Fahrenheit 1763.4714

The process of refining brings out the beauty of the metal that is hidden by the impurities.

Fahrenheit 1763.4714.

Hmmm. Lets see, what does this mean. It isn’t the title of a new documentary about alleged government cover-ups. It isn’t a song about some nonsensical subject. It isn’t about a new dish to eat or place to go. Fahrenheit 1763.474 isn’t about any of those things. It IS about sanctification. It IS about how we get progressively more like Christ. And, by the way, it IS the melting point of silver. What??! What does the melting point of silver have to do with the progressive sanctification of believers? And what does this have to do with the previous article about trials? Confused yet? Good. Let me explain.

The human condition is an interesting one. On one hand we see ourselves as independent,

self-sufficient individuals. On the other hand we seek the approval of others.

This paradox is one of the most vexing confronting those who study human behavior.

As Christians we seek approval. Sometimes this means we will compromise how we behave or believe. Sometimes we change ourselves in order to get the approval of others. Still other times we will do things we have great reservations about in order to be approved by others. In fact, there is probably no limit to which we will go in order to be accepted and approved of by others.

We also fear the converse: we fear being rejected or disapproved. This is best seen in our relationship with God. Most often Christians mistake trying to curry favor with God for serving God.We desperately seek His approval and try like crazy not to be rejected or disapproved by Him. This is a monumental mistake that leads people to do many weird and sometimes wicked things. We treat God like a mere human with whom we may curry favor with empty words, powerless actions, and vain flattery. We insult God and His holiness and power. We spit in His face by substituting our weak and vain actions for His wonderful and matchless grace.

If we belong to God –  if we have accepted Christ’s sacrifice as the only work that can save us from the flames of hell – we must never fear we will be rejected or disapproved by God.

How do I know this? Well, the answer is quite simple: the Bible tells me so!

In James 1, the word that is translated “testing” is the word dokimion. It comes from the word dokimazo. So, you may wonder, what does that have to do with the title of this article. Well my inquisitive friend, I have an answer for you! The term dokimazo was used in the Septuagint and other literature for the refining process of silver and gold. The idea was to heat up the silver (or gold) so it 1) melts and 2) releases the impurities that were part of the metal.

This process had two consequences. These consequences have a direct bearing on our progressive sanctification AND the use of the term dokimazo in sections referring to our trials. The first consequence of the refining process of either silver or gold is that as the impurities trapped in the metal are released due to the heat the metal is experiencing, that metal becomes more pure. That goes to reason doesn’t it? The fewer impurities, the purer the metal. Which brings me to the second consequence of the refining process. When a metal becomes purer, it reflects its true nature and beauty better. Have you ever seen pure gold? Or pure silver? Pretty impressive, right? The process of refining brings out the beauty of the metal that is hidden by the impurities.

The process is rather straightforward. Lets look at silver. You would take a bunch of it throw it in a pot of some kind and start a fire under the pot. The fire would be fanned and its heat output would rise until the silver melted. Silver melts at 1763.474 degrees Fahrenheit. Ahh, the title makes sense now! Once the silver melted, some of the impurities that were trapped in it would bubble to the top. These impurities are commonly referred to as the “dross”. Then the heat is increased and more impurities come out. This is repeated until the metal releases no more impurities.

How does this relate to our sanctification? Quite simply this IS the process we undergo in order to be more like Christ.

God places heat under us.

He heats us up until the initial impurities bubble up. He removes those impurities. Instead of leaving us there, He turns the heat up again. More impurities come out. He does this again and again until there are no more impurities bubbling to the surface. When does that happen? Why go through all this if we are still surrounded by sinful mankind? Well, not to be cruel, I will post that article next Monday. Until then, think about how you are viewing the trials you are experiencing. Some will say that severe trials are an indication that God is judging you and is a sign of your rebellion against Him. But I don’t think so. God refines those that are His. Those of us who belong to Him can expect to have progressively more heat applied to our lives so that more impurities come out.

After all, isn’t the aim of this life – and God’s call on us – to resemble Christ more and ourselves less.

But It’s a Dry Heat!

No one enjoys being the heat of a trial, whether that heat is a dry heat or not. I get uncomfortable when the heat is on. I get tired when the heat is on. I sometimes lose energy when the heat is on. I get focused on Christ far less than I should when the heat is on.

