to 4 weeks, the caterpillar will be full grown and it then transforms itself into a chrysalis/ or pupa.  It hangs from a tree or bush, appearing to be doing nothing, but inside the caterpillar’s body becomes the adult structure of the butterfly.  This stage takes 10 to 15 days.

Then, the former caterpillar emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

Butterfly - stained glass
Butterfly – stained glass

But that emergence did not come easily … the insect has to struggle inside the cocoon, pushing against the sides before ultimately breaking through into the sunlight.

Butterfly having some strawberry lunch
Butterfly having some strawberry lunch

If the cocoon is cut so that the butterfly can emerge without struggle, the butterfly is doomed to live on land, unable to fly.  Getting out of the cocoon the easy way costs the butterfly the opportunity to soar.  It is the struggle to escape the cocoon that allows its wings to strengthen so that, after the struggle, flight is possible.

In other words, it is in the struggle itself that strength is born.

This week is Reformation Week – a time of remembering October 31, 1517, the day that Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  The debate that arose out of this action culminated in what is now called the Protestant Reformation.

One of the primary teachings of the Reformation is that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Good works do not constitute any basis for our right standing before God; rather, our good works are the result of and the witness to our faith in Christ.  Ephesians 2:8-10.

Justification, God’s declaration that we are not guilty, that we are forgiven of our sin, and that we have righteousness in His sight comes to us because through our faith alone the Father imputes to us, or reckons to our account, the perfect righteousness of Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:21.

In other words, the Reformation’s call is that the just shall live by faith alone, in Christ alone.

Being justified, however, is not the end of the question.  There is a responsibility to live a Christ-centered life when we are justified by His sacrifice.  Paul says we are new creatures when we have yielded our lives to Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17.

Elaborating on this statement, Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24 that we are to:

“put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Even though we may not like hearing the message, we too are to put off the old self.  This is a struggle, but we need to recognize that it is in the struggle that we are strengthened. We may lose some of the battles but, even if we lose the round, at the end of the day we are stronger than we were before the struggle began.

I don’t know if I agree with the “No pain – No gain” mantra, but I do know that it has been through the painful times of life that I have gained new understanding of God’s grace, His mercy, His guidance and His love.

So, how do I view difficult times?   How do you?

Remember the butterfly.  Before the caterpillar can become the beautiful butterfly it is destined to be, it must go through all the stages and struggles.  Only then will it emerge as the new creature that can fly far above the ground to which it formerly was attached.

Then, praise God that He is with us, in both difficult and easy times.  Praise Him that his grace and mercy is always sufficient for our struggles as we seek to put the old self away so that we can be renewed in the likeness of our Lord. When struggles come, praise the Lord that the Holy Spirit is present with us to give us strength and clarity of mind and soul as we resist temptation and stand strong in the struggle. Praise Him too that so many years ago men were ready to stand up for the Gospel and to remind us that salvation comes through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Thank you, Father, for the provision and protection of your Word and for the work of Martin Luther and other saints of the church who suffered greatly for their proclamation that justification is a matter of faith in Christ alone, and for the resulting Reformation.  Thank you too for the times when I have struggled, even when I have lost my way; for during those times, you gently guided me back to you and the struggle itself strengthened me for the rest of the journey.  Thank you for the beautiful butterfly, who daily illustrates the concept that difficulties are for a time, that there are struggles and hardships, but that the end result is worth the struggle as we grow in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ through your grace and mercy.