A Useful Vessel

Interesting title, but appropriate.

I’m still in 2 Timothy 2. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything, but this just took some time to grasp for me. I’ve been trying to apply it to my life and have been watching it slowly take over and create a newer lifestyle. It’s like getting the long-awaited update to the software that runs my being. But I’m using dial-up instead of something faster, so it takes a while for it to download and install.

Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

 This passage cut so deep I had to memorize it and begin applying it to everyday life. This past week I talked with our Worship Department about this passage, and I think I’m finally getting to a place to understand what the first few verse of the passage mean with the rest of it.

God has so many good things in store for His people if we would just stop filling ourselves with trash and dirt from the world. Sure, we will get dirty from use, but we must first be cleaned from the inside or we spend too much time in the sink and won’t get used again. I don’t like eating using dirty dishes and uncleaned silverware. Imagine how God feels when He’s cleaned us but we’ve put in stuff that makes us un-useful to Him.

For a longer time, I couldn’t figure out what the “these things” meant either. But part of the sanctification comes on our end too. God makes us holy, but living in a world corrupted by sin requires us to work at abstaining from it. Those things that made us “dirty” before are things we must now stay away from, cleanse our lives from in order to be useful to God.

“These things” I believe are youthful lusts. All of us have things we seek after. All of us have something that constantly pulls and tugs at us to get us away from following God to where He wants to lead us. Unfortunately, maybe those things will never completely go away. Even if they don’t, we can flee from them. The idea is to run away from them as quickly as you can, with all your might, all the strength in your legs, moving faster and faster as you pick up the pace to get farther and farther away. That’s what it’s supposed to look like. Flee from youthful lusts.

I was reading in a the book “Real Marriage” by Mark and Grace Driscoll about the development of a male in our culture. There used to be two seasons of life: boyhood and manhood. Now there are three: boyhood, adolescence, and manhood. The sad truth is that adolescence is a state of mind that excuses irresponsibility because they’re young or don’t know any better. I don’t think that’s a right way to think of the development of a man. I agree with Mark. If we include adolescence in our growth, we have a much smaller chance of getting to manhood, of growing up and making something of our lives, or making a difference in the world. Including adolescence makes it easier to keep responsibility out of the picture and mooch off others who are responsible. And that way of life is very hard to get out of if it goes excused from the mature.

I think youthful lusts equals adolescence. For example, I want it so I get it. I don’t want to work so I’ll take an easier way. I don’t like it so I’ll get rid of it. It doesn’t matter to me how you feel, I’ve already made up my mind. If you make me mad, I’m not your friend anymore. I don’t like it when I’m wrong or don’t get my way, so I’ll throw a fit.

Notice the trend? I don’t know about you, but those kinds of people drive me crazy. They’re completely selfish, unable to think of others, and refuse to get their hands dirty. If they’re hands do get dirty, the tend to complain about what it costed them or brag about their accomplishment as if it were only they who made it happen, as if only they were the ones who contributed. I can’t stand to work with them and I don’t invite them to serve with me.

Here’s the question that brought conviction and caused me to think: Am I that way with God? My “youthful lusts” may look like something different, but they’re still there. My life is in the world, and the world tugs and pulls at my heart to get me to think only about here, only about things that will make me happy or succeed here. God’s mind is elsewhere, it’s eternal, and He longs for me to be there too. But do I treat God’s commands that way? Do I throw away what I don’t like to keep my comfort? Is comfort what I’m really looking for or is it God?

In fleeing youthful lusts, He tells me to pursue something else. I’m running away from something and running toward something else. In my haste to leave behind what holds me back from being fully useful to the Master, I’m desperately pursuing righteousness, faith, love and peace.

There’s a key to the pursuit: A pure heart. How often to the things I pursue, the things I ask of God come from a pure heart, motives that come deep within from a desire for more of God instead of more for myself? The only way to be successful in pursuing the things of God is to begin with a pure heart. It’s not about me, it’s about Him. It’s not for my benefit, it’s all for His. I’m just the vessel, He’s the owner. A pure heart is what makes us useful to Him.

The lesson for a leader goes much deeper. I believe all of us are leaders in some form. Someone is watching us to see how we’ll respond and how we’ll handle the situation. Those are our moments to lead by example.

I remember in Bible college students would spend time debating through the night terminology over words in the Bible. One argument that lasted for days was about baptism and what the Bible says about it. I’m going to go into detail because it was ridiculous. At the very least, Jesus commanded us to baptize before He physically left earth to go into heaven and sit at God’s right hand. So do it and teach it. The things is, they had no idea what they were talking about. Their understanding of the scripture was limited. Most of the debates weren’t even over scripture they did understand, but over speculations about what they believed and were taught grown up. It divided friends.

Remember those people who predicted the coming of Jesus? Again, a total speculation from ignorance because Jesus said that only the Father knows, not even Jesus knows when He’s coming back. Those things are the things to refuse because it does produce quarrels.

Paul does tell us what we are to look like though. I’ll go over it tomorrow. This post is really long. But before I finish, I’d like to leave one more thought with you about what the heart of a follower of God looks like.

“But the Lord’s bond-servant (or bond-slave).” Wow! What a picture for a leader to take in! In the Old Testament, a bond-slave was a former slave having been freed from his master because his service was up or his debt had been paid. But the former slave would realize his situation as something like this: “My master knows what’s best for me and my family better than I do myself. I need to stay with him because he will take care of me and I’m powerless to do so.” The master would then take an all (a small nail) and pierce the former slave’s ear with it by nailing it to the door of the house. Thus the former slave would choose to remain a slave for the rest of his life and never be set free again.

That’s the attitude we need to have as leaders in God’s church, as leaders in our homes and communities. Complete surrender to the Master knowing that His way is better than mine, I’m powerless to take care of myself and my family, and He knows what’s best for me and will take care of me. Thus we should choose to be a slave to a new Master, to God for the rest of our lives and never be set free from Him.

What are your thoughts?