Monday, July 20, 2009
Where There's Death There's Life (Transcript/Notes)
Sometimes we wail and complain about the modern church. we complain about its spiritual state, we complain about its carnality, we think that somehow the church had its glory days of maturity and obedience, and now we are sunk to something the early church would never have dreamed of.
But then we read the letters to the Corinthians. And we shake our heads to clear the fog, and we say, “Wait a minute. Those old days gone by seem a lot like our days.”
And we see that the letters to the Corinthians are also the letters to the Americans, or the Australians or the Asians or the Europeans or the Africans.
We Still Need Jesus
Not much has changed in these 2000 years, because the heart of man is the heart of man. We’re still born sinners, and we still need a Savior.
And when we’re born again, when we receive that Savior, when we become a Christian and our sins are forgiven, we still need to learn and grow and fail and fall on our face and get up and learn and grow some more, don’t we?
And when we read 2 Cor. 4:6 we see that “...it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
He has shone in our hearts…to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God...you get that?...the knowledge of the glory of God in our hearts...how?...in the face of Jesus Christ. When we received Christ, we received the knowledge of the glory of God.
I wish we had time to go through a survey of the Bible to fill in the gaps of what the glory of God means. The awesome power, the awesome blinding light of the Shekinah of God.
Which could fill the temple with smoke, which could blind someone who just glimpsed it, which could be a pillar of fire or a pillar of smoke, one touch of which puts a man to the ground on his face.
The glory that huge expanses of galaxies and universes in the heavens declare, and yet just brush the surface of the great glory of God.
The knowledge of this glory, in the face of Jesus Christ, you have inside of you, the Bible says.
But...verse 7 of 2 Cor. 4 says...BUT...
“...we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
Earthen vessels. Clay pots. How do you like being called a clay pot?
Are You Nobody?
I know a church that has as their slogan, “Where everybody is nobody, and Christ is all.” Now they mean well by saying that you are nobody. But is that true? Is that biblical?
I don’t think so. If you are born again, you are a new creation in Christ. Is that nobody? You are a child of God. Is that nobody?
Together with the rest of us believers you are the Bride of Christ, the very Body of Christ, and in Him dwells all the fullness of the godhead bodily, and He dwells in you. Is that nobody?
I don’t think so.
So what’s this "earthen vessel" thing? What’s this "clay pot" thing?
You're Not Nobody, But You're Sure Not God
Well, the answer is that we still have this ol’ body. And we still have a mind that needs renewing. And we still have emotions and wills that need to be shaped by Christ as He lives His life in us.
And when we’re shaped and changed it’s God who is doing the shaping and changing. There’s a lot of glory going on, but it’s in these clay pots, these jars of clay, these earthen vessels.
And non-Christians, the ones who don’t believe in Jesus Christ, a lot of times just see the clay pot. In the eyes of the world, we are just some sorta crazy people who spout morality, do certain meaningless religious rituals to appease some god, don’t do certain secular things, join exclusive clubs to meet together, believe ridiculous things by blind faith, and look smug and narrow-minded, while really being hypocrites.
Some of you may be surprised by that view by the outside world, but I’ve seen and heard it many times over the years.
But that’s why I love 2 Cor. 4:7, because it gives the real truth of the Christian faith, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
God Has A Great Purpose
This gives us insight into God’s great purpose. His great purpose is being carried out in humanity.
It’s not by accident. He designed it that way. Humanity is the clay pot. But humanity is not to get the credit. A clay pot is only for one purpose. To contain something. And when it contains this something we call Christ...Christ in you...there is a sure hope of glory.
This is humanity as God intends it to be, in the believer.
This is true Christianity, not just God taking you to heaven, but Christ living in you, living your life as you, and bringing Him glory as He does it.
And so in the next two verses, we have the experience of the Christian life. Listen...
“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" - 2 Cor 4:8,9
That’s life, isn’t it? These are all the pressures and experiences of a normal life. It’s become a cliché to say that when you become a Christian these trials and pressures don’t go away, but it’s true, they don’t go away.
Categories of Trials
Look at the categories here:
PRESSURES, or afflictions: These are the normal trials that everyone faces, Christian and non-Christian. Your washer hose breaks and floods the house, you get stuck in traffic or worse, a family member gets sick. There is no end to these things, is there?
PERPLEXITIES: Tough things in life that call for decisions, and we don’t know what to decide. We can’t see the future, we don’t know what to do. The consequences may be big, but we anguish over the decision to make.
PERSECUTIONS: these include misunderstandings, cold-shoulders, deliberate slights, mean actions and attitudes, attacks on our character or reputation and so on.
CATASTROPHES: struck down...shattering stunning events that shake up a family or church...accidents, fatal illnesses, earthquakes, war, riots, suicide...things that seem to come out of nowhere and leave us crying, “Why?”
But look at the reactions: hard-pressed (that’s the pressures), yet not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
The Power And The Glory
That’s the Christian life. There is some internal power, some internal glory that overcomes, that balances the outward trials of life.
And the next couple of verses tells how this inward power and glory comes out in our lives.
Vs. 10 “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
We are cross-centered, Christ-centered. We sort of have communion, moment by moment, without the bread and the cup. We memorialize Christ, we remember that He died for us, and lives again, in us. We look to Him, we look to His life in us, and we live it.
And this changes everything. It changes our perspective. It reminds us of the sovereignty of God, and it reminds us of the fact that nothing is too hard for Him.
We are two Musketeers, Jesus and me, side by side, showing His glory.
And verses 11 and 12: "For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you."
This is our dying. This is understanding that our old man died with Christ. This is recognizing that since He died for us, and since we died with Him, that we can die daily, as Paul called it.
We can submerge ourselves into Him, deny ourselves and take up our crosses, be so centered in Christ Jesus that we see ourselves as clay pots with the glorious purpose of showing forth His glory.
Communing with Him and saying, “Not my will but thine be done.” Basking in His love for us, and so loving Him to the point that our lives are surrendered to His, now. This moment. This hour, this day.
And in so doing, the death to self, becomes life. To you, and to others whom you touch, and who see you and who glorify our Father in heaven because they see the power of the glory in the earthen vessel which is you.