How wonderful and yet difficult it is at the same time to accept what Paul says in II Corinthians 4:7,
“But we have this TREASURE in EARTHEN VESSELS, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves.” The treasure is:
“THE LORD OF GLORY – THE GLORY
OF THE LORD”
The earthen vessels are us believers. Literally – CLAY POTS. That hurts our pride. At least Paul could say that the “Treasure” is in “Ornate Treasure Chests” or something like that. But no, Jesus is the treasure and we are the pots. Jesus is treasured and we are potted. The contrast is stark and intentional. You can’t miss it! This is truly us as pictured above!
The super-gracious fact is that God still chooses to incarnate His glory in the flesh! When God sent His Son, the Lord of Glory, He put Him, housed Him in human flesh. The mystery of the Gospel continues – God’s glorious Son, the Lord of Glory – the Glory of the Lord in earthenware, clay pots. LIFE’S ONLY TREASURE IN CLAY POTS.
The earthen vessels are as we have said:
“THE PEOPLE OF GOD, THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST”
Jesus is the glory treasure in us the pots, for we are the earthenware containers. We are merely clay pots, the cheapest form of container in the New Testament world. So that when His life, power, love, mercy, comes from us to save, heal, provide, restore, comfort, for we are to be POURED-OUT CONTAINERS AND NOT RETAINERS, we know then that it is all from the treasure within, for we are only clay pots. In short:
“JESUS GETS ALL GLORY”
And one more thing, don’t confuse the Treasure in the Clay Pot with modern Christianity’s replacement religion of the Genie in the Bottle. You know, the god from whom churchgoers these days buy their blessings with tithes and offerings, as they peel off a ten dollar bill and a one dollar bill and say to their magic genie god, “Good job, here’s a bonus. Keep up the good work.”
No, no, no! This is the awesome God of all glory and grace Who has most, most, most mercifully chosen to dwell in clay pots to work out His purposes in us and through us after we totally messed things up and cracked our pots. We do not deserve to have Him with us let alone in us. He is not the genie god, but He is the God of all mercy and grace.
JESUS – THE ONLY TRUE TREASURE
“Boy oh boy,” you say, “You make it sound like Jesus is the entire definition of the worthwhile life.” Yes indeed, that is exactly the point. And you say, “You make it sound like Jesus is the ONLY REAL TREASURE IN OUR LIVES.” Yes indeed, that is also exactly the point. Without Him, everything and everyone lose all value and meaning and purpose.
That of course blows to pieces the humanistic gospel that is being spewed all over the earth today, namely:
“GOD IS FORTUNATE TO HAVE US WHO ARE THE
Most people, including many religious people, just cannot wrap their heads and their hearts around Jesus being the only true treasure and we being clay-pot containers of His presence and glory. For you see, their treasures are not internal but external, material and not spiritual.
All of their treasures are on earth, and if you want to visit them, you will have to visit them in malls and stores where they spend their money and time collecting their true treasures. Very few have the guts to admit this, and so they cover over their treasures with the following veneer – GOD BLESSED US WITH ALL OF THIS.
Some treasures they are! The minute people die, their treasures cease to be theirs, and they become the property of others and so on, until they wear out. We read in Psalm 39:6,
“Surely every man walks around as a phantom; surely they
make an uproar for nothing; they amass riches, and
do know who will gather them.”
Phantom people and their phantom treasures. Nothing sadder than an old and decrepit covetous man whose change of condition disallows him from enjoying his treasures any more nor forevermore. We are talking in many instances about his treasured toys, toys that are as big as CLYDESDALE HORSES which he can no longer command. He becomes a man without life or spirit, and in short he is full of the complaint of Micah in Judges 18:24,
“You have taken away my gods which I have made, and the
priest, and have gone away, and what do I have besides?”
Frankly, all of these earthly-phantom treasures remind me of the old spinster’s mouse-eaten wedding cake in Great Expectations. Incredible but true!
