The Potter and The Clay

Preached at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, October 30, 2016

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Jer 18:1-6

It is a pleasure to be here with you tonight to open up God’s word. We are from Crossway Church. We have been coming here to the Milwaukee Rescue Mission almost since the beginning days of our church. We at Crossway are very excited about what is going on here and love the opportunity to be partners with the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. We have had several guys who have been helped by the Milwaukee Rescue Mission and many others who over the years have served here in one way or another.

The passage I just read talks about a potter working with some clay. I brought in a pot here just to help us keep our minds focused on what I wanteed to talk about tonight. It will be easier for you understand what I am saying if I can make it really clear. You have probably heard way too many confusing sermons before and I don’t want to preach a confusing sermon to you guys, or at least I want to try to make it clear as I can.

So I read to you from the book of Jeremiah in the Bible. And the subject being talked about is a potter making a pot. A guy is making a pot. Everybody knows what pots are for, right? This is not complicated, gentlemen. I don’t know, you can put water in a pot. You can put a plant in a pot. There are a lot of things you can put in a pot.

This pot I brought was from home. Do you know what we keep in here? Spare change, pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Whenever anyone in the house has any spare change, we throw it in there. And when it gets full, we take it to the bank and deposit it or spend it on something. And in the past this has been used to buy us a few things. Its amazing how you can buy something nice just by throwing aside some spare change over a period of time.

Well, I think we all know that somebody made this pot. I don’t know this might have been made hand or by somebody seeting up a machine to do it, but somebody was involved in it. This pot got made because somebody wanted to make it. And whoever made this pot whether it was through their own hands or with a machine, they really wanted it to be made. And they made this pot to be used. It was either supposed to sit looking pretty or it was supposed to hold something. I can almost guarantee that whoever made this pot didn’t want it destroyed and they didn’t want it sitting in the back of somebody’s closet not being used.

I want to talk to you tonight about the pot and the potter here in Jeremiah.

And so anyway, I wanted you to get it clear in all of our head what is going on here. But of course it’s more complicated than what I just told. Because here in the Bible, this isn’t just anybody making this pot. And also, this is not just any pot. In fact, this pot is you. This pot is you or me.

Because, just like this pot you were made by somebody and you were made for a reason. And God has some things to say to us about this. If we were made by God, and made for a reason, wouldn’t it be good to know what out Maker and out Designer thinks about this.

Every one of us here in this room, every one of us really cares what happens to us in our lives. This is not just a matter of hearing a sermon. This matters to our live, to how we live and how he get on, and how we cope with our own life.

And God also knows that there is a whole lot of confusion in this world about what is really going on in this world. There is confusion about who man is. There is confusion about why we exist. Do we exist just to live unto ourselves, for our own pleasure, or are we part of something bigger?

But anyway in this story God is talking to Jeremiah, ok? It says twice “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord”. That sounds kind of funny to say it that way, that the “word came to Jeremiah from the Lord.” What that really means is that God SPOKE to Jeremiah.

But the reason it says it that way, “the word came down” is that God is not visible to us, he is not present with us physically. God is really here, but He doesn’t present himself to us in a physical body. And so, when words from out of nowhere it looks like and it sounds like magic. But that’s because God, you see, is a spirit. And so, it says the word came down, Jeremiah is just describing things in the way they appear. It says it almost like it was some alphabets showed up in his soup. It was as if words came from out of nowherre because when God speaks, we don’t see lips flapping, but still God is speaking.

When the prophets heard “words come down” they were USUALLY PRETTY smart about it, they USUALLY knew it was God speaking to them. That is why over and over again when the prophets said to the people saying, “hey, ya’ll this is what the Lord says.” “This is what God says” or “thus sayeth the Lord”. When Jeremiah told this story to the people I’m almost sure he said “Here’s what God told me.”

In Isaiah 55:11 God tells us, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” God’s purpose when he spoke through the prophets, you see, was not fully accomplished until every who would hear had heard it. And when you hear God’s word, EVEN TODAY, that originally came to a prophet it is still working, it I still acccomplishing everything that God had intended for it to do. And so, when we hear God’s words today about the potter and the pot, they are for us. They are intended to help us. God had it in His mind when he spoke them you and you and you.

But anyway God spoke to Jeremiah and said go down the potter’s house, I have some things I want to show you. And so what God shows Jeremiah is a guy working at a wheel. A guy is making pots. And I don’t know what happened but the pot isn’t turning out. Something just wasn’t right. It was not turning out to be a good pot. But rather than just throwing the clay away and rather than just leaving it as an inferior pot, the potter restarted the work. The potter it say “reworked it into another vessel”. And why did the potter do this? It tells us. It says the potter did it because it seemed “good” to the potter to do that.

So tonight I want to walk you through four main points, THE FOUR MAIN THING THAT THIS PASSGE TELLS US. Point one is….

 

GOD IS THE POTTER

OK now, I’ve already said that this pot is not really a pot and this potter is not just any potter. Who is this potter? The potter in this story is God. At the end of this little story God says to Jeremiah, “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?”, declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” Can I not do with you as this potter has done?

