What Does “Refine” Mean?


  1. Remove impurities or unwanted elements from (a substance), typically as part of an industrial process.
  2. Improve (something) by making small changes, in particular make (an idea, theory, or method) more subtle and accurate.

Yesterday we asked you to identify where you are: in the desert, the fire, the battle, or the harvest.  Many of you asked what it meant to be “in the fire.”  This is terminology that Christians use to describe how God refines us.

The refining process (for a precious metal like gold or silver) is designed to give you the purest version of the material.  When you harvest gold from the ground, there are impurities in it.  So, we drop it in the fire to burn away the impurities, pull the remaining gold out, and if there are more impurities, we drop it in a hotter fire to burn off whatever is not gold.

In Christianity, we use this as a metaphor to explain how, as followers of Jesus, God “burns away” all that is not like His Son Jesus.  Our lives are refined, or purified, the more we become like Christ.  When we are rescued from this broken world through the blood of Jesus, we are still attached to certain impurities, called sin.  But the refining process continually conforms us to the image of God’s Son Jesus.  Sometimes the heat is more intense than others, but the end result is always the same: to become more like Christ.

Colossians 3:1-11: 1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.