The Process of Purity
This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE Communications Coordinator.
My mom’s father, Granddaddy Hartsock, was an electrical engineer. He worked for a major aluminum manufacturer and traveled – quite literally – all over the world designing power plants. These plants would produce the massive amounts of electricity needed to smelt the bauxite ore in which alumina is found. Then a chemical/electrical operation called electrolysis would be used to extract aluminum oxide, the primary ingredient in what we know as aluminum.
Used in everything from commercial airplanes to hot dog wrappers, aluminum can be purified to well over 99%. Pure aluminum is soft and malleable, while other alloys (combinations of aluminum and other metals) can be quite rigid.
Before the modern method of refining aluminum was discovered, in 1886, aluminum was more expensive per ounce than gold, despite being the most abundant metallic element in Earth’s crust. This was because it was so difficult to extract from the ore that contained it. Once the new process was discovered, aluminum’s price dropped rapidly as production and manufacturing became less costly.
I remember my grandfather describing the process of refining aluminum to me when I was very young. Instead of words like smelting and electrolysis, he used words like crushing, sifting, boiling, and baking. I was amazed at how you could get something so shiny and useful as aluminum out of a dirty red rock of bauxite. (I was not amazed enough to ever become a very good student when it came to the sciences, but I was – and still am –truly amazed.)
As followers of Jesus, we go through processes, too. Sometimes quite severe. These processes are meant to result in our not being like we were before. It’s refinement. Improvement, for the purposes of God. Scripture indicates that we are not supposed to stay the same after we encounter the living God in the person of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Hebrews 12, the author exhorts the believers to “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…”.
In 1 Corinthians 3:2 and Hebrews 5:12-13, the writer indicates that what we take in as spiritual infants is not what we should expect to be taking in as we mature in Christ.
In Isaiah 48, the prophet shares God’s patient dealings with his people in the midst of their rebellion, bringing them through a process of change while in exile:
9 For my name’s sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
so that I may not cut you off.
10 See, I have refined you, but not like silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for why should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
As we journey together through the days, weeks and months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we, too, are going through a process. And, to be sure, harsh as it is, it is a process that will have a result.
The Book of James says:
2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
Romans 5 speaks similarly:
1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Of course, we look forward to the ultimate change, too. The Apostle Paul encourages the church at Corinth in this way:
51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Cor. 15:50-52)
Ultimately, as we long to be like Jesus, we offer ourselves for God’s purposes. I Peter 2:4-6 describes us as “living stones” who allow ourselves to be “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood. . .”.
Like aluminum, the process of us becoming like Jesus requires great power (the power of the Holy Spirit) and involves a process of significant change (sanctification and redemption) through the use of an outside agent (the body and blood of Jesus).
This Sunday, we will take part, again, in Communion. As you bring together the elements of bread and wine/juice prior to our Sunday service, prayerfully consider how God has been changing you into the likeness of his son, Jesus, and give him thanks for his goodness and lovingkindness.
I look forward to being together online with the body of Christ!
FPCE Communications Coordinator