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Treasure in Clay Pots

2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle

Sep 23, 2018

by: Jack Lash Series: 2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle | Category: NT books | Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:7–4:7
  1. Introduction
    A. 2Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
      1. What is “this treasure”? The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (v.6)
      2. The But: V. 6 says “We have this treasure.” V.7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay.”
     B. Clay pot
      1. He is the potter, we are the clay.
      2. Our frail human bodies were originally fashioned from clay.
      3. Scholars tell us that the distinctives of a clay jar were that they were fragile, inferior, expendable.
     C. Paul says that we are mere jars of clay which contain the treasure of Christ and His gospel of grace.
    II. This is counter-intuitive. It’s not what we expect.
     A. Ordinarily a treasure would be kept in a sturdy and elegant container, something which matches the treasure.
      1. When we want to display a valuable painting, we put it in a beautiful frame.
      2. When we have nice china, we want to store it in a nice china cabinet.
      3. We don’t keep our silver in a tin can, but in an elegant box or chest. 
      4. We don’t keep fine jewelry in a grocery bag. We get a nice jewelry box. 
     B. But not so with the Lord. He doesn’t place the treasure of His Son into a golden palace or dress Him in royal robes. 
      1. And when it comes to the people in whom He dwells, He doesn’t go after the elite. 
      2. Matthew 11:25–26 Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
      3. And Paul says, “Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” – 1Cor.1:26-29
      4. He has ordained that the precious treasure of His Son and His Spirit be contained in feeble, dying, breakable pots made of dirt and subject to pain and death. 
    III. This says a lot about so many things.
     A. It says a lot about Christ. 
      1. He is our treasure.
      2. Matthew 13:44 “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.”
      3. Just because you have a treasure doesn't mean you treasure it.
       a. Like a man who doesn’t appreciate his godly wife: who prays for him, thinks the best, makes the most, looks to help him and encourage him.
      4. Where is your treasure? 
       a. Matthew 6:19–21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
     B. It says a lot about the gospel
      1. It tells us that the Treasure of God resides in human hearts. 
      2. We are clay pots. We don’t deserve to contain a treasure! But God gives us His Treasure by grace.
      3. It’s not because of who we are that we possess this Treasure. It’s in spite of who we are.
      4. All people are clay pots, but of course not all people KNOW they are clay pots. 
       a. Some think they are exquisite vases or ornate jewelry boxes. 
       b. Others think they are discarded disgusting toilet bowls, which could never hold any treasure. 
      5. But the truth is that we are clay pots, fashioned by God, not WORTHY to possess God’s treasure, but by God’s grace ABLE to possess God’s treasure. 
      6. The most important thing about Christians is not their belief system; it’s not their lifestyle, though those are not unimportant. But the most important thing is that they have Christ. 
     C. It says a lot about the church.
      1. You have this group of people who meet together on Sundays. Each week they sing songs, they read the Bible, they pray. They shake hands, they usually sit in the same seats. The same guys gets up and talks. Each week is pretty much the same. 
      2. Just a little old church, nothing very impressive
      3. And yet, Ephesians 3:9–10 “the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”
     D. It says a lot about church leaders.
      1. We want them to be more than just people like us.
      2. We want them to be brilliant and funny and godly and 
      3. We want him to have it all together. We don’t want him to struggle. We don’t want him to be ordinary. We don’t want him to be like us.
      4. That’s why we so often tend to veer in the direction of priesthood, where the people have this exalted view of their leader and the leader enjoys being thought of in this way. 
      5. But the fact is, church leaders are clay pots, just like everybody else. And they hold the Treasure of Christ, just like the rest of God’s people. And in the church, Jesus is the only priest.
     E. It says a lot about preaching.
      1. Just a person speaking to other people telling them what God says in His word.
      2. It’s understandable that people are using more multimedia presentations, drama, etc.
      3. Preaching is so ordinary, so unspectacular. 
      4. 1Cor.2:1–3 “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling.” 
      5. The thing which makes preaching work is Christ’s power working in our weakness. 
      6. For a long time, I tried to prepare powerful sermons. Now I try to prepare faithful sermons and I cry out to the Lord to work by His mighty power through my weakness. 
     F. It says something about the Bible. 
