The Gold Standard
Several decades ago, when I was still a young man just beginning in ministry, the Lord showed me during a time of prayer that He was going to begin purifying my life. I got so excited, I told Lisa, “God is going to remove my impurities!” I proceeded to tell her all the undesirable things God would be removing. (She may have even added a few I had left off the list!)
Then, for the next three months, nothing happened. As a matter of fact, things worsened in my life, and I was even more in need of purification. I went to the Lord and asked, “Why are my bad habits getting worse, not better?”
“Son,” He responded. “I said that I was going to purify you. You have been trying to do it in your own strength. Now I will do it My way.” I had no idea that I was about to move into my first wilderness journey and that it would last eighteen months.
Please understand—God is not looking for an outward form of holiness. He wants an inward change of heart—for a pure heart will produce pure conduct. The wilderness is one of the crucibles God uses to purify our motives and intentions.
The process in which God purifies is likened to the process in which gold is refined. Gold has a beautiful yellow color, emitting a soft metallic glow. It is widely found in nature but always in small quantities and rarely in a pure state. When purified, gold is soft, pliable, and free from corrosion or other substances.
If gold is mixed with other metals (copper, iron, or nickel), it becomes harder, less pliable, and more corrosive. This mixture is called an alloy. The higher the percentage of another metal, the harder the gold becomes. Conversely, the lower the percentage of an alloy, the softer and more flexible it is.
Immediately, we see the parallel: A pure heart before God is like pure gold. A pure heart is soft, tender, and pliable. The book of Malachi shows how Jesus will refine His church from the influence of the world, just as a refiner purifies gold.
In the refining process, gold is ground into powder and then mixed with a substance called flux. The two are then placed in a furnace and melted by an intense fire. The alloys or impurities are drawn to the flux and rise to the surface. The gold, which is heavier, remains at the bottom. The impurities, or dross (such as copper, iron, and zinc, combined with flux), are then removed.
The fire God uses for refining is trials and tribulations. The heat of these challenges separates our impurities from the character of God in our lives—thus creating a pure vessel. Interestingly, another characteristic of gold in its purest state is its transparency. Once you are purified by the fiery trials, you become transparent! A transparent vessel brings no glory to itself, but it glorifies what it contains.
Once we are refined, the world again will see Jesus.