We Have This Treasure in Jars of Clay
The Apostle Paul describes us as Christian believers, as being like ‘earthen vessels’ or ‘jars of clay’ and yet able to contain the excellence of the power of God. But without the light (Who is Jesus Christ) there is no power. “For God, who said, ‘let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:6 & 7, NIV).
Paul is saying, that despite the frailty of our human vessel, there is much of his power through us, that God wants to release. But just as the light contained within a jar of clay cannot be seen until the jar has been broken, unless we allow ourselves to become broken vessels like Christ, God’s power cannot be released.
This was seen symbolically in the woman with the Alabaster jar in Mark chapter 14:3-9, when like Christ, she became ‘a vessel poured out’ before the Lord. And it was seen in more literal terms in the battle plan given to Gideon in Judges chapter 7. In the same way, Paul also clearly differentiates between that which is taking place outwardly, and that which is taking place inwardly where our hearts are being renewed on a daily basis. “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). If we look at only the outward appearance of what is taking place, we will miss what is taking place in the heart. The Lord warned Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV).
A broken vessel is all god needs. For, like Christ, many who are despised by men, have been accepted by God.
The prophet Isaiah said of Jesus Christ, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 53:3).
Our Hearts are Made New in Every Way
When the disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting, the Scribes and the Pharisees came to Jesus saying, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” (Mark 2:18). Jesus answered them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins” (Mark 2:19-22).
We fast because the bridegroom (who is Christ) is no longer with us. We fast, so that like new wine being poured into new wine skins, we are able to receive and contain the new wine in the word of the lord.
Without new hearts (or new wine skins), our hearts are unable to receive or contain it and for this reason the words of Christ are ignored. It is for this reason also that our hearts need renewing on a daily basis and this is an ongoing process for all.
- Like making new wine skins, when we fast, God prepares our hearts to receive from the Lord.
- For it is in Christ that our hearts are made new in the Lord.
God offers us new hearts. His promise through the prophet Ezekiel to the people of Israel was: “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19 & 20).
- When we begin to hear something good that we have never heard before, it means our heart is in repair, and this is a good thing, praise the Lord.
- This is the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, hallelujah — our hearts are being restored!
It is the Enemy’s Intent to Deceive
The word of God has much to say about the restoration of our hearts by faith. King David asked of the Lord: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Often when God speaks to us, we rebel and re-act because our hearts are hardened and unable to receive His word.
When we first focus on the preparation of our hearts – then when the word of the Lord comes, we are willing and able to receive the word of the Lord.
The Scribes and Pharisees were unable to receive from the Lord. Despite all of their fasting (perhaps they were fasting for the wrong reasons or out of religious duty) their hearts were not being made new or restored.
They Had a Critical Spirit
When Jesus saw a paralytic man lowered through the roof to get close enough for Jesus to heal him, Jesus said to the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven you” (Mark 2: 5). But the scribes had a critical spirit and criticized all that Jesus did. “And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (Mark 2:6 & 7).
Though aware of their reasoning, Jesus kept proving them wrong by all of the righteous acts that He did. “But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, ‘Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? ‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’ Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” (Mark 2:8-12).
They Accused Him of Doing Wrong
There is a song that the redeemed sing that is different to anyone else. It is a song of gratitude and thankfulness.
But because the Scribes and Pharisees did not know Jesus, they constantly accused Him of doing wrong. When the Scribes and Pharisees saw Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark2:16). There was much in Jesus’ response. “When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance’” (Mark 2:17).
They Questioned the Disciple’s Motives
“Now it happened that He (Jesus) went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, ‘Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’.(Mark 2:23 & 24)
Did you know it is possible to do the right thing, but with the wrong motives? And that it is equally possible to do what appears to be the wrong thing, but with the right motives? Jesus responded to the Pharisees with the word of the Lord. “But He (Jesus) said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the show bread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?’” (Mark 2:25 & 26).
The law was made as a guide, to guide man to the way of righteousness and to show him how to walk. But it was never meant to replace our relationship with the living Christ who showed us how to live.
When a spirit of comparison is being displayed, we can obey the letter of the law, but miss the heart of its content. And when the spirit of comparison and the spirit of error combine, they become a deadly combination. Rather than to simply obey the letter of the law, we need to follow Christ’s example — to live as He lived and to do as He taught. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, not on the letter of the law. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus showed that He was Lord of all, not just the Lord of the Sabbath. “And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath’” (Mark 2:27 & 28).
- A religious spirit focuses on the law concerning the rightness or wrongness of issues.
- A heart that is relational will focus on Christ.
Are You For Apollos, or Are You For Paul?
When addressing the needs of the Corinthian Church, Paul made this address: “For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:13).
“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase”.(1 Corinthians 3:5 & 6)
The enemy would try to get us to ‘pick sides’ saying, “which team are you on?” Or to choose between people when it comes to the power of His name. But before the destruction of Jericho, when confronted by the commander of the army of the Lord, in an act of simple surrender to the will of the Lord, Joshua fell on his face and worshipped before the Lord. “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, ‘Are You for us or for our adversaries?’ So He said, ‘No, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshipped, and said to Him, ‘What does my Lord say to His servant?’ Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, ‘Take your sandal (one sandal) off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.’” And Joshua did so (Joshua 5:13-15).
