Scripture reveals our sinfulness and our need for the refiner’s fire
“Purify my heart, cleanse me from within and make me holy.
“Purify my heart, cleanse me from my sin, deep within.”
This chorus of Brian Doerksen’s song is an amazingly powerful call to me. It reminds me as few other things do that I am a sinner and that God has the power to purify me of sin and to help me be set apart and holy.
At my stage of life, my sins are old and familiar — the same sins I have asked to be forgiven of many times in the past. I tend to think my sins are less serious, but when I reconsider God’s view of sin, my sins may not be viewed as venial or deadly, but my sins are an abomination in God’s sight.
The full range of sin is laid out in Galatians 5 when Paul warns about the works of the flesh. The first sins on the list are viewed as serious sins by all: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery.” These are sins I rationalize as the sins of young men. The next sins, “idolatry and witchcraft,” have less connection with age, but these are sins that may creep into the heart of any person. Although I have thought that witchcraft belongs to the past, waves of popular fiction seem to make it more attractive to a younger generation.
The next listing includes sins that all are subject to: “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissention, factions and envy.” I think I left the “fits of rage” behind me with the 20s, but all the other things keep creeping into my attitudes and feelings. It is for these sins that I need God’s refining work. Discord, jealousy, dissension and envy lurk always at the edges of my mind.
“Drunkenness, orgies and the like” exist all around in our culture, but people of faith have usually refined these temptations out of their lives. The works of the flesh may dominate us unless we turn and let Paul’s teachings about the fruit of the Spirit dictate our spiritual development. The focus on these qualities show we “are ready to do your will,” a ready surrender to God.
When God’s Spirit dwells in our lives, his Spirit working with our spirits produces a rich harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
One of our nation’s founding fathers, Ben Franklin, tells that he set out to seek moral perfection. He created a list of characteristics marking moral perfection and systematically tried to develop these characteristics in his life. He never gained what he sought because he was trying to change himself through his discipline and persistence. No one can know these qualities to the fullest without working hand in hand with God’s Spirit.
The fruits of the Spirit, admirable spiritual qualities, make us better people who exercise great influence on our communities. These are qualities I immediately associate with the nature of God, qualities illustrated throughout the Bible in God’s dealing with sinful and godly people. So when we allow God to fill our minds and our hearts, his Spirit works to transform who we are and what we value.
Devoting much time to understanding Jesus may be the most effective way to know Jesus. An easy way to do that is to spend much time in reading and studying the Gospels. A friend once told me that if I read three chapters a day, I could read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in a month, and in a year I could read the Gospels 12 times. Doing that was very useful in letting me know more clearly the life and teachings of Jesus.
We all need the refiner’s fire to help us purify our hearts and to cleanse us from within. In addition, we need the Spirit of God working with our spirits to make us holy, ready to do God’s will and to be cleansed from our sins.
Paul continues this concept as he concludes Romans with this admonition: “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.”
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