In the 1980’s I was stationed aboard MCAS El Toro in Southern California. I remember “volunteering” for a special duty at the annual air show. I say “volunteering” in quotation marks because the Marine Corps has a neat way of getting folks to volunteer: they simply say “You have volunteered” and, voila! they have volunteers.

Anyway I was part of traffic control/guard duty for the air show. Guard duty isn’t much fun but at least I got overtime…just kidding! So I was guarding a rope (actually I was standing guard near a sensitive area) in the heat of the day. I was sweating like crazy and was quite uncomfortable in my uniform. By the end of the day I was tired, my knees ached, I was sun burned and I stunk to high heaven. But I stood at my post. I heard a civilian remark about my plight as he walked by. The comments went something like this:

Civilian #1: Man, it looks like that dude (me) is about to die!

Civilian #2: Yeah…should we offer him something to drink? That might help

Civilian #1: I don’t think he is supposed to drink when he is on duty.

Civilian #2: If he isn’t supposed to drink…

Civilian #1: But it is so hot out (it was over 100 at my post). Where is his OC? (I think he meant C-O)…

Civilian #2: But it is a dry heat!

All I could think of was “An oven on broil is a dry heat too!” No wonder I didn’t like civilians so much on that particular weekend. Man it was hot. I’m sweating now just remembering how hot it was.  Even though I felt like I was on the face of the sun, I stood my ground and didn’t leave. I stood in the heat and took it. It wasn’t easy or enjoyable but I did have a mission that I felt honor-bound to fulfill. “After all” I thought, “I’m a Marine. I can take this.”

Do we have the same attitude when we stand in the heat of a trial God has brought to us? Are we willing to sweat, aches, and stink to high heaven? Or, do we want to escape into the nearest air conditioned hut? What should be our attitude when we find ourselves in the midst of a trial?

When we seek out teaching about trials, we needn’t go anywhere else than James 1:2-4:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.   And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The first think we notice is what our attitude should be: consider it all “joy”. But what is “joy”? And why should we have it when undergoing a trial. Well, first joy is not an emotion and it is not to be confused with happiness. being joyful does not mean that we have a smile pasted across our faces. NO, joy is a result of knowing there is purpose in everything. Finding joy is as simple as knowing there is a purpose behind whatever you and I are experiencing. So now the question becomes, What is the purpose of trials? We’ll get there but first lets look at some other things in this passage.

In v. 2 we see that trails are a sure thing…Notice the use of “when you encounter”. It isn’t “if you encounter…’ If you are a Christian who is being sanctified by God, then you will face difficulties in this life. Having difficulties is not a sign of God’s judgement. No, facing difficulties as a Christian is a sign of God’s blessing.

In vv. 3 – 4 we see the purpose: the trial produces endurance (or perseverance) which leads us to the ultimate purpose of the trial which is to be complete, lacking in nothing. We see one of the key terms in progressive sanctification used here. That term is the one translated “endurance”. here. In NT Greek, that word is hupomone. It is a compound word made from the words hupo, which means “under”, and meno which means “to remain”. So the word means “to remain under”. Here in James the reference is to remain under the pressure and heat of a trial.

No one enjoys being the heat of a trial, whether that heat is a dry heat or not. I get uncomfortable when the heat is on. I get tired when the heat is on. I sometimes lose energy when the heat is on. I get focused on Christ far less than I should when the heat is on.

How about you?

Focusing on Christ  isn’t an easy thing to do but it is a simple thing to do. Oftentimes the simplest things are the hardest things.

So here we see that the aim of the trial is that we get everything we need to be complete. You see, that is the goal of progressive sanctification. Now, with all due respect to Wesley, this completeness won’t happen until we are in glory. For now, we need that perseverance to develop so we can joyfully stand in the heat of the trial without wanting to get into the nearest air-conditioned Quonset hut.

So how are you doing? My first pastor, Dr. Braun, once said that a Christian is “either going into a trial, in a trial or coming out of a trial.” Trials are a way of life for us, we might as well approach them joyfully since we know that the goal of the trial is not to break us but to make us more complete.


Ready to be Committed?

“Pray as if everything depends on God, then work as if everything depends on you.”

                                                                                                                                        –Martin Luther

We should never ask God to use us then make ourselves unavailable. That is what Nehemiah did here in chapter 1. This attitude should permeate us in our sanctification.

