Last year, my daughters discovered a unique white wooly caterpillar on our front porch. We never could identify it; the closest we came was some kind of tropical rainforest caterpillar. South Louisiana is hot, but it isn’t quite tropical rainforest. Anyway, we put it in a jar with a twig and some leaves and watched it spin its silky cocoon. A truly amazing phenomenon! This was the first time we’d ever done anything like this, so we were totally in the dark as to what processes would take place, what, if anything, it would need, what amount of time it would take, etc. We knew absolutely nothing! We watched and watched while the caterpillar stayed in the cocoon and shriveled to what appeared to be nothingness. Long weeks passed and still there were no signs of life; quite the opposite indeed—it looked positively dead. One day as we were cleaning house, I decided that was the day the experiment would be thrown out. I grabbed the jar and to my great surprise, there was a white moth! By no stretch of the imagination could I have dreamed that anything living would come from that cocoon that looked shriveled and totally incapable of holding life. With the video camera rolling, we released it from its prison jar and rejoiced at its freedom.
This caterpillar/moth made me think about the transformation we as Christians are told happens to us. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” As I said, the cocoon with the moth in it, shriveled and looked flat and dead, like nothing alive could be within. Yet, afterward, the new creation came out. I thought about how I need to become dead to self for Christ’s life to be lived through me. I need self to appear dead, shriveled, nothing in order to allow the life of Christ to come forth. Now, the scripture states this death as a fact, as something that has already happened. Romans 6:3-9 says, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with (rendered inoperative), that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.” I think the problem comes when I don’t reckon it as something already done. Just as I had to acknowledge the fact that Jesus died to saved me before His salvation became a reality in my life, I have to acknowledge the fact that I died with Him, was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with. In Back to the Cross, Watchman Nee writes, “From these verses (and others could be cited), we gather that in God’s eyes, believers were crucified with Christ. We may not know this fact, and so we try to crucify ourselves. Daily we try, but daily we fail to be crucified, not knowing that we are already dead in Christ. What we need to do is not to crucify ourselves but rather to use faith to draw upon His death, reckoning His death as our death…This reckoning is the work of faith and not a looking at ourselves as dead, for this we could not do. We may look from dawn to dusk, but are we able to see ourselves as really dead? The more we look, the more alive we are: how we are prone to sin, we even love to sin. Only by ‘reckoning’ in faith that we are dead in Christ—that His death is our death—do we come to the experience of co-death with Christ.” He goes on to say, “Whatever God has done is perfect and complete. His way with mankind is to accomplish all the works for men and ask them to draw upon all of His work with faith, without resorting to any human method. For He now treats men with grace, and therefore it does not require men’s work (Romans 4:4 “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace by as debt.”).”