THE POTTER=S CLAY
Text: Rom 9:20-25 ANay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 [What] if God, willing to shew [his] wrath, andto make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?@
Intro: hard times and troubles are tools whichGod uses to make better persons of ourselves. There are many improvements which come to us ONLY by going through tough times. It is the hard knocks of life from which we learn and grow the most. Rom 5:3 AAnd not only [so], but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.@
We Christians are a work in progress. The Bible calls it sanctification. God=s aim is to produce a vessel unto His glory. A vessel that others are able to see that we are the design and handy work of the Master Potter. Our S.S. lessons have dealt with this topic also.
Things happen as a part of our lives which we cannot explain or understand. Things which make no sense to us. Things which may even cause us to claim that there is NO God! And if God really loves us, He wouldn=t have allowed something like this to happen to us. Things like the loss of a job, an accident, serious illness, terrible indebtedness (for which we should probably only blame ourselves), or overwhelming family problems which seem to have no easy solution. We mostly don=t have an answer for such things.
But I think it is important for us to try to understand why certain trials must come our way and the purpose for which we must go through them having been given no choice in the matter. I do know that God sends some of them on purpose. I believe that He permits other thingsknowing that he can make them work out for good.
Every experience is a learning opportunity. If we don=t learn the lessons they would teach us, we will have to repeat them. Dark clouds have a silver lining. We simply need to look for it. In the midst of our darkest experiences there is hope to be found. And at the end of every dark tunnel there is light.
I. THE POTTERS CLAY.
1. To start with, a potter needs a lump of clay and before he can make anything out of it, any foreign matter must be removed from it. Stones, twigs or debris must come out.
This analogy is very fitting as we know that we were made by our Creator out of clay. Gen 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul…. v 19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought [them] unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that [was] the name thereof.@
2. Then the potter may need to add some water and kneed the clay until it is pliable and ready to be cast on the wheel. Having done this necessary preparation, the clay is ready to receive the shape the potter has in mind.
3. The potter must have a plan for this lump of clay before He ever places his hands firmly around it on the spinning wheel. In His mind he sees the finished vessel. Therefore, every touch and each tool skillfully used, contributes to the achievement of His finished work.
4. We Christians are the clay, our God is the Potter. If we are to become useful vessels we must not resist His skillful hands at work. We must not flee from the pressures of life because they have a significant part in finishing our vessel.
Some of the pressures which God exerts upon us are hard to bear, but the end result of them is to make us into His image and likeness. God must remove the foreign debris first. The lustful sinful things of this world must go. Wow! They have been such a part of our whole lives, how in the world will we be able to withdraw from the wrong course of life and the evil patterns we=ve always followed?
Coming to Christ for the new birth, means CHANGES ARE COMING to the way we relate to this world. Many don=t count on that. They only come to Jesus for a fire escape from hell. But there is so much more to it.
Gal 6:14 ABut God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.@
Paul=s argument for Christian separation from the awkward downward pull of sinful worldliness in us, is this: WE ARE TO CONSIDER OURSELVES DEAD TO THE WORLD. The world is crucified to us. It has lost its power to control us, and our desire to follow it has undergone a transformation. That is by this cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Upon his being crucified He was dead to the world. It is His same cross by which WE ARE POSITIONED AS DEAD to the world also. This is separation. This is the process of sanctification. Jesus rose again with a glorified body and we who have died to this world, are by our water baptism pictured as raised to walk in the newness of life. This is how we become like Christ in how we live our daily lives. Rom 6:11ALikewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.@ Perhaps some of us HAVE NOT recognized what GRACE requires yet.
All the things in the dominion of sin and the persons in this world who are slaves to it, are to be to us as if they were nothing. This may sound like too strong of a statement, but if we consider what Paul said, it is not. Jesus confirms it: Mt 10:37 AHe that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.@ Lu 14:26 AIf any [man] come to me, and hate (Gr. means to love less) not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.@
All of this is stressing the importance of JESUS HOLDING THE FIRST PLACE in our lives. This is the plan of the Potter. How are we to be crucifiedAunto the world?@ Here=s how: we are to consider ourselves dead to worldly pursuits, cares, desires, and enjoyments. Jesus is to be preeminent. Nothing or no one else has a right to that position. If worldly things are placed first, it means that Jesus is not our first love. Beloved, we MUST LOVE JESUS more than anything else! 1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Jesus asked Peter this question, Alovest thou me more than these?@ If we do not, it means were have not been successful in accepting the fact that the world is crucified to us through Jesus, and we to the world. Now, ARE WE THERE YET? If not, are we willing to submit to the Potter=s hand to get us there?
What has to go? All sinful activity, bad conduct, jealousy, lying, evil, selfishness, self will, pride, fleshliness, vain living and the like. This is our whole life time effort, but we=ll never get it completed because something new always seems to be popping up to compromise our efforts.
