Jesus intends to refine us, just as a jeweller smelts precious metals to purify them and to separate them from the worthless dross which is mixed in with them. He is doing this now during our lives. However, when Jesus returns in His glorified resurrection body and judges us at the Judgment Seat of Christ (see Book Four) He will complete the refining process.
At the Judgment Seat He will assess our lives He will take away all that remains of the dross. He will also burn up all the wood, hay and stubble. Then he will see how much, or how little, of value is left intact, after that process of smelting or burning is complete. Here are two passages which refer to this future event. The first is from Malachi:
2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.Malachi 3:2-3 (NASB)
We are all going to be judged in the end and we see here that one of the main criteria Jesus will use for judging us is how much real precious metal is left behind when the dross in our lives is burned away. The gold and silver represent those things we did in obedience to His Word, i.e. the things God wanted us to do and which were done in the right manner and with the right motives. The dross is everything else, i.e. the wilful, selfish, impetuous, carnal things we did which were not God’s will and which He did not ask us to do. See how apostle Paul develops this theme:
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (ESV)
At the Judgment Seat of Christ each of us will be individually rewarded, or not rewarded, praised or rebuked, and promoted or demoted. Some of the key factors that Jesus will evaluate in His role as our Judge are the extent to which we have been salt and light, our obedience, our faithfulness, how much fruit we bore and so on. See Book Four for a much fuller discussion of the many and varied criteria He will use in judging us.
We already know in advance that we are going to be judged in this way by Jesus. Doesn’t it therefore make sense to try, as far as possible, to bring that judgment process forward into the present? We can do that by judging ourselves frankly, in comparison to God’s Word. Then we can simply alter our attitudes and behaviour now, wherever we see that they are wrong. It can also come by praying for Jesus to expose your errors and sins, here and now, so that you can tackle them and repent of them before you get to the Judgment Seat.
If you do that, and keep on doing it, then it may be difficult and uncomfortable for you now, but you will gain greatly on the Day when Jesus Christ judges you. You will already have dealt with and removed some of the dross or the wood, hay and stubble in your life, ahead of the Judgment Seat of Christ. Then there will be less for Jesus to have to burn up and less need for Him to have to rebuke you.
That self-examination must surely make sense. It is also enlightened self-interest for us to seek as much correction and constructive criticism as we can get here and now, so that we can change even more thoroughly. Then we will bear more fruit, amass more “gold, silver and precious stones” and receive a greater reward than we would otherwise have got.
Whatever rewards we receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ, whether small, or large, or nothing at all, they will be eternal. However, any embarrassment or discomfort we receive now by being corrected and changing our behaviour is only temporary. Therefore, one would be a fool to avoid such self-judgment and correction now, merely because we find it difficult or unpleasant. It is the eternal outcome that matters, not the temporary difficulties or embarrassments of this life.