2 Corinthians 4:7-10
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
Corinthians chapter four, verses seven through 10. Uh, we read this biographical statement of Paul. Here’s what he says. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.
Always carry around in our body, the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus. May also be revealed in our body. Let’s pray, Lord, come to the beginning of a new year. And for many, many of us, it can happen in a moment too soon yet. Lord, we know that as Mike was just saying, you’re always at work all the time and God, we.
Praise you. We thank you for the goodness of God that we have seen in this, uh, stretching year of, of our lives. And now Lord, we want to look ahead. We want to look ahead as Jared joins our pastoral staff for the first Sunday today, we want to look ahead as individuals, as we seek to minister and serve and be on mission in our own lives with you.
So Lord use this passage in this simple study too, to reorient it and re position our minds and priorities where they ought to be, that we can be vessels in the master’s hand fit for the master’s use in Jesus’ name. Amen. Well, we made it through 2020 and for most of us, we’re okay with it now being in the rear view window.
But as I mentioned yesterday, or I guess a couple of days ago, one of the things I mentioned was the benefits that I saw 2020. And one of those is decidedly. The fact that it put all of us back in startup mode. It’s a season for us to reflect, to make changes. A lot of things, we are familiar with the way we’ve done.
Life has been sort of thrown up in the air, large corporations, small businesses, churches, schools, families are restarting in the way that they look at life and the way they do life and the way they carry on their businesses, their ministries, their family life. As we come to a new year, it’s a great time to do that.
And there’s a challenge that I want to bring to us this morning of the priority way. We need to look at life. If we are really going to reboot ourselves as people who are called to be representatives of the King of Kings to our generation. Now I mentioned that this is Jared hacking’s first, Sunday as pastor and part of this service and the end of this service is directed to commissioning Jared to that calling.
And in a way, this message is certainly to Jared, because it is talking about priority and perspective as you minister, but all of us are called to be on point in ministry in our mission. And so the message is for all of us to just remember number what’s true. If we are in that place, where many of us are just trying to say, you know, I’m rebooting, um, I’m reprocessing.
Um, I’m gonna restart personally family church business, whatever it is the context of, of second Corinthians as Paul writes, this letter is important to understand in light of what he says. Because Paul is actually writing his third letter to the church of Corinth. We only have two of them, but the first one he wrote soon after he had started the church there and it had been a tough go.
He had been there about three months. It had been a challenging thing. And then he left and he got some very discouraging words about what was taking place in the church. And he, he apparently fired off a quick letter, which in some parts of the church was misunderstood. I mean, it was just, it was a tough thing.
He got word back that maybe he’d done more harm than good with that letter in some ways, although it was well-intentioned. And so he wrote a much more extensive letter to them, which is called first Corinthians. And this letter, which is scripture, was a presentation of his concerns, but his, his heartbeat and was very thoroughly stated.
Now he’s writing a follow-up after hearing really encouraging words from the church, there’s been real repentance. There’s some been some wonderful change. However, there also is a remaining pocket of dissident voices that are really anti poll. And they’re seeing things about him that are tough for him who loves this church and loves these people.
And they’re, these voices are, are, are, are making a variety of statements about him in two primary ways. One, they talk about the fact that Paul doesn’t have the goods. They, they say he’s powerful from a distance in his letters. Okay. And I, Oh, wow. He’s heavy he’s but, but honestly, when the guy’s here, he’s just not that impressive.
And he addresses that in secondly, and they’re talking about his physical appearance and they’re talking about his manner and his presence. And apparently Paul wasn’t as brilliant as his mind was. He wasn’t necessarily a winsome speaker. He wasn’t necessarily that quick on his feet apparently. And they see, you know, in presence, he’s pretty unimpressive.
He’s pretty good ordinary. Secondly, they said, not only does he have the goods, but he doesn’t even have the results. And they talk about the fact, I mean, the guy’s always in jail, he’s always in trouble. He’s always sick. And they said, where’s the blessing of God. Where is the evidence that God has for this guy with all that’s going on in his life.
And Paul is, is this is weighing on Paul as he writes this letter. And so Paul is then speaking in this very personal autobiographical section of second Corinthians four. And we would look at it as this is sort of his defense to the people that are saying, why do we listen to him? Why should we listen to him?