      1. It’s just a book. Words on a page. 
       a. It’s not a movie, not a video game, not a music video, not a big show, not a carnival. 
      2. And not only that, but it’s a very old book.
       a. Books that are thousands of years old are not very popular, are they?
       b. The books that do get read are the new books, the cutting edge books.
       c. Very old books are very unpopular! 
       d. Think about the part of the Bible we’re going through: 2Corinthians. It’s somebody’s letter to somebody else — two thousand years ago, in a foreign place, in a different language. 
        (1) And we’re looking at every sentence. What? 
      3. It’s just a book, but it’s God’s book. It’s just a book, but it’s got the treasure of salvation in it.
       a. Jesus said, “the words that I speak are spirit and they are life.” – John 6:63
       b. Deut.32:45-47 “Take to heart all these words...For it is no empty word for you, but your very life.”
     G. It says something about evangelism. 
      1. So often Christians look for the grand scheme to communicate Christ. 
      2. Moses (Sight and Sound) – God can use the spectacular.
      3. What has the greatest effect? 
       a. Hope of ordinary people — like them.
       b. Love of Christian neighbors or relatives or friends or fellow workers. 
       c. The gospel = the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16)
     H. It says a lot about other believers.
      1. They are treasure-filled clay pots. 
      2. They may look like a clay pot. But they have a precious treasure within them.
      3. Are we put-off by their clay-pot-ness?
      4. The most important thing about another Christian is that Christ is in them. 
      5. And it’s the main reason Christ calls us over and over and over again to love them and forgive them and pray for them and help them. 
     I. It says a lot about our lives.
      1. So often human troubles and struggles produce a grumbling and bitter spirit. But not so with us who know that we are clay pots with a Treasure inside.
      2. There is a great distance between a precious treasure and a mere pot. 
       a. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. 
       b. Why? Because we are saved by God’s power, not by our own.
      3. Amazingly, God’s power is demonstrated most when our human weakness is also demonstrated.
      4. This reflects the main theme of the epistle: that God’s power is shown in human weakness (2Cor.12:9), doesn’t it?
      5. Just as the glory of God was most perfectly manifested in the humanity of Christ, who took upon Himself the weakness of a human body and who triumphed by suffering on a cross, surely it is fitting that the glory of God be manifested now in our weakness, not in our strength. Our very weakness becomes a fitting context for the proclamation of the good news of an incarnated, crucified deity. 
      6. 2Corinthians 12:10 “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 
      7. We can be content in our weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities! 
      8. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Do you feel weak? That’s good. That’s the way God wants it. He wants to show His mighty power by making His magnificent/priceless Treasure radiate through my weak, ordinary life. 
      9. I don’t like feeling weak. I prefer to feel strong. 
       a. I like success, I like to impress people. 
      10. But as time goes on, the Lord helps me let go of this life and this body and this world, and find my identity in Christ. 
      11. The longer I live, the more impressive are my weakness and God’s strength. 
       a. Though I feel relationally closer and closer to Him, my view of myself gets lower and lower and my view of God gets higher and higher. 
       b. It’s not enough to recognize your own weakness. That just yields hopelessness and despair. 
       c. But recognizing that God’s power is demonstrated most in our weakness yields hope and peace. 
      12. James 1:9–10 “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation.”
       a. Let the lowly and mistreated person remember that he possesses the greatest Treasure of all.
       b. And let the popular, successful person remember that he is a mere clay pot. 
       c. This is how we manage our emotional/psychological state. 
        (1) It’s so easy when you’re successful and admired to give in to the sins of self-exaltation, self-satisfaction, self-centeredness, and self-sufficiency.  
        (2) And it’s so easy when you fail and get rejected to give in to the sins of self-pity, self-condemnation, self-loathing, and self-degradation.
       d. And so God gives us these two truths to help us navigate between the rocks of discouragement on the one side and the rocks of self-assurance on the other.
        (1) Remembering that we are just clay pots helps us to avoid lofty self-thinking. 
        (2) Remembering that we possess God’s great treasure helps us to avoid dark self-thinking.
      13. God wants us to have joy, as long as that joy is in light of our neediness.
      14. And God wants us to be humble, as long as that humility exists in the context of the surpassing greatness of the power of the gospel at work within us.