June 12, 2012

Refiner’s fire produces eternal results

According to sources, gold must undergo testing before it is approved. Several methods are used either to determine the quantity of gold in a sample, or its purity, or both. These methods involve fire and chemical solutions to remove all other base metals. Then the gold is compared to a preset standard that determines its value. This last step requires the opinion of a certified and unbiased third party. 
Actually, this classic procedure is being replaced by non-destructive hand held x-ray technology. A booth in a Florida shopping mall offered such a process to anyone who wanted to know the metal content of their jewelry. I had my ring scanned to see if it actually had the gold quantity etched on the inside. The technician held it under a small machine and a gauge approved the gold to be 18 carets as claimed.

The Bible uses a term from this process to describe how I also must be tested. Like precious metal, God wants to separate the pure life of Christ that He put in me from the base products that are part of my sin nature. He uses various ways to remove the dross. Sometimes it is a refiner’s fire, and sometimes the piercing ability of His written Word that x-rays and exposes my sinfulness. 

In this verse, the reference to being “one approved” uses a word that came from this process of testing and approving assayed minerals.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
God has at least two positive results in mind for His testing processes. Besides wanting to purify my life and make it shine for Him, He wants me to have no need of being ashamed. That word implies blameless innocence. Instead of deserving reproof or rebuke, God wants me to be blameworthy, without any feelings of shame or embarrassment about my life. 

Shame usually focuses on the sense of being responsibility for my foolish, improper, or immoral actions, but this sense of disgrace can happen without guilt too. That is, I can be humiliated by how someone treats me, or ashamed of the actions of someone else. God wants me to be without any of that.

As I researched the meanings of “ashamed,” I was surprised that the antonym is pride. This morning, this discovery is a small assay. That is, God reveals that anytime I experience feelings of shame or embarrassment, I might need to deal with a prideful attitude. 

This process of being tested and approved by God is needed. He uses it to remove the stuff from my life that makes me feel shame or guilt before Him. I know from this and other passages that He does not want me to feel humiliated by others either. If there is no reason for shame, then I can have confidence. This is not because I am perfect, but because Christ lives in me and makes Himself known to others through me. My purity is about His purity — it becomes visible when my dross is refined and skimmed from me.

The second result of this assay process is to give me the ability to rightly handle His Word. There is a connection. If my heart is not right, I cannot perceive properly and God will seem different to me than He actually is. David wrote…
With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. (Psalm 18:25–26)
Paul echoed something similar: To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. (Titus 1:15)

This means that if my life is not cleansed from its base elements, then I cannot see or experience purity. I will not see the mercy and purity of God either, and no one will see the mercy and purity of Jesus Christ who lives in me. Beyond that, I will not be able to “rightly handle” the Word of God for I cannot see it rightly. This is about correct interpretation for my own life and correct interpretation as I share it with others. Going through the assay process is vital if I want to live the new life God gave me.

Lord, I’m not interesting in finding gold, but I am deeply interested in being like pure gold, in having You shine in my life without any interference from sin and other dross elements. I’m also deeply concerned that I rightly handle Your Word. My own walk with You depends on this, as how what I say and write affects others. I am not thrilled about the assay process even if having You look right through me as an x-ray is more appealing than fire or refining chemicals. Yet, I do know that whatever method You choose to expose and cleanse my sin is vital. For that, I submit to Your will.

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