Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Cleanliness Comes Before Usefulness

But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
2 Timothy 2:19-21

When I was twenty-one and first starting out in youth ministry, I once had a group of teens play a game where they had to bob for candy bars that were floating in Mt. Dew inside a potty training toilet. Yeah, you read that correctly. Subtlety doesn't exactly win points in youth ministry.

Even as a twenty-one year old youth leader, I had enough sense to make sure that toilet was CLEAN. It was a vessel intended for dishonorable use, but once it was properly (and thoroughly) cleansed it was perfectly suitable for a wacky youth game. This formerly dirty vessel was not only used to eat out of but it was actually used to help further the kingdom of God!

That's kind of the point this passage is making. We are all like vessels that God has an intended use for. Some vessels are more useful and have more honorable purposes than others. The key to being used by God is simply this: one has to keep themselves clean. If we cleanse ourselves from the wickedness of this world, we will be ready to be used by God "for every good work."

Are you ready to be useful to God? Are you holy?

If this idea strikes you as strange, it shouldn't. We all apply the same logic in our churches almost instinctively. We expect a higher level of personal holiness from the Pastor than we do from the average choir member. If a pastor's life is characterized by too much sin then we consider him no longer worthy of the honorable ministry to which he was called. But this principle doesn't just apply to pastors; it has import for all believers. Verse 19 says, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

Notice that holiness often requires separation from something. We are admonished to depart from sin. Holiness requires "fleeing youthful passions" as well as "pursuing righteousness" (2:22). What sin do you need to separate yourself from right now? What righteousness do you need to pursue? 

Father, help me to flee sin, to run away from wickedness. Make me holy so that I can be useful to You. Use me, Lord, to advance your kingdom. Use me to tell others about Jesus. Help me to accomplish all you have for me to do. May I be considered a "workman approved, one who has no reason to be ashamed but who correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

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