REFINED BY FIRE?
Any adult today can come to understand very quickly that various metals—even precious metals such as Gold and Silver—have to be refined in or by fire at extreme temperatures for a time, to get all the dross and other impurities out. Those metals are much more valuable when they are pure. However, how many of those same adults understand what “refined by fire” actually means for anyone who would be a true Christian? Can a true Christian in the flesh be “Refined by fire” and must they be in order to be a Christian? Are you being refined by fire and can you know? Please read on.
We find these words for the true COG; Rev 3:18 in the beginning, Christ says; “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire,”------so this is in the letter to Laodicea, the last generation of the COG before Christ returns. That seems to be the age or time we are now in and it indicates that at least half the COG in our time could be shut out for lack of this refining and because they have been slumbering. (See Matt.25:1-13) Note Christ is speaking symbolically in that letter and puts this in terms of human and Spiritual refinement or the Godly character building process for true Christians, when you read the rest of the verse and make the connections with other NT passages. This is something that begins by the individual receiving of the Holy Spirit and applies to the entire COG however, all down through time and even more so today, not just a few in some certain organization somewhere! All those alive today and still in the COG are now in Laodicea—but that does not mean they are all lukewarm. (see Laodicea for more)
God does refine His people, so as Pentecost 2016 approaches, let us who have been called and chosen look a little deeper at this by bringing in other Scriptural passages to help us understand. Note Isa 48:10-11 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned?” This indicates God expects us at some point to share His name. Those today who claim Christianity, yet show no real fruits of it, need to take heed. (Scriptural content from the NKJ unless otherwise noted.)
Again, we can read from Dan 12:9-10, where the angel is speaking to Daniel; “And he said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. 10 Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.”
Spiritual blindness can be and is caused by negligence of the foolish, as Christ calls them in Matt.25, which hinders spiritual growth in the Light (or Truth-John17:17) of true Scriptural understanding. (John 3:21 & 12:35-36) Christ says this, from the ASV; John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.” ASV
So this negligence and the willingness to compromise, (even on occasion for selfish purposes) hinders the refining process and brings about a setback, subtle darkening of the mind—“slumbering”—and a failure to replenish the spiritual “oil” (Holy Spirit) that keeps our lights (Bibles-Ps.119:105) burning bright with right knowledge and understanding for us. This in turn, has allowed Satan to subtly re-claim areas of influence over those human minds, (the Holy Spirit having been let go dormant, if ever there in the first place) and altering the commitment or convictions that may have once been very well illuminated by the light of truth, (John 8:32-36—14:6) in many of those COG members. The COG today needs to be guided by a spiritually strong and uncompromising leader, such as HWA. That seems to be lacking today, wherever you turn and in whatever organization you examine.
There are those that have been in the COG for many years—and even some outside it for that matter, that read and study the Scriptures daily—who should be familiar with the letters to the 7 churches in the book of Revelation. Some of those older brethren are only now getting their eyes open enough to see the need for true conversion and solid commitment in order to be a part of the Spiritual organism. These letters are all recorded for us in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of the book of Revelation. They were prophecy affecting the COG down through time, just as sure as some of the book of Daniel is, quoted from above and was put there for our instruction and learning benefit! (2Tim.3:16-17)
I say they “were” prophecy because, as far as these letters are concerned, they have now nearly reached the end of their course—this being the very last era of the Church of God before Christ is to return. However, the refining process is far from over, as this era needs it most of all! Each one of these letters states, respectively, that the “over-comers” shall eat of the tree of life—not to be hurt by the 2nd death—they will partake of some hidden manna, be given a white stone and a new name—having power over the nations—to be clothed in white garments and to walk with Christ—to be pillars in the temple and last of all; to sit with Christ on His throne, if and when properly refined!! Our character must be made pure! Only the truly converted and over-comers have the opportunity for these Spiritual blessings and to be first fruits. Over-comers will have been Spiritually refined in character to the point of now being ready to be made spirit, at Christ’s return! (Rev. 19:7)
Notice 1 Pet 1:6 says; “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (RSV)
Of course the “tested by fire” here again is symbolic, as it is applied in many other areas for Spiritual growth—but some trials can give the feel of going thru a fire and being seared and singed. Pro. 17:3 says; “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests the hearts.” Mal 3:3 in the ASV says; “and he (Christ) will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver; and they shall offer unto Jehovah offerings in righteousness.” We must be yielded to God for this refinement, through whatever trial He may see fit for us to go through. If we resist or let down and given in to temptation and compromise in the trial, we cannot move forward with Godly character and may be put back in the “fire” to remove that stubbornness or weakness; giving us opportunity to increase faith.
AS the Philadelphia time frame was coming to a close, HWA had this to say; “This whole Church has been going wrong, and we’ve had to get back on the track. (Liberalism had set in) Brethren, you have to keep yourself on the track privately and individually.” (HWA Sermon—Mar. 4th, 1982) The only way to do this properly is by our own individual mind to be set on what we find in Matt.6:33 and submit ourselves to the way of God in all things.
We clearly have been in a time of testing for decades now, to see who would continue to hold fast to what was given and grow in faith, endure the refining that we all need for character building and remain faithful to the end. It was even earlier in the 20th century that HWA recognized what could become reality, and now has. (This statement from the “Good News”—personal from Herbert W. Armstrong—August, 1979—EMPHASIS HIS & bolding mine)
“--but, the BAD NEWS, as it appears today, my dear brethren, is that we undoubtedly of the Philadelphian era---are in serious danger of BECOMING also the Laodicean era. I am personally much concerned about that. If YOU are NOT concerned, then indeed we are in mortal DANGER.”
The next era/letter at the time of those words, the predominate spirit and attitude of Laodicea, many felt was beginning back then, as HWA did; knowing it was to be the last era of God’s Church before Christ would return! But none that I know of including HWA, had perfect knowledge of how it would all play out, as it now has; being unrecognized by the majority. Philadelphia as a predominate spirit in the COG is now over and has been for decades. Even though there are a few with that right attitude and approach still alive today, the majority have been compromised, given in to a little “ here and there” of the way of the world and watered down many truths of Scripture, needing to repent. (Rev.3:19)
The point to be made by this article is that we are now, some thirty years later, possibly just a few years away from the return of Christ, and still very much in need of Spiritual character refinement! It is only those of all the scattered COG realm who have accepted this refining by fire through the power of the Holy Spirit and are still clinging to full truth of what has been revealed to them and have been growing. Rev 3:10-11 “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. (These are the Philadelphians (old timers not compromised) that have not yet gone to their graves.) 11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” The last few decades have revealed too much liberalism is still rooted in the members of the Body, and those having become lukewarm. This is now showing up in those not willing to be corrected (or even guided, in some cases) by the word of God and their fellow brethren. Instead they want to be the leaders and follow their own ideas and interpretation of Scripture.
So the true COG (The Spiritual organism) that is alive today find themselves scattered and few in number—but they are still yielded and submissive to be refined by fire, longing to be made ready for the marriage when Christ returns. Are you one that has willingly yielded yourself to the refining process of various trials, as the Holy Spirit works in you? Many have succumbed to the lukewarm spirit and attitude of compromise in our day and will have to go through the tribulation to wake them up! (Eph. 5:14 Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the (Spiritually) dead, and Christ will give you light.") Some have already been separated from the Body (Rev.3:16) even though still in an organization claiming COG status, and their fruits are revealing this! (Matt. 7:15-20) Their blindness to the Spiritual keeps them from seeing this in themselves, however. (Rev.3:18, last part)
To many today have set themselves apart from their own brethren, (forming their own little clichés and organizations and committing the sin of partiality among themselves) with a spirit of self exaltation and superiority; having a “need of nothing” attitude (Rev.3:17) and there is the serious need of repentance and overcoming this, in order to be the refined of God through the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16-17)
So have you given yourself to be symbolically refined by fire, having placed yourself at the mercy of God for the outcome, or are you still trying to have things go your own way, having possibly even been vomited from the body at this time because of it? It is God’s desire that you be yielded to Christ, the head of the Church, submitted for this character refinement (Col.3:12-17) and put on the fruits of the Spirit. We all need to remember Gal 5:22-26:
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we (are being refined and--) live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
So as was stated in the beginning, Pentecost is approaching once again and the refining by fire is still going on for those few who are yielded to it. They welcome and long for the intended outcome of having peace, happiness and eternal life; being made perfect by being refined in the fire by the Holy Spirit of a loving God!
(Written for TCOGMSO by the editor)