Some of my favorite memories of my childhood are of the times I spent with my father and grandfather searching for gold. We weren't exactly prospecting-49er-miners or anything, but we did visit some places on trips to the Great Smoky Mountains where we panned for gold. These two men taught me the proper technique of getting the gold, as well as how far it traveled just to make it into my mining pan. I was amazed that a single flake of gold could have journeyed from miles deep in the earth and into the silt that sat on the edge of my pan.
Beyond my childhood, though, I learned the distance traveled by gold from the earth's core to the mining pan isn't nearly as impressive as the process by which gold is purified. Though gold in its natural state may look appealing to the untrained eye, it is often ridden by dross and impurities. The only way to rid this precious metal of impurities is by fire. Therefore, purification comes from being plunged into the heart of the fire and being kept there until the gold loses any resemblance to what it once was. After it has been purified, the gold can then be molded according to the will of the goldsmith. The gold is only removed from the fire when its final shape has been formed.
So what's the mark of good gold? Purity. The higher the carat, the purer the gold.
Now, let's apply this to the lives of believers. What's the mark of a believer? Purity. Paul gives us an example of this in his letter to the Ephesians:
"Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God." (Ephesians 5:1-4 NLT)
Just as fire is the only elemental reaction that can purify gold, only God can make us pure as believers. Let's look to the Psalms and be reminded of this...
"Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me." (Psalms 51:1-10 NLT)
Any jeweler would tell you that a treasured piece of gold must be properly cleaned and maintained over time in order to preserve it's luster. As believers, we can only remain pure by following God's Word. Again, the Psalms reflect this practice...
"How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. I have tried hard to find you— don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. I praise you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. I have recited aloud all the regulations you have given us. I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches. I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word." (Psalms 119:9-16 NLT)
Though the fires of sanctification and purification may be painful, extensive, and repetitive, God can use our experience to make us a beautiful reflection of His image. Let's embrace and desire purity as believers. It's a healthy practice.