Be Fit For The Masters Use!
Many years ago a Bishop in India was approached by missionary who asked,
"Bishop, I have sought a deeper experience with God all these years, and I don't have it.
I have read books about what to do, and I have kept all the rules, but I am no where yet.
Does God have favorites?"
The Bishop replied, "No, God does not have favorites, but He does have intimates."
God is no respecter of persons, but He is a respecter of character and has an affinity for the pure in heart.
There are many scriptures that reflect this.
In Psalm 24, David wrote, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart
" (Psalm 24:3-4)
Then in Matthew 5:8 Jesus taught that "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."
Probably the most candid passage concerning the importance of a pure heart is found in 2 Timothy.
2 Timothy 2:20-21 says, "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver,
but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified,
and meet for the Masters use, and prepared unto every good work."
Wedge between appeals to pure living, this is a simple illustration of a profound, eternal truth.
It is this: purity (integrity, character,) which is a prerequisite for achieving usefulness in God's service.
Five truths are found in these verses which will help us to understand this better.
First, the church is often compared to a large house or mansion.
Peter speaks of the church as a "spiritual house." (1 Peter 2:5)
Paul wrote to Timothy telling him how to behave in "the house of God." (1 Timothy 3:15)
Second, believers are compared to eating utensils which is a common analogy in the Scriptures.
The Lord called the Apostle Paul "a chosen vessel." (Acts 9:15)
Peter refers to the wife as the "weaker vessel." (1 Peter 3:7)
Paul wrote in reference to the gospel, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels.
(2 Corinthians 4:7)
The riches of God's grace are entrusted to ordinary people like you and me.
We are all chosen vessels, weak vessels, earthen vessels, as stated in the Scriptures.
Third, there is a rich variety of vessels present in God's house.
Some are gold, some are silver, and others are wood or clay.
A poor man's house will have one kind of dish, while a mansion or the palace of a king would have
many different types.
Many affluent homes have pottery and plastic, paper plates and fine china ready for whatever
the occasion requires.
All these different vessels gold, silver, wood and clay represent the many people of God's house.
Fourth, the highest honor and the greatest joy of the Christian life is to be used by God in His service.
Paul states that some vessels are "to honor" and some "to dishonor,"
meaning that some are reserved for special occasions, and others are used everyday.
Some are for the master's use, and others are used by servants.
Only the best vessels would be used by the king; and to be used by the king would be the greatest honor
a vessel could have.
To be used by God in His service is the greatest joy and highest honor a Christian worker can experience.
Finally, cleanliness is a prerequisite for usefulness to God and service in His kingdom.
It is not important that we be silver-throated orators or golden-throated singers.
What really matters most in God's service is that our lives be clean.
Paul wrote to Timothy, "If a man therefore purge himself
he shall be a vessel unto honour
meet for the Masters use
" (2 Timothy 2:21)
When you eat what is important about that which is set before you?
It means very little that the dishes are china, pottery, plastics or paper.
The size, shape, color or cost is of no real importance either.
What is important is their cleanliness.
No one wants to eat from a dirty plate with dirty utensils.
You wouldn't, neither would God.
The challenge issued by this text, is that we purge ourselves of impurity so that we may be fit for the Lord's use.
The word "purchase," meaning to cleanse, is used 29 times in the Bible.
In 27 of those references, "purge" describes an act of God.
In only two instances, "purge" describes what we must do.
We must purge ourselves, as Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:21.
Also in 1 Corinthians 5:7 Paul says that the church must purify itself:
"Purge out therefore the old leaven."
Some critic once commented that "The church today is like Noah's Ark;
if it weren't for the storm on the outside, you couldn't stand the stench on the inside."
The spirit of God cannot abide in the midst of such uncleanness, that is why the church is commanded
to purge itself.
Today no word could be more appropriate because the ministry has suffered through many scandals.
The passage instructs us as individuals and especially as ministers to cleanse ourselves of sin
so that we may offer the greater usefulness to God.
To be successful in the ministry, we must rid our lives of immoral acts, deceit, and spiritual pride.
First of all, we must purge our lives of immorality.
I read of a man and his wife who joined the church, and explained why he was making the change
from his old church.
He was the coach of his church's softball team.
One hot sunny afternoon, he returned the sports equipment to the church.
The pastor was mowing the lawn of the parsonage next door to the church.
When the pastor spotted him wiping the sweat from his brow, the pastor shouted,
"John, when you get through come on over, and we will have a cold beer."
John said to his new pastor, "Right then, I decided we had to get out of that church."
Then he said to his new pastor, "Preacher, someone in this world has to be good."
Remembering the remarks of that man, here is a line from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales:
"If gold rusts, what will iron do?"
If God's ministers are not good, what influence could we possibly have on unbelievers
or even our own people?