So, God you see is the potter. Hold that thought and then let’s make one other conclusion from this

Point number two is that…

WE ARE THE POT

Ok, so it doesn’t just tell us that the potter is God but it also tells us that we are the pot. God says to Jeremiah, “llike the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. Can I not do with you as this potter has done?” The pot is us. The pot is me. The pot is you

We are made by God. God made us. And He made us for a reason. A pot is for a use. It does something. It does what the potter wants it to do. It either sits there looking all pretty if that’s what God made it to do or by doing something, holding something, pouring something. I knew real early in my life that I wasn’t all that pretty so I guess I’ve spent my life focusing on doing something useful.

In Genesis 1 it tells us that God made man of the dust of the earth. Do you see what a pot-maker God is? God is making pots. He is making vessels. He is making instruments. They just happen to be pots that can wlak and talk and laugh and cry and sing and dance. They just happen to be able to write a book, or shoot a basketball or climb a mountain or figure out out cure a disease like polio. No big deal. He’s just making pots. He’s just a pot maker. It just so happens He makes these very interesting and very valuable pots called human beings.

And so point number three is that… 

GOD IS WORKING IN US AND THROUGH US

WE KNOW THIS BECUASE God says THIS to Jeremiah. God says to Jeremiah, “Can I not do with you as this potter has done? Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.”

Have you ever considered, seriously considered that God is doing something in this universe and that you might be in His hand? …that He might be making something out of you and with you? Have you ever considered that as time moves on that God, as it says in Jeremiah 18 that God is “working at His wheel?”

A lot of people, to be honest, can’t quite their brains wrapped around that. It takes some faith and some imagination too to imagine how God could be involved in everything that goes on around us. But that is what the Scripture tells us over and over again. God is involved. God is working. God is working with you. You are a vessel in his hands.

Now to be very honest, there is something in our pride as human beings that means we don’t always like being a vessel. Maybe we don’t like God being the maker and us being the clay.

BUT In Romans 9, THE APOSTLE Paul says this:

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay?

So, here the argument is: if God really is the maker, AND WE ARE ONLY THE CLAY, doesn’t it make sense then that he gets to call the shots? He is charge and not us. We’re not in charge

And we all know that there are two different voices both clamoring for our attention today IN THIS world. There is one voice that says you are your own boss, you have no one to answer to but yourself. That’s what the media tells you. That’s what most of our educators are saying now. That’s what most of the talk out in the world now is saying. But the other voice then is the voice of God’s word and God’s gospel and this prophet Jeremiah that tells us that this world was made by God and if God made the world and if we are vessels that He made, then He is in charge, it is His world and He calls the shots.

And EVERYONE OF US HAS builT in our own heads OUR OWN THOUGHTS of what is going on in this world. We all have done it. You weren’t very old when even as a young man you begin to put together in your own mind some kind of idea of what life is all about; in your own mind you being to come to some conclusions about what makes the world go round. You got some of your own ideas about man ought to be doing, about what is important, about how what you wanted to do to spend your time.  You did all of that right there is the space between your ears.  You listened to what others had to say, but is was you who decided what you were going to believe and what you were going to do with your time.

And so, down here at the Potter’s house God is giving Jeremiah and is giving US a picture of what is going on in this universe. The God is making things and that we are part of what He has made and he is doing things in us and through us.

But when God looks at the human race AND WHEN GOD LOOKS AT US, it disturbs Him because he sees that SOME OF US HAVEN’T PUT TOGETHER THE PUZZLE PIECES IN THE RIGHT WAY. He gave us these massive spaghetti factories called brains, but we don’t use them to capacity. And in fact, we let a lot of stupid stuff in; things that don’t help us and some things that are just wrong.

BUT JOHN 16:13 SAYS:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

THIS IS THE SPIRIT OF GOD THAT SPOKE TO JEREMIAH.

May the Spirit of God convict of the truth of his word tonight that God is the one calling the shots. This is God’s world. I can do very little to convince you that is true, but God by His Spirity can and will convince many of this truth, in fact He already convinced many of you sitting here tonight.

And also, do you think that if there is a God, is he the kind of God who just wants to mess up a bunch of clay AND THEN THROW IT OFF TO THE SIDE? What kind of a God would that be? What kind of a God would try to make some really good clay pots and not be able to do it? What kind of a God would it be that is not able to make you into something special and something great?

And so, there is then one more thing that God wants to show down at the potter’s house.

Point number four is that……

GOD NEEDS TO “REMAKE” US

And in Jeremiah it says, “And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.”

Here is last main thing that God gives us to understand. And this is something that ought to give us very strong encouragment. Because you see, the Bible very clear on this point. It say it very straight. The pot is spoiled. This is not some polyanna book. This is telling the real story, in fact the story of our lives. The human race is in trouble. Man is in trouble. I’m in trouble. Does anybody know they are in trouble, say “Amen”? This is not a cakewalk. This planet is not vacation spot. It is not a fun factory. This planet is in serious trouble. We are in serious trouble. We can find problems in people like say, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but I’m sorry to say that WE are the ones who let them get this far. They couldn’t get elected if people like us didn’t vote for them. We are responsible for them. They were raised up out of the people that WE are. WE are the ones that voted for them

And so the Bible doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. The clay pot is broken. We are broken.

