BECOMING DROSS

“Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver.”

Ezekiel 22:18

God is very particular about the spiritual condition of His people. As the Lord communicated with Ezekiel concerning Israel, He compared them to metals, both common and precious. God told Ezekiel that His people were becoming dross. Dross is a descriptive word that refers to the impurities found in metals. The less valuable metals mentioned were brass, tin, iron, and lead, all inferior to the finer metal of silver. God wanted the house of Israel to be silver, but they were becoming less like silver and more like the lesser metals.

What do you think God wants us to be? Would He prefer that we be common and less valuable like lead or tin, or would He want us to be valuable and precious like silver or gold? We would all agree that God wants us to be like silver and gold. Brass, tin, iron, and lead have their place, but God intended for His children to be silver. God pointed out to them that there was too much dross, or impurities, in their lives. For us to be everything that God wants us to be, the dross has to be removed from our lives. This is the work of the refiner, to separate the dross from the pure ore.

What are we becoming? We are either becoming valuable silver or we are becoming dross. Israel had previously been in a purer, more useful state than they were during the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy. But, they had degenerated to a deplorable and miserable condition. We are either becoming purer and more valuable for God’s service, or we are becoming corrupt and less useable as a vessel unto honor.

God has a program for making us more Christ-like and removing the impurities from our lives. The refiner would use intense heat to liquefy the metal, thus making it possible to separate the silver from the dross. The Word of God teaches that God lovingly uses trials and correction to purify and purge us. He has a purpose for each of us.

In addition, we should be consistently seeking to remove the impurities from our lives. As we distance ourselves from attitudes, hobbies, relationships, wrong priorities, etc., that are not consistent with the character that Christ is wanting to develop in us, we too will remove the dross and become more like precious silver for God’s glory.

GREATLY BELOVED

“And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.”
Daniel 10:11

In this great vision, Daniel is referred to as “a man greatly beloved.” The man of God was overwhelmed by what He was experiencing, as God communicated this powerful message to him. How comforting these words must have been to his heart as God reassured Daniel of His great love for His servant.

What a blessing it is to know that God loves us, that we, too, are “greatly beloved.” People have the need to know that someone cares for them. The words, “I love you,” when spoken in sincerity are such comforting, reassuring words. How much more important it is to know that our Creator and Savior loves us individually and sincerely!

This message is repeated in so many places and in so many ways in the Word of God. God loves us. He loves us, not because of the way we are, but because of the way He is. He said to His people in Deuteronomy 7:7, 8, “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you…” He loves all of humanity, but He has a special love for His people. He has manifested His love for us in sending His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. He loves us at all times, and He loves us with an unending love. He loves us unconditionally.

People sometimes think that because they have made mistakes or failed the Savior that He no longer loves them. This is not the case. When God corrects His children, it is because He loves each one and wants the best for them. When Daniel faced the heavenly visitor, he needed to hear that he was “greatly beloved.” He needed to know that the God of Heaven loved Him.

When we read the Bible, we often hear that God loves us. When we are encountered with the might and power of our God and Savior, realizing His holiness and righteousness, it can be overwhelming. When we see our unworthiness in the presence of God’s glory and perfect righteousness, we wonder how He can even be mindful of us. And yet we know, without a doubt, that our Heavenly Father loves us, intimately and personally.

CONSIDER YOUR WAYS

“Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.”
Haggai 1:5, 7

God used His prophet to challenge the people about their priorities and their activity. They were twice told to “Consider your ways.” Haggai prophesied during the rebuilding of the temple after the Babylonian captivity. His message was to a people who were guilty of procrastinating about the building of the Lord’s house. They felt there was ample time to improve and enjoy their own homes, but there was no urgency about God’s house.

What does it mean to consider one’s ways? The word consider means “to think about or set your heart upon.” They were to honestly evaluate their way of life. This is such good advice for us all. Is it right for us, the way we live? Is it right to neglect God’s house or God’s work? Is it right for those who claim a relationship with God to have time for personal interests or hobbies, but no time for God’s work? How about neglecting our Bible reading or prayer time? Isn’t it interesting how we have time for things that we want to do, but very often do not have time for things God wants us to do? We need to think about, or consider our ways.

