Last fall, Emily and I had the opportunity to go to the Apple Cider Press Youth Rally in Cashmere, WA. We had been involved with this rally for many years in Washington before moving to Texas. One of the drawing points for this youth rally, is the actual cider press itself. The young people and adults have team competitions to see who can press the most apple cider. It is an interesting process to watch, particlarly as the crushed apples are squeezed and the cider is poured into a holding tank. As the raw cider is poured into the tanks, it goes through a strainer to remove all of the impurities. From there it is bottled up and dozens of the bottles of cider go home with people.
To me, and to most, the most important aspect of the process is the cleansing of the cider (especially if one can see how dirty it is)…in order to make certain it is pure. This is not unlike what needs to take place in our own lives. There needs to be a straining process to take out all of the impurities, so that we can be holy before the Lord. As we come to know the Lord, and begin the process of learning and growing, we should continue to grow in our understanding of God’s holiness…aside from love, the most important and reproducible of His qualities in our lives. After all, it is sin that separates us from God and it is that which is in need of being strained out of our lives. We need to continually live in a way that we seek to be rid of the bad attitudes and activities of the world that want to inhabit us, and allow God’s Spirit to fill us with what matters. We have the challenge, continually before us, “to be holy as God is holy” (Leviticus 19:2).
The ultimate reason that God sent His Son was in order that sinful, unholy man could have the opportunity to be in His presence. God was in Christ, reconciling us to Him (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Jesus, the Messiah, took the sins of humanity upon Himself so that we would have the opportunity to be in God’s presence. The Lord is mighty in His judgment and deliverance…He is just! His justice walks hand in hand with His holiness. Many believers focus on the love of God to the detriment of His holiness. They ask questions like, “How can a loving God send people to hell?” But, a loving God doesn’t send anyone, anywhere. The opportunity to choose life through His Son is granted to us by a loving God…and a holy and just God demands that we make a choice. A holy and loving God allowed His Son to come into this world to give us the opportunity to experience eternal life. It is sufficient for everyone, but efficient only for those who accept it. We humans “paddle our own boats,” so to speak…we can choose life or destruction, heaven or hell. He is mighty and just to deal with the pure and the impure…and he will reward each one of us according to our choices. It is for this reason that God’s people need to respond properly and worship His majesty with reverence and awe!
Another story relating to the message thought -- a couple fell in love with a vase in a shop window, which they bought, brought home and put on the mantel in their main room. For them, what followed was remarkable…the vase became a judgment on its surroundings. They had to clean up the room in order to make it worthy of the pristine vase. Dirty curtains, and an old chair would not do…and the room would also need to be painted. Gradually, the entire room was transformed! The couple’s mindset concerning the vase, should be the same mindset we have in relationship to the way we live our lives. We can’t dress up one aspect of our lives and leave the rest containing the dirt of sin and the world. We need to take care to recognize that we need to live blamelessly for the Lord. We should seek to be pure in our attitudes and our conduct. We have no business polluting our spirits and souls with things that the world deems is acceptable. We should have a significantly higher moral and spiritual calling than this. Once again, the question arises…how can or will we make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ if we do not look any different that the world? It’s not going to happen. When we surrender our lives, our spirits to the Lord…and allow Him to strain us of the impurities that cause to stumble and fall, then we become like Onesimus, and can be useful to Him and for Him. If we are filled with the Spirit of God, then there will not be room for the flesh or the sin of this world to take us captive.