I mean, He’s, he’s not that impressive. He’s not that effective. And this is how Paul response as he shares the aspects of vision at any of us must have. If we are going to be functioning in the role of our mission as called people being used of God in our generation. And quite frankly, the passage is a little bit surprising.
The first thing he tells us is we have to have a vision of our treasure. He says this treasure in verse seven in other treasuries talking about our, from chapter three in the beginning of chapter four. And they’re talking about, he’s talking about the gospel of grace. It’s all been about the gospel of grace.
This truth, the treasure is truth. It is truth. He says it’s been entrusted to us. And he says in those chapters, people are, are inherently blind to the truth and they don’t, they don’t inherently embrace them treasure. And he’s talking particularly about unbelievers, but also to believers, he’s saying if we, if we just grasp the significance of, of this treasure, that we have this gospel of grace, well, what is he talking about?
There are three particular things he talks about. He talks about the gospel declares that people can be forgiven if there’s no sin too deep, but God’s grace is deeper still. And he says, this is, this is a treasure that people can find forgiveness for their guilt and an answer to their shame and the forgiveness that Jesus Christ came to provide.
Secondly, he says this gospel of grace. Is a treasure because it declares that you can be accepted by God as his very own son or daughter that you don’t have to live your life on the line that you don’t have to live in the freedom in the fear that comes of living on the performance trap. He says, we can live freely.
We don’t have to struggle with, am I a greater than am I less than which side of my arm? I’m not on the line because I’m excepted eternally in Christ. It’s my opinion that 90% of the struggles in our lives, 90% of our contribution. To the struggles in our marriages, in the dysfunctional relationships with others is because we are not living in the air of that acceptance that we have not imbibed the power of what it means to stand accepted in the beloved in Christ.
We’re not on the line. Well, Mark Lang, I’m not sure about your numbers, man. I mean, I mean, that’s kind of crazy. You’re saying here’s what I’m hearing you say. The 90% of the struggles in my inner life, my relational dysfunction is because I don’t breathe the air of God’s acceptance of me. Come on. I mean, well, here’s my response.
You may be right. It might be 95%. It is the liberating reality of the gospel. The more that we drink the air of what it means to stand accepted in Jesus. And Paul says, every person you run into this week, Is struggling to, to be a greater than they’re struggling to be accepted. And they don’t know it all traces back to what happened in the garden.
When all of a sudden they, they, they turned their back on God and now they, they, they sensed condemnation and they sensed shaming themselves and they’re hiding themselves. And that everybody’s striving in a thousand places to just feel okay about themselves. And Paul says you have the antidote. You have the treasure, it’s the gospel of grace, the acceptance in Christ, the forgiveness through Christ.
And the third reality of that treasure is that God is for you. And he who gave his own son will not shirk to freely give you all things that God is the safest person in your life. The treasure is truth, a life liberating, truth of grace and acceptance and forgiveness and love. And Paul says, who am I? I’m a person that has been entrusted with that treasure, but he says the second thing, he has a vision of, he has a vision of himself.
He says, we have this treasure in jars of clay. Now, Corinth was a city. You probably have heard this. It was a city that was famous for architecture. There is Corinthian architecture. This is Corinthian columns, but it was also a city that was famous for its ornate pottery. Here’s just a few vases. We can just run through these three.
I mean, these are, these are actually ones that are still available. They found an archeological digs from Corinth and those three pieces are reflective of the beauty and the ornate and, and these pots ordained the homes of, of, uh, fluent Corinthians. Now they didn’t have, um, the kind of, of where that, yeah, they didn’t have copper pans or cast iron pots or stainless steel pots.
They used pottery and then their dinner where they used preeminently pottery. Sometimes if they were very affluent, they had silver versus, uh, dinnerware or, or gold dinnerware. But most of them, even that were. Middle-class and above say would, would have these ornate silverware, excuse me, dinnerware the plates, the cups, the bowls, but somewhere, even in these expensive homes, they would have these cooking pots, these cheap pots that looked like this baby, which also was, is from archeological digs.
And Paul talks about this in second Timothy. Here’s what he says in verse 20, but in a great house, there are not only vessels of gold and of silver. But also would in earth in some to honor and some to dishonor. And he said in the great house, they have the different, but they would never bring out these cheap clay pots.
