Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.
Scrubbing is a good thing—unless you’re a dirty toddler. Refining is also a good thing—unless you’re the metal. In both cases the outcome is good, but the process of getting there can be uncomfortable and even painful. Malachi recognizes that his message needs to get people ready for spiritual refinement. While the people give lip service to believing in God, their actions don’t show that they really love him.
John the Baptist faced a similar challenge just before Jesus came. His message was welcomed by people who knew they were dirty and desperately wanted to be cleansed. For them the process was worth the result. But for those who didn’t feel dirty it was difficult to submit to John’s uncomfortable message. The baptism that John offered symbolized a spiritual cleansing, and not everyone thought they needed it.
John the Baptist promised that Jesus would come with a baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. This combines the imagery of Malachi’s message with the work of the Holy Spirit. A life committed to Jesus Christ is a life submitted to the cleansing and refining work of the Spirit of God. Again, the process is frightening; it requires loss. But what is found is worth much more than what is lost—new life, freedom, courage, joy, peace, love, and much more.
Are you willing to submit to God’s gracious cleansing?
Dear Jesus, cleanse us with your Spirit. Refine us. Take away our sin and shame and fill us with beauty and integrity. Help us submit to you. Amen.
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