When God’s house and God’s work are being neglected, we should not expect to see His approval and blessing. It is so easy for us to get our lives and priorities out of balance. That is why it is good, from time to time, to consider our ways. Are we neglecting our families? Are we neglecting our Christian service? Do our job or hobbies demand too much of our time? We need to seriously evaluate our schedules and see where our time is being spent. What important activities are being sacrificed because we are investing too much of our lives to less important things? Once we have done an honest assessment of our ways, we need to make adjustments that reflect our new intentions.

It is important to think about what we need to be doing, but it is another thing to change our ways. What should I be doing that I am not doing? What am I doing that I should not be doing, or at least not doing so much of? Do I have time in my schedule for visitation or soul winning? Am I doing my part as far as helping with ministries or projects at the church? Do I plan time in my schedule for family? Just as God used Haggai to challenge the priorities of His people, may His words speak to us as well.

AM I THE ONLY ONE?

“And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
I Kings 19:10, 14

The bravest and most faithful of God’s servants have times of discouragement. Elijah was no exception. When he stood on Mt. Carmel, he was called upon to face the false prophets alone. God gave a great victory. Now the prophet is being opposed by wicked Queen Jezebel, and the fatigue of the past events has caught up with him. At perhaps his lowest moment, Elijah felt that he would be better off dead than alive. The man of God is struggling emotionally and spiritually.

Have you ever felt that you have been asked to carry more than your share of the load? Have you thought that perhaps your burdens or trials were more difficult than others? It can happen to any of us, and it can be a spiritually dangerous place to be. Elijah illustrates how the “AM I THE ONLY ONE?” syndrome can manifest itself in anyone. In reality, there were thousands of others who were remaining faithful to God and had not bowed their knee to Baal.

Few people in the Bible could be considered more faithful to God than Elijah was. No one would question his zeal and commitment to the Word of God. He was willing to stand for God and against evil, believing in his mind that no one else was standing. We should always be faithful to the Lord, even if we think at the time that we are the only ones. Because our family or friends are not standing true to God is not an excuse for us to let down in our loyalty. It may very well be that God wants to use our steadfastness to motivate and encourage others.

There were times when Paul had to stand without any human support. Of course, our Savior is the greatest example of how someone can stand alone. However, as alone as we may sometimes feel, the reality is that usually there are others who are at their posts. Feeling that we are “the only one” can lead to spiritual pride and discouragement. The truth is that we are never alone. Though we may feel that way, God is always with us. Our standing faithful in times of difficulty is evidence of the grace that He is giving us. Don’t be discouraged, but be thankful for the grace to stand and serve, and for the other unseen servants who are remaining faithful.

WE RECEIVE THAT WE MIGHT GIVE

“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
I Peter 4:10

According to the Bible, all of us are gifted for ministry to others. We are not all gifted in the same measure or the same manner, but all are gifted. How do we know that we have something to offer which has the potential to be a blessing to others? We know this because God declares it to be so. The phrase every man can only mean exactly what is says. We have heard more than a few Christians say things such as “I don’t have any talent,” or “I don’t have a spiritual gift,” or “There is really nothing I can do to benefit others.” These statements, though perhaps sincere, are simply not true.

According to the Word of God, we can be confident that God has uniquely equipped each of us to serve in some capacity. Understanding this should create a sense of purpose and personal worth in each of us. Where do these talents, gifts, and abilities come from? Our verse tells us that we “received” them. They come from God. God equips us for service according to His good pleasure. It is our duty to discover and develop the gifts that God gives us.

This is a part of our responsibility as “stewards,” but we should always keep in mind that our gifts are given to us by our Heavenly Father. Knowing this helps to remove the tendency to boast or become prideful about the abilities we are given. The Word of God refers to our gifts as “the manifold grace of God.” Any good that we are able to accomplish should not be for our praise but for the glory of God.

Why does God gift us? He gifts us to serve Him, but particularly to “minister the same one to another.” God does not gift us to use our talents and abilities for personal gain or for self-glory. What God gives, He intends for us to use to help people. We receive, in order that we might give. God blesses us so that we might be a blessing. One day we will give an account of the stewardship of our gifts.

There is a difference between an owner and a steward. A steward is a manager of what belongs to another. The Bible teaches us that as “stewards,” we will one day answer for the way we have used the resources and talents that God has entrusted to us. Thank God that He has given us the means to serve Him and minister to others. With whatever days we have remaining, let’s take what we have been given and use it to be a blessing to others.

