Christianity 201

July 30, 2018

The Lord’s Refining Ministry

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by Russell Young

There is great neglect in the church when it comes to recognizing both the need for transformation through personal refinement and of its means. Many see their acquisition of an eternal hope having been accomplished by Christ on the cross with this being the end of the matter; however, Paul spoke of something more. “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom 5:9─10 Italics added.) “More” than justification through the blood of Christ is needed to avoid the wrath of God. That “more” is accomplished through Christ’s life in, and on behalf of, the believer. Paul taught of a great mystery that had been kept hidden, “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col1:27) Apparently, the “mystery” remains a mystery to many. Perhaps this is so because teachers want to attribute the believer’s eternal salvation to Christ’s sacrificial offering alone. Christ, however, rose from the dead, has been given to the confessor as Spirit (2 Cor 3:17, 18), and is continuing his life in those who have covenanted his lordship. (Rom 10:9) Through his presence in the believer, he offers himself so that they, too, might live a righteous life and might be refined and conformed to his likeness.

The prophet Daniel spoke of the believer’s refining. “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand but the wise will understand.” (Dan 12:10 Italics added) Because a person has been pardoned for sin does not mean that all dross or impurity has been removed from his or her person and practices. Redemption from existing sin (Heb 9:15), resulting in justification, has been provided so that the Spirit might be given (Gal 3:14), enabling refinement. (Gal 5:5) Paul wrote that redemption of the body allows the believer to become adopted by God. (Rom 8:23) Only by such purification can a person be conformed to the likeness of Christ. The Word often equates the application of great heat to gold as the means of burning off the dross and impurities within it and applies this metaphor to believers.

In their blindness many do not see their impurities or their need. The Lord admonished, “Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21) Paul wrote that he was given the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:16) In addressing the church of Laodicea the Lord required of those who thought that they were wealthy, but who were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked because of their “lukewarm” deeds, “to buy from him gold refined in the fire, so that they could become rich.” (Rev 3:18) Many in in the church of Laodicea were under the impression that they were wealthy when it came to their spiritual position. They were in the church, doing church things but their commitment to righteousness was “lukewarm.” His admonition was “to buy” from him gold refined in the fire so that they might actually become rich, and white clothes (righteousness) to wear to cover their shame, and salve for their eyes so they could truthfully see him. It is purity in heart–being refined–that has great value.

How does a person “buy” gold from Christ? To “buy” means that a transaction needs to take place where one item is traded for another. What did the Lord expect of these people? The only thing that they had to offer was themselves and their acts. The Lord followed his condemnation by stating, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (v 19) They needed more. They needed to be “earnest” in their walk, to pursue cleansing from impurities, to accept discipline, to repent of their sinful attitudes and ways.
Daniel has revealed that at the time of the end a two-step purification process would take place. People would be made spotless and then refined. The sacrificial offering of Christ made them spotless but did not refine their hearts, attitudes, and practices.

Paul told the Corinthians, “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body,” (2 Cor 4:11) and went on to say, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor 4:16) A need exists to be renewed inwardly.

According to Paul, slavery to righteous practices leads to holiness. “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness,” (Rom 6:19) and added, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Rom 6:22) He also taught, “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope,” (Gal 5:5) and stated, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom 8:13) Slavery is not passive; a slave must obey, and eternal salvation comes through obedience (Heb 5:9) for the refinement of the body and for service. All who do evil will be weeded out of his kingdom. (Mt 13:41)

Eternal salvation requires both redemption and refinement, the “more” that Paul spoke about to the Romans. The church has come to understand the blessed ministry of Christ through the redemption offered by his blood, but it has had difficulty discerning the need for purging sinful practices as accomplished through the Lord as Spirit, the need for engaging the Lord’s refining processes.


Author Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

(All Scriptures are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.)

April 2, 2017

Sin Separates

by Russell Young

David wrote of the agony of his soul and pleaded for the Lord’s mercy to be restored after his adultery with Bathsheba. He knew that he had transgressed God’s law. He knew that God desired righteousness. He wanted joy and gladness to be restored to him through a pure and cleansed heart. (Ps 51) His sin had brought him unrest, sleepless nights, and separation from the closeness that he had enjoyed with his God. Sin separates; it did then and it does today.

Many suffer from the same discomfort that plagued David. Their lives have become empty and unfruitful for the kingdom. They even find it difficult to bless their families or their friends. It is easy to get caught up in disillusionment and loss of hope when God seems quite distant and prayers are left unanswered.

Modern teaching would dismiss the possibility of a spiritual separation from God. Those teaching would cover sin with God’s grace and “unconditional love.” However, the Word reveals that destruction can come from sinful practices. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God will not be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction. The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8 NIV) And, “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” (2 Thess 1:8─9 NIV) God expects his people to walk fearfully before him, to be righteous in his sight. The believer is a slave to God. (Rom 6:22) Righteousness must be lived.

James wrote, “The prayers of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (Jas 5:16 NIV) James did not say that the prayers of “Christians” are powerful and effective but that their efficacy rests with the righteous. John taught, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6 NIV) The grace of God provides all that is needed for life and godliness and the Lord’s blessings rest on those who are seeking his kingdom and his righteousness through an obedient walk.

