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.

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

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.

What we shout when the devil whispers?

John Stott
15 
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 
Romans 6:15-16 ESV

 

Paul was criticized for emphasizing the Grace of God in Christ for the forgiveness of sin. Some attempted to discredit him (and the Gospel) asking, that if Grace is free, then why not continue in sin, and receive more grace? This third of three brief posts on the theme Slaves of God also comes from Dr. John Stott…

John Stott writes… … (this is) a question that is often whispered in our ears by the greatest enemy of the gospel, Satan himself, who seeks to entice us into sin. As he asked Eve in the garden, ‘Did God say…?’, so he whispers in our ear, ‘Why not continue in sin? Go on! You are under grace. God will forgive you.’

“When this happens, how do we answer the devil? We must begin with an outraged negative, ‘God forbid’, ‘By no means!’ But then we need to go further and confirm this negative with a reason. And there is a reason, a solid, logical, irrefutable reason, why the subtle insinuations of the devil must be repudiated. It is most important, because it brings all this great theology down to the level of our practical everyday experience.

“What is the reason we must give in rebutting the devil’s enticements? It is based on what we are, namely that we are one with Christ (Romans 6:1-14) and slaves of God (verses 15-23). We became united to Christ by baptism (at least outwardly and visibly). We became enslaved to God by the self-surrender of faith. But whether we emphasize the outward baptism or the inward faith, the point is the same. It is that our Christian conversion has had this result: it has united us to Christ, and it has enslaved us to God. This is what we are, every one of us: one with Christ, and a slave of God.”

From John R.W. Stott in Men Made New.

Remember to blush today?

 

John Stott20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:20-23 ESV

J.B. Phillips translates verse 21a as: ‘Yet what sort of harvest did you reap from those things that today you blush to remember?’ If we have forgotten how to blush over even the memory of our sins, that may not be so much a sign of our growing maturity as it may be a sign of our more cold-blooded rebellion. This second of three brief posts on the theme Slaves of God also comes from Dr. John Stott…

John Stott writes… “Here then are two completely different lives, lives totally opposed to one another – the life of the old self, and the life of the new. They are what Jesus termed the broad road that leads to destruction, and the narrow road that leads to life. Paul calls them two slaveries. By birth we are slaves to sin; by grace and faith we have become slaves of God. The slavery of sin yields no return, except a steady, moral deterioration and finally death. The slavery of God yields the precious return of sanctification and finally eternal life. The argument of this section, then, is that our conversion – this act of yielding or surrender to God – leads to a status of slavery, and slavery involves obedience.”

From John R.W. Stott in Men Made New.

Do you not know?

John Stott

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 
Romans 6:15-16 ESV

Christy Nockles 2009 song, My Master, (still a welcome regular on my play list during morning walks) recalls the experience of the slave in Exodus 21:4-6 who, when he said, ‘plainly’, ‘I love my master…I will not go free…’ confirmed his slavery ‘forever’ by allowing his master to bore an awl through his ear into the doorpost of his house. Are we not unpopular enough in the world today, as Christians, that we would dare to suggest that slavery to God is something to be desired, for Love’s sake? This first of three brief posts on the theme of Slaves of God comes from Dr. John Stott…

John Stott writes… “First comes a question: ‘What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?’ (6:15). This is the same question as in verse 1, ‘What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?’ This question is followed in verses 2 and 15 by the same answer, an emphatic negative, ‘By no means!’ or ‘God forbid!’ (AV).

“Then comes another question explaining this negative, and beginning, Do you not know? Verse 3:Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?’ Similarly, verse 16:Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey?’

“… In verses 15-23 what we are to know is that through self-surrender, through yielding ourselves, we are slaves of God and therefore committed to obedience. This is what the beginning of verse 16 says: Once you have chosen your master, you have no more choice but to obey. This is true as a principle, whether you yield to sin, ending in ‘death’, or to obedience, ending in ‘righteousness’, acceptance with God.”

From John R.W. Stott in Men Made New.