Do any of you have a pure gold or silver piece of jewelry? If you do, then you know that it can be quite a bit more expensive than normal gold or silver that has been unrefined. To purify gold or silver, one has to hold it in a fire for a long time until the impurities are burned out. Last week, Michael talked to us about the cost of being a disciple, and today I want to go one step further and talk about the purification process of God and what we can do to help that process along.
Now, I recently heard a story about some women in the States who were having a Bible study in the book of Malachi. When they read Malachi 3:3, which states, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver,” as a description of God, they were confused because they had no idea what was involved in the process of refining silver. One of the ladies volunteered to ask a local silversmith about it before their next study. True to her word, that week she made an appointment with a silversmith to watch him as he worked. She did not tell him why she was there, only that she was interested in seeing how the silver was refined. The man pulled her up a chair beside him at the furnace and placed a piece of raw silver into the fire, which he held there for a long time. While he was watching the silver, he explained the process to the lady. He said, “We have to heat the silver for a long time to remove the impurities. If we don’t leave it in the fire long enough, then it’s useless, but if we leave it in too long, it is destroyed. You have to take it out at just the right time or you will lose the piece you are working on.” After he said this, the lady was silent for a moment and then asked, “Do you have to sit here and watch it the entire time?” He smiled at her and told her that, yes, he had to watch it the whole time. After a bit more thought she asked, “How do you know when its done?” The silversmith pulled the silver, he was working on, from the fire and, showing to the woman, said, “When I can see my own reflection in the silver.” God is working on us constantly, like that silversmith. He is holding us in the fire and burning away the impurities and sin until He sees His reflection in us. We, as the children of God, are worth so much when we are purified, and God has set in His word things that we can do and not do to help that purification along.
I want to start today with Matthew 5:8. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” When something is pure, it means that everything that is not that item (whether that item be gold, silver, or your heart) has been removed and that item is perfect. In Matthew 5:8, in Jesus sermon on the mount, He tells us that the pure in heart will see God. Well, then I guess I’m not going to heaven yet because there are times when I know my heart isn’t exactly being “pure”. I struggle with the temptations of this world that contaminate the heart as much as the next person, whether it be lusting after the opposite sex, being lazy when I know I have work to do, losing patience with my friends and family, etc. My heart is not yet completely pure and none of us here are through with that refining process. You see, God is holding us in that fire and waiting. When we go through struggles and temptations, it is part of the purifying process - the fire that melts away our imperfections. When we are weak, fragile, lean on God and put our trust in Him to do what He says, our hearts are purified a little more and God sees the beginnings of His reflection in us. Each trial that we overcome removes a little more dross and adds a little more God.
Earlier, I mentioned that God has left us some things in His word that can help us with the purification process. Read with me I Timothy 5:1-2. "Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older woman as mothers and younger woman as sisters, with absolute purity." This is one of my favorite verses because it has a very important message: the first step toward purity is remembering we are family in Christ. I know that this might be difficult because we each have different experiences within our own families; but, the main point is that when we see each other as family, we love each other for unselfish reasons. We have to learn to function together as a unit, or we will fall apart. The purification process comes in because with any family there are also trials to test the bonds that hold it together. When we lean on each other in hard times and put our faith in God, Satan loses a little more of his hold on us and God is sitting by the fire smiling because His reflection is becoming clearer. Paul experiences this family process firsthand and writes about this in his second letter to the Corinthians. Please read with me II Corinthians 6:3-13. Paul is describing his refinement process in these verses. I want you to notice that Paul is becoming more like Christ. When God first took that raw metal that was Saul and looked at it, most of the Christians were staying as faraway from him as possible because Saul only wanted their heads. But after Saul sees Jesus and the refinement process begins, now as he is speaking with the Corinthians we see how that purification has been taking place. He desires not their heads but their hearts! God has been purifying Paul’s heart and now Paul is helping the Corinthians to purify theirs. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."This verse, so simple yet so beautiful, is a truth that we miss at times. For when we are pure in heart, others see the beginnings of God in us.
To close I would like to say this: purification is a long process that requires a great amount of patience. God is holding us in the fire until that time when He can see His reflection in us. He wants us to live as a family with pure hearts, not with false motives and false expectations: we all make mistakes. Just like Paul, the more time we spend in the fire, the more like Christ we become.
Finally, Jesus Christ had to suffer and die for us so that we could participate in the purification process. Today, if you want to begin that refining process, if you want to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, then as Peter said to the people at Pentecost, I say to you, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”