I can so get into the truth of what a man by the name of Gilmour in Mongolia once wrote:
“IF I GO AMONG THEM RICH, THEY WILL CONTINUALLY BE BEGGING
AND PERHAPS REGARD ME AS A SOURCE OF GIFTS THAN
ANYTHING ELSE. IF I GO AMONG THEM WITH NOTHING
BUT THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST, THERE WILL BE
NOTHING TO DETRACT THEIR ATTENTION FROM
THE UNSPEAKABLE GIFT.”
Yes, Jesus Christ – the unspeakable gift, the priceless treasure, the Pearl of Great Price, the Precious Cornerstone, the Lily of the Valley, the Precious Lamb of God through whom alone we have eternal life, unfailing love, everlasting joy, and unending peace:
Jesus priceless treasure
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest friend to me.
Ah, how long in anguish,
Shall my spirit languish,
Yearning Lord for Thee?
Thou art mine, O Lamb Divine!
I will suffer naught to hide Thee,
Naught I ask beside Thee.
“IF IT WASN’T FOR THE LIVING CHRIST IN US, WE AND
OUR STUFF WOULD BE NOTHING MORE THAN
Or at best apart from Jesus in us we would be:
“COMPUTERIZED ROBOTS WHO RECITE THE VALUES AND
STORIES OF THE CULTURE WHILE MOVING OUR
MOUTHS AND BLINKING OUR EYES.”
That’s what the Apostle Paul meant in I Corinthians1:27, 29, 31,
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to
shame the wise; and God has chosen the weak
things of the world to shame the things
which are strong.”
“that no man should boast before God,”
“that, just as it is written, he that boasts, boast in the Lord.”
THE DAWN OF A NEW AWARENESS
The Lord in the New Testament brings us to a new way of looking at life’s true values!! Men and women have come to destruction because of one thing – PRIDE. Proverbs 16:18 says,
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit
Jesus says in John 15:16,
“You did not choose me, but I chose you….”
You see, when the Lord chose you and me, He knew that He was getting clay pots. GRACE!!! Our problem is that we thought that He was getting something far better. We thought that He was getting polished silver goblets, not earthy, brittle, weak, clay pots. You know the type, people who know music, know the right people, can speak well, live the American dream, and can influence others! Cultured! Well-spoken! Classy! We thought that we were such polished fellows, and that’s why He chose us.
Let’s get real here, really real. It was pride that brought Satan down. It was pride that drove him to be of an equality with his Maker. We read of it in Isaiah 14:14,
“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make
myself like the Most High.”
And our first parents became the exact copy of Satan himself. Fact:
“THERE IS AN EVIL PRINCIPLE OF PRIDE WORKING IN MAN
EVER SINCE ADAM AND EVE FELL INTO PRIDE –
YOU SHALL BE AS GOD.”
You see, as we well know, the middle letter of PRIDE is the 1st Person Singular Pronoun – “I.” It is most natural for man to place an exorbitantly high value on HIMSELF, his PERFORMANCES, his POSSESSIONS. The truth is:
“IT IS NATURAL FOR MAN TO HAVE FAR MORE THAN
AN ORDINARY LOVE OF HIMSELF.”
“THE MINDS OF MEN BY NATURE ARE DRUNK WITH THE
INTOXICATION OF THEIR HIGHLY TREASURED
So it follows:
“TO THE GREAT DEGREE THAT MAN LOVES HIMSELF, SO
TO THE SAME DEGREE HE WILL TREASURE HIMSELF,
AND ALL THAT HE HAS.”
“MAN WILL BE SURE TO SET A HIGH PRICE UPON WHAT HE
IS, WHAT HE DOES, AND WHAT HE HAS – A PRICE
THAT THE WORLD SELDOM COMES UP TO.”
So through the years with all of us the Lord has had to work hard on us and in us all, some more, some less, breaking us down to help us realize that He by choice didn’t get anything or anyone but clay pots. Wham! And as we gradually broke and chipped right before our very eyes, and sometimes before the eyes of everyone else too, the reality of the TREASURE AND THE POTS started to sink in.
And the truth comes out more and more, namely, that we are only “SHAPED MUD BALLS,” as Isaiah 64:8 says,
“…we are the clay, and Thou art the potter.”