WHAT GOD STARTS, HE FINISHES

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”
Philippians 1:6

Paul clearly expresses great confidence in God’s work in the lives of the church members at Philippi. What encouragement we find in this powerful statement! We have all felt the frustration of our own failures and disappointments. We wonder if we will ever become all that God has declared we should be. Paul knew, and we can know, that what has been initiated in the life of a true believer, will one day be completed.

We do not come to this confidence by examining our own ability or determination, but rather by understanding the great work of redemption. Salvation is in every way, a divine work, a work of Almighty God. This cannot be overstated. The new birth is not accomplished by the will of man. Although we must by faith respond to the Gospel by trusting Christ as our Savior, the regenerating work in our lives is the work of the Spirit of God. The moment a repentant sinner receives Christ and His promise of salvation, he is eternally saved. Our salvation, as far as our eternal relationship with God and Heaven being our final destination, is secure the moment we receive God’s gift of eternal life.

However, God’s work in our lives is not finished at that moment. He has “begun a good work” in us. That work of grace in the lives of His children will continue until it is complete, and it is our duty and privilege to cooperate with God as He accomplishes His perfect will in us. When we are saved, He forgives us of our sins and indwells us by His Spirit. But, He continues the process of spiritual growth and godliness.

We should be committed to seeing the work of spiritual growth and sanctification continue in our lives; but even more so, we can be completely certain God is committed to it. God will continue this work in those who truly belong to Him. We may be tempted to give up on ever becoming Christ-like, but God will not give up. Beloved, if you are saved, God is not finished with you yet. He will not abandon His work. A part of His work is to conform us to the image of His Son. That work will not be complete until we are finally taken to Heaven, and are in our glorified state. It will continue all of our days, “until the day of Jesus Christ.” In this reassuring truth, we find patience and hope as we deal with the imperfections in our lives and in the lives of others.

COMMENDING THE GOOD

“Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:”
Romans 13:2, 3

Those who resist, or rebel, against authority will be judged. This is intended to be a motivation for us to obey the rules and follow our leaders. Whenever there are no consequences for disobedience, rebellion will be encouraged. On the other hand, an incentive for obedience to God and His ordained authority, is the anticipation of being rewarded. The Word of God says, “do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.” It is a powerful reinforcement for positive behavior when those in authority commend, or praise, the obedient. This serves as a practical lesson for those who are giving the orders as well as those who are receiving them.

Most of us will admit that there are times that it is easier for us to point out the mistakes or faults of others, than to recognize and commend the good or positive things for which they are responsible. Reprimanding misbehavior definitely has its place, but so does praising good behavior. Commending is as much a part of leading as is reproving. Our Lord is the perfect example of this. He rebukes or corrects us when we disobey, but He also gives us encouragement for faithfulness.

The Bible is a great source of positive affirmation and commendation. In Revelation 2 and 3, we see Christ pointing out areas of concern in His churches, but also noting their accomplishments and positive qualities. One day at the Judgment Seat of Christ, those who have honored the Lord with their lives and service will be duly rewarded. Therefore the faithful and obedient steward lives for the anticipation of hearing Him say, “Well done.”

The power of praise is a mighty force to motivate those we lead. Sometimes we fail to recognize and commend the good in others. In our zeal to correct error and disobedience, we may be guilty of overlooking truth and obedience. The devil is always working to discourage and defeat God’s children through temptations and accusations. May God help us to use our influence to encourage and motivate through commending the good.

DON’T MAKE THEM BITTER

“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Ephesians 6:4

One of the most basic and important lessons for life is recognizing how God has established, and works through, delegated authority. This is realized in the home, in the church, in civil government, and in the place of employment. In this system of authority, the Bible dictates responsibilities for those in and those under authority.

Our text warns us, especially those who are dads, about the possibility of abusing the place of authority. Although this passage specifically admonishes fathers, the danger exists in every application of authority. Leaders can provoke to anger those they are responsible for leading.

God uses and mightily blesses this system of governing our lives through those in authority. Because of this, Satan attacks it on every level. There is great temptation to rebel against those in authority. For this reason, those of us who have the charge of leading others should take this warning seriously.

