The furnace of affliction is not for the ungodly. The fire of eternal judgment is for the ungodly, not the furnace of affliction.
The furnace of affliction is for those who by faith are in Christ. What happens in the furnace of affliction? What is it that is dealt with in the fire? Is it you, and is it I, that are refined in the fire? Are you refined in the fire? Am I refined in the furnace of affliction? I say, No! emphatically NO!!
If we say, "Yes!" well, let us look at the furnace of affliction, the fire with the metal in the crucible. What are you doing with that metal?
Well, you say, you heat the fire intensely and all the uncleanness, the corruption, comes to the surface; this is skimmed off, and when that process has been carried through to its end, there is left pure gold!
Then if you say that is you or that is me you will have to abandon your doctrine of total depravity, and you will have to come back to the place where you say there is good in us, after all! You will have to say there is good and bad in us, and the furnace of affliction is to get the badness out of us and leave the goodness! Is that true doctrine? No!
The furnace of affliction is not for the removal of the bad out of us so as to leave the good that is in us, and secure it!
Then what is its purpose? Is it to refine Christ in us? We need not discuss that! Christ needs no refining! What is it for? It is to divide between what is us in fallen nature, and what is Christ, and to get rid of the one in order to give full place to the other!
The furnace of affliction is the application of the Cross to the getting rid of you and me, in order to leave the whole place for Christ. It is the measure of Christ that God is after, not to cut in between the good and bad in us, but to cut in between what is Christ, and what is ourselves.
That is what the Lord is doing. He is after increasing Christ, and in order to do that He has to displace self, the old creation.
It is all the measure of Christ in this realm. The realm of God is not going to be refined self, reformed self, or any kind of patching up of self. It is going to be none of self, and all of Christ.
~T. Austin Sparks~