PURSUING THE ETERNAL WORD
The Bible teaching ministry of John Lifflander

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THE METAMORPHOSIS

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Metamorphosis:

"a: change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means

b: a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances"

- Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary

Metamorphosis is a Greek word which basically means "to transform." In nature, we find a variety of rocks that are metamorphic, because they were changed by pressure and heat in the earth. The most beautiful precious gems were transformed in this manner. They began as one type of substance, and became something quite different. Diamonds come from an incredibly opposite extreme, carbon, which is also graphite, the loose black powder used in industry. When a diamond is formed in the earth, each carbon atom is linked to four equidistant atoms, and its close-knit, dense, and strongly bonded crystal structure makes it ultra-hard. It goes from being one of the softest minerals to becoming the hardest mineral because of a change in its atomic structure – a basic change of the quintessence of its substance. This is not an outward glaze, or simply a change in form, as one might conduce from freezing or heating, but rather a permutation that is fundamental.

We also see metamorphosis in the animal kingdom – the most common example of which is the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. There is no question which one is more beautiful, nor could these two insects be much more dissimilar. The transformation is a miracle of nature.

Great Writers Undergo a Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka, the famous German author, wrote a story called "The Metamorphosis," in which a man suddenly becomes a large cockroach. Sadly, if we die without Christ, this transformation may be a spiritual analogy for what we will become. Not that we will undergo a backward metamorphosis, but rather, we will simply find out what we actually are without God's goodness and forgiveness. The physical appearance of a roach is aptly symbolic of our true wretchedness, which we rarely perceive in this current world. However, when man is separated from God in eternity, the goodness he thinks is his own will quickly evaporate.

C. S. Lewis experienced his metamorphosis when, as an Oxford professor, he read the Bible with the sole reason of discrediting it. Instead he found the ultimate truth of the universe and he became a Christian. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian intellectual imprisoned for dissenting against the brutal Soviet regime, found his metamorphosis on the verge of death in a prison camp. A Jewish doctor who was also a prisoner named Boris Nikolayevich Kornfeld met a sick Solzhenitsyn in the prison hospital. Dr. Kornfeld had recently become a Christian, and he believed that Solzhenitsyn, due to his ill health, would not survive the night. So Dr. Kornfeld shared the words of life with him. That night, however, it was Dr. Kornfeld who died instead of Solzhenitsyn. Kornfeld was murdered, but the words he spoke would not leave Solzhenitsyn's mind.

Another author who grasped the concept of a metamorphosis was Oscar Wilde. Wilde is studied today as one of the world's wittiest and most clever writers. Going through customs on a visit from England to the United States, he was asked if he had anything to declare. "I have nothing but my genius to declare," he answered whimsically. Wilde is also probably the most famous homosexual in recent history, and is lauded as such in many college literary classes. However, what most students are not taught about Wilde is that he had a personal, spiritual metamorphosis in which he denounced his unnatural lifestyle and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Before this happened, however, Wilde wrote an interesting story entitled "The Portrait of Dorian Gray." We see a perception of judgment in this story, because as Dorian continues to sin, he remains young and handsome, but a portrait he has in his attic becomes uglier and more decrepit with each of his transgressions.

Might we not consider that our own spirits, as we sin against God, grow uglier and more wretched and decayed, even if our physical bodies do not reveal it? We may hide from the portrait in the attic, but it is still decaying and deteriorating in proportion to our sins if they have not been forgiven by Jesus Christ.

Perhaps this subliminally motivated Wilde as he wrote this story. Maybe he was under conviction by the Holy Spirit as he wove this tale in which judgment manifests itself upon Dorian in a striking and symbolic manner. For the ramifications of Dorian's sin are revealed to him personally and secretly in this attic portrait. He is enlightened as to the damage that is accruing to his account, even though it is not evident to those around him.

It may be that God was dealing with Wilde through this writing, but he ignored the warning and went on in his sinful lifestyle. In any event, soon overt judgment befell Wilde around 1895. It happened within 100 days of his finishing "The Importance of Being Earnest," considered to be one of the wittiest plays in the English language. Wilde had engaged in a homosexual relationship with the son of the Marquess of Queensbury (known for the boxing rules he invented). When confronted with the truth, Wilde sued Queensbury for slander, but lost the trial and ended up in prison himself.

Let us consider the utter blindness of Wilde against Divine justice. In spite of the manifestation of God's judgment portrayed in the Dorian Gray story, Wilde evidently believed he could attempt to criminally indict a man for lying when he was, in fact, telling the absolute truth! Had he never pressed the point and charged Queensbury, perhaps he would never have found himself under punishment in this world. But in God's providence, Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labor in Reading Gaol (Jail). In that miserable place, there were no color televisions, basketball courts, or "prisoners’ rights." In fact, it was so bad that Queensbury himself asked for an early release for Wilde, once he heard how poorly Wilde was holding up physically. Wilde describes this dreadful place in his famous poem, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" :

The brackish water that we drink
Creeps with a loathsome slime,
And the bitter bread they weigh in scales
Is full of chalk and lime,
And Sleep will not lie down, but walks
Wild-eyed and cries to Time.

And,

"For they starve the little frightened child
Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
And gibe the old and grey,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say."

