Honorable Vessels

By Julian Wells

“Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:20-22 ESV)

Sanctification is the primary work of the Holy Spirit as he gains greater control of our heart. But, as Paul tells us in Galatians 5, our flesh persistently and powerfully resists the Spirit’s work. So sanctification must not be a passive process on our part. It requires vigilance and discipline to cleanse ourselves not only by regular and prayerful washing with the Word (Ephesians 5:26) but by actively and intentionally weeding out those things from our lives which impede the Spirit’s work.

John the Baptist once said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 ESV) That should be the never-ending life goal of every Christian. Those familiar seven words are so easy to memorize, so potentially powerful in their impact, but so powerfully resisted by our fleshly inclinations. Fortunately for us, as John tells us a few verses later, we don’t fight that battle alone. “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.” (John 3:34 ESV)

“Some Christians want enough of Christ to be identified with him but not enough to be seriously inconvenienced; they genuinely cling to basic Christian orthodoxy but do not want to engage in serious Bible study; they value moral probity, especially of the public sort, but do not engage in war against inner corruptions; they fret over the quality of the preacher’s sermon but do not worry much over the quality of their own prayer life.  Such Christians are content with mediocrity.” – D.A. Carson, A Call To Spiritual Reformation

Heavenly Clothing

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 NIV)

By Julian Wells

In a January post I suggested that the most important question concerning Christ’s promised return is the one imbedded in 2 Peter 3:11- Until He returns, what kind of people ought we to be? The verse above is just one of a myriad of clear, compelling, and convicting answers the Bible provides to that question.

Kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience seem to be in short supply these days. The society around us is looking more and more like the days Paul described in 2 Timothy 3:2-4 where so many have become “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

Until He returns, may our lives as Christians stand in such stark contrast to those trends that it demands an explanation. May we always be quick to explain that the hope, kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience others see in us is rooted in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. And may we always be prepared to introduce them to the Savior who “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Fred Rogers

Secret Things

“I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself. I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” (Psalm 131: 1-2 NIV)

Every time I come to this passage of Scripture, I pause to reflect on the simple, yet profound faith that David’s words convey. He understood, as Moses had pointed out centuries before him, that there are indeed “secret things” that “belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever…” (Deut. 29:29)

There were many things David did not comprehend about the God he worshipped. But that did not diminish his trust in the One who is perfect in his love, infinite in his wisdom, and sovereign in his control. 

As someone who has studied and taught the Bible for many years, and wrestled with some of its most controversial passages and the divergent doctrines that separate Christians around the world, I have come to accept that not all mysteries will become clear in this life. But neither our faith nor our unity rests in knowing all we would like to know. It rests in knowing and trusting Jesus Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3)

     “Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33 NIV)

Living By Faith

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:21 NIV) 

For a couple of years I have planned to write a series of posts on living by faith, recognizing its critical importance to the successful Christian life. But every time I start to put together some ideas on the topic I am stymied by the enormity of the challenge as well as my personal failings to live such a life myself. 

My son preached a powerful message on that very topic this past Sunday. But like so many Biblical concepts, it is easier to preach and write about living by faith than to put it into practice. Even Paul, who captured the issue so eloquently in the verse above, admitted to his own struggles in that regard in Romans Chapter 7.

To live by faith in the Son of God is a lifelong journey filled with fits and starts as the world and our flesh battles against the Spirit for control of our hearts. Paul writes in Galatians 5:17 (ESV), “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

So how do we win that battle? For years I thought the answer was to pray for God to fill me with more of his Spirit. But I have learned that the Spirit cannot fill my heart when it is already full of myself. Like Paul, it starts with understanding just what it means to be “crucified with Christ”, emptying myself of myself so that the Spirit can fill the void. It is indeed a lifelong pursuit, filled with frustration but enormous in its rewards.

Will I ever write that series? Maybe not. But I will continue to strive for that goal. Like John the Baptist proclaimed, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 ESV) 

“How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it.” -G. K. Chesterton

Misplaced Trust

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – he remains faithful forever.” (Psalm 146: 3-6 NIV)

As our nation prepares to inaugurate a new president today, my thoughts turn once again this morning to Psalm 146. Those wise words of the psalmist penned so many centuries ago have stood the test of time. They remind us that no matter how powerful and charismatic and no matter how convincing their rhetoric, trusting in man is a misplaced trust. 

That is why I continue to abhor mixing religion and politics. Inevitably it takes our focus off of the only One who can truly save. As followers of Christ, when we overly involve ourselves in political endeavors, we risk the impact of our central message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

As Christ’s ambassadors, we have been commissioned to spread a powerful message – a message too important and too life-changing to allow political involvement to threaten the impact of our witness. Our Lord is still “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)  If more of us would lend the same enthusiasm and energy to spreading that message as we bring to spreading our political messages, the collective impact on future generations just might astound us all.

Only hearts changed by the Gospel will bring about the change that God seeks. May we focus on that message. May we be faithful to that Commission. Make we seek to make that Kingdom great and to make that Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

“The church works best as a separate force, a conscience to society that keeps itself at arm’s length from the state. The closer it gets, the less effectively it can challenge the surrounding culture and the more perilously it risks losing its central message.” – Philip Yancey, Vanishing Grace