It is not only significant that we are called in II Corinthians 4:7 – EARTHEN VESSELS – THE TREASURE IS IN EARTHEN VESSELS. But it is even more significant that Paul went out of his way to make the humbling point. It is the only place in the whole New Testament where this Greek word is used! It means EARTHEN JARS – JARS OF CLAY – CLAY POTS – EARTHLY VESSELS – DIRT POTS. I repeat, it was the cheapest form of container known to mankind in that day! It was comparable to a Styrofoam cup or to an aluminum can in today’s economy.
And really now, who cares for the Styrofoam cup, or for that matter the aluminum can when they are empty! The Styrofoam cup is then land-fill bound, and the aluminum can is worth 10 cents upon return in Michigan. Worth nothing in other states! That is why we get rid of them when they are empty. Because when they are empty, they are really quite useless and comparatively worthless!
Welcome to our world of clay pots. When the sanctuary is filled on Sunday morning, it is filled with people pots – Christian pots – clay pots – Styrofoam cups – aluminum cans. Now are we beginning to get the point?
You see, it is not the pot that really gives any value to the contents. Rather, it is the contents, the treasure inside that gives value to the container. My wife has long ago thrown away the little felt box in which I gave her the engagement ring. The diamond has been warn for over 52 years. It is Christ in us, God in us, the Living Word in us that gives us value. We must understand:
“THERE IS NO HONOR THAT THE CUP BESTOWS UPON
THE CONTENTS, BUT RATHER, THE CONTENTS
BESTOWS ALL HONOR UPON THE CUP.”
This is the true glory of our lives:
“GOD IN YOU, CHRIST IN YOU ENHANCES YOU,
NOT YOU HIM.”
Let us get our minds off the pots, cans, cups on to the inestimably valuable contents.
NO POWER AND GLORY GRABBERS ALLOWED
Now we can understand II Corinthians 4:7,
“…that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of
God and not from ourselves.”
Sometimes, the cup begins to think that it is the value – that it is the treasure – that it has the power:
Like – “I laid hands on the sick, and he was healed.”
Like – “I witnessed to the sinner, and he was saved.”
Like – “I sang that song, and she was lifted up.”
Like – “I preached the message, and so and so came to the Lord.”
It is important to see carefully what the Holy Spirit says in I John 4:4,
“You are from God, little children and have overcome them;
because greater is He Who is in you, than he who
is in the world.”
Now note what is doesn’t say:
“BECAUSE GREATER ARE YOU WHO ARE IN CHRIST, THAN
HE WHO IS IN THE WORLD.”
If it would say that:
“THEN CHRIST WOULD BE THE CONTAINER, AND WE WOULD
BE THE CONTENTS WHO ARE GREATER THAN HE
WHO IS IN THE WORLD.”
“THEN WE WOULD BE A GREATER AND MORE POWERFUL TREASURE
IN CHRIST, AND CHRIST WOULD BE THE POT.
No, no, no! You and I by nature are not only pots, but we are only mud pots, clay pots! What can we do, what can we accomplish except hold the treasure?! The pots certainly can’t heal, save, free, deliver etc.
We think that we saved so-and-so. It was a hard-won battle, but we won him or her to the Lord. No we didn’t, the Holy Spirit in us and through us won him or her to Christ. Anything we do apart from Jesus won’t last and is fleeting. None of us would make a strong showing, if a showing at all in anything we try to do for the Lord in our own strength.
Let John 15:5 place once and for all a moratorium on the “we” and “me” power stuff, as Jesus says:
“…for apart from Me, you can do NO-THING.”
Which means in fact that:
“IT IS ALL JESUS AND ZERO US.”
That is to say, apart from Jesus in us, we not only come up short, we come up with nothing. It is not that in and of ourselves we have a shortage of power, but rather, we have no power at all. We just sit there looking very potted. But we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens-empowers us!
We know therefore what Paul is getting at when he says,
“…that the surpassing greatness of the power is of God and
not from ourselves.”