And,

"Each narrow cell in which we dwell
Is foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death
Chokes up each grated screen"

Wilde began to have a revelation of the Truth during his punishment. That revelation always begins with an understanding of one's own sin, and so it did with Wilde, also, for he acknowledges it in the following verses:

And we forgot the bitter lot
That waits for fool and knave,

And,

And the iron gin that waits for Sin
Had caught us in its snare.

And,

And once, or twice, to throw the dice
Is a gentlemanly game,
But he does not win who plays with Sin
In the secret House of Shame."

Noting the need he had for forgiveness, Wilde goes on to preach the Gospel through this ballad. Men who were once hardened, such as himself, are now praying to God:

"The Warders with their shoes of felt
Crept by each padlocked door,
And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,
Grey figures on the floor,
And wondered why men knelt to pray
Who never prayed before."

In Wilde's play, The Importance of Being Earnest, much of the comedy revolves around the protagonist seeking to change his identity in unsavory parts of town where he indulges in sin. Perhaps the next stanza is an allusion to this, where we read "lives more lives than one."

And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats,
None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
More deaths than one must die.

For who can say by what strange way,
Christ brings his will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore
Bloomed in the great Pope's sight?

Wilde also discerned that the Chaplain was a religious hypocrite, who had missed the truth of Jesus and had no understanding of grace and forgiveness of sin:

"So never will wine-red rose or white,
Petal by petal, fall
On that stretch of mud and sand that lies
By the hideous prison-wall,
To tell the men who tramp the yard
That God's Son died for all.

"The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
By his dishonoured grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
Whom Christ came down to save."

Next he declares the goodness of God, in spite of his current situation:

"And some men curse, and some men weep,
And some men make no moan:
But God's eternal Laws are kind
And break the heart of stone."

Wilde also realizes that it takes a broken heart – broken over one's own sin as well as the sin of the world, to predispose a person to accept Jesus as his or her Savior:

"And every human heart that breaks,
In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean leper's house
With the scent of costliest nard."

Finally he declares the truth that God offers a pardon through the death of Christ, and that this is the only way that one might be cleansed from sin:

"Ah! happy they whose hearts can break
And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
May Lord Christ enter in?

"…And a broken and a contrite heart
The Lord will not despise."

Wilde also realized the efficacy of the Blood of Christ. In Hebrews 9:22 we read: "And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission." Wilde writes, in accordance with this Scripture:

"For only blood can wipe out blood,
And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain
Became Christ's snow-white seal."

And Such Were Some of You

In the Corinthian church there were homosexuals who had been cleansed and saved. Paul tells us clearly:

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." 1Corinthians 6:9-11 (NKJV)

How do we extricate ourselves from these sins? Is it by our own efforts? An old song from the sixties has the lyrics, "I'm looking for a miracle in my life." Is such a thing possible? Yes, most certainly, and the first step is that we must become a new creation in Christ. But even then the struggle may continue. Even in the church, many saved people feel overwhelmed by desires that are unholy. When a person is made that new creation Christ promises, the spirit is renewed, and a metamorphosis occurs, supernaturally. That is the beginning. Then, combined with the strength that Christ gives us, we shed the sin that so easily entangled us.

Lord Knows I Can Change

"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7 (NKJV)

To reiterate, with the advent of salvation, one still has the flesh to deal with. There is sometimes temptation to continue or go back to an old lifestyle, and some are amazed that these temptations continue. For some reason many think it should be easier. They have not been taught that although Jesus sets us free, there will be much pressure from the enemy to drag us back into our old sins. Homosexuals get saved, but then they must battle desires that are unholy. They have the power of God in their lives, but they must make an effort to resist the devil, as well. We have promises, but we do not inherit them simply because we are saved. In Hebrews 6:12 we read, "…imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."

There is no question we will get those promises, but it takes faith and patience. Many times it also takes support. When people undergo the metamorphosis, their spirit has been renewed and they know it. They now have a new view of life and a relationship with God. However, the battle looms. There is no question of victory if they continue in Christ, but the relationship must be maintained. Every job requires some work, and the Christian life does, also. The Christian who does not read his or her Bible daily, pray daily, and repent daily, will not prosper. The Christian who claims to be a lone ranger and forsakes assembling together will generally fail. Those who ignore James 5:16 (Confess your trespasses to one another…) will find themselves hardened to the voice of the Holy Spirit, because they were not humble enough to avail themselves of help in the Body of Christ.

Oscar Wilde experienced the metamorphosis in a horrendous prison. Even as pressure and heat changes rock, the pressure he found himself in drove him to Christ – and he proved that we can all change. From mocking and smug he became humble and repentant, and he found deliverance from his sin. Released from prison, as the world's most famous homosexual, most likely he was sorely tempted to revert to his former ways. But he continued declaring the truth of Christ instead. His health wracked from prison, he died a few years later at the age of 46. A trophy of God's grace, his record proves to others that no matter how deeply imbedded the sin may be or how strong the perversion, God's mighty power to change human lives is a real and steadfast truth. Do you want out? Do you hate your sin, whatever it may be? Jesus Christ is the answer.

Written By John Lifflander
November 18, 2001


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