Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Can we endure the refinery?

Malachi 3.1-4, a passage for the second Sunday of Advent
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness.

Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
Are we willing to take the refining?

And silver, while we are at it.

To move on to Christian perfection in this life, to attain holiness of life, is not painless or easy.
Malachi uses the metaphor of refining because it illustrates the process of moving on to perfection and righteousness: the dross (impurities in the raw material) must be removed, but it takes intention, planning, and effort. We have to yield to the process. And as even Jesus himself found out, some number of people will try it out and just say no -- see, for example, John 6.66, "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him."

While the process of spiritual refinement is important, it is only a means to an end, not the end itself. As Paul said, we should keep our eyes upon the goal: "... forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3.13b-14).

Yes, it is worth it!

2009 U.S. Mint Ultra High Relief, $20 Double Eagle,
.9999 fine gold coin, Saint-Gaudens design.
Can we imagine the discipleship equivalent to such a work?