A favorite Bible passage of mine is found in a tiny little book in the New Testament: Titus. This was a letter written by the apostle Paul to one of his converts, Titus, giving him instructions on various subjects related to life in Christ. In the middle of this short letter, Paul highlights grace as the means by which we are transformed. It is in this section that we also discover a process-orientation regarding this transformation.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14; emphases mine)
Jesus' sacrifice was for our redemption and our purification. He bought us back from the shackles of slavery to sin in order that we might be purified for God's possession. What Jesus did over 2000 years ago is still affecting our lives today. We are part of this centuries-long purification process. God wants to adorn His kingdom with purified vessels.
I took some time recently to look up the process by which gold is refined. I quickly discovered that I'm not the person one would call if they wanted to have gold refined! It is a precise and dangerous process that should only be conducted by experts in gold refining. But I at least understood the concept. Gold, if it is to be pure, must undergo an extensive process of removing all imperfections. This requires heat, and lots of it.
When gold is originally mined it is not pure. There are all sorts of imperfections attached to it; dirt, other metals, rock, etc. While much of this can simply be chipped away from the gold, the junk that is woven into the gold itself cannot be removed without melting the gold. This requires high temperatures (roughly 2000 degrees Fahrenheit!) in order to separate the pure gold from the imperfections. This takes time, patience, and precision.
Recovery from sexual addiction takes time. There is lots of junk (i.e. imperfections) that get woven into our lives. But God, the Great Refiner, digs through all the garbage and mines out our lives from the dark caverns where we dwell. At that moment, we are a mess. It's hard to even imagine that there is anything of worth in such a mess. Yet God sees what we cannot, because He sees us through eyes of love. It is by His grace that we are saved.
Then begins the process of refinement, which takes patience. The same grace that rescued us from our dark cave of addiction is the same grace that will transform us into vessels of pure gold in God's kingdom. But for some reason we think this should happen quickly, even immediately -- and on our terms. But God is the Refiner, not us. He is the expert, the one with the skill and wisdom to know precisely what is required to turn us from a dirty lump of imperfect metal into a sparkling object of pure gold.
So, back to the passage in Titus 2. Do you see the words that I highlighted? Training, waiting, to purify? Did you notice that these are not terms of completion, but rather terms of process? We are being trained by grace to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions. We are waiting, and continue to wait, for the second coming of Jesus. God, in Christ, is refining us ("to purify") to be a people eager for good works. We are in process for a lifetime. And God is the One doing the refining.
I think it is time to embrace a process-orientation when it comes to recovery and a life of purity. This reframes everything. The next time the "heat" gets turned up in your life, and you feel like your soul is melting, don't panic; you are being refined. When you stumble and fall on the journey, but are reminded of the unfailing love of Jesus, you are being refined. When you are afraid to tell your story because of what others might think of you, you are being refined. Whatever happens along this road of recovery, you are in the process of refinement; the imperfections are being melted away by the grace of the Master Refiner.
Will you let God do the work of refining you? The process may be painful (and hot!), but the results will be spectacular. I don't know about you, but I want to become a prized possession of pure gold in the presence of my King. That, my friends, is worth the heat...