In the book of Ruth, the Bible tells us, “Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel” (Ruth 4:7). In asking Joshua to remove his sandal, it was like God was saying to Joshua: “Joshua, you are my servant first. Keep yourself wholly (entirely or fully) separated to Me. Stand in agreement with Me in this holy place – that I am about to redeem this whole situation you are facing.” It was then that the Lord gave Joshua the battle plan to defeat the enemy.
Releasing the Scapegoat
Many have become scapegoats over appointments of grace. They are appointed to lead or they are appointed to praise. Jesus said, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” (Matthew 2:16). Jesus took this quote directly out of Psalm chapter 8 which says, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ‘ordained’ (meaning ‘set’, ‘appointed’ or ‘established’ – see Strong’s Concordance) strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2).
- It is through the mouths of many witnesses that these things are being ordained.
- While not all who are anointed are appointed — the anointed and appointed will go with us whenever we choose to obey.
There is no need for any scapegoat (See Leviticus 16:8-10) over an appointment of grace. The scapegoat (Jesus Christ) has already been made. He was seen as a witness to all men, presented alive before the Lord in every way. When writing to the church at Philippi, Paul began his address: “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:2-8).
As I was writing these verses, I noticed anew the way the Apostle Paul worked. Even when he was about to bring a serious word of correction, he began by building the church up first, by speaking into their identity as believers in Christ, before tearing the enemy’s kingdom down. In this particular address it is only later that Paul goes on to say: “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill. The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defence of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:15-18).
Paul would far rather people spoke out of the spirit of grace. But whether out of a spirit of error or the spirit of grace, Paul still rejoiced, because Christ was being proclaimed!!
Unless a Seed Dies……
Just prior to His death, Jesus said to His disciples, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:23 & 24).
One of the most impacting books I have ever read, and an example of extraordinary faith, is a book entitled “Seed of Blood” by a New Zealand Pastor and author, David Goodwin (See www.kidsreach.org.au to understand more about his ministry). In his book, Pastor Goodwin shares some of the life story of a young man named Rohan Dissanayeke. He quotes a motto often used by Rohan, which he kept in the front of his Bible. “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last!” Sadly, when back in his home country of Sri Lanka, this young man was later martyred for his faith.
When writing of the Lord’s discipline, the writer of Hebrews exhorts us, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4, NIV).
There is a reason why we fast and pray. Through fasting and prayer, we keep the deceit of the word away, so that, when the Word of the Lord comes it will not fall on deaf ears or meet with delay
When explaining the parable of the sower who sowed good seed, Jesus said, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside” (Matthew 13:19). In this parable, the sower is sowing good seed! But the wicked one comes to lie and to deceive, so that people’s hearts will remain unmet in their need. The enemy works to cause the word of the Lord to be misunderstood. For this reason, many people’s hearts lie in deceit even after they have been sown good seed. People also need faith for their hearts to receive. It is important for each one of us also, that we not only hear the word, but that we are quick to do what it says, so that we do not fall into self-deceit. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). The enemy would want many of us to get stuck in cycles of dis-repair and deceit.
If we have to be stuck in a cycle – get stuck in a cycle of praise!
If you are struggling with areas of conflict with others, look for signs of agreement when you pray, and you will push this enemy of deception away.
They Watched Him Closely That They Might Accuse Him
When Jesus re-entered the synagogue, there was a certain man there with a withered hand. “So they (the Pharisees) watched Him (Jesus) closely, (they hadn’t learnt from Jesus’ first rebuke) whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:2-6).
There is a penchant (a strong tendency to do something) to deceit in the hearts of all men and women, that causes some things to continue to happen again and again. Jesus looked at them with anger, because He was grieved by their hardened hearts. He was grieved when He saw the deceit of the enemy because He knew the enemy’s plan. The Pharisees immediately went out, and plotted with the Herodians against Him, about how they might destroy Him. It was king Herod who Joseph was warned to flee from by an angel of the Lord in a dream in Matthew 2:13. And it was Herod the tetrarch in Luke 23:11 who mocked Christ and treated Him with contempt. This same Herodian spirit continues to attack many in the Body of Christ today. Just as it sought to destroy Christ, It continues to seek to destroy that which God has ordained. But until this spirit is removed from our lives, the same things will continue to happen again and again. So Jesus protected His disciples by removing them out of harms way. “But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea” (Mark 3:7).
Later in Mark Chapter 3 we see Jesus go up on the mountain. Perhaps because it was there that He gained a better view to see the needs of those around Him. “And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him” (Mark 3:13). In the same way, God will call those that the Lord Himself wants to minister to, in order to meet the needs of those around them. “For the promise (referring to Joel 2:28 &29 which reads: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days”) – is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39).
The purpose in God meeting our needs, is so that we will then go and minister to others.
Go Tell it On the Mountain
There is a popular Christmas hymn written by Paul Bateman and sung by many secular artists called, “Go tell it on the mountain.” This hymn contains a much-needed but often omitted final verse, which reads:
He made me a watchman upon a city wall
And if I am a Christian, I am the least of all
Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain, our Jesus Christ is born.
We disregard these words to our peril, because they contain the essence (the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality) of the word of the Lord. any christian who struggles with their identity in prayer should be considered the least of all. The source of all discontentment are the voices of others, but the source of all contentment is Christ. Jesus said, “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:40). God wants us to stop speaking against others in the body of Christ! Don’t look for justice. Don’t look for vengeance. Look for ways to be merciful. Look for ways to extend grace. Then you will be certain to be found partnering with Christ.