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.

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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

WASTE not, WANT not?

Lord from heaven book.
And while (Jesus) was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that?   
Mark 14:3-4 ESV

 

So, we ask ourselves, ‘If I am not prepared, now, to give up everything for Jesus’ sake, do I really know Him, yet?’ This second of three brief posts on the theme of the power of Jesus’ personality also comes from Dr. Leon Morris…

Leon Morris writes… “Or think of the devotion (Jesus) inspired. It wasn’t simply that men and women rather liked Him. They left their homes, their friends, their means of livelihood and simply followed Him wherever He went. We are used to a feeble and tepid thing masquerading as Christian service these days; but these first followers of Christ were very much in earnest. For them following Jesus meant literally giving up all things. But they did it with joy, counting all well lost for Him. Men and women alike came to see in Him their all in all.

There were impulsive people like Peter, and visionaries like John. There were hard-headed people like Levi the tax-collector and inveterate doubters like Thomas. There were people like Andrew with a wonderful way of winning people and bringing them to his Master. There was Philip, dull and rather slow of understanding, and Simon the Zealot, energetic and ardently patriotic, with many more beside.

“People of every walk of life came to Him, people of widely differing temperament and intelligence, the hasty and the cautious, the brainy and the dull. Some came openly and some, like Nicodemus, came in secret.”

From Leon Morris in The Lord From Heaven

Missing Jesus?

Lord from heaven book.

‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
look upon this little child.
Pity my simplicity,
and suffer me to come to Thee.’

My mother taught me this prayer when I was old enough to repeat it after her, and, with some basic explanation of terms, to accept it as true. Imagine me thinking, then, that I understood who Jesus is! Imagine it, even now, when Jesus has turned out to be so much more besides! This first of three brief posts on the theme of the power of Jesus’ personality comes from Dr. Leon Morris…

Leon Morris writes… “We can quite easily miss the impact of the personality of Jesus, taken up as we are with traditions of the ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ variety. It is true that Jesus manifested gentleness and meekness, but this is the compassion of the strong, and not the impotence of the weak.

“I think that many people have the impression that Jesus was rather negative, a quiet, withdrawing type of person, who told beautiful stories and did not retaliate when he was ill-treated. This is true in a way, but it gives a false impression. Jesus was dynamic. His was a personality that gripped men.

“…. Yes, Jesus was gigantic. There was nothing trite or commonplace about His words, and there was nothing colourless about His deeds. Consider the forcefulness of the personality of One who made a whip of small cords and single-handed drove the greedy traders out of the temple precincts (John 2:13 ff.) Or of One who so awed a crowd of excited Galileans, thirsting for His blood and about to hurl Him over a precipice, that He simply walked through the middle of the crowd and went on His way.”

From Leon Morris in The Lord From Heaven

Overcome by love?

Utmost

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
Revelation 2:7 NKJV

Jesus’ message (Revelation 2:1) to the weary, struggling, patiently enduring Christians in the city of Ephesus, both comforted and confronted them. To know that Jesus knows when we are ‘bearing up’ for His name’s sake is comforting. To hear Him say that we have ‘forgotten (our) first love’ for Him, and must repent and set to work again, is confronting. But only in a close, committed relationship with Jesus will it be possible for us to overcome all the opposition we meet in living for Him. This last of three brief posts on the theme of Overcoming Life also comes from Oswald Chambers…

“To him who overcomes …” Revelation 2:7

Oswald Chambers writes… “Life without war is impossible either in nature or in grace. The basis of physical, mental, moral, and spiritual life is antagonism. This is the open fact of life.

“Health is the balance between physical life and external nature, and it is maintained only by sufficient vitality on the inside against things on the outside. Everything outside my physical life is designed to put me to death. Things which keep me going when I am alive, disintegrate me when I am dead. If I have enough fighting power, I produce the balance of health. The same is true of the mental life. If I want to maintain a vigorous mental life, I have to fight, and in that way the mental balance called thought is produced.

“Morally it is the same. Everything that does not partake of the nature of virtue is the enemy of virtue in me, and it depends on what moral caliber I have whether I overcome and produce virtue. Immediately I fight, I am moral in that particular. No man is virtuous because he cannot help it; virtue is acquired.

“And spiritually it is the same. Jesus said – In the world you shall have tribulation,’ i.e., everything that is not spiritual makes for my undoing, but – ‘be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33)

“I have to learn to score off the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness; then it becomes a delight to meet opposition. Holiness is the balance between my disposition and the law of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest.