May 17, 2020 The Shining and the Treasure

The Shining and the Treasure

Scripture reading: 2 Cor. 4:6-7

 

The apostle Paul is still writing about the “ministry.” The ministry to which he refers is the ministry of the new covenant. It is an apostolic ministry, but it is also the ministry of every follower of Christ. It is your ministry.

 

When he writes that God said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” he is referring to the creation. When God said, “Let light shine,” there was a shining and that shining was from God. His shining in the universe produced the old creation. Now, shining in the hearts of Paul and Timothy made them a new creation. When God shines in your heart you become a new creation!

 

When I was 20 years old, on a country road in Northern California, God shone in my heart and I became a new creation! Was there a time when the Lord shined into your heart? If there hasn’t been, ask for it. Plead for it! The Lord is rich in mercy and the apostle James said you have not because you ask not (James 4:2). The Lord himself said, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7). Ask for the shining!

 

We not only need the shining to become a new creation, we need the shining to know God and Christ and we need the shining to carry out the ministry. It is not just Paul and Timothy that have a ministry. Every follower of Christ has the ministry. Notice I am using the definite article to identify “ministry.” It is also true that every follower of Christ has a ministry. That is to say, every follower of Christ has certain gifts that the Lord has given them wherein they can minister to other people.

 

Some have the gift of healing. Some have the gift of service, that is, they enjoy serving others and may have a talent in that area such as fixing things, for example. Some have the gift of teaching. Some have the gift of giving, that is, the Lord has blessed them both with prosperity and a generous heart.

Yet, whatever particular ministry a person has, there is still only one over-arching ministry that all have. It is the ministry of the new covenant. It is the gospel of Christ. Every particular ministry or gift can and ought to be used for the expansion of Christ. For example, when someone is served by another person, the one who is served is much more open to hear what the one who blessed them has to say. There is an appreciation for having food delivered, for example, or having one’s lawn mower repaired. Because that person is appreciative they will be willing to hear the testimony of the server. One might say, “I didn’t always serve other people. I used to be somewhat self-centered. But then Christ shined a light into me and I was changed. May I briefly share what happened to me?” What a perfect opportunity to share your own testimony and the gospel!

The same holds true for every gift or ministry. If you have the gift of giving it might be appropriate to let an unbeliever know how much you gave to the church. Not so that you are bragging or showing off. But, if you let them know, it will astound them. They will think it quite peculiar that you gave so much because they, most likely, give very little to charities. You can ask them, “Do you know why I gave so much? It is not only that God asks for us to give about 10% back to him.[1] It is because it is so important to get the gospel of Christ out. Jesus himself said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No person comes to the Father but through me.’ Since, I trust in what He said, I desire to see the word go out. Let me ask you, if you were to die today, what is your hope that God would receive you into heaven?”

This shining brings the light of knowledge. When we first came to the Lord there was a shining that revealed our sinful condition and it also revealed the remedy: the death of Christ on our behalf. When you see these matters under the shining, one repents of their sins and trusts Christ (faith is trust!).

The shining is “in the face of Jesus Christ.” This not only means that the glory of God is seen in the Person of Christ, but that we must have a direct and personal contact with Christ. Contact with Christ is the shining! Contacting Christ can be realized through calling on His name. To call upon the name of the Lord is to verbally invoke Him. It is different than a silent prayer. We call upon the Lord out loud. We recognize that the Lord Jesus is the only one who can save us from our sins and the consequences of our sins, so we call out to him for deliverance.

 

Even to call upon him is from the Spirit shining into us!

 

No one can say, “Lord Jesus,” unless in [the power of the] Holy Spirit.[2]

 

When we call out, “O Lord Jesus!” There is a shining from the Holy Spirit taking place. When we first came to the Lord, we called out to him. But the more we call, even as those who belong to him already, the more shining we get! Call upon him daily. Call upon him often. We tend to only cry out to the Lord Jesus when we have a great need. But isn’t it so that our need for him is great each and every day? We tend to cry out to him when we are in trouble, and we should (Psalm 50:15). But we need him to shine upon us more, so we should call upon him often. In the mornings, don’t be so self-sufficient. Call upon the Lord. When you feel dry inside, call upon the Lord. When you are lonely, call upon his name. When you call him, you get him. And when you get him, you get the shining!

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.[3]

 

Paul considered himself the chief among the sinners. How could such a rebel against God become a minister of the new covenant? In order for Paul to become a minister of Christ he was first reborn and then reconstituted. Rebirth is not sufficient to make someone a minister of the new covenant. It is sufficient to grant us eternal life. But, to be one who ministers Christ to others (which every follower of Christ is called to do), one has to be reorganized, rearranged, and reconstituted.[4] A new constitution, however, requires a new element. The blood of Christ takes away our sin, but we need a new life added to us. This new life is nothing less than Christ Himself, as the Spirit, with all that he passed through – his incarnation, human living, crucifixion, and resurrection – put within those who have come to him.

We should also see that God is not separated in Himself. He is One. The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity states that the Persons of the Godhead are distinct but not separate. They are One. Where Jesus is the Spirit is. Where Jesus is the Father is. Where the Spirit is the Father is. Thus, when this treasure is within us, the jars of clay, it is not just Christ who is within us as the treasure. The Spirit is within us and the Father is within us. In reality, the Triune God is the treasure! The Triune God is within the jars of clay.

In one sense, the Father and Christ are both in the heavenlies. In one sense, when we pray to either the Father or the Son (both prayers are found in the New Testament), we are praying from earth to heaven. In another sense, just as real, we are praying to the One who is within us—so intimate is our fellowship with the Living Triune God!

