It is an irony of modern medicine in that it succeeds in preserving human life by sterilizing away all other forms of life. Take a life to give a life, so to speak.
In some ways, the same phenomena applies to God’s people. After the dramatic events of rescue out of Egypt for the Israelites, the great assembly gathered around the base of Mt Sinai in the Arabian desert at a pivotal moment in their existence. God had ordained to launch his people into an entirely new way of living which would also require cutting off past ways of life. As the thunderous cloud descended upon the mountain, divine sterilization scorched the surface. My son was fascinated with the idea that the molten explosions were sourced not from within a volcano, but from the sky above. Fire devoured all living organisms, smoke billowed, rocks blackened; God came to earth.
We are now on page 50 of 226 in our family bible study with the book Wineskins, and the Old Covenant was on the docket. Needless to say, we will be at it a while. Fire is one of the purest forms of sterilization in common use. It is even capable of separating contaminants from solid rock; a process often employed in purifying gold and silver.
The thing with sterilization is that it is all or nothing; things partially sterilized are still contaminated.
So I related the promise given to Christians. That God will put each one of us through his divine fiery furnace. That didn’t excite my kids. They could easily recognize that the life that would be sterilized to make way for indwelling by Christ would be their own and such a process doesn’t exactly sound pleasant. Dying to self is not natural, even if it is Christian. Enduring suffering as a refining process into Christ-likeness involves a degree of identification with the Cross that feels like Fahrenheit-death. Who wants that?
Faithful Christians do. In spite of fleshly resistance, they understand how vital sterilization is to salvation. They trust their Physician. They recognize how terminal their situation is if drastic measures are not used. Christians of faith want life that is lasting, full, and satisfying–a life that can give it and not lose it.
In this context, I encouraged my daughter that her willingness to honor her parents and to refrain from dishonoring God by accepting possible ridicule or ostracism due to not participating in a questionable activity was part of her refining. She was undergoing a burst of purification to remove dross from her treasured silver. Most people simply won’t endure such pain, but if she believes in the promise of God, then her sacrifice will be very well rewarded. It is a matter of new life or terminal infection.
What kind of purification have you recognized in your Christian faith?