The Refiner’s Fire

There is a quaint little shop in a neighboring community that has been designed just for fun. Within there awaits a variety of unfinished clay pieces that have been shaped into dinnerware, figurines and various novelties.  Customers can browse the art studio for something appealing, select it and set about choosing from the multitude of paint colors and stencils to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. As a beginner in this experience, I came to try my hand at painting pottery, but ended up taking home more than a clay form.

Since the studio was filled with almost endless options, I decided to start simply and paint a little square serving platter.  I found a few stencils of ferns that would fit any occasion and carefully selected various shades of green and a neutral background color that contained tiny flecks of contrasting color.  Imagining how lovely it would be when it was all done, I took my time and gave careful attention to the details. Yet, despite my careful effort, the results seemed, well … lifeless.  The richness and depth I had envisioned just wasn’t there.

Realizing I had done the best I could, I took the pitiful little plate to the owner who instructed me to write my name and date on the back of my work.  The kiln would permanently infuse my signature into the plate, making it easy for the owner to identify whose work it was.  “It will be fired and ready for pick up next week” she said enthusiastically.  I thanked her but quietly wondered if I would ever actually use it. Though the experience had been lots of fun, it was apparent that my best effort produced less than great work.

The week past and the scheduled pick-up day arrived.  I stepped to the counter and gave my name to the owner, who slipped into the holding room and returned with a plate I was sure belonged to someone else. It had been completely transformed.  The formerly dull clay now displayed a rich depth and beauty.  In the heat of the kiln, the glaze covering had been sealed and accomplished what I could not.  It perfected the work.

The experience brought to mind Malachi 3:2-3 “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 launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.”

How is it possible for sinful man to stand righteously before the Lord?  The truth is, it’s not. Our lives are lot like my plate.  We invest a lot of time meticulously trying to make them something of value, purpose and beauty. We may even have noble intentions of using our time for the good of others, but unless it is given to the Refiner, the One who formed the clay in the first place, and willingly accept transformation through the finished work of Jesus, we are incomplete, lacking depth in our souls and righteousness in our works.

In the end, what really matters is how the Lord will see us when He returns.  If we have lived entirely by our own designs and refused the covering of Christ, we will be unfit for His Kingdom and unable to enter.  God’s desire is that none would be found in such a condition.  But he gives us the freedom to choose.

Maybe you’ve been striving to refine yourself for a long time and you’re weary of trying to make something beautiful of your life. Stop. Understand that you are limited. Come as you are to Jesus, for He loves you beyond anything you can imagine. He proved that at Calvary and sealed it when He stepped out of the Garden Tomb. His finished work offered a covering of righteousness that transforms believers before a Holy God.

Are you willing to turn to Him? If you are, He will take the dull clay of your life and make it the masterpiece He intended from the beginning.  What was lifeless will be a shining testimony of His grace.  And you will be a glorious new creation.

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