I mean, nobody’s going to bring them out with company. And Paul says, but that’s me. And the treasure that we’re given is not in. The extraordinary newness of who we are. It’s rather found in the earthiness, in the simple, ordinary, insignificant quality. He says, you’re right. I don’t have a lot of presence when I talk to you.
I am not a particularly physically attractive man. Most believe that a lot of historical records, he, he had really bad eyesight. He said I had a lot of limitations. I’m a clay pot. I’m not the urinate pot. I’m just a clay pot with treasure. The treasure is truth. There will be seasons in ministry. And in life where you are going to fear that your weaknesses are going to stand in the way of what God wants to do, that you don’t have the goods that you’re not enough that you’re in so far over your head, whether you’re a pastor or you’re a representative God, in your business or your school or your neighborhood, and in those moments, When you are overwhelmed with how clay potty, you really are.
You can do certain things. You can turn on people. I’ve known a number of pastors that I believe did that out of their own vulnerability or their own inadequacy. They’ve just turned on others. You can turn on yourselves. You can give up. You can say, I’m just not going to try to, I, I’m not going to try to play the game anymore.
I don’t, God can’t use me. I don’t have it. Uh, I’m just gonna, I’m gonna even, I’m not even gonna try to make a difference for Jesus in my workplace. Who am I? Anyway, you can turn on God and grow bitter and cynical because he hasn’t given you the, the appropriate goods that you think you need to make the difference that you should be making.
Or you can turn to something other than God to feel good about yourself. And it’s exactly the moments when Christians jump into bed with someone else or turn to some substance, uh, if to find solve for the pain they feel, or you can do what Paul did when he felt bad when he was hurting. When he was reminded by other people, as well as the voice in his own head.
I am not that much. I’m not that impressive. I am. I’m just a jar that nobody would bring out and decorate their home with.
He reminded himself
that his sufficiency was part of the whole purpose of God. And cried out in desperation for God’s self and yielded to whatever purposes God had for him, whether fruitfulness or unfruitfulness, whether renown or in the shadows, because God was his goal. And his glory was his heart’s longing.
Did Jared is becoming a pastor to all of you that are seeking to serve God. You will never outgrow your sense of inadequacy. That’s what happens about part, one of the ones I look forward to the most is you’re shutting up the voices in my head. You’ll never outgrow that sense of inadequacy. It’s what are you gonna do with it?
Where are you going to take it? Are you going to just strive more and more to just, if I just, I just won’t be around people that make me feel bad about myself. I’m not going to be in circumstances that I’m just going to run. I’m going to hide or are you just going to bluff it or you’re going to remember who you are.
You are a clay pot, but you’re a clay pot with treasure. The truth that says, I stand accepting Christ. I’m not on the line. And that is the message. Every single person you will meet this week desperately needs here.
The third thing is he had a vision of God. This all surpassing power is from God. Remember the context of second Corinthians. When Paul’s talking, people are bad mouth in him. He doesn’t have the goods. He’s weak, he’s unimpressive. He’s common. He’s ordinary. He doesn’t have the fruit, his lack of success and influence is proof.
He’s not the real article. He’s always suffering. He’s involved in ministries that don’t seem to be growing the guys constantly in jail. How does he answer them? He answers them this way. He says you were bright. I’m just a jar, but you know, something, God chooses clay pots in order that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God.
And not of me, that formula makes it very, very clear that the power. Is coming, not from you, but from God, there’s a story I heard years ago. It’s a, it’s a story that, um, is verified in the circles of varsity the ministry. It was about a guy on a college university campus, a state university. He was a believer and he was, uh, sort of, uh, um, The kind of guy that, that, that really has never elected to leadership in anything.
He’s just good guy, but, but not a lot that was noteworthy about him. And there was a guy in his floor that was a big time influential guy on campus. And for some reason he just distained this, this young Christian and this guy was, was, was very serious in his faith with Jesus and this big dude. Just just beat on his helmet.
Distained him mocked him. And of course, a big dude, like this can influence, I will tell you this story. The big dude later became, uh, an influential voice in inner varsity. That’s how we know the story, but he talked about how he would turn people against the sky. And of course, you know, the, the hangers on would join in the mockery.
And, but this young guy on the floor of his dorm, just, he loved Jesus. Any, any. He cared about this big dude. He was praying for him and the guy knew it and it irritated him and he would, he would, he would, uh, accept what he said. He didn’t do what most of us would do would be to just give this big guy a lot of room.
