Lucia's Blog: TREASURE IN JARS OF CLAY
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Monday, February 24, 2020

TREASURE IN JARS OF CLAY

"Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.'"
2 Corinthians 4:1-7


In 2 Corinthians 4:1-7, the apostle Paul pictures for us a wonderful image of what it is to be a faithful disciple of Christ.  He describes them as those who behold the Light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:4; 4:6). Sadly, those who are perishing cannot see the glory of the Gospel, for their eyes are veiled to the Truth (2 Cor. 4:3).  Today, we hold in our hands the Gospel Message that was proclaimed and written by Paul and the apostles.  It is the Message that shines God’s Light in our hearts so that others may see the glory of God.  This Gospel Message did not allow Paul to lose heart, for God’s mercy and grace had given him this glorious ministry (2Cor. 4:1). So how can beholding the Light of the Gospel of the glory of God change our hearts and our manner of living? 


I.   TREASURE IN CLAY JARS:
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us"  (2 Corinthians 4:7).

All Christians carry this treasure, for the Gospel Message of Jesus is a treasure.  In Jesus’ parables, He spoke of this treasure.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).  

Paul describes this treasure as the Light of the knowledge of God’s glory.  God’s Word is our precious treasure, for the Gospel reveals the glory of God. We have this treasure in clay jars.
“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:27-28).  

In ancient times, clay jars were unimportant and of no value. They were low in value and quality, unimportant, temporary, and expendable. When a clay jar broke, it was not worth fixing.  It was discarded and replaced. This treasure is not kept in golden treasure boxes. The priceless Gospel Message is kept in clay jars. Paul describes himself as a clay jar, not a golden box.  We must consider ourselves in the same way as not worthy of carrying such a treasure as is the Gospel.  We are clay jars carrying a precious and treasured message, the Gospel! In the beginning, God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. When a man opens his mouth and teaches the Gospel, the life of God comes from that clay body and expresses the treasured wisdom of God.

In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul explains God’s purpose, which is “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”  The power is in God’s message, the Gospel, not the clay jar.  God placed this treasure in human containers like Paul and the apostles with a purpose in mind.  God wanted to show us that the treasure of the Gospel has nothing to do with the clay jar.  In ancient writings (such as found in the caves of Qumran), the figure of clay jars was used metaphorically to show man’s weaknessesOur flaws show how flawless the Gospel is.  Since we are clay jars, we cannot steal the glory of God and His glorious Gospel away from Him.  So we must embrace our weaknesses so that the power of God can be made seen in our lives. God’s power can transform a weak, selfish, and broken heart into a loving, believing, and strong heart that can stand firm in the strength that God provides.  So our worth is not in us but in God’s power (the Gospel), for we are just clay jars.  Those who boast about themselves as more than clay jars, steal away the glory of God.  They are drawing attention to themselves, not God, and the glorious Gospel of His Son!  


  • So How Do We Look As Clay Jars?  
"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed"  (2 Cor. 4:8-9).


Clay jars carry weaknesses. Paul and the apostles were afflicted in every way, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. But they were not crushed, driven to despair, but not forsaken or destroyed because they carried the treasure.  Although they were knocked down, they were never knocked out. Their strength came from God’s sustaining power.  They understood God’s purpose for them.  It is the same for us today, for our strength does not come from ourselves since we are jars of clay.   Because Paul carried the treasure, which is of so much value and glory, he was not destroyed or crushed.  Though he was knocked down, he did not stop and give up. Though he was stoned and left for dead in Lystra when he went there to preach, his strength was in the Gospel, not in himself.  God’s ministry did not allow him to sit down.  Because of the hope that we have in the Gospel, the Message that we must proclaim to those lost in sin, God will sustain us through our hardships.  We must tell others of the glory that we behold!  We must behold the treasure and its glory and tell others of that glory!  


  • Always Carrying in the Body the Death of Jesus:
"Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 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. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you"  (2 Cor. 4:10-12).


In verse 10, the apostle Paul describes his work.  He states,
"Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies."

Paul and the apostles were willing to lose their lives so that Christ might be manifested.  They embraced their weaknesses so that others might see Jesus.  Why did they do all that?  So that the surpassing power of God might be shown, not their own power or glory.  And as they died to themselves, so must we die to ourselves so that the life of Jesus may be seen. Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die every day!” To the Romans he said,  “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Romans 8:36) To the Philippians he said that he was being “poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith” (Philippians 2:17). To Timothy he wrote, "Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him"  (2 Timothy 2:10-11).

