In the Furnace of God's Glory

By Francis Frangipane

God's word assures us that the Redeemer we see in the gospels is the same Lord Who enters our lives when we are born again. The same things Jesus did in the first century, He promises to do again for us today. Indeed, Scripture confirms that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever" (Heb 13:8). If the person we call "Jesus" is not as wonderful or powerful as Jesus of the gospels, we are serving the wrong one.

Thus, if we will truly know the real Jesus, we must re-acquaint ourselves with the reasons Jesus came. For His goals for our lives are the same as His goals in the first century.
Jesus often repeated one thought, one primary reason for His coming. He said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). Whenever I am reminded of my flaws and failings, the Holy Spirit also reminds me: Jesus came to give His life a ransom for mine.

When we sin, guilt, fear and shame, like kidnappers, hold us hostage in a prison of condemnation. The very things we have done wrong entrap us in the consequences of our actions. We deserve the punishment we receive, yet Christ came to ransom my life from my own failings. He bore my sins. The chastisement for my well-being fell upon Him. In other words, He not only paid my bail; He destroyed the jail!

Sometimes, especially when I am in battle or trouble, I call the Lord by the name "Ransom." When the devil shows me my debt, I show him what Christ paid. I agree, I deserved to die; but Christ died for me. I deserve curse after curse, but Christ became a curse for me. Jesus came to set captives free - people who were trapped in their failings and sins. This is the very reason Jesus came, to release us!

Your soul was ransomed. Your life was redeemed. No matter what battle you're facing or what hopeless situation surrounds you, there is a rescue party coming with the ransom for your freedom in their hand. You were redeemed by the Son of God Himself! This is an awesome truth. The fact that Christ died for us reveals our value to God. No one rescues a worthless person. No one pays so high a price as His own life for garbage. God sees you differently. His death for us says, "Your life is valuable to Me."

This is why the gospel is called "Good News." Other religions provide some form of moral code to which to adhere. But Jesus says, in essence, "My righteousness is the ransom for your sins." There is no greater news in the universe.

To Save the World
This truth, that Christ came to save sinners, is repeated again and again in the scriptures. He said in John 12:47, "I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world." When we think of the terrible things that are done in our world, our immediate response is, "Lord, destroy these sinners." Yet, Jesus says that He didn't come merely to judge, but to save. In all that He does, His motive is to save.

Consider when the disciples were passing through Samaria and met resistance from the Samaritans. James and John asked, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" Jesus rebuked them, saying, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Lk 9:54-56).

I utterly love that truth: Jesus did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. No matter what I am going through; no matter what enemies are aligned to destroy me, Jesus is in the mix seeking to save me. Again He reminds us that He came, "To seek and to save that which was lost."

Jesus does not want to destroy the lost; He's seeking to save them. When I was unsaved, I'm sure there were a few hardened Christians that thought the best thing God could do for the world was get rid of Francis. Yet, I clearly recall many the ways Christ reached to me: Christians would walk past hundreds of people on a beach and talk to just one person: me; a sudden storm would force me to take shelter in a church and the one other person inside would talk to me about Christ. The Lord was in pursuit of my sinful, lost soul. Even while I resisted, He was not offended. He simply continued until I surrendered to His voice.

None of us finds Christ through some skill of our own. He drew us to Himself. He says that He calls His sheep by name. We think of ourselves as sinners, trapped in sin; He sees us as we will be when we are filled with His Spirit. We know that He came, not to condemn captives, but to set them free.

He Came That We'd Have Life in Abundance
Jesus does not just save us and then ask us "to hang in there" until we die. No, in John 10:10, Jesus says, "I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly." The reason He came was not to keep us from hell, but to introduce us to heaven. David said his cup "overflowed." Forget the idea of just being "saved" in some doctrinal way. When you accepted Christ, heaven found its way to you. God's goal is to fill your whole life with the very same life that fills heaven.

Remember, Jesus compared the kingdom of God to leaven, a little yeast, which spreads throughout the dough and expands the entire lump. God wants your whole life "leavened with heaven." He desires to fill your dreams, financial needs, health and relationships with the substance of heaven. Over and over again, we see that Christ came to redeem, to save, to give life, to set at liberty and release. What a great God we serve!

To Cast Fire
Sometimes I feel, with all the troubles in the world, that part of my calling is to defend the goodness of God. I don't want us to ever lose this tremendous picture of God's goodness. Yet, having laid the foundation of God's great love for us, let us discuss one more reason why Jesus told us He came. He said, "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!" (Lk 12:49).

When we consider the unlimited dimensions of God's goodness, we must also take into account that there are elements within us that resist the Lord. We are, in some ways, isolated from God by our attitudes and perceptions. So Jesus says, in essence, that what our repentance could not change, God's fire will remove.

Remember, I am not saying that the fire creates in us right standing with God; our peace with God comes freely through Christ's ransom. However, the fire establishes God-forged virtue within us. It burns off the limitations of culture; it removes the fear of man and creates, in our spirits, the holy fear of God.

You see, Christ's ransom secures not only our forgiveness, but our transformation as well. Forgiveness is but one track of our salvation experience; ongoing transformation is the other. Remember also Paul's confession that "we are [God's] workmanship" (Eph 2:10). If we could perfect ourselves, we would not need God.

The fire feels like an invasion from hell but, in the wonderful hands of God, it ultimately becomes access to heaven. Because Christ is with us, the fire we experience, though clearly ignited by hell, only destroys our old nature. In the ashes of our self life, Christ manifests unscathed.

Anyone caught on fire urgently, desperately prays for release. But there is no release or rescue from the fire of God. Such is divine fire: it comes upon us, bringing suffering - but it is a suffering that leads to glory. It falls upon us, but ultimately enters our hearts, where it abides within us. Its work cannot be duplicated by church services or bible study; its purification has no counterpart, not even in fasting nor prayer. You are sure it is the devil - and it most often is, but somehow it brings you closer to God.

A person on fire is a suffering person; they are confused and afraid they will die. Likewise, God's fire is designed to kill you. It's designed to kill some part of you that you couldn't remove yourself. Indeed, it hurts terribly, but it also heals. Everyone cries to be saved from the fire. Yet, if we will find the redemptive power within God's fire, we must resist the temptation to be quickly rescued. We must learn to pray, "Lord, do not deliver me from Your fire; rather deliver me from well-meaning friends who seek to save me from Your hand."

I have been talking all along of the reasons Christ came: to ransom us, to seek and save the lost, and that we might have life in abundance. Yet, He also came to fill us with His holy fire. The fire of God does what human efforts cannot do.

Beloved, today as Christians are looking to be rescued from tribulation via the rapture, I, too, look forward to the day of Christ's return. But let us remember Paul's warning, that the Lord's "day . . . is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work" (1 Cor 3:13). Before the rapture comes the "test" of fire. Let us, therefore, embrace the purifying of our hearts by the fire of God. Let us stand, like the three Hebrew children, alive in Nebuchadnezzar's fire. Our assurance, like theirs, is that our bonds shall be burned up. Indeed, as with them, the Lord will manifest Himself with us in the furnace of His glory.