But, and now we get to the best part of this, it says “… and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.” God is still at work, you see. He is not like some lazy-bones God or some part-time God. He is a God who finishs the job He started. He is not asleep or on a bathroom break. He is going to get the job done. He is going to finish the job. And so, he is reworking the vessel. He is remaking the vessel.

DID YOU KNOW that God is offering a rework, a reboot, a do-over for the human race? That is what the Good News of the Gospel is, my Milwaukee Rescue Mission friends. God is wiling to remake us. He knows who we are and what we are. He knows about our fraility and our infirmities. He knows about our sin problem. And He has a way to deal with it, to finish the job.

We offers to us to be remade. Do you want to continue to live in the MESSED-UP way of life or the BEING-FIXED way of life? Do you want all the hurt and that brokenness and those sinful patterns to be fixed and made well, or do you want them to continue to get worse?

You know, WHEN WE ARE PHYSICALLY BROKEN IT TAKES A DECISION, AND A COMMITMENT TO LET A DOCTOR OR SOMEONE TO HELP US AND MAKE THE THING BETTER. it really hurts to get your knee injured, an MCL or an ACL injury, you know what Im talking about? It hurts for that to happen. But if you don’t either let that thing heal up or maybe even get it fixed if you can, it’s only gonna get worse. Your knee is going to start hurting worse, and if your knee keeps hurting worse you’re gonna start favoring that knee and the next thing you know your hips are going to start hurting too, because at that point your whole body is out of whack. And things only get worse.

But this story in Jeremiah shows us that God is willing to fix us in the broken places. He wants to finish the job. But He has to do it in a way that really works and that really takes us somewhere.

AND WHERE GOD MOST WANTS TO FIX US IS IN OUR SOULS. THE MOST BROKEN PLACE IN MOST HUMAN BEINGS IS IN THEIR SOUL, IN THEIR SPIRIT WITHIN THEM.

And the fundmental way He has to do that is to restore our relationship with Him. BECAUSE WHAT MOST AILS, MY FRIENDS, IS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM

But to do that, to get that restoration and that end to our fractured relationship He has done a great work through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ bore on the cross the penalty and the punishment for our sins. Because you see, because of our sin there are a chasm, a dark abyss of separation beteween us and God. That separation was there because in our hearts when we sin we are actually cursing and hating God.

And because of our sin God had to first HAD TO JUDGE OUR SIN. HE FIRST HAD TO make things worse before He made them better. He had to mete out a penalty and punishment for our sin. But the way he did that was not to punish us, but lay the punishment and judgement on His own Son. And the way for us to find our way back to God is found in Christ, in that glorious deed, that act of mercy. The only back to God, the only way really to be a finished clay pot, a whole clay pot, a useful and worthy clay pot is for the work that God did through Jesus Christ on the Cross be our own healing, and for the judgement that we deserve to fall on Him instead.

You see, you have to receive Christ. In John 1 it sayS, “to as many as received Him, He gave the right to become Sons of God.” It is not enough to just hear about the cross or look upon the Cross and say “yeah, God did that” but to reach out and respond and take this Gospel, this Good News for your very own.

Did you ever hear of the Prodigal Son? The story Jesus told in the Gospels about a son who took this father’s inheritance and went awat into a far country and spent all his daddy’s money and lived a life of sin. And he fell on hard times. And he finally, as the Bible says, “came to his senses.” But it wasn’t enough to just know that He was a sinner. He had to return to his Father’s house. And when he returned to his father’s house the father was waiting there for him. To scold him or complain to him? No, to welcome him. To invite him into the house, to have a feast for him, to have a celebration for him.

God is offering a reboot, a remake for us through his Son Jesus Christ. HoW DO I GET REBOOT? IT IS VERY SIMPLE. WE TAKE OUR LIFE AND THROW IT INTO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. We put our faith in Jesus Christ. We start walking in fellowship with Jesus Christ. We worship Jesus Christ. We serve Jesus Christ. We love Jesus Christ. And we turn away from all of the false Gods, the pretend Gods, we turn away from the devil, we turn away from the trumpet call of the world system that doesn’t like Jesus Christ. We daily put to death all of the pleasures and desires that don’t make us better but drag us down, and we put to death our addictions to the things of this earth

But let me speak to those of you who are in Christ, who have been walking the Christian walk, lviing the Christian life. We all wish that it would get easier. There were things that I thought when I came to Christ would get easier that honestly get any easier. But I take great comfort in the fact the scriptures tell me that God is still working on me. God has still got me up on potter’s wheel. He’s still finishing up the remake. I have my stuggles but its because He’s not through yet with me.

Hang in there my friends. And take heart in these words from Hebrews 12:

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

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