Do you see the progression in Nehemiah’s prayer? His concern about the problem led him to brokenness. While he was weeping and fasting, he expressed his conviction about God’s character. As he focused on the greatness and awesomeness of His holy God, he was quickly reminded of his own wickedness and therefore cried out in confession. After owning his role in the nation’s depravity, he prayed boldly and with confidence in God’s promises. This then leads him to a commitment to get involved. We see this in verse 11:

“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the

prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant

success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man. I was cupbearer

to the king.”


While Nehemiah was praying, his burden for Jerusalem became greater and his vision of what needed to be done became clearer. He didn’t pray for God to send someone else – he simply said, “Here am I, send me!” He knew that he would have to approach the king and request a 3-year leave of absence and so asked God for “success,” in his request to the king.  He wanted to see God break out on his behalf when he goes in front of the king to make his request. Proverbs 21:1 states “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse where He pleases.” Nehemiah was committed to get involved and not just sit on the sidelines and lament the condition of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was a different type of guy. We should be like him. He saw a problem with Jerusalem, was burdened by it, asked God to bless him with a plan, and then acted on the plan. How often do we follow these steps in our prayer time. Far too often we treat prayer as a one-way device: we summon God to listen to us but we fail to listen to Him. We lay our requests at His feet and then walk away. Instead of waiting and listening, we just move on as if God is constrained to do as we please.

No, God is not at our call, we are at His.

And this is how we should approach our responsibility in our progressive sanctification. As we saw in the last article, God has promised to fully sanctify every person He calls to salvation. We can count on His promise to do that. But we do have a responsibility to participate in our sanctification. God’s plan for each of us may vary greatly. The trials we face may be different – well, they WILL be different. Their difference may be in the nature, depth, intensity, or length of the trial. But there will be differences. All trials make us more like Christ and we need to embrace them fully…wait, I’m getting ahead of myself!

In our prayer life, as we fully participate in our sanctification, we must be willing to commit to God’s plan for our sanctification, rely on His promises, be very honest with God, understand our problem and ask God to bless us with a plan rather than for Him to bless our plan.

Where are you in this prayer process right now? Are you concerned about your problems? Do you have a conviction about God’s holy character? Are you ready to confess your sins? Do you have confidence in God’s promises? Are you ready to make a commitment to get involved in God’s kingdom work?

The walls of our lives have been toppled by our sin nature, deafness to God’s voice, selfishness, and arrogance. We are confronted with only two choices now:

  • learn to live in the rubble of our lives
  • or  to be bold enough to admit our sins, ask God for His plan for our sanctification, and then commit to be involved in that plan.


Which way are you going to proceed?




God Keeps His Promises

 If God said it in His Word, you can believe it and rely on it.


While Nehemiah spends time in broken confession in vs 6-7, he doesn’t wallow in a prolonged introspective examination of his failures and those of his brothers and sisters. He owns what he did wrong and then he quickly expresses confidence in God’s promises in verses 8-10:

“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my name.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and mighty hand.”


In this part of his prayer, Nehemiah recalls the words of Moses about the danger of Israel’s apostasy and the promise of divine mercy. His words are a skillful mosaic of great Old Testament warnings and promises, with quotes coming from Leviticus, Deuteronomy, 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles and Psalm 130. What was the promise Nehemiah was getting at? It was twofold. First, if Israel disobeyed, they would be sent to a foreign land. That had been fulfilled. The second part was that when the captivity was over God would send them back to Jerusalem. They were still waiting for that to be fulfilled. Nehemiah prayed, “Lord, the first part is true. We’ve disobeyed and we’re in captivity. But Lord, you’ve made a promise to bring us back home and protect us there – and that has not happened yet.”

Nehemiah is saying that since God kept His promise to scatter Israel because of he apostasy, he has confidence that Israel will be regathered because God promised to do that when Israel repented. So Nehemiah is expressing utmost confidence not only in God’s promises but also in God’s character. If Nehemiah doubted God’s character he would not have prayed the way he did.

But what about us? How does this relate to our sanctification? 


God promises in Romans 8 to glorify each and every person He calls:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

There is great comfort in knowing that the God who makes that promise to me is the One who will keep that promise to me. I have my part in  my sanctification but I can be sure that it will happen based on what God said through Paul in Romans 8. “How can you be so sure Mr. Bald Theologian?” you may ask. In Romans 8:28-30, all those things God talks about – HE “called..justified…glorified” are in the aorist tense in Greek. The aorist is the simple past tense. So if I’m not yet glorified (and who among us is!), then why did Paul use a aorist tense here? Well, it is a grammatical thing with Greek. When one wants to guarantee that a future event is going to happen, one uses the simple past tense. This use is called a “proleptic aorist” or “futuristic use of the aorist”.

