I recently rescued a kitchen pan from the top of our wood-burning stove. For years the poor, misplaced dish served as the humidity creating device that moistened the dry winter air in our den as the stove beneath it crackled and emitted heat.
Here in New Mexico, most households are plagued with hard water; caliche and hard-water stains build up on tile, faucets, dishes, and poor little pans that sit atop wood-burning stoves. The resulting residue is tough to remove, and throwing the affected item in the trash seems like the easiest way to address the problem. However, it isn't the most cost effective method so most people scrub away at the offending substance.
When I removed the pan from its perch in our den, it was so crusty that I contemplated tossing it in the trash, but I decided to attempt the seemingly impossible, and I started scrubbing. I also envisioned the residue laden pan as a nice addition to my kitchen if it was clean and used in the way it was originally intended.
The first step in the extreme cleaning was to boil vinegar water in the little pan; a smelly task. Then, it got a good scrubbing. If the pan had the ability to feel, it would have cringed at the stench and the painful attack on its surface. The crusty build up was so stubborn that my next step was to boil pickle water in the poor pan (not quite as smelly as vinegar) and follow it up with another round of scrubbing.
It took a lot of muscle, but slowly the pan's original shine began to break through. That small sign of
progress was enough inspiration to continue my pan-cleaning plight. After all my efforts to defeat the cruddy residue, the little pan has become quite shiny! Now that it almost looks like new, the pan will never again sit on top of our wood-burning stove; it will stay in the kitchen and be used properly.
Did you realize that Christians are a lot like that crusty pan? The world hardens our hearts, minds, and souls much like the hard water built up on my little pan. God intended everyone to live alongside Him so that our beings would not develop a crusty shell. Much like the pan was existing outside the realm it was created for, when we fail to walk with God the same principle applies: we are living outside the realm we were created for. . .God's realm.
When we live apart from God and His purpose for our lives, a hard residue of sin begins to envelope our lives. This allows layers of disobedience, pride, self-centeredness, fear, self-sufficiency, uncleanliness, and unholiness to start accumulating.
When we allow God to work in our lives we open the door to some extreme kingdom cleaning to remove the residue that has built up in our own hearts, minds, and souls. Thankfully, God is not known for using boiling vinegar and pickle juice, but His methods can create discomfort. When we ask for forgiveness,we submit ourselves to God's cleansing:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)
The vinegar loosened up the residue so that I was able to scrape it off. Each chunk that was dislodged revealed more of the pan's shine hidden beneath the ugly substance. God is not afraid to use some holy elbow grease in His attempts to reveal the shine of Jesus hidden deep within the hardened lives of His children. God's "scrubbing" often takes the form of discipline:
My son (my daughter), do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. (Hebrews 12:5-6 NIV, parentheses added)
God is the only One who can transform us from crusty pans into shining vessels. God will use whatever means necessary to clean us up. And like my little pan was created to be used in the kitchen and not on top of a wood-burning stove, God created every single one of us for a certain purpose:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
We have a purpose...to walk with God and fulfill the plans He has for us. God has lots of work for us; we are His hands here on earth. But, unless we remove the crust from our hearts, minds, and souls, we will not accomplish His work (much like the little pan was not going to achieve its original purpose sitting on the wood-burning stove.) God needs willing vessels:
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21 NKJ)
Practical Christianity wants to be a willing vessel for God. When we allow God to address the crusty build up in our lives, it is easier to love and adore Him in a manner He deserves because we are not using our energy to lug around an unnatural residue:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30 NIV)
When we partner with God and allow Him to cleanse and discipline us, we cannot help but be transformed from crusty pans to shining vessels. Allow God to transform your life even if it is painful at times. He only wants the best for every one of us.