Not just power – but SURPASSINGLY GREAT POWER. God’s power surpasses any concept of power that the whole world has. We are not therefore simply bottles containing nitroglycerine, but rather, we are clay pots containing infinite omnipotence. I’ve seen boxes marked explosives, but this is ridiculous.
If you will:
“ALL THE HONOR AND GLORY AND POWER BELONG TO
THE TREASURE WITHIN, NOT THE CONTAINER.”
However, and here is the treasure-pot reversal, the human factor:
“THE CONTENTS DO OFTEN DRAW CERTAIN PEOPLE
TO THE CUP.”
People over the ages praise the cup, name denominations after the cup, and have mud-cup fan clubs. People tend to get involved in “PERSONALITY CULTS,” “POT CULTS,” like those in Corinth, as we read in I Corinthians 3:4,
“For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I am
of Apollos,’ are you not mere men (clay pots)?”
People who get involved in personality cults end up being some of the most miserable people in the church. Why? Because they will eventually find cracks in their god cups, and they are then left with mud in their eyes! Simply because there are chips and cracks in the best of us, and you will find them if you hang around us long enough. It doesn’t take long and our CLAYNESS and POTNESS become obvious. (That is exactly why when the man and the woman get married, they promise to be true for better or worse. They will sooner or later discover that they have married cracked pots.)
So the psalmist in Psalm 146:3 says,
“Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom
there is no salvation.”
I like the KJV better on this one:
“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man
in whom there is NO HELP.”
Princes are cracked pots who we look to for leadership, protection, and provision. America goes through that syndrome every presidential election year. Half the nation this year will put their trust in one cracked pot, and half will put their trust in the other cracked pot. In either case, it is a completely misplaced trust. Both of them are cracked clay pots. Frankly in and of themselves they are both TRUST BUSTS.
True, we need Godly, strong, firm leadership! But all human strength will fail us! Our help is in the name of the Lord Who made heaven and earth. Very significant power, wisdom, and knowledge credentials I would say! Do not put your trust in princes or in presidents in whom there is no help.
PERPLEXED BUT NOT IN DESPAIR
We read now the words of Paul in II Corinthians 4:7-10,
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing
greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves;”
“we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but
“persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed;”
“always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the
life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
Have you ever been utterly puzzled, perplexed? I mean, who hasn’t, even and especially as Christians. Like, when you groaned, “Oh, if there weren’t so many things so hard to understand!” And others around you are filled with the same bewilderment. And you cried, “Lord God, where are You, and what in the world is going on here. And why?”
And life to you is often nothing but a paradox, a contradiction, a puzzle, a conundrum at times! The Lord is so clear on one point, and yet so vague on another! And you feel like giving up in despair. I mean, what’s the use, I might as well throw in the towel. I might just as well quit.
Furthermore I thought that I had things figured out, and they just aren’t working out according to my plans! “I just can’t understand it,” you have been heard to say on more than one occasion, “Who cares, I quit!”
Now listen closely to what the Apostle Paul says in II Corinthians 4:8,
“WE ARE PUZZLED, SURELY, BUT NEVER DESPAIRING!”
What’s his secret? FIRST, Paul knows that he is only a clay pot, and clay pots never solve puzzles. Especially clay pots! True, in this pot, I’ll never get all my puzzles solved. I’m so used to the words from my lips and from the lips of others, even in the church community:
“I DON’T KNOW – I DON’T UNDERSTAND – I DON’T GET IT.”
Things may change down the road, and I’ll see more clearly then, but my mind admittedly is so set, unmoldable, like a hard-set clay pot is, you see. Our finite minds cannot wrap themselves around God’s infinite mind, wisdom, and knowledge.
SECOND, all of this no longer throws me into despair! Why? Because of the Treasure within, my Lord, who lives His life in me and through me! You see, Jesus Christ not only knows the end from the beginning, but I read in Revelation 1:8 Jesus Himself telling me this,
“I am the Beginning-Alpha and the Ending-Omega.”
In me already lives the One Who is the puzzle solver, and Who is both the QUESTION and the ANSWER. And so one day which started out as every other day, I was walking with the Lord, and bang, it all happened so fast and it made no sense at all. I didn’t know where it was coming from and I didn’t know where it was going. But, living in me is the “Be All” and “End All” of time and eternity! He knows where it came from, why it came at all, and where it will all go. And He alone has the infinite wisdom and power to get it and me to where He is ultimately directing it all.
