” Now, in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and earthenware, some of them to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel of honor–sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (Second Timothy 2:20-21).
We do love the practicality and earthiness of the Bible’s metaphors.
Paul was in a jail cell, and had access to several kinds of vessels. Roman guards served his food on some kind of plate. Drink came in a glass or cup of some type. And then, there was the chamber pot.
Chamber pots are not mentioned as such in Scripture to my knowledge, but you can bet they were in the homes of most people, Jew or Gentile, believer or pagan.
There is an old story about a preacher going far into the country to preach at a rural church, and then taking Sunday dinner with a farm family. The setting was far more primitive than anything he had ever experienced, with the farm animals coming right into the house and eating what fell (or was tossed) from the table.
As a dog kept brushing up against the preacher’s leg, the man of God, hoping to get the host to do something, said, “That sure is a friendly dog.” The farmer said, “Nah, it’s just that you’re eating out of his plate and he wants it back.”
We hope it’s apocryphal, but having known a few families along the way who let the animals roam everywhere, I would not bet against it.
So long as the dish is thoroughly washed and sterilized, it’s safe to use, no matter how it was employed earlier.
Some people feel forever stained by their sordid past.
The vessels which are their bodies and souls were used in shameful ways in their former lives. They feel debased and worthless. But then, they hear the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ and respond to it in faith and are born anew. In the fresh exhilaration of their new experience, they begin to realize life could change forever and they could live on a higher plane, do something worthwhile with their lives.
Then, the accusing voice of the enemy arrives.
“Who do you think you are? What if the people at church knew what you have done? Look at them. They are pious and holy. Righteous people. And who are you? Pretending to be somebody.”
For good reason the devil is called the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). He is that.
Don’t listen to him, friend.
God has done a work in your life, and that work has just begun.
What can wash away my sin?
People from every culture in every generation have dealt with that question. Something inside us cries out that there must be a way to be free from the iniquities we have done, the garbage we have dealt with, the pain we have afflicted and received, and the wickedness that has so filled our world.
Over and over in David’s 51st Psalm, we hear that cry: “Wash me” (vv.2,7); “Cleanse me” (v.2); “Purify me” (v.7); “Hide thy face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities” (v.9); and “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (v.10). We actually know what David was experiencing.
What happens is that once we fall away from steadfastness, when we lapse from our faithfulness to the Lord and find ourselves caught in sin’s iniquity, we long to be clean. We look back and remember how it felt and wish we had known then what a precious gift was purity and how fragile it can be.
The Bible answers our question:”The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). And Hebrews 9:14, which says, “….how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offering Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
In Revelation 7:14, John sees a group of the redeemed, and hears one say, “These are the ones who have come out of great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
What is the cleansing process?
Taking the message of Scripture as a whole, we conclude the following….
1) The Lord will not remove sin or cleanse anything that is not offered to Him. That is, He does not cleanse us against our will.
2) We must give it up to Him in total surrender, asking Him to cleanse us. I confess it to Him, not justifying it and not blaming anyone else. I did it. We recall the tax-collector who prayed, “God, be merciful to me the sinner” (Luke 18:13). His prayer was heard and his sin was forgiven.
3) The payment for our sins was the death of Jesus on the cross. Every sin that is ever forgiven was paid for by that act. “Apart from the shedding of (His) blood, there is no remission of sin” (Hebrews 9:22).
4) And, so I ask the Father to “forgive my sin in the wonderful name of Jesus, by the precious blood of Jesus, for the glorious sake of Jesus.”
5) We remind ourselves–and may have to keep doing so–that God wants to forgive our sin, that this was the whole point of Jesus going to the cross. In fact, He was so eager to get on with the business of forgiving that He asked the Father before He had died to forgive His executioners, for “they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
6) Regardless how we feel–whether forgiven or not–we must believe that He has heard our prayer and forgiven our sin. Sometimes the enemy works on our memory, convincing us that if the pain of our sin has remained, the stain is there also. But we say with I John 1:9, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”
7) Now, plan to repeat this process often. You and I will be needing daily grace and frequent applications of His mercy. So, plan to come to Him daily in confession and surrender, in asking for forgiveness and thanking Him for cleansing you and making you clean.
The point of being cleansed is so you can now be used as a holy vessel, one of honor.
The Lord can use any kind of vessel–earthenware, gold, silver, pewter, china, ceramic, whatever. But He requires that it be clean.
On board a ship, a passenger who happened to be a surgeon was called on to do an emergency surgery. They took the patient into the galley and, using kitchen instruments, the appendix was removed with success. A surgeon can use all kinds of implements, we are told. But they must be clean.
The reason God is not using some of us, I fear, is the uncleanliness factor.
We excuse our uncleanness. “I’m just human.”
We rationalize our uncleanness. “It’s not so bad.”
We blame our uncleanness. “You would be this way too if you had to put up with all that I do.”
We popularize our uncleanness. “Everyone does it.”
We would do well to pray the prayer of David (particularly from Psalm 51 and Psalm 103: “According to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me from my iniquity. Make me clean and whole and pure. Create in me a clean heart. Do not deal with me according to my sins, nor reward me according to my iniquities. As a father has compassion on his children, have mercy on me, O Father.”
Ask the Lord to make you whole, holy and wholesome. To make you right and upright and righteous.
The point of being clean and pure.
The Lord does not want you and me to be clean and then stored on a shelf somewhere, but to be ready for His service, available for His use, at a moment’s notice.
“If a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel of honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”
A famous football player has said the best advice he was ever given as a youngster was to keep his helmet on during the game. “When the coach looks for someone to send in, he wants someone who is ready!”
Every morning of our lives, let us turn aside with our Lord for a time of recommitment and cleansing, in order that whatever He has for us that day, He may find us ready.