Living our Christianity is a journey from the cross to to the tomb. It never stays in one place, it is always to go forward; to keep on keeping on. It is reaching out, up, and forth in obedience to our high and holy calling. We are not meant to stay in the place where we started. It means growth, development, maturity in Christ. A vessel fit for the Master=s use. Clay that resists the Potter=s hand will never become a vessel fit for his use. It will instead, be one unto Adishonor.@ Ro 9:21 AHath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 [What] if God, willing to shew [his] wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory. 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?@
This shaping of our vessel may often be severe. From sickness, tragedy, health or safety issues, distresses and wounds from fighting our arch enemy, Satan. All of which is to humble us, draw us near to God and conform us to His image. Triumph over these may not be far off. Here=s hope: 2 Cor 2:14 ANow thanks [be] unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ.....@
Consider the perils of Paul especially his thorn in the flesh. Paul gives himself as an example of what the Potter does to shape us for usefulness. 2Co 4:7 ABut we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 8 [We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; 14 Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present [us] with you. 15 For all things [are] for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. 16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward [man] is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.@
Pounding upon our frail vessel is often necessary because of our hardness of heart. If we are willing for God to have His way in our lives, then he seldom needs to use the pounding of tribulation to soften us and make us receptive to His will.
For some of us who will not heed Him, the Potter may have to take away all that we have so that we have nothing left but HIM! It is then that we will have Job=s testimony, AThe Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.@
Song: AHave thine own way Lord, have thine own way, Thou art the Potter, I am the clay, mold me and make me after thy will while I am pleading, yielded and still.@ Are we there yet?
II. THE POTTER=S CRAFT
The Potter has something in mind for this piece of clay and He has all of the tools necessary to make something beautiful of each life. Song: Something Beautiful.
1. The clay is ready to be shaped. In a matter of time one can see the form on the potter=s wheel taking shape. It shows the Potter=s skill, wisdom and power.
God is the Master Potter and will make of a dedicated, yielded Christian a most beautiful and useful vessel. God=s amazing grace will be visible by viewing what the clay once was to what it now is, from what it used to be, to what it has become.
Paul was himself a Achosen vessel.@ Ac 9:10 God gave a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias a vision, telling him, to go to Paul to restore his sight, for Paul is Aa chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.@
Some Christians think that they are self made! Not, on your life. Ps 100:3 AKnow ye that the LORD he [is] God: [it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves;.....@ It is the Potter who makes us. No piece of clay can mold itself!
If we are anything good, if we are better than we used to be, if we have experienced a kind of metamorphosis from worm to butterfly, it is not by our doing, it is by the grace of God who called to us by the gospel and made us into His kind of vessel.
1 Co 15:10 ABut by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which [was bestowed] upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.@
2. Gradually we and others can see the wonderful change that comes about because of the wonderful grace of Jesus. All the years of life experiences, some good, many not, have been used by God to shape us for His use and glory. Ro 8:28 AAnd we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.@
Paul tells young preacher Timothy the things he needed to know if he would be a fit vessel for the Lord. 2Ti 2:19 ANevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, [and] prepared unto every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.@
God is more concerned about our character development that our creature comforts. This calls for hard lessons to be learned.
3. In this process, at some point, there is the firing of the vessel. This hardens the clay enabling it to keep its shape. Without the firing, the clay is very fragile. The fire bakes in the strength necessary to withstand hard use. For lack of understanding or the lack of willingness to stand the firing, some Christians just quit and backslide. Others, stick it out, stay in the race, and stop complaining about what it costs to be a Christian. Trials make us strong. Hopefully, all of us here have achieved sticking and staying power. Eph 6:16 AAbove all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.@
1 Pet 1:6 AWherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:@
For the Christian there is a kind of fire that makes him more firm in his convictions and sound in the faith, a faithful person and strong hearted to serve Jesus Christ forever. The fires establish the survival of the heart.
Song: God leads His dear children along.
1 In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet, God leads His dear children along; Where the water=s cool flow bathes the weary one=s feet, God leads His dear children along.
2 Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright, God leads His dear children along; Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night, God leads His dear children along.
3 Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose, God leads His dear children along; Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,God leads His dear children along.
4 Away from the mire, and away from the clay, God leads His dear children along; Away up in glory, eternity=s day, God leads His dear children along.
Refrain: Some through the waters, some through the flood,Some through the fire, but all through the blood; Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song, In the night season and all the day long.
Here=s something to help us understand the sometimes complex and difficult things we are called upon to do or the seemingly unfair situations we are forced into. When we think we have a heavy load already, here comes more to deal with.
When we are taxed to the max, here=s another burden to add to our hardships.
Others May, You Cannot! (By G. D. Watson 1845-1924) AIf God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other people do things which He will not let you do. Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful, may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it, and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent. Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their successes, of their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works. Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence upon Him, that he may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury. The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it, but he will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work more precious, he may let others get credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your future reward ten times greater. The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings or for wasting your time, which other Christians never feel distressed over. So make up your mind that God in His infinite sovereignty, has a right to do as He pleases with His own. He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you, but if you absolutely will yourself to be his love slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle. Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that he must have the right to tie your tongue, or chain your hand, or close your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now, when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will know that you truly are on the road to being like Jesus.@
3. Now the finishing touches by the Potter. Smoothing rough edges, painting, decorating and then fired some more. Strength and beauty are found in the oven of hardships and disappointments. Out of the oven comes a vessel that is now ready and fit for the Master=s use.
4. We are not a finished product until weAawake in His likeness.@ But He is still working on me to make me what I ought to be.
Conc.: try not to question the Awhy=s@ for the bad things which have come our way. Be determined to profit from them. Let them have a transforming power to make us better, not bitter. Someday He=ll make all things plain to us.
God is unquestionable as to his purpose to do us good. Often we may need reassurance of that. Act 14:22 Aconfirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.@
God is unequaled as to his finished products. And God will explain it all to us when we get to glory as heirs of heaven and joint heirs with Christ of all that God has made.
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