Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Vessels of the Holy Spirit’
© February 21, 2016, by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Message Shared at BLCF Church on May 12, 2013
Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading 642 (Call to Consecration – from Romans 12); Prayer
Hymn #513: In Christ, There Is No East or West; Choruses
Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Scriptures: John 9:1-7, Jeremiah 18:2-6, John 4:4-15, Proverbs 3:6
Opening Hymn #403: Walking in Sunlight All of My Journey
Let us pray…
As you may have surmised from today’s Scripture verses, our lesson today is on the common theme: of how God shapes, forms and molds the Christian believer, in much the same manner that a potter molds clay pottery. The transformation of a lump of earth or clay into something that has a useful purpose, which is symbolic as to how God transforms the believer from something that is of this world to a vessel that carries the Holy Spirit. That is why today’s lesson is entitled: ‘Vessels of the Holy Spirit’. In our first Scripture passage, we read how the apostle Paul utilizes this representation in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (ESV):
Treasure in Jars of Clay
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
In the Old Testament we see the same analogy in the Book of Isaiah 64:8 (ESV):
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
To make a vase or jar, a potter needs the following materials: clay, a potter’s wheel and a plan or purpose for the creation. But the clay must be of the right consistency and moisture content. Too dry, the clay won’t hold its form and will tend to crumble. The moisture provided for the clay in the scripture analogy represents the Holy Spirit, which allows the potter to work and shape the clay.
The potter uses a kiln to fire the clay in order to extract the moisture and to harden clay. This firing transforms the pliable clay into a hardened jar.
Earthen clay is an appropriate choice of illustration for the apostles and prophets since we see that a similar material used by God to create Adam in Genesis 2:7 (ESV):
Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
By itself, clay, earth or dust is inert, similar to the world when it was first created, without life and without form. Like a potter with clay, God formed the dust from the ground and breathed life into man’s nostrils, which transformed something dead and inert material into a living creature, a man.
But man and woman, both living creations of God are not just given life. They are also given a spirit, as we read in Job 10:8-12 (ESV):
Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit.
If you recall, it was the spirit of Job that allowed him to endure testing, hardship, and pain in his life. And Job was given that spirit through his faith, trust and love for God.
Even the Psalmist acknowledges the soul’s sense of God’s plan and purpose for each person before their birth in Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV):
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
The Scriptures give another, somewhat different, application of the earth being used to transform or change, in John 9:1-7 (ESV):
Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
In the verses from John 9, the Lord spits on the ground to make clay, transforming it into the mud, which is used to anoint a blind man’s eyes. But the mud has no immediate effect upon the blind man’s vision until the man follows the directions of Jesus to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. By going and washing his eyes, the blind man demonstrates faith and obedience by following the Lord’s instructions and is rewarded with his sight. Many Jews believed that a person born blind is so afflicted because of a sin or transgression caused by that person or the person’s ancestors. In this case, it is difficult to imagine a newborn baby able to commit a sin at birth. By healing this blind man, Jesus shows us that those who are afflicted are entitled to the same grace and love as anyone else. It shows us that we must not blame or judge the afflicted or disabled as being so afflicted because of sin.
But for those who are guilty of sin, God, the potter, has the ability to repair or transform a broken or defective body into a new one, see Jeremiah 18:2-6 (ESV):
“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
In other words, God has the desire and ability to restore a people, who are broken and ‘spoiled’ because of sin, into something better and new.
But how does God change someone spoiled by sin into someone new and sinless? We may find our answer in John’s account found in John 4:4-15 (ESV):
Jesus and the Woman of Samaria
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
In this passage, the living water John described is the Holy Spirit. But being creatures of free will and choice, we are given the choice between: to allowing our vessel, our souls, hearts, and minds to be vessels filled with the living water of the Holy Spirit, by faith, or to staying vessels of the unholy world, destined to return to dust. Like in the account of the blind man, the Holy Spirit can only work its healing upon those who believe and are obedient to the Lord.
By contrast, those who challenge God’s power and authority, as did Adam, Eve, and Satan (in the guise of a serpent), in the Garden of Eden, failed to demonstrate either an understanding or acceptance of God’s will in their lives, which is the point of the clay analogy found in Isaiah 29:16 (ESV):
You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
Those who defy the Lord are denied the gift of the Spirit, Romans 12:2 (ESV):
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
So it is not enough just to worship God, we must demonstrate faith and trust in God that is both honest and true, John 4:24 (ESV):
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
To further demonstrate that though we have a sinful nature inherited from Adam and Eve, like the blind man, we will be given the opportunity to choose the Way of Jesus, to accept God’s will in our lives and receive God’s grace through the Holy Spirit, by faith and obedience to Christ, or to continue living a life unchanged and untouched by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we will not be judged based on the sins of our parents, but by our own choice between the way of sin and the Way of forgiveness through Christ Jesus, Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV):
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
By accepting the gift of salvation and grace, through our Lord Jesus, by confessing our sins, and following the Lord, we are forgiven our sins and receive the Holy Spirit, which will reshape us and guide us on the righteous path, Proverbs 3:6 (ESV):
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Let us pray…
Hymn #403: Walking in Sunlight All of My Journey
Benediction: (Romans 12:1-2):
A Living Sacrifice
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.