We are the jars of clay. The Triune God is the treasure. If we have called upon the Lord, then we are constituted with the Triune God! Some may say, “I do not feel as if I have been constituted with the Living Triune God.” You may not feel this, but you need to believe it.[5] As Christians, we need to live by faith and walk by faith, not by sight (5:7). We neither walk by sight nor by feelings. We believe the word of God.

Genevieve and I watched an episode of the old British TV show, the Avengers. This is not the Marvel Comics Avengers. Rather, this show is about two British agents, Mr. Steed and Mrs. Peel, who keep saving the British Empire from nefarious plots to overthrow it. In this one, there is a retired Army Colonel who was in charge of a fort in a South Pacific jungle-nation. He is back in England, but he has slight dementia. Some criminal conspiracy creates a duplicate fort and a duplicate jungle to make the Colonel think that he is still in that South Pacific jungle. He is happy about it because he liked his assignment. This Colonel felt like he was still in the South Pacific but in reality, he was in England. Steed and Peale visit him but don’t tell him about the pretense until they learn why it’s happening.

 

What we feel is not always representative of what is real. Feelings are not trustworthy. You may feel that everything is fine, but your condition is pitiful. This is the experience of so many unbelievers. They think their life is just fine because they never think about God’s law and how often they have violated it. Or, you may feel that things are not well with you because you don’t have a certain job, or you lack money. This is the experience of many Christians. They don’t consider the many blessings that they do have and that they deserve none of them. Neither do they fully believe that God is working out all things for their good (Romans 8:28) and that the Lord loves them greatly (I Jn 3:1).

Do not believe in your feelings, believe in the facts.[6]

It is a fact that we have been brought into God and we have been constituted with the Triune God. You may not feel constituted or that there has been a change in you. But, be a believer. Be one who lives by faith, not by feelings. The Lord is the life-giving Spirit dwelling in our spirit as the constituting element. He is, even now as you are sitting here, reorganizing you. He is rearranging your priorities. And, he is reconstituting you more and more.

We are the jars of clay. Clay has some advantages. It is abundant and inexpensive. It can also be easily formed into any shape the sculptor desires. But the problem with clay is that, once hardened, it is brittle. It breaks so easily.

Think of the collectible figurines that are made of clay. There are the Precious Moments figurines. We used to have about a half dozen of those. But we had six children. It didn’t take to long for half of them to get broken. All it takes is for them to fall down or even just knocked over. Then a head is gone or an arm is broken off.

Josie wanted to start collecting the Hummel figurines. Have you seen those? They are very appealing. A friend of hers collected them and she wanted to start. But, after our experience with Precious Moments, I told her that, with all the children we had (who at that time were very young), it was not a wise investment. Besides, the Hummels are more expensive than the Precious Moments. So, we never bought any.

Clay is abundant, but it is weak and brittle. This is the way we are! Human beings are abundant. There are billions of us. But we are weak and brittle. Our bodies are weak. I like to watch the World’s Strongest Man competition. There are some very strong bodies in the world. But, do you know what? It only takes a microscopic virus or a very small bacteria and that seemingly strong body can die easily.

In the 1970’s there was a bodybuilder named Dave Johns. He won both the Mr. America contest and the Mr. Universe contest. Not all bodybuilders are strong. But Johns was. He also entered the World’s Strongest Man competition. But at the age of 41 he contracted what is known as Valley Fever. It is caused by a microscopic fungus that invades the body through the lungs, that is, by breathing in the spores usually found in the dust in the U.S. Southwest and the Central Valley of California. It has a 99% recovery rate. But, sadly, Johns was in that 1%. Although he was healthy when he contracted it, it killed him. Our bodies are weak.

But our souls are weak too. Those who follow Christ and desire to please him find that they fail him so very often. Is this not your experience? This was Paul’s experience!

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.[7]

We are so much like clay – weak and frail.

But, even though we are weak and frail, “the surpassing power” is in us! We have the surpassing power! It surpasses our weakness! It surpasses our failures! It surpasses our frailty! It surpasses our sins!

I also like the way the NKJV renders this verse:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.[8]

Not only is the power surpassing it is excellent! You must see that there is an excellent power within you! It excels everything that you are! Because this surpassing, excellent treasure is within you it empowers you!

What are we to do? We are to believe the fact that we have this treasure in our earthen vessel, our jar of clay. I tell you, just knowing this makes all the difference! The power to rearrange your life is from this excelling and surpassing power! The power to speak the truth is from this excelling and surpassing power!

Believe what God has said and begin living in the power that is already yours! Throw aside whatever sin is holding you back. Rearrange your life. And, pick up the ministry of truth. That is, start talking to people…this very week.

 

 

 

[1] I use the word, “about,” because tithing was demanded under the old covenant. Under the new covenant we are under greater blessings and privileges, so we ought to give more.

[2] I Cor. 12:3 (Darby Translation)

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 4:7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] This insight is from The Life-Study of 2 Corinthians by Witness Lee (Living Stream Ministry, Anahein, CA), Message Ten.

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 7:15–19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles. (Some commentators think that the apostle is relating only his experiences before coming to Christ. But, it is interesting to note that he writes in the present tense (not past tense) and that he elsewhere warns of how easy it is for others, who already follow Christ, to fall into sin [Gal. 5:13, 16-17]).

[8] The New King James Version. (1982). (2 Co 4:7). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.