Have you ever seen a reptile molting off a layer of skin? It’s pretty creepy. Remolting! (pun) Many people tend to find reptiles creepy to begin with. Seeing one trying to slough off a skin suit is that much creepier. Many animals shed their skin in some way, even humans. Ever wonder where dust comes from? Wonder no longer (gross!).
There are a couple of things that are very intriguing to me about reptiles and molting.
- Some of them, like many snakes, peel off a whole layer all at once so that what they leave behind is basically a shell of what they were before.
- The reptiles do this is because they outgrow their old skin. Reptiles never stop growing. How big will an alligator get? As old as it gets. This means that they are constantly shedding their old selves.
Think about this for a moment. As long as the reptile is healthy and growing, it will outgrow its skin and need to shed it so that it can live in its new skin, until it outgrows that, repeat, until it dies.
There is a profound Biblical truth here!
Growth and Maturity
Throughout the New Testament we are commanded to grow and to mature.
- Jesus frequently uses the illustration of a vine or tree that grows and produces fruit. Luke 8 for example.
- Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. 2 Peter 3:18
- Being equipped for the work of ministry, no longer as children, growing up in all thing in Jesus. Ephesians 4:11-16
- Growing as babies who start out on the milk of God’s word, 1 Peter 2:2.
- Paul and the author of Hebrews chastise their audiences for not being more mature than they are, still on milk when they should be on solid food. 1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:12.
This growth and maturity is never for the benefit of the individual exclusively. It’s always for the benefit of the whole Church of which the individual is a part. Those who have grown, the older, more mature, have a responsibility to teach the younger. To give them a good example, and to grow in it. We won’t have any good examples unless people grow up. Hm.
Molting The Old Man
This is what I love about this illustration. While it isn’t used in the New Testament this way, Paul uses one Greek word (Strong’s G0695) in such a way that I think it could be used to describe the process of a reptile molting off its old skin.
- Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12
- Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lustsâ€¦ Ephesians 4:22
- Putting away lying. Ephesians 4:25
- Put off all of these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, out of your mouth. Colossians 3:8 (see also James 1:21, 1 Peter 2:1)
- Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Growth Requires Molting
Do you see the parallel? In order to grow, in order to change from what we were before Jesus, we must cast off, put off, lay aside, slough off, the old man and his restrictive, dead ways! I love this!
In fact, way back in 1998 when I became a Youth Pastor and had my own office for the first time, one of the posters I bought very literally illustrated this truth. I still have the poster, but here is a picture of the statue that’s on the poster. The caption on the poster is 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Doesn’t the picture of a reptile rubbing up against stuff so as to peel off the old layer a great and graphic example of what it looks like to shed the old man? There is friction involved and required to get rid of that old stuff. This is why many Christians don’t get excited, pursue, or are even taught like this.
Did you catch in the video linked above that the reptile produces a layer of oil to separate the old from the new? In scripture, oil is used as a type or model of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Spirit in our lives is required to peel off and separate us from the old man!
I also find it very interesting that the serpent in scripture is used as a symbol for sin. In a very real way, as we shed the old man we are shedding the power of sin in our lives through the power of the Spirit and the environment in which God has us.
You aren’t done until you’re done
As we see in scripture, and in nature, if something isn’t growing, it’s dying. I rather think that, like reptiles, to have a healthy relationship with Jesus means to be growing in Him and for Him as long as we are alive. Discipleship under Jesus is a never evening process. You’re done when you’ve “shuffled off this mortal coil” for good. (Hamlet, Acts 3, Scene 1) Until then, knowing that it’s a lifelong process actually makes it a bit easier. Here are some choices to chew on to get you going in the right direction.
Choices to chew on
- Are you growing? What has changed about you since you intentionally started following Jesus?
- Have you grown to a point where you can mentor others? If not, why not? If yes, are you doing it? How’s that going? If not, why not?
- What are examples of your old self that you have shed?
- How have you experienced friction in putting off the old man? Was it worth it?
- How has the Holy Spirit helped you separate the old from the new?
If you want to grow, you need to shed the old and put on the new. If all of this seems like a new idea to you, I’d love to help you get going in the right direction. Post a comment on the blog, or connect with me on social media.