You know, just see him come and go the other way. He just acted. Normally he, he hung with them. And finally this guy, the, the big dude just got so irritated of it, that he literally one day took one of his shoes and fired it down the hall and hit him in the back and then took another issues and fired it down, people laughing.
And then we went on and did what he did. And the next morning he woke up and they’re outside. His door were shoes. Polished by this Christian Guy and a broken, it just broke him. And he told the story of how this guy’s love for him. Humility, taking what he gave returning. Good for evil, absolutely transformed his heart.
I want to tell you that if I designed a ministry to reach that big dude for Jesus, that’s not what I would have chosen. I would have done what you would have done. I would have thought, you know what we need, we need the football team captain to get saved and go on that floor. And wow, this guy that a big manly, tough guy, like, like the quarterback of our team has come to Jesus.
And, and, and, and that’s the guy that’s going to reach this guy. But it wasn’t, it was a clay pot with treasure. It was the treasure in the surpassing power of God that spoke into this guy’s life and led him to Jesus.
You may feel. Where you work like you are nobody. I mean, there’s people there, it could be in your school could be in your workplace. They’re more successful than you. They’re more better looking than you. They’ve got more friends than you. That girl is more beautiful, stylish, wealthy. They have it all. But you have treasure.
You may be and think, well, I need to have high grades. But they’re in the grades that don’t count the grades of affluence or beauty or charisma or popularity or power or sex appeal or money. Those aren’t the grades that matter because we have treasure, but we’ve gotta be willing to do what Paul did and said, God, you know, here are people beating them up.
And, you know, the flesh one to see who, who are you? And he says, not your writing. I’m not impressed. I’m just, I’m just a clay jar, but brother, I have treasure and I’m in bribing the treasure and I’m living out of the treasure. And I love you enough that I want you to know this treasure that I found. The surpassing power of God was seen in Paul when he wrote the book of Corinthians the F what was actually his second letter, but we call it the first letter to the Corinthians.
He talks about he’s looking back and he’s saying to them in chapter one of first Corinthians, he says, guys, Y Y you’re exalting yourselves and you’re boasting and you’re, and you’re measuring yourselves by all the wrong things. And, and he’s challenging them to not find their confidence in their group or their position or their intelligence or their standing or their, a fluence, all the things they were doing, even though there were believers.
And here’s what he says. At the end of chapter, one of first Corinthians one, he says, rather than let him who boasts boast in the Lord. And then he tells about himself the very next verse in chapter two, he says this. And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaim to you, the testimony about God.
Four. I resolved to know nothing while I was with you, except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Now, listen, I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling my message. My preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. So your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power, Paul says, and I came to Corinth.
I was tired and lonely. I was daunted by the, and I was dismayed by the opposition, the antagonism, the bigness of the city. He said, I felt small. I felt real clay jars fish, but I still came
because I had treasure. I had the treasure of truth empowered by the power of the eternal God. That enabled me to be a representative. You have that same treasure and you have that same power, no matter where you work, no matter where you go to school, no matter who you’re doing life with and what the devil will constantly try to do to you is to get you to compare yourself on the grading scale.
That doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be an ornate pottery. A matter of fact, it’s probably going to get in the way, the more you are. That’s why Jesus said the more wealth you have, the harder it is to live humbly.
We need a vision of the treasure. We need a vision of ourselves. Most of all, we need a vision of God. It’s God that works through humble, broken people. As you begin your ministry as pastor of this church, there’s going to be days where you really feel discouraged and you are reminded you’re not all you think you need to be.
And you think you should be. You’re not the God’s not asking you to be. He gave you treasure and he is going to give you a supernatural power. If you turn to him in your weakness, let’s pray, Lord.
Speaking as one clay pot for many others in this room and online this morning, I thank you for the surpassing power that you offer. Lord, how I thank you for the treasure.
God help us be renewed in our vision. We’re not going to wow. People to Jesus by our strength. We’re going to be used by the spirit of God, in our weakness, in our humility, but most powerfully in our contentment that we stand as people accepted in Jesus. And we’re not on the line. Lord teach us to imbibe the air and drink the air of that reality.
But we have been given the treasure in our own lives, not only to declare, but most importantly, to live in Jesus’ name. Amen.