The Lord has made many promises to the righteous. Matthew has recorded his words: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33 NIV) These things are food and clothing. They are fruits of seeking to live righteously and of seeking God’s kingdom. Some do not consider that their favorite sins are keeping them from enjoying the fullness and richness of God. Believers are cautioned against loving the world and the things in it. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jn 2:15 NIV) Those who are surrounded by riches feel entitled to pursue them. In God’s sight such interest is sin. Believers are to perceive the world as from mountaintop to mountaintop with the world in the valley below. The Lord does not bless the one who craves the things of this world or their pursuit, but honours the person whose heart is established on righteousness, on him, and on kingdom purposes.

This truth needs to be taken seriously. God does not bless those who defy him. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Pet 3:12 NIV) David had felt abandoned following his act of disobedience. His bones felt dry. Although we would not like to admit it believers can be too ready to excuse ungodly thoughts and actions especially considering the wickedness about them. God is not so generous, however. That lesson will be learned through his punishment and discipline either today or at his judgment seat. Distress in life is not caused by sin alone; however, those who are walking with Christ, even though suffering through tribulations will never feel abandoned but will recognize his presence and peace.

David repented and could find joy again. In fact, God described him as, “a man after [his] own heart.” (Acts 13:22 NIV) Believers are to be men and women after God’s own heart. They are to enjoy fellowship with him, never feeling the dryness in spiritual life that comes from separation. The point is that God does not bless wickedness regardless of the utterances of those who would profess otherwise. He demands righteous practices from his people and blesses those who forgo sin and pursue his kingdom purposes.


Russell Young is the Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

March 8, 2011

Christ Formed In You: Spiritual Transformation

I want to introduce something a little different today.  Sometimes a blogger will work their way, chapter by chapter, through a current Christian book.  Others will dedicate a whole blog to promote a particular book they’re enjoying.  We’re going to crash in the middle of a blog which is the latter type, set up to promote the book Christ Formed in You by Brian Hedges (Shepherd Press).   If it whets your appetite for more, click back to the beginning or, better yet, buy the book.

This one is titled The Pattern of  Spiritual Transformation.

How does God get us up on our feet and moving in the right direction? What are some of the basic elements we need to understand in order to walk more like Jesus? Two related passages of Scripture give us the answer.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:1-2)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

In these verses, Paul provides us with five essential elements which make up spiritual transformation: the goal, the motive, the cost, the process, and the power. Each element is important. We must have the right goal, if we’re to know what we’re striving for. We also need to be rightly motivated in our pursuit, while at the same time fully understanding and embracing the cost. An understanding of the process is also essential, if we’re to fully cooperate with it. And, of course, we must be resourced with power, or we’ll get nowhere.

1. The Goal: The Image of Christ

As we saw in chapter one and have repeatedly emphasized throughout this book, the goal of spiritual transformation is conformity to the character of Christ. We see this in 2 Corinthians 3:18: we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” This is God’s eternal purpose. As Romans 8:29 says, God has “predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son.” He wants to make us more and more like Jesus in his spotless holiness, humble service, radiant joy, and self-giving love.

2. The Motive: The Mercies of God

Next, consider the motive, which Paul declares with the phrase, “the mercies of God.” This again takes us back to the thrust of this book. All genuine spiritual transformation is driven by the gospel.

Sometimes Paul’s letters are somewhat evenly divided between an exposition of the gospel and encouragement to his readers to live differently because of the gospel. But in the book of Romans, the first eleven chapters (out of sixteen) are almost entirely one great and glorious exposition of the gospel. Then we come to the first phrase of the first verse of chapter 12, which includes a “therefore” encompassing all that came previously. After eleven complete chapters explaining and extolling the glories of the gospel, how does Paul summarize it all in a single phrase? “Therefore, by the mercies of God . . .”

Paul is saying that the gospel is ultimately about God’s mercies [i] lavished on us in Christ, even when we were enemies to God (Rom. 5:10). God has justified us freely in Christ (Rom. 3:24), liberated us from sin’s slavery (Rom. 6:6-7), and indwelt us by his Spirit (Rom. 8:9, 13-17). God did not even spare his own Son, but gave him up for us (Rom. 8:32). This level of mercy and grace, this stunning demonstration of unwavering commitment to those whom he loves, assures us that God will give us everything we need. What amazing mercy! Only the ravishing taste of such mercy and grace can change us.

3. The Cost: Present Your Bodies as Living Sacrifices…

4. The Process: Renewing the Mind…

5. The Power: The Spirit of the Lord…


[i] God’s mercies include: righteousness (3:21-26), redemption (3:24), grace (3:24), peace (5:1), grace (5:2), justification (5:1), hope (5:4-5), the love of God poured out in our hearts (5:5), union with Christ (6:1-11); freedom from sin (6:1-23; eternal life (6:22), freedom from the law (7:1-25); no condemnation (8:1), the Spirit (8:9), sonship (8:14-16); the hope of the future redemption of our bodies (8:23); the Spirit interceding (8:26-27); all things working together for our good (8:28), conformity to Jesus Christ (8:29), calling (8:30), glorification (8:30), and so on.