When I consider the word reform, my mind immediately goes to Martin Luther. In 1517, this priest and scholar nailed a piece of paper with 95 criticisms, or theses, on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany. (1) He turned the Catholic Church upside down by publicly declaring its faults.
Luther saw what needed correction or improvement, and he took action to turn up the heat, opening the way for a change to take place. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church was not willing to make the necessary adjustments, and they remained unpurified for a time.
However, Martin Luther’s efforts were not in vain. As news spread across Europe, people were set free from the chains of corruption in the Catholic Church. While the church itself was not reformed by Luther’s efforts, the hearts of many people were reformed. It was the beginning of the Protestant movement, or what is now commonly referred to as the Protestant Reformation.
Merriam-Webster defines reform as “to improve (someone or something) by removing or correcting faults, problems, etc.”
Reformation is similar to the process of purifying silver. When silver is pulled from the ground, it has impurities imbedded in it—dirt, gravel, other metals—referred to as “dross.” To remove these, the silver is heated in fire; as it melts, the dross rises to the surface, where the silversmith skims it off. The silver is heated again, this time at a higher temperature, which brings more dross to the surface. The impurities are skimmed once more, and the process repeats, over and over, until the silversmith can see his likeness reflected in the silver. At that point, he knows the silver is purified and ready to be used for jewelry, utensils, dishes, coins, etc.
The Lord takes us through a similar process as He reforms us into His image. We all have things imbedded in our hearts that need to be removed for us to better reflect Christ. He carefully purifies each of us by exposing the dross in our own hearts.
He even calls Himself the “refiner’s fire” in Malachi 3:
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. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. (Malachi 3:2-3)
This refining process can be quite painful. Even if we are willing, when the fire intensifies, our human instinct is to avoid all pain, but the Lord allows the fire to be turned up because it reveals what is truly in our hearts.
When others reject us, what comes out of us? Are we defensive? Are we quick to criticize? Or does love come out of us? Do we say, “Father, forgive them,” like Jesus did?
When we are misunderstood, do we lash out and become angry? Do we mull it over and over in our hearts? Or do we respond with grace and let it go, trusting that God will bring about His truth?
Sometimes the enemy is the one to turn up the fire in our lives, but God is always ready to use this for our good and skim off any impurities. We must, however, be willing to be purified.
Once I was being tested by the enemy, and I found that my response was to rage at the Lord for allowing me to be hit by the enemy. The lie in my heart was, “If God is omnipotent, why does He continually allow these delays to happen?”
Instead of feeling ashamed for raging at God, I took my rage to Him and said, “Help me skim this dross off of my heart.” He revealed a memory I had about the day my birth father abandoned me. I had put a wall up about the pain I felt and resisted dealing with my true emotions.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, I allowed myself to feel the pain of that very sad day; I allowed myself to rage at my birth father for a moment in my heart, I loudly expressed my disappointment in his selfishness, and then I forgave him. And my rage subsided.
I turned toward the Lord in my pain, instead of turning away. I ask Him to remove the veil that was hiding the impurity. He showed me the truth—that I was not really mad at the Lord, but I was mad at my birth father. He gave me the grace to forgive him because I know that I need the same forgiveness.
My heart was purified and reformed.
We must take advantage of trials and tribulations in our lives, not turning away from the pain, but instead allowing it to reform us into the likeness of Christ. These words can be an encouragement to us in the process:
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)
As an intercessor, I believe the same process is true of our nation. God is taking us through His Refiner’s fire. Consider our country as though it was a person—we have a heart that needs to be reformed.
When we see pain come to the surface of our nation, we must not wring our hands as though we are powerless. We must acknowledge the pain of injustice or corruption in our country. We must take it to the Lord, asking Him to remove the veil and reveal where the root of the pain is coming from.
He can show us what is going on under the surface. We can then use the tools that Jesus made available us! We ask for forgiveness for those who need it. We ask for justice for those who deserve it. We can apply the blood of Christ and embrace the power of His resurrection.
As we allow ourselves to be individually reformed, the Lord will be able to raise up the company of reformers our world so desperately needs. Are you willing?