Election day November 6, 2012 is but four days away with the world and America in such confusion, chaos, and calamity. Hurricane Obama and Hurricane Sandy are both destroying America from the top down. The issues are so complex and the devastation so massive. Where do look for hope? Presidential candidates promise that if they are elected, “I will solve this and I will solve that.” It is politics as usual in that regard. Listen:
“ANYONE WHO GOES AROUND MAKING MESSIANIC CLAIMS IN
THIS MESS IS STANDING ON STILTS, WHICH IN A STORM
WE KNOW ARE NOT THE SUREST AND SAFEST WAY
TO REMAIN STANDING.”
But no matter what, I trust only Him Who is the plan of the ages in me. To Him things are crystal clear. In Him there is no puzzle about the present!! In Him there is no anxiety about my future!! In me all things have already been fulfilled perfectly in Christ!! In me this perplexity has already been solved. In me this puzzle has already been masterfully turned into my good! (Romans 8:28)
“IN ME LIVES ONE WHO IS ALREADY THE PERFECT BEGINNING
AND THE PERFECT END OF ALL THINGS.”
Plus I have discovered that some of God’s greatest blessings are in the severest storms. Winter in Michigan will soon be here and will not leave for 5 months. We had our first show of snow this morning November 2, 2012. So with falling snow, freezing extremities, and running noses, we can pull the grandkids around on sleds, build a snowman, pelt each other with snowballs, and even lay down on our backs to make snow angels, as our dear daughter-in-law Erika from down south did a winter or two ago for the first time in her life. Great fun! It was so much fun watching her have so much fun. Nothing like that in Florida!
PERSECUTED BUT NOT FORSAKEN
There are perhaps some here tonight whose family and friends have turned against you. They just don’t understand that you are trying to walk with Jesus, and that it’s not so much them you are rejecting, but it’s Christ you are embracing! If you will:
“THAT IT’S NOT YOUR BEING DIFFERENT FROM THEM,
BUT YOUR BEING LIKE CHRIST.”
And so, they shut you out, and some even are trying to destroy your reputation! And now, you feel all alone, in the dark, cut off. And you feel loneliness, you feel as if you are standing totally abandoned and forsaken. You feel so forsaken, like someone dumped you off a truck in the middle of a desert.
Listen again to Paul in II Corinthians 4:9,
“WE ARE PERSECUTED, BUT WE ARE NEVER ALONE.”
Why can Paul say, “Persecuted, but never forsaken?” FIRST, AND LET’S BE REAL HERE, just like Paul is real. Paul feels the persecution and it hurt, as there were always Jews and his former-Pharisee buddies who were always trying to tan his hide, or just plain dehide him. Paul knows that he is a pot, and clay pots break easily – they bruise, crack, and are very brittle.
Therefore, we all should not mince words and admit that we too feel the hurt, simply because we are made of clay, not steel, not iron. Yes, we as Christians are persecuted pots, not brick walls, not impenetrable krypton. “But,” says Paul, “I never feel alone, I never feel forsaken, I never feel lonely!” And for Paul for whom persecuted included being stoned, shipwrecked, tortured, hated – for him to say what he says here is really powerful.
SECOND, it is all because of the treasure within, the love of Jesus, the presence of the Holy Spirit! Like Paul, we can’t explain it, but somehow even and especially when we are being persecuted for our faith, yet we are being fellowshipped, hugged from within deep on the inside. Jesus secured that for us on the cross when He was forsaken by God for all time and eternity so that we would never be forsaken again.
Once, you wanted God to be with you,and now He is walking in you and with you! Always and under all circumstances whether you feel loved or hated, accepted or rejected by others. Always and forever, the Holy Spirit is there with you, and in you!! So we read in John 14:16-17, and let this sink in deep:
“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another
Helper, that He may be with you forever.”
“that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive,
because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you
know Him, because He abides with you, and
will be in you.”