Since our glorification is yet future and Paul (under inspiration) uses a past tense to describe it, we can be sure that we will be glorified one day. He who started a work in you will make sure it comes to completion.


Someone has calculated that there are over 7,000 promises in the Bible. The better we know the Word of God, the better we’ll be able to pray with confidence in God’s promises. 1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Are you as confident of God’s promises as Nehemiah was?

If God said it in His Word, you can believe it and rely on it. Nehemiah knew God would keep His covenant of love with his people. He also knew that, even though God did not need his help, he was ready to make a commitment to get involved.

Getting Real with God in Prayer

 We must be intense, honest, and urgent concerning our sin before our Holy God if we are serious about our sanctification.

Having been in the Marine Corps, I know about acronyms and abbreviations! There’s NavPers, Navair, HaveElex. There is also AWOP, AWM, MiniComp. We see acronyms all around us too. They’re in church life – WBC, MABC, NASB, KJV and so on. There are still more when we consider theological subjects. Ever here of TULIP? Theologically that does not refer to a flower! The point is that acronyms and abbreviations abound. But what does IHU mean? And how does that impact or even relate to my prayer life? Lets return to Nehemiah and see if we can discover the answer to these questions.

After becoming concerned about the problem, and expressing his conviction about God’s character, Nehemiah is now moved to admit his sin and the sins of his people in verses 6-7:


“Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees, and laws you gave your servant Moses.”


It’s one thing to be concerned about a problem. To have a firm conviction about God’s character is important in one’s prayer life. It’s another thing to actually confess. Many of us never get this far. We might feel bad about our sins or be concerned about how things are going. Our theology may even be correct. We know things are bad and that God is good but we hesitate at this next step.   Nehemiah boldly asks God to hear his prayer, which literally means, “to hear intelligently with great attention.” I see at least three key ingredients in his confession of sin.


Nehemiah was


Overwhelmed by concern about sin and in awe of God’s character, Nehemiah gave himself to prolonged petition and intercession. He prayed day and night, spending every moment of time in God’s presence. This is very similar to Psalm 88:1 where we read, “O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you.”



Nehemiah made no attempt to excuse the Israelites for their sin and actually owned his part in their culpability. He surveyed the grim record of Israel’s past and present failure, and he knew that he was not exempt from blame. Notice that he prays, “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself…we have acted very wickedly…we have not obeyed…” This is remarkable to me. It would have been easy for Nehemiah to look back and blame his ancestors but instead he looked within and blamed himself. It’s so easy for us to blame others, isn’t it? We need to learn from Nehemiah and confess honestly, “Lord, I am wrong. I not only want to be part of the answer, I confess that I’m part of the problem.”



Nehemiah recognized that sin is not merely a stubborn refusal to obey certain rules, but is also a defiant act of aggressive personal rebellion against a holy God. He knows that they “have acted very wickedly.” He didn’t try to candy-coat his sin. He owned it and called it what it was.  He was emphatic about this to the point of urgency. How urgent is your confession of your sin to our God?


Trying to hide our sins from God is impossible. He knows all about them. When we confess our sins we are not sending a list of particular sins upward. If that was true, we would have a problem if we forgot one particular sin. No, when we confess we are agreeing with God that we are sinners. In fact, in the oft cited promise of 1 John “If we confess our sins… He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness” the word homolegeo is the word translated as “confess”. This word means to “speak the same word”. The idea behind this is to agree.

So when I confess my “sins” to God, I am agreeing with Him that I am a sinner and I affirm my faith in Him, His promises, and His word. We must be intense, honest, and urgent concerning our sin before our Holy God if we are serious about our sanctification.


Do you remember the publican and the Pharisee? Remember how the Pharisee listed his accomplishments? Remember how proud he was? Compare that with the publican who simply said “have mercy on me a sinner!” Jesus said then that the publican went away justified not the Pharisee. Our long list of accomplishments – regardless of how wrapped they are in spirituality, are useless  if we are dishonest with God concerning ourselves.


So how are you doing? Are you honest about your sin with God? Do you agree with God that you have sin in your life? Without this transparency – without this honesty, no matter how much we want to mature in Christ we won’t.