They were mistreated, beaten, and dragged to death’s door to give others life.  So like them, we Christians must sacrifice and die to self daily so that others might live. The apostles were not the only ones that were called to sacrifice everything. We are called to do the same today.  Why do you suppose Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians?  It was written to them and to us for our upbuilding (2 Corinthians 12:19).  It means that we must take up our cross and follow Jesus. It is the same message Paul gave the Colossians.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”  (Colossians 3:1-4).

Since we have this glorious Gospel treasure, our lives must be hidden with Christ so that He may be manifested in us. Since we have died with Christ, He must be our life!   So we must die to self that others may live. We deny, sacrifice, and die to ourselves and our desires so that others can see the treasure of the Gospel and find life. We behold the Light of the glory of the Lord, and we must share it. Although we might be knocked down, we are never knocked out!


  • We Have The Same Spirit of Faith:
"Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God"  (2 Cor. 4:13-15).


We must look at Psalm 116 to see Paul’s point.

I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my pleas for mercy.
2 Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
6 The Lord preserves the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return, O my soul, to your rest;
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

8 For you have delivered my soul from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling;
9 I will walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

10 I believed, even when I spoke:
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
11 I said in my alarm,
    “All mankind are liars.”

12 What shall I render to the Lord
    for all his benefits to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord,
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his saints.
16 O Lord, I am your servant;
    I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
    You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
    and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord,
    in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!


The Psalmist begins this psalm declaring his love for the Lord, for He had heard his pleas for mercy (verses 1-2).  Verse 3 describes how the  Psalmist found himself surrounded by the snares of death, distress, and anguish (verses 4-9).  But he was suddenly rescued.  The apostle Paul quoted from verse 10 of this psalm.  In the context, the psalmist was greatly afflicted but had faith. Though he was surrounded by distress and anguish, he believed (he had faith). When death encompassed him, he had faith. So he will call on the name of the Lord (verse 13), and pay his vows to Him (verse 14), offer sacrifice of thanksgiving (verse 17), and praise the Lord (verse 19).

Even when we are surrounded by death, we still must believe and speak.  Even when distress and anguish overwhelm us, we must still have faith and speak for the Lord about the riches found in His Word. For even in our death, we are precious to God.  So that is why Paul says,
“Since we have the same spirit of faith…we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Cor. 4:13-14).

We have the same faith!  And though we might be killed for preaching, we must still have faith in God and keep speaking, for we know how precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Also, because we know that the power that raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us and bring us into the Lord’s presence. The hope of the resurrection changes the way we think about our bodies because of the Gospel.  Although we might be killed, we know that our reward awaits us, our resurrectionThis is why we must not lose heart and give up (2 Cor. 4:16).   So we must keep speaking, for we have faith!  Whatever may come our way, we must continue “so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:15). Paul never sought to be comfortable.  He never worried about receiving honor, reputation, or popularity.   He was more concerned about giving thanks and praises to God.  He lived so that others would glorify the treasure, not the jar of clay.


CONCLUSION:
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal"  (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Since we behold the treasure of the Gospel, we must cause others to see this treasure that we carry, not the jar. The clay jar is just us.  We must not draw attention to ourselves but to the Gospel.  We must glorify God and never ourselves.  We must protect the treasure, not the jar of clay.  The clay is not important or of any value. We are clay jars that must protect the treasure and show it!  If we fail in protecting and showing the treasure, we have failed God, who gave us this work to do. Since we have died, and our lives are hidden in Christ, others must see Christ, not us. As clay jars, we must allow ourselves to be broken and be laid in the dust so that others might see the glory of the treasure.  We believe, and so we must speak, for we believe in the resurrection of Jesus! Believing in Jesus’ resurrection implies that we also believe in our own resurrection. So we must protect the treasure and share it with others. We must surrender all to the Lord so that one day we might be with Him in heaven.  We must walk by faith, not by sight. The unseen things are eternal. Our afflictions are just momentary.  They are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison!  God sustains us through our hardships because of the hope we have in the Gospel and the work that He wants us to proclaim, His Gospel, so that others might be saved from His wrath.

May we declare the Gospel Message to all men, that treasure that we hold in our hands today.  May we shine God’s Light so that others may see His glory. May we never lose heart but behold the Light of the Gospel of the glory of God to change our hearts into what God wants us to be to His glory.

Luci


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