Gold, Character, and Jesus
Romans 3:10-18 is not very complimentary about us. Actually, it's
extremely bad. It reads, "as it is written, There is none righteous, not
even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for
God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is
none who does good, There is not even one. Their throat is an open
grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,The poison of asps is
under their lip; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; Their
feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their
paths, And the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of
God before their eyes.” The human race became utterly corrupted after
the fall. Roman 3:23 further states, "For all have sinned and have
fallen short of the glory of God." No one is innocent before God.
It makes sense then when I read about men like Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, despite their lofty positions and sacred duties in life, would act so beastly or stupidly. What was the president of the IMF thinking when he was trying to rape a house maid? What was Governor Arnold thinking when he fathered a child at the same time his wife, Maria Shriver, was also impregnated? They were all despicable actions, but it makes sense now.
It makes sense now when I read about a mom who drives off a bridge into the water with her kids in the back seat, killing herself and them. It makes sense when I look at humanity. It makes sense when we look at our own hearts, It makes sense when I look at my own heart.
The sin nature of man makes it crystal clear. We are utterly wretched, sinful, wicked, despicable, and dead to the things of God. He then takes his spiritual defibrillator and shocks us back from the dead through the sacrifice of his son. The flat line kicks back into undulating life. We get rid of our burial shroud. A whole new adventure begins. We live again by His Spirit.
When God decides to put his Spirit in us we need to realize the major reconstruction project He is embarking upon. We need to understand one thing in regards to sanctification: He will put new wine into new wine skins. The decrepit house of our old life is non-salvageable. He doesn't just change the wallpaper in one of the bathrooms. He condemns it. He brings the bulldozer, wrecking ball, and steam roller to bear on the whole thing in order to raise up a whole new house. 2 Cor 5:17 states, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come." God kills the power of the old nature so that the new one can rise up (Romans 6:4). Yet, the old nature still tries to rear up its ugly head even after it has been disempowered (Rom 7). This is testament to the stubbornness of the old. It doesn't like playing second fiddle to God's Spirit.
God doesn't care, the sanctification process still begins with a vengeance. His Spirit works mightily to transform us (Col 1:29). He also brings to bear outside forces that cause us to turn to God for comfort and strength. Many still focus on their sinful behavior and wonder why they still struggle with the same sinful habits and attitudes. Only by focusing on Christ, not our sins, can we become like him; can we become a true son of the King (1 John 3:3, Heb 12:2).
Therefore, he lovingly allows people to betray, offend, ridicule, and prick our pride so that we turn to him. He allows other Christians to hurt us with misguided correction in order for us to pray for them. It is oil upon our heads (Psalm 141:5). It's transformational. He even allows non-believers to test us and transform us. He allows hurt to happen to our children to grow them up; maybe even grow us up. Ultimately, our believing children are in his training camp, too. Let's be wise not to short change their training. God allows all in order to see him more clearly.
He places us in a cramped starting gate to grow us in patience and love. We can kick and kick against the gate but he will not open it until the right time. God is extremely focused on doing a good job. That is why the fire is so hot. He doesn't mind our cries for help because he knows gold will come forth from his efforts. He sees the finished product. He sees the beginning from the end.
Job speaks to this in chapter 23:8-17, "Behold, I go forward but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him. “But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. “My foot has held fast to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside. “I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. “But He is unique and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, that He does. “For He performs what is appointed for me, And many such decrees are with Him. “Therefore, I would be dismayed at His presence; When I consider, I am terrified of Him. “It is God who has made my heart faint, And the Almighty who has dismayed me, 17 But I am not silenced by the darkness, Nor deep gloom which covers me." Job understood the reason for the trials and tribulations. God was making him into gold. That's why James considered it all joy (James 1:2-4). Paul looked upon it as momentary light affliction (2 Cor 4:17); the writer of Hebrews as sons of God training (Heb 12:7).
Why does he put us through this fiery ordeal of training? He wants us bear more fruit on earth and receive more reward in heaven (John 15, 2 Cor 4:17). It's unto blessings. It's unto real treasure. It's unto true fruitfulness. That's why he melts us down completely to remove the dross of our sin nature to reveal the true gold. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated, "When Jesus calls a man to follow him, he bids him to come and die." We are called to die to the old so that the new can arise.
Jesus beckons the lukewarm Laodicean church of today to open the door and buy gold refined by fire (Rev 3:14-22). He calls us to take up Christ-like character. He could care less about our great teaching, big buildings, fancy conferences, material wealth, and anything that doesn't promote Christlike character. We don't become like Jesus in an air-conditioned, cushy environment. We become like Jesus when we hang out with Jesus (Acts 4:13). We hang out with Jesus when we experience pain (Matt 11:28-30). Some turn to other distractions like people, shopping, food, alcohol, drugs, TV, work, or other things when confronted with trials and tribulations. We are called to turn to Jesus in this season. It's our choice. It's our choice to buy gold refined by fire.