Malachi 3:2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.
Even though this passage is part of the libretto for The Messiah, the majority of Christians, even, forget that it’s in the Bible. We see paintings of Jesus as the gentle Shepherd carrying a lamb, as it talks about in Isaiah 40:11, but we forget or ignore the aspect of judgment that is also throughout the Bible. Those who do not submit themselves to Him, who decline to acknowledge that they are no better than sheep, will see Him from a very different angle. 1 Peter 4:17 is a passage few people like: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” The Gospel is without question a message of grace, but we will indeed have to be cleansed of impurities, just as Malachi says. Fire and lye (which the NIV renders as “soap”) aren’t the most gentle of agents! That’s why it’s important to have all our sins covered by the blood of the Lamb. We are so prone to make excuses for ourselves, and say, “God wouldn’t condemn me for that, because that’s just the way I am.” That’s not submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The devil is a consummate liar, and he offers us all sorts of excuses for our sins because he knows that when they are not repented of, we lose a great deal, and he is out to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10) Accepting Jesus as Lord means accepting His judgment in our lives, repenting indeed of everything that is not pleasing to Him, while we have the opportunity.
I am reminded of some of the glasses and cups from which I drink tea. (I drink a LOT of iced tea.) Though I wash them regularly, over time they acquire a brown stain, so periodically they have to be bleached. The buildup of stain is very gradual, but once the bleach has been used, the difference is striking. I need to remember that the “little” sins I tend to ignore build up, and I need the regular application of the blood of Christ, received only through repentance and faith. As a pastor, I must remember that I am not the judge, Christ is. That should govern how I warn people of sin. Too many preachers act as though they were the judge! I must not preach grace without making it clear why grace is necessary. A gospel without repentance isn’t the Gospel at all. However, the focus should be on the fact that cleansing and forgiveness are indeed available to all who will repent in truth, just as it says in 1 John 1:9.
Father, help me keep my own repentance up to date. Help me express Your love and grace accurately to all, which includes making it clear that we need them and why we need them. I have no wisdom or strength to do that effectively myself, so I ask You to do it through me. I pray that this church would be a growing body of true disciples, actively serving You for Your pleasure and glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!