Sir Galahad had was thought to be the most noble knight of king Authur's legendary Round Table,
having the most important role in the search for the Holy Grail, the cup from which Christ supposedly drank
at the Last Supper.
Sir Galahad was depicted by Tennyson as the ideal young man, set apart from others by his strength and purity.
Here are some words about him:
"My good blade carves the casque of men
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strengths is the strength of ten
Because my heart is pure."
Likewise, our power with God and our usefulness to Him are linked directly to the purity of our lives.
If we are to be useful at all to God as ministers, we must give up our lax ways and live holy lives.
This is also true of every Christian.
Also, we need to purge our lives of deceit.
General Dean, of Korea War fame, wrote a letter to his wife shortly before he died.
In his letter, he included a message to his young son in case he did not return from the war.
He wrote, "Tell Mark, integrity is the word, integrity is the word."
Integrity is the word for all of us as Christians.
Exaggeration, misrepresentation and deceit are common among us today.
There is an old story about being competitive.
It's about two preachers who were hiking in the forests and look behind them to see a big black bear
bearing down on them.
One of the preachers set down, took off his hiking boots, and slipped on his jogging shoes.
The other preacher looked at him and said, "I don't know why you are doing that.
You cannot outrun that bear whether you have on your hiking boots or your jogging shoes."
He continued to tie his shoes as he remarked, "I don't have to outrun that bear.
I just have to outrun you."
We must not attempt to race with one another we are not on a race we are on a pilgrimage.
We should not try to beat someone else, for we we are on the same team and should be trying to reach
many people with the gospel.
We should not be competitors because we need the spirit of the missionary who prayed,
"Lord, I care not who is second, so long as Thou art first."
Third, we need to purge our lives of sinful pride.
Of the two kinds of pride, one makes a person will look his best, be his best, and do his best.
The other, sinful pride, causes us to shamelessly strut before God and view others with disdain.
Jesus once related the parable of the Publicans and the Pharisees that illustrates how simple pride behaves:
"And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous
and despised others."
Pride can cause us to be pompous and conceited, telling the world about our grand achievements
and our great success.
Although we may think that such boasting makes us look good, it actually reflects our own insecurities.
Oscar-winning actor, Gregory Peck, stood in line at a restaurant, waiting for the acknowledgment
of an arrogant maitre'd.
Someone said to Peck, "Why don't you tell him who you are?"
Gregory Peck responded, "When you have to tell them, you aren't."
In Arthur Millers' "Death of a Salesman." Willie had been had been convinced that Bernard,
his neighbors son, would never amount to anything.
Bernard grew up, and while packing his bags for a trip, chats with the Willie.
Willie discovers that the young man is traveling to Washington DC to plead a case before the Supreme Court.
Willie is surprised.
He exclaims, "What do you know about that?
Bernard didn't even say it anything about it."
Bernard's father replied, "He didn't have to; he is doing it."
A church that moves from success to success does not need to advertise its achievements.
In our personal lives, pride can make us overconfident and vulnerable.
Narcissus was a handsome young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water.
He remained there, transfixed by his own image, until he died.
Narcissistic people are those whose inner life isn't well-developed, and they live their lives in the outer world
as one counselor has pointed out.
I read somewhere that someone advised, "Stay humble, so you don't stumble."
Proverbs 16:18 gives that same warning: "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."
The truth is if we do not cleanse ourselves, we invite the punitive cleansing of God.
2 Kings 21:13 reminds us that when God begins cleansing, he does a thorough job:
and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down."
We don't want God to chase us and purge us, so He invites us to first, cleanse ourselves,
so that we may prove useful within His kingdom.
But how do we purge ourselves?
We do this by first committing ourselves to Christ.
In Shakespeare's play, Macbeth entreats the court physician to treat his wife, Lady Macbeth,
who was suffering from guilt and "anguish of her soul."
The physician explains that Lady Macbeth's disease is beyond his ability,
and "Therein the patient must minister to himself." (Macbeth V iii)
Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus "by himself purged our sins," preparing us for cleansing and forgiveness.
Second, we need continued cleansing through confession.
The Scripture say that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
We know what our sins are, for God convicts us of them both in Scripture and in our conscience.
If we want our lives to be cleanse, we must first come clean with God.
It is a prerequisite to our usefulness and to being the Christian God wants us to the and the stressful world.
James Irwin, one of America's first astronauts and also an evangelist, wrote in his book,
"More Than Earthlings," about the first Russian cosmonaut, who returned from outer space,
then traveled the world declaring that he looked, but never saw God out in space.
A young Swedish girl, remembering the words of Jesus "Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God" wrote him a letter that said:
"Dear Sir, I understand when you are out in space you looked around
and you said you never saw God,
Sir, I just want to ask you one question, 'Is your heart pure.? '"
Sermon has been adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White