Stormy weather?

UtmostWhen Peter (Matthew 14) stepped out of his boat in a storm, but in faith in Jesus, he began so well, but, ‘when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Later, Paul would write (2 Corinthians 5:7-8) “for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage…” We need more than our common senses can provide if we are to walk with Jesus as his disciples, in both fair weather and foul. This first of three brief posts on the theme We need More than commonsense comes from Oswald Chambers…

Oswald Chambers wrote…  “Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” John 11:40 ESV Every time you venture out in the life of faith, you will find something in your commonsense circumstances that flatly contradicts your faith. Common sense is not faith, and faith is not commonsense; they stand in the relation of the natural and the spiritual. Can you trust Jesus Christ where your commonsense cannot trust Him? Can you venture heroically on Jesus Christ’s statements when the facts of your commonsense life shout ‘It’s a lie’?

“On the mount it is easy to say- ‘Oh yes, I believe God can do it’; but you have to come down into the demon-possessed valley and meet with facts that laugh ironically at the whole of your mount-of-transfiguration belief.

“Every time my programme of belief is clear to my own mind, I come across something that contradicts it. Let me say I believe God will supply all my need, and then let me run dry, with no outlook, and see whether I will go through the trial of faith, or whether I will sink back to something lower.

“Faith must be tested, because it can be turned into personal possession only through conflict. What is your faith up against just now? The test will either prove that your faith is right, or it will kill it. ’Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me.’

“The final thing is confidence in Jesus. Believe steadfastly on Him and all you come up against will develop your faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith, and the last great test is death. May God keep us in fighting trim! Faith is unutterable trust in God which never dreams that He will not stand by us.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest

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The Potter’s Rights?

shiny jars
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
2 Corinthians 4:6-7 ESV

21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? …  23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
Romans 9:21; 23-24 ESV

Temptations to pride come to us in lots of ways. The line dividing our greatest blessings from our worst sins is thin. Simon the Magician (Acts 8) having believed in Jesus and been baptized, saw the Holy Spirit given to believers at the hands of Peter and John and immediately longed to have this power under his control. Peter told him to repent in no uncertain words. In Christ, we have nothing to give that we have not been freely given, no light, no glory of our own to share…. This final brief post on the theme of treasure in clay pots comes from Charles Spurgeon…

Charles Spurgeon said – “The text (from Romans 9 above) speaks of God’s chosen ones as being “vessels.” Now, as we all know, a vessel is nothing but a receiver. A vessel is not a fountain—it is not a creator of the water—but a container and holder of that which is poured into it. Such are the redeemed of God. They are not fountains by nature, out of whom there springs up anything that is good. They are simply receivers and receivers only! At one time, they are full of themselves, but God’s grace empties them—and then, as empty vessels, they are set in the way of God’s goodness, God fills them to the brim with His loving-kindness, and so are they proved to be the vessels of His mercy.

“They may, as vessels, afterwards give out to others, but they can only give out what God has put in them. They may work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, but they cannot work it out unless God works in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure! They may run over with gratitude, but it is only because God has filled them with grace—they may stream forth with holiness, it is only because the Lord keeps the supply overflowing.”

From a sermon preached by Charles Spurgeon on August 5th 1860, at Exeter Hall, Strand.

Made to be Broken?

shiny jars
But we have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing power
belongs to God and not to us.
2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV

What we choose to do with our treasure says a lot; about us, but also about that thing we value above every other thing. In Mark 14:3-9 we see one woman’s attitude to her treasures, one earthly, and one divine. The earthly one was broken and poured out willingly to honour the other, and Jesus was grateful. This second of three brief posts on the theme of treasure in clay pots comes from R.V.G. Tasker…

Tasker writes… “…the wonder of the divine dispensation is that while an earthly treasure is usually preserved in a container of fitting dignity and beauty, the treasure of the gospel has been entrusted to men subject to the infirmities and limitations, the instability and insecurity of their finite condition. It is as though a most costly jewel were encased in an earthenware jar!

“Paul sees in this a supreme manifestation of the divine law that God’s strength is made perfect in human weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). This striking paradox makes it clear that the gospel is no product of human ingenuity, no clever discovery of the human intellect, no bright idea of some outstanding genius, but a revelation of the power of the sovereign God.

“He may choose learned or unlearned men to be ministers of this gospel, but though ‘chosen vessels’ (see Acts 9:15) they are all earthen vessels, in which ‘another’s jewel is kept, lamps of clay in which another’s light shines’ (Denney). 

From R. V. G. Tasker in Tyndale N. T. Commentary on 2 Corinthians.

Feeling fragile?

John Piper
But we have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing power
belongs to God and not to us.
2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV

Some days we wake up feeling fragile, aware of all our weaknesses, when we would prefer instead to wake up feeling strong, and fit, and full of energy to face the day ahead of us. But, even on those days, and whether we feel it or not, at any given moment, in Christ, by grace through faith alone, we may discover again that He is with us, in us, in all his strength, to work through us; the power is His, and the glory must be His as well. This first of three brief posts on the theme of treasure in clay pots comes from John Piper…

John Piper says…. The third reason you should use your gift for the good of others and the glory of God is that your ordinariness is no reason not to. Too many people say, ‘I’m so ordinary, so average and undistinguished. I can’t do anything significant.’ 2 Corinthians 4:7 shows that this argument is wrong and why. It says, ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels (or clay pots!) to show us that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.’ God’s concept of ministry is so different from the world’s concept. The world stresses the classy container, not the glory of God in human weakness.

“If there is one thing that we are coming to learn together in this church, it is that God’s purpose to get the glory in all things determines how we do all things. Here God’s purpose is to make sure that we see that the surpassing power belongs to him and not to us. How does he do it? He puts the treasure of his gifts and his gospel in clay pots like you and me. Your ordinariness is not a liability; it is an asset, if you really want God to get the glory.

“No one is too common, too weak, too shy, too inarticulate, too disabled to do what God wants you to do with your gift. … No matter what your condition, you have a gift, and the humble use of it in reliance on the Spirit will bring glory to God.

“It is no liability to be a clay pot in the kingdom of God.”

From John Piper in a sermon entitled ‘Calling All Clay Pots’ in Desiring God Resources

‘Following’ Jesus?

Lord from heaven book.
Would Jesus use social media? I see that a seminary professor in the U.S. asks his students not to bring laptops, phones, etc. to his lectures; not a move designed to gain popularity, but having read his reasons, a wise one, I think. For the twelve whom Jesus called to follow Him, it was the day to day contact with Him that changed their lives, as it will, albeit in a different manner, change ours too. This third of three brief posts on the theme of the power of Jesus’ personality also comes from Dr. Leon Morris…

Leon Morris writes… “In the (twenty-first) century there is no need to labour the point that almost anyone can get a following of some sort. But Jesus drew men and women of all kinds. And not only did He draw them: He held them and inspired them. They were transformed by His touch, so that they never went back again to the life they lived before they gave Him their allegiance. As they came into close touch with Jesus they came into close touch with God, and their lives were permanently enriched by the experience.
E. A. Knox put it this way: ‘there has been no other instance, nor will there be another, of one whose Personality, without effort, without self-assertion, without the barest suspicion of megalomania, it would seem almost without direct claim, left upon His immediate entourage the solemn conviction that they had been walking with God.’

From Leon Morris in The Lord From Heaven