Summary: God refining God’s people to perfection.
The Reformed Church of Locust Valley
Advent II December 10, 2000 Malachi 3:1-4, Lk. 3:1-6
“The Refiner’s Fire”
God has something in store for you. God is not content with us as we are. This is one of Christianity’s basic assumptions – things need to change, and they are going to change for the better.
The day you walk into Kindergarten, the teacher begins offering you things to improve your life – skills, knowledge, comprehension, new ways of seeing things. All of these enrich your life.
And hopefully, our whole lives are one long time of learning and growing.
One of the beauties of being human is that, although our bodies wear out, provided we don’t face any diseases that steal our memories, our minds can grow stronger and stronger until the day we die.
God has plans for us.
And one of the ways the Bible depicts God, is God in overalls, getting ready to start working on us. The Bible speaks of God as a workman - as a potter at a potting wheel, a manager of a vineyard, a construction worker – plumbing the line – making sure a wall is straight and true, a farmer, a fisherman and here as a smelter of ore.
So here is God in the foundry. He pulls on his overalls, of heavy denim to protect him when the molten metal splashes. He has a facemask to protect his eyes. And he is stoking the fire, fanning the roaring flames under the smelting pot to raise the temperature to over a thousand degrees.
The pot heats up and into it he dumps the ore. The ore is you and me. And there, in the burning pot, we melt. And up to the top floats all the slag – all the bad stuff. And God skims it off with a ladle. A little at a time until its all gone. And what is left? Pure gold! Beautiful, shining, that yellow color that is unmistakable – precious, perfect gold – 24 carat!
This is the picture of God in Malachi. A workman about his business. God in overalls. Black smoke billowing up, molten metal hissing, sparks flying up, you and me in God’s foundry, being made into something better than we are.
Sometimes when you try to talk to your teenager, they indicate that they just want to be left alone. “How was you day?” “Fine.” “What happened in school.” “Nothing.” Do you have any plans for the weekend.” “Nope.” Then the phone will ring and they’ll spend two hours talking about the same things it took only three words to tell about when you asked. Good parents know when the door to conversation is open and when it isn’t open.
We are the same way with God. “Leave me alone. Don’t mess with my life.” But the funny thing about faith is that God keeps pestering us; thank God! God is not happy with you just as you are. He loves you, just like we love our kids. But he wants the best for us, just as we want the best for our kids.
If your son takes the car, you give strict orders about when you want him home. If he doesn’t abide by your rules, he’s in big trouble. You want him to be responsible, but you also know some of the kinds of trouble he might get into, and you don’t want him to get into that trouble. It can ruin his life.
God knows you can ruin your life too, and he doesn’t want you to. That’s why he gives us his law. And that’s why, too, incidentally, that in the Reformed Church, we are GRATEFUL for God’s law – because it is a guide to the best life we can live. And your kids too, by the way, including teens, deep down inside where you cannot see, are grateful for YOUR rules, because they know your limits protect them.
We need to change. You and I need Jesus. We’re doomed without him. Without change, we lose life.
When jet fighters were first invented, they flew much, much faster than their propeller driven predecessors. So now, if a pilot needed to bail out, ejection was much more complicated. Danny Cox, a former test-flight pilot explains that, in early tests, when pilots ejected, they would hold on to the seat in panic. They’d clamp down so hard that the parachute could not get free to open, with obviously disastrous results. The solution was to attach a webbed strap with one end attached to the front edge of the seat, feed under the pilot and up to the headrest where there was an electric take-up reel. When the pilot ejected and seat shot upwards out of the plane, after two seconds, the take up reel would spin and force the pilot out of his seat, thus freeing the parachute and letting the pilot float safely to the ground.