So, brother, sister, you stay right there, in that office, in that shop, in that factory, in that classroom! Jesus said to His disciples in Luke 19:13 KJV,
“Occupy (hold this ground), till I come!”
Persecuted, but never alone! Hold the ground of truth, though all the demons of hell come to mock you, to discourage you, and your friends forsake and turn against you.
Now listen closely! Persecution is coming stronger and is already here. America is no longer a Christian nation. When one of the major political parties recently voted God out of its convention platform three times, and then when He was finally allowed in through a back door maneuver, many of the delegates BOOED GOD LOUDLY. They were not Democrats but rather Demoncrats.
Now then, bring this back to the TREASURE IN THE POTS. Hear it clearly:
“WHEN PERSECUTION COMES, WE ALL WILL DISCOVER WHAT
TREASURE IS REALLY IN OUR POTS.”
Here is where it will all be told:
“WILL WE WITH PETER SURRENDER OUR TREASURE SO
THAT WE MAY REMAIN WARM BY THE FIRE?”
“IF WE VOTE AND STAND WITH DEMONS, NO MATTER THAT
WE CALL OURSELVES CHRISTIANS, IT IS CERTAIN
THAT OUR TREASURE IS SOMETHING AND
STRUCK DOWN BUT NOT DESTROYED
Paul says in II Corinthians 4:7,
“We have this treasure in earthen vessels….”
Paul goes on to say in II Corinthians 4:9,
“We are cast down, but not destroyed.”
“WE ARE KNOCKED DOWN, BUT NEVER KNOCKED OUT.”
You see, this is how God works in our lives – He doesn’t come to us beforehand, and say:
“NOW WATCH OUT, CAUSE TOMORROW, AT THIS TIME, YOUR
GOING TO GET SOME BAD NEWS. BUT, THAT’S ALRIGHT,
DON’T BE ALARMED, I’M GOING TO GIVE GRACE
SUFFICIENT FOR YOU.”
No, no, He seldom tells you that, for the bad news most always comes as a surprise, a shock. It knocks you off your feet, and you feel that this is it. As far as you are concerned, you are not only knocked down, but, knocked out of the ring. You feel, in spite of all that you’ve known and read and stood for, “This is the final hour, I’m down, I’m down for the count, I’m down for good.”
Brother and sister, until you get to this place once in your life, or as many times as it takes, that is, when you’ve been completely done in, exhausted, and there is no fight in you. Until you get there you can’t really serve God effectively; you’ll never see anything last, because until then, it has always been your energy, your strength, your self- promotion, but really nothing of God.
Yes, it shocks you to your knees! And as you are about to collapse, you sense the Lord’s presence and power. A full flow of God’s grace begins to move in, just as He promised in II Corinthians 12 : 9,
“My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is perfected
And again in II Corinthians 12:10,
“…for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
“Sure,” says Paul, “Sure, I’m a clay pot, fragile, and these things knock me breathless. I have a terrible time once in awhile when I too am knocked down.” But then he writes in II Corinthians 12:9,
“I will rather boast about my weakness, that the power
of Christ may dwell in me.”
Come on now Paul, get real! I mean, who in the world and in their right mind boasts about his weaknesses? I have heard braggers, and I have listened to their braggadocia from time to time. But the last thing they brag about and exalt in is their weaknesses. That is the last thing they want people to know about or admit to themselves. I tell you this:
“IF THEY WROTE THEIR OWN EULOGIES, THEY WOULD CONVINCE
YOU THAT THEY ARE NOT DEAD, FOR THEY ARE
TOO STRONG TO DIE.”
However, only those who through experiencing and acknowledging their total impotence and powerlessness, have discovered the glorious power of Christ beyond and yet in themselves. True Christian pots indwelt by the living Christ brag totally different from the world:
“WHAT THE WORLD BRAGS ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN IS SILENT ABOUT,
AND WHAT THE WORLD IS SILENT ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN
Paul puts it best:
“WE HAVE THIS TREASURE IN WEAK, EARTHEN VESSELS, THAT
THE POWER MAY HONOR GOD, AND NOT US.”