What might contribute to our angering those who are under our authority? Sometimes it occurs when we fail to instruct children, while expecting them to comply with our expectations. It is not enough to simply tell them what they are to do; we should also teach them why they are to do it. Being in charge, or being in authority, means more than just giving orders or telling others what to do. Our text tells dads to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This includes systematically and consistently teaching and training.

Another thing that contributes to making children bitter is when parents aren’t the kind of examples they should be. A leader whose philosophy could be summarized as, “Do as I say, not as I do,” will contribute to frustration with those who follow. Inconsistencies between our expectations of others and our personal habits cause confusion in the lives of those who we are seeking to train.

Another factor that may produce wrathful responses is a lack of patience by those in authority. Nurturing takes time and patience. Leading, as well as following, has its challenges. It is wise for us to remember that those who lead, and those who are being led, are only human. All of us make mistakes; but with God’s grace and help, we want to effectively lead without creating bitterness in those we are trying to influence.

BELIEVING THE NEGATIVE

“Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.”
Mark 16:14

It is impossible to fully comprehend the emotional and spiritual upheaval that the disciples found themselves in at the time of the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. Although they had been warned many times about His impending trial and death, they did not take those lessons to heart. They forgot the things they had heard. After three sorrowful days and nights, the news came to them that Jesus was alive, but they were very slow to believe it. Rather than rejoicing in the victory of the vicarious death of the Lamb of God and His bodily resurrection, they were consumed with doubt and defeat.

It is not at all uncommon for people to believe things that are negative and even untrue, while at the same time finding it difficult to believe the promises of God. Those closest to Christ struggled in this same way, and were rebuked by Jesus for “their unbelief and hardness of heart.” How could it be that they were so full of doubt? After all the warnings and teachings of our Lord, how could they be so slow to believe? Perhaps a more relevant question for us might be, “How is it that we so often doubt His promises to us?”

The Bible is filled with wonderful promises to every child of God: not just promises about His resurrection, but also promises about His provision, and power. He has assured us of His abiding presence, His endless supply of wisdom, and His power to witness. We have been guaranteed grace for every trial, and strength for every mile. Yet, we have all found ourselves filled with worry and doubt rather than simple and dynamic faith in God and His Word. Like the disciples, there are times we must admit the sin of our own unbelief.

Why must we doubt? In reproving the disciples, Jesus upbraided them for their “hardness of heart.” Their unbelief was an indication of something amiss in their hearts. Faith is fostered in a humble heart that is submissive and responsive to the Word of God. Hearts that are hardened because of sin, pride, and the influence of the world will not be apt to rely wholly upon God and His truth. In guarding our hearts, and keeping them yielded and pure, may we be filled with sincere faith to believe God.

BE NOT TROUBLED

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
Matthew 24:6

The disciples asked Jesus, “what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world” (3). In Matthew 24, He gave them many indications of the kinds of activities one will encounter in the end times. These signs include such things as: an abundance of false teachers, great deception, wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, persecutions, and great tribulation, such as has never occurred.

The world is headed for great catastrophe. It will not happen all at once. Much of this will take place after Christians are taken to Heaven, in the rapture that will precede the time of great tribulation. Most people would agree that many of these things have already begun. There are others, though, that have quite a different view about the time that we live in. And, there are even preachers that paint a much different picture about the future from the one described in our text. To hear them, you might think that great revival will accompany the last days. Some even proclaim what could be considered virtual world dominance by Christians.

The Bible does teach that Jesus will one day reign on this earth for a period of one thousand years and that His faithful followers will reign with Him in His kingdom. However, that reign will be preceded by a period of apostasy and great tribulation. When we read of and hear about the great proliferation of error, the natural disasters that seem to escalate both in number and magnitude, the serious famines and pestilences and such things, it should tell us that we are nearing the end.

What, then, should be our mindset as we ponder world conditions? Jesus said, “see that ye be not troubled.” We are not to be alarmed or frightened. For one thing, we have been warned. Jesus tells us in His Word what to expect. It should come as no surprise that there is a great falling away from the true faith, or that false gospels flourish in our day. We can trust in the Lord and know that He is in control and that He does all things well. While His return is imminent, we understand that we live in a day of tremendous opportunity to preach the Gospel and win others to Christ. We are to occupy until He comes. One day soon, our days of evangelism and discipleship will be over. We must work while it is day.