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

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.

No strain, no strength?

Utmost

I have said these things to you,
that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart; I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 ESV

 

After thanking Jesus for ‘speaking plainly’ at last about his mission (John 16:28) the disciples affirmed their faith in him; so I wonder how they felt when Jesus added, plainly, ‘Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.’ (16:32). Plainly, it would take some time yet (and the gift of the Holy Spirit) for the disciples to grasp the truth that, even in Jesus, peace comes with tribulation. This second of three brief posts on the theme of Overcoming Life also comes from Oswald Chambers…

Oswald Chambers wrote… “God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the step, and God will give you to eat of the tree of life and you will get nourishment. If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted; but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength. God never gives strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute. The temptation is to face difficulties from a commonsense standpoint. The saint is hilarious when he is crushed with difficulties because the thing is so ludicrously impossible to anyone but God.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest.

Rise and Shine?

Utmost

 

Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.
Ephesians 5:14 ESV

‘Apart from me you can do nothing,’ Jesus said. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ said Paul. Jesus was reminding sinners, like us, that, apart from Himself, we would be forever unfruitful. Paul was reminding sinners, like himself, but in whom Christ Himself now lived, that anything God willed, they could do, overcoming every obstacle and bearing much fruit. This first of three brief posts on the theme of Overcoming Life comes from Oswald Chambers…

Oswald Chambers writes…  “All initiative is not inspired. A man may say to you – ‘Buck up, take your disinclination by the throat, throw it overboard, and walk out into the thing!’ That is ordinary human initiative. But when the Spirit of God comes in and says, in effect, ‘Buck up,’ we find that the initiative is inspired. We all have any number of visions and ideals when we are young, but sooner or later we find that we have no power to make them real. We cannot do the things we long to do, and we are apt to settle down to the visions and ideals as dead, and God has to come and say – ‘Arise from the dead.’

When the inspiration of God does come, it comes with such miraculous power that we are able to arise from the dead and do the impossible thing. The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life comes after we do the ‘bucking up.’

God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome.

When the inspiration of God comes, and He says, ‘Arise from the dead,’ we have to get up; God does not lift us up. Our Lord said to the man with the withered hand – ‘Stretch forth thy hand,’ and as soon as the man did so, his hand was healed, but he had to take the initiative. If we will do the overcoming, we shall find we are inspired of God because He gives life immediately.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest.