As I read Proverbs Chapter 17 during my devotional time, God drew my attention to verse 3 which says, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests hearts.”
One of the many problems with what we call the church today, is that most of us never make it through the refiner’s pot. Many never even make it to the pot itself. Our Americanized version of Christianity implies that our relationship with Jesus should be at our convenience, completely unburdened by any personal sacrifice on our part because we are saved by grace, no strings attached. But that is not what Jesus taught. Jesus said that being His disciple would come at great personal cost to us. That we must be willing to forsake all to follow Him: our family, our children, our plans, our culture, and even ourselves, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26). He said the crucifixion of our self would be required to follow Him and be His disciple, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27).
You see, when Jesus spoke to first century hearers of “carrying your cross”, what they heard was “you must carry an instrument of your own death….daily.” This would not have been an attractive component of what Jesus’ teachings were calling them to do. What Jesus was basically telling them was, “Follow Me to your own death, and I will give you new life, but that new life will cost you everything.” At Luke Chapter 14, verse 28, Jesus tells His followers that they must count the cost to follow Him, then at verse 33 He tells them what that cost will be, “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33). Notice that Jesus is not saying here that we must simply be willing to give up everything to follow Him. He is saying that those who do not give up everything they have, cannot be His disciples. Jesus calls His followers to a radical devotion that has been largely lost within what we call the church today.
For the most part, what I see in the church today, is a congregation of people who want to follow a Jesus that doesn’t require anything from them. They want to follow a Jesus that would never place them in a refiner’s pot, much less, ever lead them into the furnace. I see people comfortable in their commercialized version of Christianity, worshiping the Jesus that they are being taught about by other people, rather than the Jesus they are personally pursuing themselves through prayer and careful study of scripture. For the most part, those within the church today are following someone else’s version of Jesus rather than the real Jesus of the Bible Who says things like, “He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes to make it even more fruitful.” (John 15:2).
I guess the question we must ask ourselves is, are we silver or are we gold? Or are we just a branch that should be cut off because we are bearing no fruit for God with our life? Are we a branch that is even willing to be pruned by the refining pot, so that the salvation we have received by His grace will be a fruitful branch for His kingdom? The refining pot will come at a great personal cost, it will be painful, you will grieve the loss of many things that you never realized you were holding onto. One of the hardest things God ever asked me to do was to let go of what I aspired to do for His kingdom and submit to what He aspired for me to do. How many of us are truly willing to let go of everything, no matter how much we have reasoned in our heart to continue to hold on? How many of us have convinced ourselves that we are approaching the cross with empty hands, as we ought, only to look down and see them holding on to something we are trying to bring with us?
As I meditated on the refiner’s pot versus the furnace, I realized how few people actually give themselves wholly over to Christ. The refiner’s pot serves to prune a person, but the furnace utterly destroys them. Pruned silver versus pure, untarnished gold. The furnace leaves nothing of the old person remaining, everything is lost in the furnace, burned away into oblivion, leaving only a purified soul, flawless, whole and complete. Our great aversion to the refiner’s pot should serve as an acute reminder of how desperately far away each of us are to the spiritual wholeness that comes by the furnace. The refiner’s pot should remind us that no matter how righteous we think we are, there is always more work to be done in us. As Christians, we should never be comfortable where we are at in our spiritual growth, but rather, we should long for the refinement that brings us to the spiritual wholeness that is promised by our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The more you truly, personally know Christ, the more you will long for the refinement that comes at great personal cost. The more you truly, personally know Christ, the more you eagerly anticipate, “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim 4:8).
“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will be evident, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will prove the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as one being snatched from the fire.” (1 Cor 3:12-15)
“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:7)
“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” (Job 23:10)
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable.” (1 Cor 9:24,25)