CALLED TO BE FAITHFUL DISPENSERS
But why really has this treasure been put in us clay pots?
Turn with me to I Peter 4:10,
“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one
another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
And where Peter in I Peter 4:10 uses the words,
“GOOD STEWARDS OF GOD’S MANIFOLD GRACE,”
J. B. Phillips translates it:
“FAITHFUL DISPENSERS OF THE MAGNIFICENT GRACE OF GOD!”
We have this Treasure, you see, only as faithful dispensers of that treasure.The septic man came this morning to pump out the system. I have him do that every year, for an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of waste. Before he left, I asked him to take my hand and I prayed for him that God would bless him in his business, and that Jesus would be real to him as his Lord and Savior wherever he goes. Why? Because:
“WE ARE CONTAINERS OF THE TREASURE, NOT RETAINERS.”
But more than that:
“WE ARE NOT EVEN CONTAINERS, BUT DISPENSERS OF
JESUS THE TREASURE.”
Every where to every one! We are not talking about preachers, but about all Christians. The well flows, the glory glows, the Treasure is in all Christians, that they may be faithful dispensers of His love, power, wisdom, and righteousness to whom ever we meet. Faithful dispensers!
What are you and I dispensing, or should we say, “Who are we dispensing, Christ or Satan?” We have to ask ourselves questions where the rubber meets the road. I think of those drivers who have a rule and an attitude – they never give an inch, and they see all other motorists as their enemies. Road-ragers dispense the devil and not the Lord.
First and foremost, we should be there simply to be used. People should be able to be able to come to us like soap dispensers, and tap us on the shoulder, and receive the love and grace of God in abundance.
What we need is not more preachers first of all, but we need more faithful dispensers, Christians, who will simply be drained – filled – drained – filled, over and over all their life long. Dispensers filled with the treasure inside to help, to teach, to save, to heal, to soothe, to clean, to refresh, to comfort.
Sometimes we feel that we have been used and even abused, for folks have used us like pots and they are always getting water from us. Good, that is the whole idea, isn’t it? We are dispensers of the multi-faceted grace of God. We are to be used, drained, emptied, that’s why we are vessels of God’s grace. God doesn’t put His glory in us so that we can be a holy glory glow-group around the throne!!
Some people will drain the glory seemingly totally out of you. That’s okay, because we are faithful dispensers of the glory of God!! Every time someone “drains you,” the Holy Spirit will fill you, so you can be drained again. Some will nurse at your breasts when you feel all dry and empty with seemingly nothing more to give. That’s okay, that’s all part of it, that’s the only time anyone says anything about the dispenser is when it’s empty.
People will accuse you of not caring and being insensitive. I have had that said to me when I was exhausted in a counseling session, because I had been counseling on the hour all afternoon and evening. I must have had that distant, foggy look in my hazy eyes. I know for sure that I dozed a time or two while counseling. Did you ever have that? I tell you, counseling can be draining. That is the whole point! That is why the Treasure is in the pot!
And this is why we are told in Ephesians 5:18:
“…be maintained full of the Holy Spirit”
Well then, just be content as a dispenser of the Treasure. If God has filled you with paper towels, then be content and be a “PAPER TOWEL DISPENSER.” And don’t complain that you are not a perfume dispenser who everyone notices, appreciates and sniff appreciatively.
There are plenty of people who want to be noticed, get up in front of people, and be the focal point. They want to be the life of the party and not Jesus. There are plenty of people who want to sing, pray, preach, in fact, too many. Today, we have more pulpits frankly than are needed, and more preachers than pulpits. The church needs faithful dispensers first of all, not glory seekers.
Rather, if God wants you to dispense truth and love in a little Sunday School Class, be a fruitful dispenser. If God wants you to be a praise-voice dispenser in the choir, be a faithful dispenser. Try being a nursery worker dispenser! The only way to be totally useful to God is to be humble enough to be used in what seems to make you a drudgery dispenser. Quit trying to gold-plate and upgrade your Styrofoam cup, just be humble, durable. Pride has kept many a vessel from being used for the Lord at all, and that is eternally tragic.
