Man fell from his first state of bliss and communion with God through transgression. His disobedience to God left him powerless and without means to correct himself. God’s promise of a Redeemer became man’s only hope for salvation. Unless God works the miracle of regeneration in our hearts through Christ, we are eternally judged as lost and without hope. In the new birth we are made a new person in Christ and receive an assurance of eternal life. However, we are yet earthy and carry that inherent seed of corruption. We are inclined to satisfy self and are drawn away from God by our own desire and lust (James 1:14-15).
When we become contaminated, we need to be cleansed by God and His Word. It is for our salvation and success as Christians that God allows the fire to burn out the undesirable attitudes and sinful things that come into our lives by disobedience. The fire’s cleansing power is of God, but we must surrender our will to Him and let His fire burn. If we are unwilling, God’s refining is hampered; His fire only purifies those who submit themselves to Him. The refining fire is unpleasant to our flesh, but it brings a lasting change to our hearts and opens the door of God’s blessing. The heavenly-minded child of God yields himself to this refining, which is constrained by the goodness of God. “Knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” (Rom. 2:4).
God’s refining fire comes to each of us in different ways and by various means. He is aware of our needs and wants to help us. The circumstances and events in our lives provide occasions in which God’s fire burns. For some, a financial setback brings a tremendous test of faith as God’s fire burns out the things of self and pride. When our health fails, it is a time of casting ourselves into God’s care to learn how to fully trust and commit our future to Him. Perhaps to another, criticisms or misunderstandings come from without or within the brotherhood, and a severe trial ensues. Our faith is shaken, offenses come, and we begin to lose confidence in one another. As the refining fire burns out the dross, we feel our feet settling again on the Rock, Christ Jesus. All such things are God’s way to prepare us for our service to Him and, ultimately, for eternity.
While God works personally with each one of us, He likewise works with the body of believers. Through our humanity and carnality, things that are sinful may enter into the church, and the body is weakened and defiled. God has His way of burning out the dross and correcting His people. The Word of God gives clear instruction for the church’s response in such times. Often it is through the fire of judgment that the body is cleansed and restored to health. This work of the Spirit is not according to the flesh but is spiritually discerned and is accomplished in the power of God.
We want to look to the desired end of God’s refining fire. This fire is not meant to discourage or destroy us. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29:11). The fire is intended to bring God’s purpose for our life into clear focus; the expected end is our eternal salvation. There is no greater joy than to be wholly submitted to God’s will, allowing Him to mold and fit us for His use (Jer. 18:4).
From Adult and Youth Sunday School Lessons, November 26, 2017