I ask you and myself:
“ARE WE WILLING AND THANKFUL TO BE A BACK-PAGE MENTION
IN THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD – HIS STORY?“
“WE SHOULD BE AMAZED AND SO GRATEFUL THAT THE
GLORY OF GOD COULD EVER BE IN OLD CLAY
POTS LIKE US, LET ALONE FILL US.”
KEEP THE POTS CLEAN
If you will clean yourself and keep yourself clean spiritually and morally, you can be a vessel of honor, no matter if you are made out of gold, silver, wood, or whatever. People are not as apt to spit in a clean vessel as they are apt to spit in a dirty vessel. If we are to be successful vessels, then the first responsibility after availability is cleanliness.
Keep yourself clean is the point, and only if you are clean are you useful and useable by God. A dirty and stained container, in any house, is used for old tea bags or excess grease, but not for drinking.
Listen to I Thessalonians 4:7,
“For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity,
but in sanctification.”
“Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man
but the God Who gives the Holy Spirit to you.
Here we are told to possess, maintain, keep our vessel sanctified, even though it is only a clay pot or Styrofoam cup. It doesn’t matter what we are made of, clay or tin, or how big we are, pint or quart size, but keep the contents clean by keeping the vessel clean.
What does this mean? FIRST it means to keep our THOUGHTS PURE. In other words, cleanse ourselves of DIRTY MINDS. Jesus will not inhabit filthy-minded pots. We all know what is being talked about here – the mind that is constantly dwelling upon and delighting in unclean objects and dirty jokes. It makes no difference that such a person may be reputable in his public actions, you may be sure that in private he is a DIRT BAG. Why? Because as Proverbs 23:7 tells us,
“For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”
SECOND, to keep vessels clean means to keep our DESIRES PURE. The first direction of the soul is into the thoughts, and then into the desires. The best way to determine the purity of our hearts’ desires is this:
“WHEN THE ALLUREMENT OF ANY SINFUL SCENE OR PLEASURE
SUDDENLY RISES BEFORE US, DO OUR DESIRES REACH
OUT AFTER IT, EVEN THOUGH OUR HANDS
DARE NOT TOUCH IT?”
And the prime-time test of pure thoughts and desires is what happens in us and to us when our work is over and we find ourselves in the leisure of the evening and night. What do we think about and desire then when our minds are less busy and more relaxed? Where do our thoughts and desires then go? Or as the Prophet Isaiah says to God in Isaiah 26:9,
“At night my soul longs for (fervently desires) Thee, indeed my spirit
within me seeks Thee diligently.”
In fact, the Psalmist David uses as his final appeal to God concerning the purity of his heart these words in Psalm 38:9,
“Lord, all my desire is before Thee….”
Christ is coming back for His glorified, purged, cleansed, earthly vessels. He has drawn a line in the sands of time! It is the line of purity, and only those who have cleansed their hearts will cross over the line to God. Or as Jesus said in Matthew 5:8,
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Paul knew that He was only a clay pot! Paul realized fully that he was only an earthenware jar. A cup, a can, a pot! I mean to say, there isn’t a whole lot a pot can do about pottering, let alone do about troubles in this old troubled world. Paul is in effect saying,
“I have come to expect troubles that threaten to crack my pot.
Frankly, I’m pretty limited. I live a potted,
But Paul is also saying,
“I am not frustrated, or uneasy in the least. The Lord is again
and again making me rely on the TREASURE
WITHIN – HIMSELF.”
My brother and sisters:
IF YOU ONLY KNEW WHO IS IN YOUR VESSEL, AND WHO IT IS THAT IS WORKING IN YOU, YOU WOULD GET YOUR EYES OFF THE DOOM AND GLOOM, OFF THE SHADOWS AND DESPAIR, AND CERTAINLY OFF THE POT AND ON TO THE TREASURE WITHIN. YOU WOULD SURELY THANK THE LORD IN EVERYTHING FOR THE GLORY TO BE REVEALED THROUGH YOUR LIFE DAY BY DAY – LIFE’S ONLY TRUE TREASURE WITHIN – JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.